Monday, October 18, 2010

I hate being right

By Peter Henne

I hate being right. Sometimes, at least.

A few months ago, I raised concerns about the possibility of U.S.-allied Sunni militias in Iraq turning against the Iraqi government. Concerns about instability as a result of the country's political situation and a failure to provide payments to the militias increased the risk of them aligning with al-Qaeda in Iraq. I've also been concerned about the deadlock produced by the March parliamentary elections, which resulted in a slim victory for Iyad Allawi but stalling on the part of incumbent Nouri al-Maliki; this stalling has led to increased ethnic tensions. The dangers posed by this situation continue.

Reports have now emerged that the deadlock has indeed caused many Sunnis to turn against the government. The political situation in Iraq is of course a dynamic one, so this may not necessarily indicate a long-term trend, but chances are it does. The combination of residual Sunni concerns about the Shiite-led government, a lack of strong central authority, and al-Maliki's willingness to stir up ethnic tensions when it benefits him politically gives Sunni groups an incentive to hedge their bets by finding allies other than the government.

There are a few potential solutions, which I have already discussed. First, the United States needs to pay more attention to Iraq; the war may have faded from public attention but U.S. troops are still fighting and dying in this country. Second, increased funding for the Sunni militias is needed. Money is not the only thing driving this realignment, but it certainly matters. Third, the U.S. needs to place more pressure on the Iraqi government to resolve the deadlock; I have expressed the opinion that Allawi would be the best choice--both in terms of U.S. interests and legitimacy -- but at this point any clear winner would be good.

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  • The problem is -- other than what you've identified here -- Americans don't want to pay attention to Iraq anymore. Combat operations are supposedly over, it was the Vietnam of our generation (sort of), and, well, the U.S. lost, which makes it hard to take for the jingoists.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:59 PM  

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