Low Hanging Fruit In Baghdad's Gardens Of Democracy
One of the architects of America's victorious alliance with the Kurds in the Gulf War, Ambassdor Peter Galbraith, reports that on May 30,General Benjamin Mixon, the US commander for northern Iraq, presided over the "benchmark" handover of security in the Kurdish provinces to the Iraqi government. Praising the government of Prime Minister Maliki, he said, Iraqis now control security in seven of the nation's eighteen provinces.
Really? The only Coalition force in Kurdistan is the Peshmerga, loyal only to the Kurdistan government in Erbil. It , not Baghdad , provided security before during and after the handover--the Iraqi army has not set foot in the Kurds territory since 1996, and the Iraqi flag , banned in Kurdistan did not fly at the ceremony. In a compromise that took Mixon's staff months to work out with Kurdistan's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, , not a single flag flew in the military parade that followed.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, attended only to acknowledge the right of the six million Kurds— nearly 1 in 4 erstwhile Iraqis —to chart their own course.The nine southern Shiite provinces were not represented at the ceremony , nor were such Sunni strongholds as Anbar and Tikrit. This removed both the risk of Kurds revenging themselves and the stain on the powers of diplomacy of any Shiite government ministers attending.
National reconciliation in Iraq focuses on taking legislative and political steps to address the concerns of Iraq's Sunnis, who feel left out of the country they dominated until 2003. Central are an oil revenue–sharing law ensuring the oil-poor Sunni regions a share of revenue, and provincial elections to redress the parliamentary dispaity arising from the Sunni boycott of the January 2005 provincial and parliamentary elections. Not all Shia leaders favor another step both Congress and the administration have adduced- ending the ban on public service by ex-Baathists. A case in point is the head of SIIC ,Iraq's leading Shiite party ,a critical member of Prime Minister al-Maliki's ruling coalition.
SICK AND SCARY
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, previously known as SCIRI), head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. is the sole survivor of eight brothers. Saddam executed six , and on August 29, 2003, a diehard Baath suicide bomber blew up the last, Abdul Aziz's predecessor as leader of SCIRI. Hakim's main rival, Moqtada al-Sadr ,comes from Iraq's other prominent family of Shiite clerics, both hostile to the US and closely tied to Iran.In 1999, Saddam murdered his father and two brothers. A decade earlier, Baath security men arrested Moqtada's father-in-law, the Grand Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr, and raped and killed the ayatollah's sister before his eyes before setting fire to his beard and driving nails into his head.
Galbraith notes that Iraq's decentralized constitution gives the governorates enormous power and direct revenues . If elections are held , SIIC, whose members already govern seven of the nine southern provinces, would lose ground to Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political base could give his followers control of Baghdad Governorate and the quarter of Iraq's population surrounding the Green Zone. The Petraeus doctrine and deployment of UAV's have achieved welcome and remarkable progress on the ground and in the air, but how the Administration can serve American interests by surging to promote early elections is by no means clear.