Monday, April 03, 2006

Tables Are Turning In Iraq

Up until very recently, much of the political pressure for the future of Iraq lay with the Sunnis; the question was whether or not the Sunni political groups could come to believe that their interests were in joining the formal political process rather than with the insurgency. Now, it seems that this burden has been shifted. The Sunnis seem to be willing to join a government that they believe sufficiently protects their interests and future. Now the question is whether the Shiites will compromise to allow such a government to exist.

In the wake of bombing of the Askariya shrine and the looming possibility of the civil war, the Shiites had stubbornly been insisting on Ibrahim al-Jaafari to serve as prime minister. al-Jaafari has the support of some powerful Shiite forces, including Moqtada al-Sadr, but is not seen as an acceptable option to the Sunnis.

Now, pressure is increasing on the Shiite political parties to replace al-Jaafari as the choice for prime minister. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw (and no, he's not from Wichita) are today demanding that the Iraqi parliament form a unified government as soon as possible and that, seeing that al-Jaafari has been unable so far to create a government since his election on February 12, he be replaced as prime minister. But the pressue is not just coming from outside of Iraq. The single most powerful Shiite politica bloc, led by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, has agreed, asking al-Jaafari to resign. According to al-Hakim's top deputy, "the prime minister should have national consensus inside the Parliament and he should have the support of the international body." al-Sadr's bloc appears to be maintaining its support for al-Jaafari, but it's not yet clear where powerful Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani stands on the question.

It certainly is good news that the Shiites seem to be increasingly aware of the need to co-opt the Sunnis and build a political establishment that can include and protect all Iraqis. The US and the UK need to keep the pressures on both sides. Of course, there is the possibility, which has existed all along, of civil war within the Shiite factions, as both al-Hakim and al-Sadr possess large militias. But this will likely have to happen at some point in Iraq's political maturation anyway; no government can function if it doesn't enjoy a monopoly of violence. The Shiite militias will need to be disarmed at some point, as the government can't exist under the constant threat of collapse or violence. Perhaps better now than later?


stefan moluf said...

I'm with you there, my only fear is that it may to take a U.S. military offensive to do finally disarm the Mahdi Army and its duplicates.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the "Witchita" comment. Why would the British Foreign Minister be from Kansas?

Seth Weinberger said...


Obviously, you need to listen to more Grateful Dead:

"Jack Straw from Wichita shot his buddy down."