Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Know Your Onion!

On Friday, Cernig poured the appropriate amount of cold water on news that the Sunni politicians had returned to parliament in Iraq:
I don't want to utterly write off the Sunni's return. Halting the worst excesses of de-Ba'athification will definitely help Iraq, for instance. But anyone who thinks the Sunnis in parliament are going to vote against their own interests on such as the oil law or that todays return is part of a magical transformation of the entire Iraqi political picture is smoking the Kool-Aid in a crack-pipe, not just drinking it.
And just to complete the dousing: achieving even the modest progress alluded to above assumes that "halting the worst excesses of de-Ba'athification" is possible given the current makeup (or even conceivable future makeup) of the Iraqi government. There is more than ample cause to doubt the likelihood.

There was one other item that Cernig discussed that I wanted to focus on, though:
For instance and despite the hype, the Anbar Opportunists are very much opposed to the Baghdad government - to the extent of even mistrusting the Sunni represenatives there.
This is absolutely correct, which represents a major impediment to winding down the violence in Iraq. Because there is no unified political voice that speaks for the Sunni insurgents (and certainly not one participating in the Iraqi government), forging political deals that will satisfy the demands of those combatants, and bind them accordingly, is exceedingly difficult. As James Fearon pointed out in this devastatingly thorough essay, this is but one of many factors that points to the inevitability of a protracted Iraqi civil war (regardless of our presence).

There have been, however, recent indications that the Sunni insurgents are beginning to get serious about devising such a unified political voice. Predictably, due to the extent of factionalization within the Sunni ranks, progress has been slow, halting and prone to evaporate amidst the intrigue of competing alliances and suspicions. There is little indication that any consensus political vehicle is even on the distant horizon.

Which brings me back to the passage cited by Cernig above. As mentioned, the Anbar Awakening crowd does not have a lot of faith in, or support for, the Sunni political representatives in the Green Zone. But it's actually worse than that. Much of the rank and file Sunni resistance doesn't have much faith in the Anbar Awakening crowd, and there is considerable fear among these groups that the Anbar Awakening faction is trying to outmaneuver the other elements of the Sunni insurgency - sell out, if you will, to the Americans for a ripe payoff and a key political perch.

Suffice it to say, the non-Anbar Awakening insurgents have even less faith in the Green Zone politicians. To top it off, none of these groups enjoys widespread support from the Sunni population at large, and their goals are divergent enough to suggest that coming to such an accommodation remains a remote possibility for the time being.

We're looking for something solid and consistent -a unified political voice capable of forging lasting accords - when all we have are layers and layers of mistrust, animosity, powerlust and conflict. And that's just the Sunni side of the ledger.

(cross-posted to Total Information Awareness)

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