Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Harsh Reality

The evil bush-hating liberals in the MSM just can't get enough of the boycott of the Iraqi parliament by the Sunni Accord Front, the largest Sunni coalition. This boycott, which has lasted more than a week already, threatens to derail the political process and scupper the much heralded "national unity government".

But you don't need me to tell you that. I mean, those leftie defeatists in the media, who seem so keen to concentrate on the worst of the situation in Iraq, have been harping on about this every constantly. Oh, hang on...

This situation actually has found its way into the media although the the coverage it has received is woefully out of proportion to the seriousness of the implications. The New York Times (via), to give them credit where due, outlines the situation as it stood yesterday.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 8 — Sunni Arab politicians are considering withdrawing from executive offices in the Shiite-led government because militiamen have yet to free a Sunni legislator kidnapped this month, a Sunni leader said Saturday.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leader of the main Sunni Arab political group, which holds 44 of the 275 seats in Parliament, said the bloc would also continue its boycott of the legislature for a second week.

The boycott began after Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, a member of the bloc, was abducted with eight bodyguards on July 1 at a checkpoint in Baghdad while driving from her home north of the city. Members of her party say a bodyguard who escaped has described the abductors as Shiite militiamen.

Sunni politicians have long criticized the ruling Shiite political parties for supporting militias and filling the ranks of the government security forces with militiamen.

"Everything is possible," Mr. Dulaimi said in a telephone interview, addressing the possibility of a Sunni pullout from the government. "The issue needs to be studied and an agreement must be reached to arrive at a solution."

The abduction of Ms. Mashhadani has plunged the new government, approved in May and led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, into its first major political crisis. Before parliamentary elections last December, American officials worked hard to coax Sunni Arab politicians to participate, in the hope that political engagement would help dissipate the Sunni-led insurgency. But the Sunni Arab boycott of Parliament just weeks after the government began to operate has underscored the fragility of the ethnic and sectarian power-sharing agreement.
This isn't good.

Today, it appears that there has been another escalation in the sectarian conflict. More than 40 Sunnis have been killed in a deliberately provocative bout of ethnic cleansing. It is highly likely that this was indeed the work of radical Shiite militiamen. What's perhaps most troubling is that this wasn't a hit and run bomb attack or gun battle but a sustained and carefully targeted operation. The perpetrators set up a check point, seperated Sunnis as they came through, and then killed them. They also entered the homes of Sunnis in the area and killed everyone inside, according to an eye witness. This reveals the extent to which security is completely absent in areas of Baghdad.

Clearly, this escalation is designed to, and indeed almost certainly will, cause a harden in the attitudes of Sunni politicians and make their withdrawal from the government even more likely. It is to be hoped that Sunni politicians do not react to this provocation but, sadly, this is unlikely.

Before you condemn me for assuming irrationality on the part of Iraqis, ask youself how you would react if this had happened in your neighbourhood. Could you continue to work with those you believe to be in alliance with these callous murderers of the people you've been elected to represent?

Equally, try putting yourself in that position before you think about condemning Iraqis for their inability to work together in a stable government for the good of the country as a whole.

The situation has now almost certainly deteriorated to the point of no return. In the absence of a huge peacekeeping force trusted and considered neutral by all parties, it is impossible to see how the distrust and sectarian tensions can be defused. And the sad reality is that no such force exists.

Whether the "national unity government" survives a little longer or whether it collapses as a result of this attack is still open to question. Iraqis have, in fact, shown extraordinary resiliance in confronting the situation they find themselves in. But, tragically, if it does survive this, the overall situation will not change. And the next provocation will be harder to ignore. And the one after that even more so.

With no end to the violence in sight, and with absolutely no sign that there's any way to stop it, Iraq will continue to slide down the slope towards all-out sectarian conflict and the disintegration of the country as a viable unified nation state.

Blair's often says that history will be the judge of his decision to invade Iraq. This is, of course, the desperate last defence of a person who's policies are indefensible in the present day.

Well Mr Blair, unless something truly extraordinary and unprecedented occurs very soon indeed, history will show that an ignorant Western leader's ill-conceived intervention in another country led to the balkanisation of the region and created a whole new set of problems which the people of that country, and the wider world, are still suffering because of today. It's an all to familiar refrain.

Perhaps if Blair had been as interested in history as he was in modernity, he might have been able to learn some of the lessons it teaches. Instead, his ignorance, naive idealism, and gung-ho attitude doomed him to repeat the mistakes of the past.

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