Bush Touts Surge...Sunni's Boycott Iraq Cabinet genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Juggling Blindfolded

Even if one assumes that the latest troop surge in Iraq has some merit (which I doubt), the prevailing issue remains that the various sectarian groups are no closer to crafting a workable government or ending their years of animosity. The latest example of this elephant in the room...one that the Bush administration can't or won't acknowledge...is the Sunni withdrawal from participation in the Iraqi cabinet.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's main Sunni Arab bloc said on Friday it was suspending its participation in cabinet because of legal steps being taken against one of its ministers, deepening the sectarian gulf between the country's politicians.

The Sunni Accordance Front has six cabinet posts and the move is a blow to Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a time when he is under U.S. pressure to push through laws aimed at reconciling majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

The bloc also suspended its participation in parliament a week ago over the ousting of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of its members. The latest move effectively removes Sunni Arabs from the cabinet and parliament, leaving Shi'ites and Kurds.

"We have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi," the head of the bloc, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told Reuters by telephone from Amman.

While I have no way to judge whether the Sunni's were justified in their actions, if one thinks about our own government (one that American's often view as dysfunctional) and tries to imagine what similar event would elicit the withdrawal of a large block of high ranking politicians, I would speculate that it would be a far more egregious event. I draw the comparison to highlight the distance the Iraqi's must travel before they can be expected to have a functional government.

Until Iraq's sectarian groups place more value on establishing a consensus government than on settling scores or defending their cronies from legitimate scrutiny or sanction, there is little chance that they will succeed in implementing a security force. At the moment, one would be hard pressed to presume that the current security structure is anything more than an assemblage of soldiers and police officers that first and foremost honor their sectarian allegiances.

With an Iraqi security force well over 300,000 strong...in addition to the 160,000 U.S. troops...one would expect far more law and order and far less violence. Unfortunately, there are indications that the Iraqi security forces may simply be using their positions to further sectarian objectives. Whatever the case may be, security remains elusive.

Washington has been urging Iraq for months to pass major laws aimed at drawing Sunni Arabs more firmly into the political process. None of the drafts have reached parliament.

The laws deal with sharing revenues from Iraq's huge oil reserves more equitably, holding provincial elections and amending a ban on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party serving in the government and military.

U.S. President George W. Bush pleaded for patience for his Iraq strategy on Thursday as he scrambled to prevent further defections by fellow Republicans skeptical of his war strategy.

Perhaps I'm just a pessimist but if the various groups in the Iraqi government are bickering over how to conduct investigations into possible wrongdoing by fellow members of the government, what are the chances they can reach agreement on the distribution of oil revenues or any other critical issues.

While the Bush administration attempts to focus the American public on the need for the latest surge in U.S. troops, I'm of the opinion that the surge's success or failure is irrelevant so long as Iraq doesn't have a functional government. In the last four years we have heard a litany of explanations and excuses for the lack of progress.

I fear that this latest surge and the associated campaign to persuade American's to stay the course will only be followed by an admission that Iraq simply lacks the wherewithal and the will to step in and assume responsibility for the country's security.

I hope I'm wrong but in the end I'm awfully thankful that I'm not George Bush or a supporter of his Iraq strategy. If my instincts are right, and the situation goes from bad to worse, the president and his apologists are in for an even rougher period of voter unrest. When that happens, look for many of the remaining Republican members of congress to jump ship.

Daniel DiRito | June 29, 2007 | 1:46 PM
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