Monday, December 21, 2009

Zakaria channels Obama: "Yes We Can" [in Iraq]. But We Probably Can't.

In today's WaPo piece, Fareed Zakaria provides a good overview of Iraq's persisting political fault lines (especially Sunni-Shii, Arab-Kurd) and includes the important reminder that the Bush/Petraeus "Surge" had some military success and provided a respite of sorts, but did not solve the more important problem of political reconciliation.  Now, says FZ, the US needs to go the diplomatic equivalent of a full-court press, to persuade the various factions in Iraq to sit down and resolve their differences.

Do we actually have the power to do that?  I honestly don't believe so.  Why not?

If I may channel Billy Joel, it's a matter of trust.  Even before the US invasion of 2003, Sunni and Shii, Arabs and Kurds in Iraq had found precious little reason to trust each other.  Indeed, even before Saddam had killed thousands of Shii and Kurds in the 1980s and 1990s, there truly had been no love lost between these groups.  And since 2003, with the Sunni insurgency (still ongoing), and the Shii death squads who cleansed Baghdad of most of its Sunni inhabitants, the possibility that these groups can create trust among themselves, especially over the short term before the US clears out of Iraq, has eroded to practically nil.

As Patrick Cockburn noted months ago, only time can heal some of Iraq's wounds.  Two years won't be enough - and as the US exits Iraq, we will likely see the scabs that have formed to come open.

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