Monday, August 2, 2010

Iraq's Future even Murkier

The three-ring circus surrounding the formation of the next Iraqi government continues.  Even though his party finished second to the Sunni-backed Iraqiya party of Ayad Allawi in March, Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the mostly Shii State of Law (Dawlat al-Qanoon) party, hoped to hang onto his premiership by allying with the other dominant Shii party, the Iraq National Alliance, which includes Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadrist trend and ISCI (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).  But the INA has now ended its talks with Maliki's bunch, because they evidently are insisting that he step down as PM.  At the same time, the INA probably wants nothing to do with promoting the interests of Allawi's party, which, in their minds, would be an invitation to the reviled secularist Sunni Baath party (Saddam's own) to step back into power.  Iraq's Shia could never accept that; the Kurds could not accept it either.

Meanwhile, the INA seems to have no other realistic candidate to be prime minister (at least, not one strong enough to garner much popular support).  Of course, when he came to power in 2006, Maliki was hardly seen as a strong leader.  But he grew into the job - and in the process, he emulated Saddam (and his predecessors) by creating a largely Shii security apparatus loyal to himself.  If he chooses, he could exact a bloody cost on those who might attempt to oust him from power.

The real losers, of course, are the devastated people of Iraq.  Their government, now adrift, is in no condition to actually govern - or push ahead with reconstruction.  (about which, see Stephen Farrell's piece at the NYT site today about the growing frustration over the government's - and the US's - failure to provide electricity.).  And it looks more and more as if any new government will be cobbled together in a manner that will feature a figurehead prime minister presiding over a crazy-quilt of ministerial fiefdoms designed to distribute patronage (power and money) to a political elite.

Just like under Saddam, except without the kind of strong figure Saddam was.  So much for Boy George's dream of creating a real democracy in Iraq (if that's indeed what he ever really intended).

Meanwhile, the US withdrawal is on track (says Obama) - and overdue, according to a Chatham House expert.

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