Friday, July 20, 2007

Politics In Iraq: Americans Never Will Get It...

Lately there has been a lot of hot air blowing about how outrageous it is that the Iraqi parliament is taking the month of August off. I wonder what exactly would we expect to see accomplished if the parliament kept working though?

The politicians and sundry other punditry want to see some political benchmarks set in order to be able to say that progress is being made in Iraq. I contend that the political table is set, that we are where we are because of the political realities on the ground in Iraq. Sitting around gazing at our navels in contemplation of how far we have to go to reach political benchmarks is to engage in the wrong endeavor. By America setting up benchmarks and pleading with the leadership of Iraq to meet those goals, we are not accepting reality.

This then is the reality. American benchmarks have relatively little bearing in the political realities governing Iraq. When Maliki told the world the other day that American forces could feel free to leave and the Iraqi's would defend themselves he was cluing us into the political reality of a sectarian Shiite leader. Maliki feels that the Shiites are strong enough to be able to win, or at least defend themselves in a civil war with the Sunni.

Remember when Bush met with Maliki in Jordan when the surge was in the planning stages. The part that made the most news was how Maliki stood Bush up on the first day. The part that truly has the most effect on the situation however was what Maliki proposed to Bush in place of the surge. Maliki wanted American forces pulled back from Baghdad and to be allowed to control the capitol on his own. His intention was obvious. Maliki was counting on the Shiite militias to give Baghdad a sectarian cleansing. After several months of horrendous violence, Baghdad would have been a largely Shiite stronghold, and that puts that sect well down the road to domination of the most important parts of Iraq. Now all this is from the perspective of Maliki... who we may as well consider to be a Shiite warlord at this point.

The Kurds have consolidated the north. Right now their major concern is the border with Turkey. As the Turks mass forces on the border and threaten to wipe out Kurdistan, Americans hear the occasional whisper of news from Northern Iraq. Compared to the rest of the nation though, northern Iraq is a bastion of stability, so American attention is widely diverted from that region. That will change if the Turks invade, or if the Shiite consolidate the south of Iraq and move to take the city of Kirkuk.

The Sunni's seem to have come to the realization that the only thing protecting them from a bloody awful extermination at the hands of the Shiite are American forces. Without Americans patrolling Baghdad the chances are there would have been an influx of refugees from that city flooding Anbar. I am convinced that the recent good news from Anbar describing the ousting of the Taliban [erm... Al Qaeda, thank you PragueTwin in comments for the correction] is a recognition by the Sunni that American forces are all that remain between them and a losing position in a long drawn and bloody civil war.

But what this comes down to is that political benchmarks designated by Americans are just that. American. These benchmarks are doomed to fail because they are not in the best interests of the Iraqi's, unless you consider being a western puppet to be in Iraqs best interests. Those benchmarks are for the benefit of American politicians and military commanders. I am convinced that long after we are gone that the situation on the ground will have worked itself out in such a way as to be relatively stable, but not recognizable when judged by the goals set forth by American leadership.

We need to recognize this is an Iraqi problem, which will have an Iraqi solution. It may well end with 3 states, and the Sunni getting the short end of a long stick. (That is the most likely long term outcome from my perspective) Perhaps regional powers will get dragged into the fray and the end result can not even be imagined at this point. (Imagine Saudi Arabia Jordan and Syria backing the Sunni, Iran backing the Shiite and Turkey slugging it out with the Kurds and how that ends is any ones guess).

So if American politicians expect any great movement on the political benchmarks we Americans want to see reached in Iraq, I'm afraid that hope is just another manifestation of wrong headed happy think.

I think anyone who thinks they understand Iraq is kidding themselves. I do agree with your final assessment though.

But the Taliban in Anbar? That is news to me.
Well... golleee! Taliban in Anbar indeed. I'll have to toss in a bit of a correction and thank you Mr. Twin for the heads up. :)
In order for Americans to get it, they'd actually have to be trying to understand these people. They're not.
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