Iraq and Gulf Analysis

A Constructive Element in Democratic Iraq Policy

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 6 October 2008 0:00

There are numerous problems when it comes to Democratic policy for Iraq, but a very useful article in the NYT has highlighted one feature of Barack Obama’s thinking on Iraq that both Democrats and Republicans should take into more consideration. According to the article, which was based on an interview with Obama, “Mr. Obama said he would end efforts to train the Iraqi military if Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government did not take adequate steps to integrate the largely Sunni members of the Awakening movements into Iraq’s security forces.” Conversely, John McCain had argued that “threats to cut off American training or deadlines for removing combat brigades, …would only prompt Iraq to become more dependent on Iran or turn to militias for security. ‘For a long time, people have said threaten them with this, threaten them with that,’ Mr. McCain said.”

While Obama may be wrong when it comes to the characterisation of the conflict in Iraq as essentially a sectarian one, he is certainly right in thinking in terms of conditionality with regard to US support. A large majority of Iraqis, Shiites and Sunnis, want national reconciliation and constitutional changes, but if the United States does not put pressure on Maliki, he will prefer the more leisurely option of arming the state to deal with dissidents.

Also, in relation to the federalism debate, Maliki’s office today issued a statement to the effect that “federal regions should not be stronger than the central government”, although he was magnanimous enough to concede that “federal regions and governorates will not be abolished or rendered ineffectual”…Surely this debate on state structure has changed over the past year or so.

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