The other day I posted a somewhat optimistic
diary about the future prospects for Iraq. My arguments were predicated on many ifs, the main one hinged on greater Sunni particpation in the political process. As we learn more about the election results and subsequent fallout, I feel somewhat foolish for even entertaining any positive thoughts with regards to this mess. Violence is permanent, civil war is imminent and the Iranian model has found new, fertile ground. We are all losers.
The latest Knight Ridder
piece sums up the looming crisis:
Sunni Muslim political leaders claimed Tuesday that Iraq's preliminary election results were rigged, raising fears that they'll reject the new government as illegitimate.
If that happens, many fear that Sunnis will depend on the insurgency to achieve their political aims, not the parliament, pushing the nation toward civil war, not consensus, and threatening U.S. plans to withdraw some troops.
Election results released Tuesday, with nearly 90 percent of the votes counted, showed that Shiite Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of the population, won about 110 seats in the 275-member National Assembly through their United Iraqi Alliance slate. Sunnis had 33, and the Kurds had 40. Most of the remaining seats went to smaller parties.
This election was the grand opportunity to engage the reluctant Sunni population. Increasingly, it appears that any hope for true powersharing is over and the Sunnis will be marginalized. Without a concrete stake in the "new" Iraq, the insurgency is now equipped with a powerful draw. Suspicion of Shia intentions had risen in the weeks leading up to this election, any hope for some honest dialogue was contingent on a strong Sunni presence in the new government.
The big winner appears to be Iran and the foundation for civil war is now institutionalized. All the possibilities and maybes are now eliminated, the Sunni are relegated to token involvement.
Given that this administration has tied the security situation to troop levels, this watershed moment makes a large American presence a certainty into the distant future. The fledgling Iraq security forces will further fracture under ethnic lines, with no national sense to bind it. The militias will strengthen as suspicion and hostility rises. The real danger now is that American forces will be drawn into internal struggles and I can honestly envision a scenario where we are active participants in a civil war. The threat of profound Iranian influence, a theocratic regime that is hostile to western ideals, may well force the administration to look for ways too temper the Shia role. The overt tension with Iran itself will intensify as they move closer to nuclear capability. As all these forces coalesce, I fear that instead of talk of withdrawal, we will witness a larger war with more uncertainty.
Iraq's only chance, and an admitted longshot, was for these elections to offer an opportunity for all factions to hold some power. The pitfalls were there, the learned pessimism warranted, but at least a sliver of hope that we would be able to untangle ourselves from this mess and Iraqis may have a chance. Now, it appears obvious that we will sit and watch the slowburn of a "country" falling apart, with the horrific alternatives a virtual certainty. We are all losers.