Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If Only this Leopard Would Grow Stripes

I'm still trying to figure out who, exactly, Senator Levin thinks is occupying all those seats in the Iraqi parliament:

Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.

"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.

We already went through this about a year and a half ago when we decided that the sectarian dynamic in Iraq was mostly the fault of then-Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (the head of the Islamist Dawa Party that was sharing power with other Shiite religious parties such as SCIRI, Fadhila and the Sadrists as part of the dominant UIA Shiite coalition).

So we pressured, connived and leaned on the Shiites, eventually compelling them to replace Dawa's number one guy (Jaafari) with...Dawa's number two guy (Nuri al-Maliki)! Because that was likely to change the agenda dramatically. It would be like impeaching Bush in the expectation that Cheney would restore sanity to the White House.

The larger point being that Maliki - like Jaafari - is not an aberration or an outlier. He is not a loose cannon, rogue element or unorthodox figure. Nuri al-Maliki is a predictable, unremarkable product of the sectarian, communal mindset that dominates Iraqi political life. He is not acting against the wishes of his colleagues, but in furtherance of them. I'd love to hear what Senator Levin has in mind in terms of parliamentary coalitions that would elect this new, less sectarian prime minister.

As an example of how meager the prospects are, there has been talk about a palace coup involving none other than Ibrahim Jaafari himself acting in a bid to oust his Dawa Party-mate Maliki. I doubt such a reset would achieve what Senator Levin wants though considering Jaafari's track record. Then, of course, is the serial discussion of the Ayad Allawi putsch - which is about as implausible as a new, less sectarian Jaafari. The problem with Allawi is, and has always been, that he is vastly more popular in American circles than Iraqi. Yet by some cruel twist of irony, it's the Iraqis who get to actually vote, what with their purple stained fingers and all.

The bottom line is that If you call on an Iraqi parliament comprised of the same elements to replace Maliki, it is unlikely that the replacement prime minister will be any less "sectarian" or more unifying. If a prime minister attempted to rule in such a manner, he would be promptly sacked. By his very electors.

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