failed summit in Iraq? plus a view of Allawi

The Summit That Failed:  Andrew Sullivan

17 Aug 2007 01:53 pm

<!– –>More evidence that the surge is not making political progress possible in Iraq:

Al-Arabiya is reporting that the emergency political summit of Iraq’s leaders has failed to produce even nominal political reconciliation. This is a devastating outcome for the Maliki government and for those Americans who hoped to have some political progress to show in the upcoming Crocker/Petraeus report. There’s no other way to spin this: this summit was billed as the last chance, and it has failed.

….I thought there was at least a chance that they would cobble something together out of desperation and find ways to lure the Sunni parties back in….They did not. Instead, Talabani announced the formation of a new four party coalition in support of the current government without any Sunni representation. What’s left is a government stripped to its sectarian base — the two Kurdish parties and the two major Shia parties — and a world of political hurt.

Kevin Drum observes:

[T]he eventual fate of Iraq (outside the Kurdish north) is the establishment of a Shia theocracy closely aligned with Iran. As far as I can tell, no one has even a colorable argument that things are moving in any other direction, and equally, no colorable argument that there’s anything we can do to stop it.

Captain’s Quarters  

Maliki Tries Statesmanship

Nouri al-Maliki has come under a torrent of criticism in Congress, even among supporters of the war effort in Iraq, as too ineffectual and sectarian to create the kind of political reform necessary to stabilize his nation. The Iraqi Prime Minister has had a number of embarrassing resignations from his government, calling into question whether he has enough pull to make any progress towards the benchmarks set by an impatient US government. Given all that, his critics will likely be shocked at his latest move — a direct and personal appeal to Sunni tribal leaders:

Iraq’s prime minister, a Shiite, flew to Saddam Hussein’s hometown Friday and told Sunni tribal chieftains that all Iraqis must unite in the fight to crush al-Qaeda in Iraq and extremist Shiite militias “to save our coming generations.”

With the U.S. Congressional majority increasingly antsy to get out of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki’s bold incursion into Tikrit — a city once pampered by Saddam, its favorite son — underlined the prime minister’s determination to save his paralyzed government from collapse and prevent further disillusionment in Washington.The sharp alteration of political course — a willingness to travel to the belly of the Sunni beast and talk with former enemies — suggested a new flexibility from the hardline religious Shiite.

“There is more uniting us than dividing us,” he told sheiks in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. “We do not want to allow al-Qaeda and the militias to exist for our coming generations. Fighting terrorism gives us a way to unite.”

Maliki didn’t stop there. He made what looks to be a clean break with Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday, signing an accord with the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The coucil commands the Badr Brigade, which has fought Sadr’s forces in the south for control. Maliki apparently has co-opted them into the government, isolating Sadr even further than ever after the radical cleric pulled his ministers from Maliki’s government.

Opposing Sadr will help build trust with Sunni leadership. They have bitterly complained about security efforts being focused on Sunnis while Sadr’s Mahdi Army continues to operate against Sunnis in mixed sectarian populations. If Maliki has broken with Sadr, then the Sunnis will have an opening to flex some political muscle. And with the effort of General Petraeus and the American forces in western and central Iraq, the unity and purpose of those Sunni tribes can work to Maliki’s benefit with recalcitrant Shi’ites.

The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam’s former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he’s mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.

A Plan for Iraq

By Ayad Allawi, Saturday, August 18, 2007

….Iraq is a failing state, not providing the most basic security and services to its people and contributing to an expanding crisis in the Middle East.

Let me be clear. Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations. The expected “crisis summit” in Baghdad is further evidence of the near-complete collapse of the Iraqi government. The best outcome of the summit is perhaps a renewed effort or commitment for the participants to work together, which may buy a few more weeks or months of cosmetic political activity. But there will be no lasting political reconciliation under Maliki’s sectarian regime.

Who could have imagined that Iraq would be in such crisis more than four years after Saddam Hussein? Each month 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi civilians are killed by terrorists and sectarian death squads. Electricity and water are available, at best, for only five to six hours a day. Baghdad, once evidence of Iraq’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, is now a city of armed sectarian enclaves — much like Beirut of the 1980s.

It is up to Iraqis to end the violence and bring stability, security and democracy to our country. I am working with my colleagues in parliament to build a nonsectarian majority coalition that will support the following six-point plan for a “new era” in Iraq and replace through democratic means the current Iraqi government.

· Iraq must be a full partner with the United States in the development of a security plan that leads to the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. forces over the next two years, and that, before then, gradually and substantially reduces the U.S. combat role. The United States is indispensable to peace and security in Iraq and the greater Middle East. But we owe it to America — and, more important, to ourselves — to start solving our own problems. This will not happen as long as the present government is in power.

· I propose declaring a state of emergency for Baghdad and all conflict areas. Iraq’s security forces need to be reconstituted. Whenever possible, these reconstituted forces should absorb members of the sectarian and ethnic militias into a nonsectarian security command structure. Empowering militias is not a sustainable solution, because it perpetuates the tensions between communities and undermines the power and authority of the state. A state has no legitimacy if it cannot provide security.

· We need a regional diplomatic strategy that increasingly invests the United Nations and the Arab world in Iraqi security and reconstruction. Washington should not shoulder this diplomatic burden alone, as it largely has until now. Prime Minister Maliki has squandered Iraq’s credibility in Arab politics, and he cannot restore it. In addition, Iraq needs to be more assertive in telling Iran to end its interference in Iraqi affairs and in persuading Syria to play a more constructive role in Iraq.

· Iraq must be a single, independent federal state. We should empower local and provincial institutions at the expense of sectarian politics and an all-powerful and overbearing Baghdad. Religion should be a unifying — not divisive — force in my country. Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite, should take pride in their Islamic identity. But when religious sectarianism dominates politics, terrorists and extremists emerge as the sole winners.

· National reconciliation requires an urgent commitment to moderation and ending sectarian violence by integrating all Iraqis into the political process. We should recognize the contribution of the Kurds and the Kurdistan Regional Government to Iraq’s democratic future. Reconciliation requires the active engagement of prominent Iraqi Shiite and Sunni political and religious leaders. Maliki has stalled the passage of legislation, proposed in March, to reverse de-Baathification. That proposal should be passed immediately.

· The Iraqi economy has been handicapped by corruption and inadequate security. We must emphasize restoration of the most basic infrastructure. There can be no sustainable economic development and growth without reliable electricity, running and potable water, and basic health care. Over time, Iraq needs to build a free-market economy with a prominent role for the private sector.

It is past time for change at the top of the Iraqi government. Without that, no American military strategy or orderly withdrawal will succeed, and Iraq and the region will be left in chaos.

The writer was interim prime minister of Iraq from 2004 to 2005.

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