Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Scheming and Intrigue in the Iraqi Government

O'Hanlon and Pollack both think that the surge has put a military victory in our reach in Iraq. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a military victory in Iraq. It is not possible to tamp down the insurgency without some measure of reconciliation between the factions vying for power, and on that score, things are not going so well:

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions, and two bombing attacks in Baghdad killed at least 67 people.

Rafaa al-Issawi, a leading member of the Front, said at a news conference that the bloc's six Cabinet ministers would submit their resignations later in the day.

Al-Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government followed what he called Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's failure to respond to the Accordance Front. It gave him seven days to meet its demands, and the ultimatum expired Wednesday.

Among the demands: a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

"The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand and has slammed shut the door to any meaningful reforms necessary for saving Iraq," al-Issawi said.

"We had hoped that the government would respond to these demands or at least acknowledge the failure of its policies, which led Iraq to a level of misery it had not seen in modern history. But its stand did not surprise us at all," he said, reading from a prepared statement.

The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament's 275 seats. Its withdrawal from the 14-month-old government is the second such action by a faction of al-Maliki's "national unity" coalition.

In addition to that, Iraq's old PM Ibrahim Jaafari, is scheming to replace al Malaiki and get his office back:

Iraq's first elected prime minister after the fall of Saddam, Ibrahim Jaafari, has been trying to bring down the government of his rival Nuri al-Maliki, according to the AP. Jaafari had been the head of the expatriate branch of the Islamic Call Party (al-Da`wa], but two months ago at a party conference al-Maliki defeated him and became the leader of al-Da`wa. Al-Maliki had also succeeded Jaafari when the latter was deposed by an alliance of the Kurds, the Americans, the Sunni Arabs and some Shiites in spring of 2006. Jaafari is said to have been frustrated by al-Maliki's refusal to reach out to Sunni Arab Iraqis. Jaafari may have been better at that, but he alienated the Kurds by intriguing with Ankara to forestall a Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk Province. Now he is holding out a quick referendum on Kirkuk's admission to the Kurdistan Regional Government as a quid pro quo for the Kurdistan Alliance to throw its weight behind replacing al-Maliki with Jaafari. So not only hasn't there been any real political progress since the surge began, al-Maliki's 'national unity' government is weaker than at any time since he was inaugurated.

Apparently the only "breathing space" the surge has given Iraqi politicians is the space to scheme and plot each other's downfall.

And then there's the coming Kirkuk referendum, the results of which it's guaranteed somebody will be unhappy with.

This news just proves yet again that people like O'Hanlon and Pollack are completely missing the point. They go to Iraq and on a DOD funded tour are told that morale is high, reconstruction is going well, security is improving, etc., etc., but they're missing the forest for the trees. All of this effort on the part of our military and what Iraqi units we can rely on, is failing to produce any political progress, which is what the country desperately needs. No insurgency can be defeated without such progress; no civil war can be ended without such progress. Our troops are fighting for an illusion of peace, but what peace they can provide they only provide at the barrel of a gun. The underlying causes of conflict in Iraq are not being dealt with, and fighting will continue to flare up in regions that are troops do not occupy in force or where local and temporary conditions remove incentives to fight (such as in Anbar province.)

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