Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reidar Visser: the Clock Is Turned Back to 2005 in Iraq

Posted to his enormously useful blog "Iraq and Gulf Analysis," Reidar Visser comments on the news that the two largest Shii blocs in Iraq - Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law and the Iraq National Alliance (which includes both the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq and the Sadrist trend of Muqtada al-Sadr) - have evidently combined to form a coalition that - with expected alliances with Kurdish parties - will likely permit them to form the next government.

The Winners:
  • Iraq's Arab Shia, whose domination of the Iraqi government seems set to continue
  • Iran, which has very close links to both of the larger Shii parties.

The Losers:
  • the Sunni Arabs, who had largely aligned themselves with secular Shii Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya list
  • secularists and centrists in Iraq's political demography, who will now be faced with a ruling coalition dominated by Shii religious conservatives
  • quite likely, the United States.

Why is the US a loser in this scenario?
  • because Iran will, for sure, have huge influence in Iraq's political affairs.  (Of course, even if Iraqiya were to have led the government, the Iranian weren't going to simply slink sulking away
  • because Iraq's Sunni Arabs will be very angry to have come so close to having an effective voice in Baghdad, only to see it snatched away.  Tensions are going to increase, with attendant violence; and pressure will mount on the US to delay its withdrawal to keep Iraq from spiraling downward more steeply.  More blood and treasure spent, with no happy ending really in sight
  • because the US's Sunni allies in the region (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan - those marvelous regional paragons of democracy and human rights) are going to resent the continuation of Shii sectarian domination in Iraq, and the concomitant strengthening of Iran.
Mr. Obama is going to be saddled with this, and the Republicans will be ready to play the "who lost Iraq" card for all it's worth.  I wrote long ago that Obama was going to be unfairly tarred to the mess Bush created - but I'd hoped then that I was wrong.

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