It’s easy to scapegoat Prime Minister Maliki. Politicians who want instant results want to dump all their guilt, all their mistakes, and all their burdens on this one man and throw him off a cliff as if that will change anything.
Real political change is slow moving and difficult. Iraq’s political situation will take several years to settle down and foreign governments cannot rush them.
Part of the problem is that Iraq is moving towards Federalism without wanting to admit it. The politicians mostly have to legitimize what already is. The Kurds are virtually independent in all but name, and increasingly so are the Sunni Arabs. The only structure that is truly integrated is the Iraqi Army. This may take a little time, but they cannot change the fundamental reality.
The Sunni insurgency has stopped fighting and joined the local government and police force. They’re taking de-facto amnesty. Will the government recognize this amnesty or… do what exactly?
My judgment is that the wrong parties are in power in Baghdad, not that Prime Minister Maliki is the wrong man. Now technically, this makes my criticism more severe than the Democrats, but at the same time, I think it’s more optimistic.
I discussed this an earlier post: Iraqi political front
I think this prediction can be tested
1) The current parties will lose seats in the coming elections
2) The new parties will be willing to compromise
The current Sunni Party – the Iraqi Islamic Party – refuses to compromise in part because they will be wiped out entirely by the new Sunni tribal-backed parties. The Shia Islamist parties are not well respected either.
The fact that the Iraqi Islamic Party refuses to compromise means nothing to me. They shouldn’t have been in power in the first place. Iraqi held national elections too soon, before the people politically matured. Now the Iraqis are growing more nationalistic and secular, so there will be a change in power in Baghdad soon. By soon, I mean a year of time.
If the Democrats and Republicans are more serious, they will request the Iraqis hold a snap election this fall. This will accelerate the process somewhat.
The Washington Post notes how easy it is to pin the blame on Maliki, even if that makes no sense:
More broadly, the frustration of Americans with Iraqis is based on the assumption that a political reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds is achievable within weeks or months. This is wishful thinking, driven by the common desire of the White House and Congress to end or at least wind down the U.S. mission. In fact, Iraqis are not yet ready to come to terms with each other and may not be for some years. They will settle their country’s future on their own timetable, responding to events in Iraq rather than to pressure from Washington. Mr. Maliki is a poor prime minister, but a change of government would not quickly lead to the elusive accords. The coming debate about the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq needs to grapple with that reality.
A massive political realignment just occurred in Iraq and everyone is still testing to see where the new limits are. Full compromise will take a year or two of time. Some of it is being shaped today.
It’s a bottom-up process that cannot be rushed by central governments. Calling attention to the central government is a bad idea. The Provincial democracies in Iraq are doing much better than the central government, and that’s the sign of future progress.
This bottom up-process cannot be altered by Senator Levin acting like an ancient Roman Magistrate dictating to his imperial subjects. The real world does not work this way.