Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for December 15th, 2010

Once More, Washington Puts the Cart before the Horse in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 19:25

First, the Obama administration played a key role in Sunnifying the Iraqi nationalism of Iraqiyya so that it could be more acceptable to Iran: By encouraging Iraqiyya to accept a junior, “Sunni” role in a power-sharing arrangement for the next government where the Iranian-supported Shiite parties clearly have the upper hand, Washington basically gave Iran what it wanted in Iraq in terms of a politics defined in sectarian fronts. To add insult to injury advisers to Obama went on to spin the US involvement in the affair as a triumph of American diplomacy against Iran! Today the US government went a little further: To celebrate the latest “progress”, it decided it was time for the UN Security Council to give up some of what little remains of outside-world leverage in Iraq, including a formal termination of the oil-for-food programme and restrictions relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Unsurprisingly, it was Vice-President Joe Biden that dominated today’s proceedings in the UN Security Council, convened under the US presidency, but in every other respect awkwardly timed. Despite the lack of substantial progress in the Iraqi government-formation process, Biden chose to focus on supposed “remarkable developments” in Iraq. Other US officials have cited “very real progress” and even “tremendous progress”. They do not even seem to notice that the Iraqi parliament has yet to address the legal framework for the supposed cornerstone of the power-sharing “deal”, the national council for high policies, without which the whole “agreement” is basically a spin-doctor masquerade. It should be added that the UNAMI report that formed the basis for today’s discussion of the “progress” is comparatively sober: Although it fails to acknowledge the considerable challenges involved in legislating brand new institutions of power to make the deal work, at least it recognises that some of the issues involved in the power-sharing deal belong to the sphere of constitutional revision – where progress is measured in years rather than in months.

For good measure, with respect to the lifting of the measures relating to weapons of mass destruction, the action by the UNSC came before Iraq had actually conformed to the relevant inspections protocols, with the only hard leverage now remaining in the hands of the international community relating to Kuwait and debt. The circularity of the US approach and the problem of timing were clearly revealed in the speech by the Iraqi foreign minister, Hosyar Zibari, before the council today: According to Zibari, the latest action by the Security Council proved that today’s Iraq was very different from the Iraq of Saddam Hussein! Of course, a major worry among many Iraqis is precisely that Maliki’s second premiership could develop into a very authoritarian one, but instead of asking critical questions (and using leverage) at this sensitive stage of the government negotiation process, the international community elected to celebrate the non-existent progress and the imaginary power-sharing. There was a deafening chorus about “Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Christians” by confused diplomats who do not understand that their “inclusive power-sharing government” is just a carve-up whereby some hundred politicians get the jobs they want at the expense of the governance of Iraq and its people. In this respect, the Arabic language is actually more honest than the English: They call it simply taqasum al-sulta, i.e. “divvying up” power, rather than sharing it.

Zibari promised the new government would be formed “very, very soon”; representatives of Lebanon and Bosnia were among the well wishers.

Posted in Iraqi constitutional issues, US policy in Iraq: Leverage issues | 16 Comments »