by Bob Tollast
The End of Reconciliation?
RT: At the end of December, observers who predicted that Iraq would slide back into sectarian war after the US troop withdrawal looked to be correct. Maliki tried to have Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi arrested on allegedly false charges of terrorism. Subsequently, the main Sunni party withdrew from parliament. Days later as if in response, a wave of bombings killed over 70 people, mostly Shias in Baghdad. Put those facts together and you have a very bleak view of Iraq's future. Another view is more optimistic, which is that the recent attacks were not a response to al-Hashimi's arrest warrant and were more likely a part of Al-Qaeda's last bid to derail Iraq's progress. For all the Sunni/Shia divisions, Kurdish leaders appear committed to the role of peace maker, and Maliki’s uneasy alliance with the Sadrists is now even shakier. Public political statements have been restrained, so the optimistic view is that politics will win the day. Which view seems more accurate?
JW: First the bombings in Baghdad take weeks of preparation, and were probably planned by Al-Qaeda for after the US withdrawal, not because of the current political crisis. They likely had the attacks planned out far before the current crisis even started. While there had not been that many bombings in one day for quite some time, it was in line with Al-Qaeda's modus operandi, which is to pull off one large scale, media grabbing operation every 1-2 months.
As for the government breakdown, I think Maliki is really pushing this to the limit. The Iraqi National Movement was very divided, with the ministers and other politicians holding office quite happy with what they had, while Iyad Allawi was on the outside left complaining about Maliki, while completely neglecting his job as a lawmaker. Now, Maliki's action has united the list. Almost all the other parties, the Kurdish Coalition, the Supreme Council, and White Iraqiya have all offered to mediate as well, which shows that they are not behind Maliki's stance. The Sadrists appear to be the only ones he can consistently rely upon. I think that places limits on the Prime Minister, but he seems to be committed to this confrontation. In the end, I think there will be some kind of negotiated settlement, but it will leave Maliki and Allawi's National Movement more bitter than ever, which will solidify the dysfunction.
I'm very critical of the American pundits and politicians who are pulling the "I told you so" line about Iraq unraveling as a result of these two events. Maliki had that huge crackdown on Baathists arresting hundreds of people while there were still tens of thousands of U.S. forces in the country. Was Washington able to do anything about that? Were they able to mediate the Prime Minister's actions? Not one bit. Same thing with the violence, remember the attacks in August 2011? 10 out of 18 provinces were hit even though there were over 49,000 American forces in the country. They're basing their remarks upon their world view rather than actual facts on the ground. They seem deeply committed to the belief that nothing positive will happen in Iraq without a US military presence. They just can't believe that Iraqis will be able to do anything on their own.