Waiting for Political Progress in Iraq
I spend a lot of time discussing Iraq with a friend. We both agree that the U.S. needs to stabilize Iraq, but we have occasional disagreements about what that will take and what the best plan is. We're both frustrated with the lock of political progress in Iraq. It's great that casualties are down, that civilian deaths are down, that terrorist deaths are up. But it feels like we're running in place without political progress to backup the military progress.
Well, today I read the first explanation that made any sense about why there has been no real political progress: several of the political parties involved in the national government are front groups for the terrorists themselves. Obviously, such parties would have every interest in tying the government up in knots and delaying progress.
So while it is true that Al Qaeda seeks to kill the Shiites, and the Mahdi Army seeks to kill the Sunnis, they need one another to block other political options from emerging from either side's adherence to Sharia.
On the Sunni side, the terror bloc is composed by most of the Tawafuq slate of three fundamentalist parties that include individuals like Khalaf al Ayan who plotted terror attacks from his office inside the green zone, including what Iraqis and Americans suspect was the April suicide bombing of the parliament cafeteria. Mr. al Ayan has denied his guilt. He has also gone on satellite television and declared himself the next Saddam.
On the Shiite side, the saboteurs include the politicians loyal still to Moqtada al Sadr, who remains popular in Iraq, though not as popular as he was in 2005, and whose deputies turned Iraq's health ministry and Baghdad's hospitals into an instrument of ethnic cleansing by refusing to treat the Sunnis freshly wounded by Mr. Sadr's militias.
While General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker did not say this directly last month, it is obvious that they too have given up hope of reaching a meaningful accord within the current government. Hence Mr. Crocker touted some of the de facto cooperation on oil profit sharing in the absence of a petroleum law.
A fruitful approach for now is to mold alternative local Shiite and Sunni parties through the tribal network that could challenge the confessional terror parties in the national elections at the end of 2009. Until those elections come, it would be wise for Mr. Graham to abandon his wish for national reconciliation and be content with the local variety.