Maliki argued on al-Arabiya that Iraqi national reconciliation has not only already been achieved, it is "strong and stable and not fragile". There is no civil war in Iraq, or even any real sectarian conflict anymore - the sectarian hatreds incited by "some" in the past have been overcome. He made clear that he does not equate national reconciliation with political progress at the national level: "I think that national reconciliation will come about not as some understand it, as a reconciliation with this political party governed by an ideology or a specific mentality." Real national reconciliation, to Maliki, takes place at the local level, when "you can go into the street and meet with a Sunni in Shia areas or with a Shia in Sunni areas, where they live together once again." That, he suggests, has happened. The various Sunni awakenings demonstrate reconciliation at the local level, and their support for his national government. He claims that people who fled mixed Sunni-Shia areas are now returning (or are welcome to do so), and that the people now reject sectarianism in favor of national unity and his government. True, some politicians are still demanding reconciliation, but he dismisses them as "minor political parties" whose tiresome complaints now fall on deaf ears with the people. The attempt to unseat him last year by various political factions? An attempted coup against the political process by those (regrettably mainly Sunnis) who want to return the Baath Party to its monopoly on power.
So, need for reconciliation because...it's already happened! Jeb gives us his pretty pessimistic take on this news:
Maliki is undoubtedly aware of such consequences, which suggests that a broader sectarian war is a conflict that he's expecting...and that he thinks the Shiites will win. Disturbingly, if you read the statements of various Sunni militant groups, they don't agree with this assessment; particularly now that they've seen an influx in American weaponry and training (as part of Petraeus' plan to encourage "Sunni awakenings"), a number of leading Sunni guerrillas have declared that it is their side that will be victorious if a major struggle for power ensues. What is now clear is that the leadership on both sides of the sectarian divide are gearing up for a fight once the Americans leave, and they both seem confident of victory.
I don't know if a broader civil war is inevitable, but the surge has clearly taught the national government under the auspices of al-Maliki that they have no incentive whatsoever to invite the Sunni into a wider political process. Perhaps the Sunni will tolerate this indefinitely, but probably not.