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    07 November 2007

    al Maliki on political reconciliation and benchmarks

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    Over the past week or so I've written about the supposed success of Bush's surge strategy. In reality the strategy to facilitate political reconciliation has largely failed, while the tactic of placing more troops between a civil war has been moderately successful. Wow! Who would have thought that? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) knows this and has said as much recently (.pdf):
    U.S. efforts lack strategies with clear purpose, scope, roles, and performance measures. The U.S. strategy for victory in Iraq partially identifies the agencies responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy and does not fully address how the United States would integrate its goals with those of the Iraqis and the international community. U.S. efforts to develop Iraqi ministry capability lack an overall strategy... The weaknesses in U.S. strategic planning are compounded by the Iraqi government’s lack of integrated strategic planning in its critical energy sector. (p.2)
    The Iraqi government continues to make limited progress in meeting eight legislative benchmarks intended to promote national reconciliation. As of October 25, 2007, the Iraqi government had met one legislative benchmark and partially met another. (p. 7)

    I'd like to return to a post of mine from February to highlight the point that this has always been the number one issue:
    ...it seems that until you have an actual plan that has some chance of success (by saying this, I’m stating that I believe that if we could muster enough man power to match the recommendations of the counterinsurgency manual, then we would be looking at a statistical chance of military success; at least one worth looking into provided we reassess what the final result in Iraq will look like and lose the rose-colored glasses)... . NO war has ever had the characteristic of total and complete victory or perfection... . The fundamental problem is that no level of military successes will ever win this war. There has to be political progress and the likelihood of that happening is slim, even with zero or a million troops in Iraq.

    The Democrats know this but are repeatedly cowed into submission by Republican politicians and conservative pundits (which is a sign of a chronic flaw on their behalf).

    What is most striking to me is how clear this is to to the Shiite political parties in Iraq. It's been quite clear for some time now that the Shiite government has abandoned the goals set for them by the president and the Congress. Now the PM al Maliki is on record saying not only is it not his responsibility to meet these benchmarks but that a large portion of them have indeed been met. Marc Lynch observes:
    Friday, [al Maliki] elaborated on his views of the current Iraqi political scene in a very intriguing, and frankly troubling, interview with al-Arabiya (I couldn't find any English-language mentions of it at all via Google News, sorry). The interview did not break any particularly new ground, but it did make one thing very clear: do not expect Maliki to pursue seriously any moves towards national reconciliation, defined in terms of legislation at the national level or agreements with Sunni political parties. The deadlock at the national political level, so clear at the time of the Petraeus-Crocker hearings in September, will not end any time soon.
    Maliki argued on al-Arabiya that Iraqi national reconciliation has not only already been achieved, it is "strong and stable and not fragile". There is no civil war in Iraq, or even any real sectarian conflict anymore - the sectarian hatreds incited by "some" in the past have been overcome. He made clear that he does not equate national reconciliation with political progress at the national level: "I think that national reconciliation will come about not as some understand it, as a reconciliation with this political party governed by an ideology or a specific mentality." Real national reconciliation, to Maliki, takes place at the local level, when "you can go into the street and meet with a Sunni in Shia areas or with a Shia in Sunni areas, where they live together once again." That, he suggests, has happened. The various Sunni awakenings demonstrate reconciliation at the local level, and their support for his national government. He claims that people who fled mixed Sunni-Shia areas are now returning (or are welcome to do so), and that the people now reject sectarianism in favor of national unity and his government. True, some politicians are still demanding reconciliation, but he dismisses them as "minor political parties" whose tiresome complaints now fall on deaf ears with the people. The attempt to unseat him last year by various political factions? An attempted coup against the political process by those (regrettably mainly Sunnis) who want to return the Baath Party to its monopoly on power.

    Good Lord!

    The only corner we've turned in Iraq is one that put right back where we were late last year. The only difference is were are all but arming the opposition Sunnis and Maliki's national government has quit the reconciliation business.

    Hold on tight!

    Posted by Geoff

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