Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Trouble For Maliki - Mookie's Faction Leaves Iraqi Parliament

The ongoing farce known as the Iraqi government suffered another defection as the Shi'ite bloc loyal to our old friend Moqtada al-Sadr left the government and walked out of Iraq's ruling Shiite coalition.

That leaves Maliki with a razor thin, bare majority in the Iraqi parliament, cutting back his ruling coalition to a mere 85 seats (out of a total of 275) as opposed to the 140 seats it originally had.

Back in April, al-Sadr's bloc had withdrawn its six ministers from the cabinet because Maliki failed to endorse a fixed deadline for US troops to leave Iraq.Now, the Sadrists are using their opposition to the Americans as a justification for leaving the ruling coalition entirely.

Oddly enough, this puts the Kurds, with their 53 parliament seats in a much stronger position. Maliki needs them in order to continue to stay in power, so this could either be the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end for the Iraqi government.

On the plus side, with the obstructionist Sadrists and the other Shi'ite extremists out of government, Maliki, if he wants, has increased flexibility to clean up his act and pursue legislation that encompasses all Iraqis, rejects tribalism, promotes reconciiation withthe Sunnis and Kurds and meets the desired US benchmarks. This could be the beginning of a real Iraqi democracy, if Maliki has the strength and foresight to push for it.

On the minus side, this could be the beginning of the end for Maliki if he actually pursues a united Iraqi government and the Shi'ites see that as coming at the expense of their tribe and their power.

Not to mention what the Iranians might foment.Let's remember, thanks to the imminent British retreat from Basra and south Iraq, Iran will have dominance over that region through the Shi'ite militias it controls, who will take over by default when the British leave.

Maliki, in other words, is in one tight squeeze. If he yields to his natural inclinations and favors Iran and the Shi'ites as he's done so far, Iraq will likely partition along ethnic lines as the US leaves.

If he decides to pursue reconcilliation and democracy, if he's seen as too pro American, too pro-Sunni and Kurd, the Shi'ites will resent it and could likely topple his government,with the eager help of Iran.

A third alternative, of course, would be for the US to do what we should have done from the first, to depose the government and institute a US military government similar to what we did in Japan after WWII. I put the chances of that at slim and none.

Another possibillity, and the winning one in my opinion would be for the US to forcibly confront Iran and end its interference in Iraq once and for all.That would eliminate a lot of the clout of the Shi'ite militias, and cut off their support.

The Arabs, as I've noted before, tend to have an `at your feet or at your throat' kind of mentality. As the Ottomans discovered during their five centuries of successful rule over the region, the Arabs respond well to this kind of display of power. Humiliating Iran and eliminating them from the picture would work wonders for the political situation in Iraq and throughout the region as the various Arab factions stumbled over each other in an effort to get on the good side of the victorious Americans.

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