Monday, October 08, 2007

Blackwater Update/No Reconciliation

The U.S.-Iraqi response to the September Blackwater shooting appears to be to investigate the event into oblivion. A joint Iraqi-U.S. group will review the shootings beginning today, but a review by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense has already laid the blame at Blackwater's feet, as has a review by the Ministry of the Interior. In the meantime, the FBI is conducting a separate investigation, and Congress has launched it's own inquiry which the Dept. of State has done its best to frustrate. One would imagine that by the end of these various investigations we'd know exactly what happened from the time the first shot was fired to the time the convoy drove off, but it's entirely likely the investigations will produce less clarity as each one arrives at a slightly (or completely) different conclusion.

This article in the Washington Post discusses fears by those in the private security industry that this event could harm their future business interests. I expect any such harm to last about as long as it takes for the shooting to drop out of the news and their lobbyists to buttonhole a few members of Congress.

In other Iraq news, senior Iraqi political leaders have renounced the goal of reconciliation between warring factions as unachievable.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

"Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself," he said. "You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that 'I want to reconcile with you.' "

The problem? Neither Sunni nor Shiite want the same thing:

The idea of "reconciliation" in Iraq has always been short on specifics. To Sunnis, it tends to mean Shiites will release their grip on decision-making, allow them greater influence in the government, crack down on militants regardless of their sect and promote peaceful cooperation between politicians. Sunnis demand the release of thousands of prisoners who have never been charged, the purging of all militiamen from the Iraqi security forces and influence in military decisions.

To Shiites, reconciliation is a process fraught with risks that Sunni "supremacists" will attempt to seize their former position of authority over the majority Shiites. Many Shiites believe that reconciliation requires punishing those who, during Saddam Hussein's government, ruthlessly killed and repressed Shiites and Kurds.

"It's clearly perceived by the government that reconciliation is clearly a winner for the Sunnis and not a winner for the Shias," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq. "The question becomes: How do you start balancing that scale a little bit?"

So despite the limited success of the surge, the primary goal of reconciliation has not been met, and apparently cannot be met. The vastly different goals and vast amount of mistrust between the parties is unlikely to be rectified by anything less than a balancing of power between them. Such a balance could be achieved by politics if both parties were interested, but instead it seems they are determined to settle their disputes by force. Such attitudes are hard, and change only slowly and with time, and it's apparent the Shiite will give no greater role to the Sunnis no matter how many American troops are in the streets. If anything, they can count on us to suppress their primary enemies the Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda, but also more radical Shiite militias that are not allied with the primary Shiite powers. Such a calculus leads only to a continued presence in the country on our part without furthering the prospects for true peace.

1 comment:

adam said...

Apparently, Republicans want to hold "accountability hearings" to encourage reconciliation. I'm sure it will work!