The COIN strategy proceeds on two fronts. First, it is winning the military war. Second, the military is fostering the environment for local political reconciliation and reconstruction. It does so by monitoring and reducing local corruption and acting as a neutral arbiter in local disputes. The US Military is basically another tribe in the region and is treated as such.

The Iraqi government is being built bottom-up. A civil society needs to be reconstructed, followed by provincial governments. The National Government will be the last to be affected.

The reality is this: the Sunni Arabs lost the war. The Shia and Kurdish led government will consolidate their victory. There is no reason to interfere.

The Sunni insurgency failed, militarily and politically. After decades of Sunni Arab tyranny, the Kurds and Shia Arabs are in charge of the government.

The Shia are itching for revenge

The United States, and the West in general, does not like the fact that the Sunni, Shia and Kurds cannot form a united government, and get on with the business of rebuilding the country. What the West cannot accept is the depth of the hatred the Kurds and Shia feel for the Sunni Arabs (who, with Saddam as their leader, plundered and tyrannized Iraq for over three decades). This desire for revenge is very unpalatable to the West, but is a very real fact in Iraq. Western journalists and politicians don’t even want to talk about it. But on the streets of Iraq, you hear little else. The Sunni Arabs fear a massive repression and expulsion.

This is exactly why the Sunnis are suddenly reconciling and begging for amnesty. Half of the Sunni Arab population has fled Iraq and there is a true fear of ethnic cleansing.

While everyone points out the US mistakes, keep in mind that these mistakes are because the Sunnis miscalculated even worse. They assumed that a low level of violence would chase out the Americans and the Sunnis could recapture the entire country. Instead, the American military devastated the Sunni military capability. The Shias and Kurds took over the central government without consulting the Sunnis. Now the power of the Iraqi government is controlled by the Sunni’s enemies and the Sunnis lack the means to resist.

The Sunnis only make up 10% of the Iraqi population at this point. They will not have much power in a parliamentary democracy is they only elect sectarian parties. They have to reach out to secular Kurds and Shia to form nationalist parties.

Iraq has a reasonably healthy parliamentary democracy that pleases no foreign government. Moderate and more secular Shia parties have more power than the radicals the Iranians supported. The autonomous Kurdistan and the prospect of Federalism leaves all the neighboring empires uneasy about their domestic Kurds. The idea of a Shia run government in Iraq is alien to the rest of the Arab Sunni world.

There are problems though. The Iraqi political parties represent ethnic and sectarian interests instead of political ideas and platforms. After the fall of the Ba’ath regime, there was no civil society which forms the foundation of democracy.

At first, people voted for already established parties. The Kurds voted for their own Kurdish politicians, and the Shia voted for exiled Shia parties such as SCIRI and Dawa. Things have changed since then. The Iraqi people are growing more nationalist and secular. There is shrinking support for the sectarian partisans in charge of the central government.

In other words, the Iraqis held National elections too soon. The parties in power right now represent partisan and sectarian beliefs from several years ago. Many of them realize they are dead-enders. New parties are forming to challenge them in the coming provincial elections and next year’s national elections.

This includes the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). The IIP represents the Sunni Arabs, and there is strong suspicion that they supported the Sunni insurgency. The IIP became marginalized due to its antics. Their most valuable bargaining chip has been the insurgency. With the insurgents surrendering en masse, the IIP no longer has any sway.

The Iraqi Awakening movement, which is predominantly made up of the Sunni tribes but has a growing number of Shia, is disgusted with the IIP and its corruption. The Sunnis plan to vote the IIP out of office in the Sunni Provinces within the coming months and ultimately remove them from the central government.

The IIP is a dead end party. Their recent antics are meaningless. For instance, they decided to “boycott” the government while it was in recess. What exactly did this accomplish?

The Americans, particularly the Democratic Party, is irrelevant in Iraqi politics. Voicing their opinions actually damages the interests of the United States. In this case, the IIP is manipulating the Democrats to make it seem like the Shia are too stubborn to compromise. The IIP hopes that American intervention can get the Sunnis a better hand in the government and keep the IIP in power.

