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By Yasser Alaskary
April 26, 2006

Security

Prime minister-designate, Jawad al-Maliki’s selection has given new impetus to the political process in Iraq. The greatest casualty of the four-month political deadlock was Iraqis’ faith in the democratic and political process – which Al-Maliki will need to revive.

However, the political process has very little bearing on the terrorism plaguing Iraq, as Monday’s bombings demonstrated. At the heart of this misconception is a failure to understand the driving force behind the terrorism in Iraq and in turn formulate an effective strategy to combat it.

Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s gaffe earlier this month, saying Iraq’s Shia represent a fifth-column is representative of a general belief amongst most Sunni Arabs across the Middle East that Iraq is rightfully theirs, as it always has been for 14 centuries. Feeding into this basic racist belief is Wahabi-Salafist thought, which preaches that Iraq’s majority Shia are apostates who must be killed, resulting in droves of fundamental terrorists eager to fight any democratically elected government.

Led by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a Sunni himself who has been accused of showing signs of favouritism to Sunni Arabs, the US Embassy in Baghdad has pursued a policy of placating terrorists and working to strengthen Sunni Arabs far beyond their electoral gains. Their argument is that Iraq’s Sunni minority must be included in the political process, which is certainly true, but it is not achieved by fuelling beliefs of superiority and a ‘right to govern’ held by the Mubaraks of Iraq.

Instead, the US Embassy should help Iraq’s Sunnis to come to terms with the new power balance and to take their part in the democratic process. Washington should also pressurize Sunni leaders in the Middle East to come to terms with the new realities that democracy has brought, rather than to feed and encourage their warped view of Iraq.

This is not an easy option to follow and may take a new Iraqi Sunni generation to achieve, but this is the only realistic long-term strategy for achieving stability in Iraq.

Cabinet

While PM-designate is tasked under the Constitution to form a government, in reality the tendency has been for the political parties to divide up the ministries amongst themselves and the PM is shut-out of the process. Al-Maliki is a tough-minded politician and undoubtedly will seek to have an active role in selecting his cabinet to ensure they are competent. Pressure will need to be applied to the major political parties to give him room to do this.

SCIRI will not give up the Interior Ministry easily, which is a problem that al-Maliki must overcome. The Kurds are willing to yield the Foreign Ministry in exchange for either the Finance or Oil Ministries which offers a window of opportunity. It is likely that SCIRI can be persuaded to give up the Interior Ministry in exchange for the Foreign Ministry, most likely to be run by Hamid al-Bayyati. The Interior Ministry can then be given to a more competent Shia politician who is either genuinely independent or does not belong to a party which has a militia. The Sunnis will keep the Defense Ministry, but will need to field a capable candidate not associated with Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to get Kurdish and Shia approval.

 

© 2007 Iraqi Prospect Organisation
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