Monday, November 8, 2010

More US meddling in Iraq's politics

Jane Arraf reports that both Obama and Biden have approached the current Iraqi president, the long-time Kurdish politician (and president of Iraq ever since Saddam was ousted) Jalal Talabani, with the "request" that he step aside for Ayad Allawi, the secular Shii leader (and former PM) who heads the Iraqiya bloc, which won the most votes in March's election but had no partners with which to form the new government.  The idea is to set up Allawi as president with powers sufficiently expanded as to mollify him into giving up his quest to lead the government as prime minister.  That would enable the current PM, Nuri al-Maliki, to keep the position to which he's clung tenaciously ever since the elections, voters wishes be damned.

Arraf notes that the Kurds will not be keen to relinquish the presidency and settle for speaker of Parliament.  I can't blame them.  Ever since the creation of Iraq as a constitutional monarchy after World War I, the parliament has functioned as a debating society and locus of dissent, but has never wielded the kind of power that, say, the US Congress has.  In the Iraqi system, initiative has always been in the hands of the executive.  Talabani would become a secondary figure - and the Kurds as a bloc would be relegated to similar stature.

But I can't fathom what lasting benefit the US sees in creating what would effectively amount to a two-headed executive.  Is this some attempt to salve the administration's collective conscience about Iraq, arranging a putative settlement, touting it as a "unity" or "coalition" government - then saying, our work is done here as we head for the exit, leaving the Iraqi people with what will likely devolve into state-sanctioned gridlock between Iran-backed Shii religious parties led by Maliki and Sunni-supported nationalists and Sunni conservatives led by Allawi?  Does any halfway sentient person truly believe that these two guys are going to share the harness?

It's become increasingly obvious (as General Odierno made so plain) that the US entered Iraq essentially clueless, with nothing thought through as to where that country might be going in the wake of the invasion.  Is anybody in the White House and State Department thinking through the consequences of leaving Iraq with such a dystopian government?

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