The new cracks in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government appeared even as U.S. military officials sounded cautious notes of progress on security, citing strides against insurgents linked to al-Qaida in Iraq but also new threats from Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
Despite the new U.S. accusations of Iranian meddling, the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors met Monday for their third round of talks in just over two months. A U.S. embassy spokesman called the talks between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, "frank and serious."
But it was al-Maliki's troubles that seized the most attention.
The Cabinet boycott of five ministers loyal to former Iraqi leader Ayad Allawi left the government, at least temporarily, without participants where were members of the Sunni political apparatus — a deep blow to the prime minister's attempt to craft reconciliation among the country's majority Shiites and minority Sunnis and Kurds.
Breitbart also makes a point noting the Iraq government problem as a potentially devastating blow to US endeavors regardless of ongoing security measures.
That is likely to be the message that Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. officials in Iraq, convey to Congress and to Bush in September. They are in no position to predict how long it might take the Iraqi government to achieve reconciliation, but they are likely to concede, if asked, that if the Iraqis do not take key steps in the months ahead the entire U.S. approach may unravel.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose views on how to proceed in Iraq also will figure prominently in Bush's decisions, says the administration, in hoping for movement toward political reconciliation this year, underestimated the depth of mistrust between rival sects.
The culture of fear in Baghdad is ingrained.
Breitbart's report might be close to the cause of the break up, but it doesn't mean that it's bad. In fact, it might be an excellent time for a new election and shuffling of party coalitions in the assembly.
The Sunni's in government really didn't represent the Sunni population. In the 2005 election that put Maliki in place, the majority of Sunni's had boycotted the election. It gave the extremist Shia political parties a majority in the assembly, control of multiple ministries and the security forces which were highly infiltrated by the Shia militias and political adherents. The Sunni were completely shut out and had no leverage. They were and are routinely denied basic services and government funds while the Shia and Kurdish parts of the country were developing or getting plenty of slush funds through corruption and official programs. It was this part of the political process which fueled the Sunni Nationalist insurgency and sent them strongly into the arms of al Qaeda post 2005.
The fact that the military situation on the ground is changing will necessarily change the political situation. One of the important aspects of the counterinsurgency program in Anbar is that the local government is starting to change and take a more active role. Power brokers in the tribal areas, in small towns and large like Ramadi and Fallujah are changing the political landscape. The Sunnis in the current government, who were shoe horned in by dent of American demands, simply don't represent the realities on the ground nor the needs of the Sunnis.
Then there is the issue that the Sunnis probably did not get all of the assembly seats they could have had they participated in the elections which also put them at the mercy of the Shia who pretty much set about taking everything they could as the "rightful" heirs of 30 years of oppression. The Sunni tribal areas may have been "less" oppressed, but they certainly weren't living high off the hog except maybe in Fallujah.
The ground truth in Ramadi and Fallujah, two major Sunni dominated cities, along with Mosul and Tall Afar, represent a huge chunk of the Sunni political landscape. With their on-going pacification, these areas are ready to take up a meaningful place in national politics. Finally, those who were given seats in the primarily Shia government, aren't necessarily those who these Sunni's see as honest brokers for their future.
Though less apparent, the same situation may be true for the Shia dominated or mixed areas. Certainly, Sadr's cabinet withdrawals and withdrawals from the assembly may signal that he believes this reality to be true for the Shia as well. At the same time, there have been ongoing efforts to purge the ministries of militia and insurgent related members who have been assisting in fueling the insurgency, embezzling money, taking bribes, selling government goods on the black market and selling information.
Thus, the break up of Miliki's government, the potential new elections aren't necessarily something to fear, but could be the onus for the national reconciliation people continue to look for. For that reconciliation to happen, the people in the outer provinces surrounding Baghdad have to believe they have a stake. They have to buy into the government and that is not going to happen under its current configuration.
Maybe the recess isn't so bad? It's good for the representatives to get back home and find out what the people are really interested in. From recent reports, food, water and electricity would be good now that the security is improving.
Finally, while Maliki has been working extremely hard to move political factions and bring the Iraqi government around, he was the first president and he is tainted with the horrific security situation that began right after his tenure started. Not his fault, but that is how politics works. Iraq might just need to have a new, stronger political leader who will guide his party and Iraq government instead of the other way around.
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