Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Future of Iraq's Government

Things seem to have entered a critical stage in Iraq. The insurgents seem to be turning their efforts away from US soldiers in favor of targeting Iraqi army and police forces as well as Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, four months after the parliamentary elections, Iraq still does not have a prime minister, as the Shiite Alliance continues to support Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a candidate who is completely unacceptable to Kurds and Sunnis alike.

The Iraqi parliament will meet next week to try to form a government. It seems to me that success here is essential. If the Sunnis and Kurds come to believe that their interests can not be met and protected by a Shiite-dominated government, both could withdraw from the political process. While the Kurds are unlikely to engage in a violent breakaway, their participation is important, both to moderate the Shiites as well as to provide a sense of inclusiveness. The Sunni are even more important, as their participation in the government may very well go a long way to determining the future of the Iraqi insurgency. The US and the UK need to lean very heavily on the Shiite Alliance, pressuring if not insisting that Jaafari be replaced.

The Shiites may complain of external interference, but that cry rings hollow. The Iraqi government is not yet capable of maintaining order or power without the support of the US and UK, thus it cannot claim sovereignty for itself (not to mention that the Shiites would still be under the thumb of Hussein if not for external interference). At this stage it is more important that Iraq be pushed in the direction of unity governments than it stand completely on its own two feet. Getting this wrong could doom the entire project, and the stakes are just too high. Bush and Blair need to make this happen.

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