The Sunni Arabs know that strategic terrorist attacks can rattle the Americans into giving them bigger concessions. They hope to make the Democrats panic and force the Shia to give more power to the Sunnis. The problem is, the Americans have no political influence in Baghdad. The more the Democrats give the impression that the Americans back the Sunnis, the more the Shia will dig in their heels and punish the Sunnis.

Talisman Gate describes how badly the Sunnis failed.

The Sunnis will be reduced to junior partners in the government. The best they can hope for is a semi-automous Federal States, similar to the Kurdish government.

The Shia religious parties have failed miserably and their militias are blamed for the crime and corruption in the South.


Maliki may be secure for now in the fact that no one can agree on his replacement in such a confused, yet healthy, atmosphere of political jockeying. The sectarian-based coalitions that emerged from the last elections are breaking down as the threat of sectarian warfare diminishes further and further, and the Sunni insurgency grinds down to an allowable baseline of violence. But Maliki must act quickly and confidently to put his own stamp on a new cabinet of his own choosing, something that many doubt that he has the personal stamina and brain-power to do.

For now, it’s great for me to watch the Islamist parties fumble, with no dominant ‘leader’ emerging. Everyone is being forced to play politics within the rules of the game; no more military coups, no more ‘Great Leaders’. The Sadrists have shown themselves to be as inept and corrupt as all the rest, and the shrill Sunni voices are being supplanted by new political forces that can live with the huge cascade of change begun on April 9, 2003.

Congressional critics and the western media may want to play up this political confusion as a sign that Bush is not making progress in Iraq, and they predictably will. But a fairer analysis would conclude that these are all healthy signs of the re-introduction of politics into Iraqi life. It may not even be as pretty as sausage-making, yet it puts to rest the Middle Eastern instinctual impulse for a short-cut to power through violence and tyranny.

Indeed. Much of the “deadlock” in Baghdad is because the current parties will soon be voted out of office. This is a natural result of parliamentary democracy. The best option right now is to move parliamentary elections up to this year to speed the process.

Right now momentum is moving against the Shia religious parties and the Sunni IIP. It’s best to capitalize on this rather than forcing the current sectarian parties to “compromise” to keep them in power.

Prime Minister Maliki formed a “moderate” coalition of Shia and Kurdish Parties. Even better, he has bypassed the obstinant IIP and negotiated with the Sunni tribes directly. Maliki recently visited Tikrit and is forming a preliminary political alliance with the growing Iraqi Awakening Party.

With the U.S. Congressional majority increasingly antsy to get out of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki’s bold incursion into Tikrit — a city once pampered by Saddam, its favorite son — underlined the prime minister’s determination to save his paralyzed government from collapse and prevent further disillusionment in Washington.

The sharp alteration of political course — a willingness to travel to the belly of the Sunni beast and talk with former enemies — suggested a new flexibility from the hardline religious Shiite.

“There is more uniting us than dividing us,” he told sheiks in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. “We do not want to allow al-Qaeda and the militias to exist for our coming generations. Fighting terrorism gives us a way to unite.”

The Shia-Kurdish moderate coalition will welcome the new Sunni political parties once the IIP is voted out of office. This will be the almost sure result of the future elections. Then you will begin to see major compromises.

I think it’s time that those in Washington to come to grips with the political reality of Iraq. The Sunnis need to give concessions, not the Shia. This will be done over time, but only if foreign governments keep their mouths shut.

The ideas and timetables coming out of Washington are completely disconnected from reality. The Benchmarks are retarded. It’s committee based nonsense. They are the equivilant of saying “poor countries need to reduce corruption!” And I think that’s actually one of the benchmarks…

The Iraqi Public is largely unaware of the artificial “Benchmarks” set by Washington. Nor will Iraqi politicians and public take orders from an opposition party in Washington.

The best thing for the Iraqi government right now are more elections. The current parties are political losers who will be replaced to better reflect the real demands of Iraqis.