Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hint: We're not wanted

Alternet is reporting something shattering concerning Iraqi politics:

more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

It's a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time;....

Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that's called for by a majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear.

Most politicians in most societies are at best coincident indicators of public sentiment; more generally they are lagging indicators of where the political and public moods actually exist. In this case, the Iraqi parliament is a couple of years behind Iraqi public opinion on wanting the US forces out of the country.

However this quick note on typical political behavioral lags is not the interesting thing. The first is that Cernig's thesis that a nationalist bloc built between Baathists, secularists, Sunni Arabs, some exiles and most speculatively and importantly a significant portion of the Sadrist movement have been able to demonstrate their ability to form a plausible majority in Parliament. This is the anti-American bloc as they want a reasonably strong central government with control over the oil revenues and the Americans out ASAP. In the long run if the US wants to play power politics, this is the group we should be playing against Iran, but we can't think that far ahead.

Secondly, Maliki is screwed. His marginal coalition members have been pulling out and going into the opposition and the opposition has a credible majority that they may or may not choose to exercise. His main power base now is SCIRI, the Kurds who want out of Iraq, and the US Army. The surge was designed to buy him time to make political deals [despite the fact that the full slate of US-desired deals would be a contradictory and tangled mess] but the hourglass is quickly running of sand.

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