"Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists..."
- The National Intelligence Estimate, Prospect for Iraq's Stability, August 2007
The above quote was the most enlightening portion of the NIE to me. The heart of the matter, a source of the continuing violence, a frustration to supporters and a rallying cry to critics of the war is the continued inability of the Iraqis to reach political reconciliation. The purpose of the so-called "surge" was to give the Iraqi politicos "breathing room". The surge didn't really start until mid-June (What? Even though they started talking about it last year, the troops weren't in place until June). That means the Iraqis have had, oh, say, eight weeks now of breathing room. They haven't solved all their problems yet?
Why don't they just sit down, work out their differences, and get on with their lives? Because they are all still chained to their past and unable to move forward. History, in Iraq as in the rest of the world, lays a heavy hand on a society. Prime Minister Maliki has come in for a lot of criticism lately for not acting more forcefully but he is not in a position to make anyone do anything. What instruments of power does he have?The budget? Not likely. The law? Not yet. Direct appeals to the electorate? Only when the electricity's on, and the citizenry can divert attention from their own problems.
The present Iraqi political process is strangled by the demons of their history. The Shia are like beaten dogs, staring at the open gate to freedom, but too afraid move forward and seize the opportunity. The Sunnis are like the Fuehrer in his bunker, shouting orders, with the Russian army outside. They are still deluded in the belief that they should still be in charge. And the Kurds? The status quo is perfect for them. Why should they do anything but resist change?
Something must be done to break this logjam.