"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren't willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they're probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.
If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end. Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.
It's well worth reading the rest of what he has to say - I especially like his analysis that there have actually been three Iraq wars (the war against Hussein, the war against the insurgents, and now the civil war) in three years - but the fact remains, it's all academic. There simply isn't going to be a "national unity government." Ever.
Consider the current would-be PM, Ibrahim al Jaafari. Time has a good little analysis up on their site right now, explaining why (a) al Jaafari can't win, and (b) neither can anyone else. Here's the short version: For every reason that some faction might reject al Jaafari - because he can't rein in the Shi'ite militias and Interior Ministry death squads, because he's unwilling to hand Kirkuk over to the Kurds, or because ultimately he's al Sadr's boy - another, equally powerful, faction will surely reject any proposed replacement. Imagine, if you will, an anti-al Jaafari who will lean on the Interior Ministry goons, wrap Kirkuk up in ribbons and present it as a sort of housewarming gift to newly-independent Kurdistan, and tell al Sadr (and his Mahdi Army) to piss off. How long is this fanciful character going to remain alive, much less in power?
But finally, the main reason why Iraq is never going to have a "national unity government" is because no one in a position to make such a thing happen actually wants such a thing to happen. Power sharing is extraodinarily popular except with those who hold the power. Half a loaf is better than none, and commanding the loyalty of some fraction of the population is better than commanding the loyalty of no one. Which is why, even with Condi Rice and Jack Straw giving them the double-secret stinkeye, the players in this game have politely but firmly gone all Bartleby the Scrivener on everyone's ass, and simply stated that they would prefer not to:
Iraqi leaders shelved talks on forming a government despite a warning from the United States and Britain against any further delay, as at least 23 were killed in violence across the country....
Talks on forming a national unity government were shelved despite stern warnings from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart Jack Straw who left Iraq Monday after an unprecedented two-day visit....
Though the reason for Tuesday's shelving of talks were not announced, sources closes to negotiations said the Shiite alliance was holding intense internal talks to decide on the issue of Jaafari.
It was also not clear whether the talks will commence again Wednesday.
So, give them 'till May 15 of this year, or till May 15, 2050 - it makes no difference. The fact is, Iraqis no longer want a unified Iraq, if they ever really did (I think we know where the Kurds, for example, have long come down on that subject). It was always a fragile union, but like a marriage gone bad after the tragic death of a child, the events of the past three years have laid bare the roughness of the match, and it's not gonna be smoothed over. It was a good idea, Sen. Kerry - just a little bit late.
The condition of the government will be non-existent. The condition of the governments - note the plural - will vary. The government of Kurdistan will likely be an oppressive right-wing dictatorship, engaged in a low-level war with Turkey. The condition of the Sunni government controlling the central part of the country will be impoverished, due to the lack of resources and useful allies. The condition of the Shi'ite government controlling what used to be southern Iraq, on the other hand, will be quite positive, given the close relationship to the dominant regional superpower, Iran.