While the early thoughts were that, while al Sadr and his followers’ withdrawal (for the second time) from the Iraqi government wouldn’t have an immediate adverse effect on the overall ability of the government to function (if what the Iraqi government is doing now can actually be called “functioning”), if you scratch beneath the surface, there are a number of troubling signs that do not bode well for the Iraqi government.
With a number of conditions (whether Bush actually cares about them or not, they are there) attached to the already failing escalation plan which specifically address benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet – benchmarks that almost immediately were not met - there is a significant question that needs to be asked:
What happens if and when this already splintering Iraqi government collapses?
Back in January, even the conservative US News and World Report was asking the question What if Iraq Doesn’t Meet the Benchmarks? Of course, the answer to that is (1) nothing as far as the Bush administration is concerned, (2) continued civil war and genocide and (3) despair for Iraqis who are seeing their lives and futures continue to slip away.
And now the very last thing that the Bush administration, Maliki, the wingnuts, “true believers”, 101st Fighting Keyboardists, talking meatsticks and callous blackhearted individuals who care less about helping Iraq and Iraqis than they do “killing all them brown folk” have to point to – the very government that those “brave purple fingered Iraqis” elected – is threatening to teeter on the brink of collapse.
Today’s Christian Science Monitor has an article that everyone should read titled ”Iraq’s Shiite Political Fissures Widen”. It is not news that the Iraqi government is made up largely of Shiite factions, and a number of them (all with different specific but similar broad agendas) make up the United Iraqi Alliance.
The United Iraqi Alliance is actually made up of around 20 different groups, including al Sadr’s followers, the Prime Minister’s party, and SCIRI – the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is/was fairly popular with the Iraqis but has also been linked to Iran.
I only mention SCIRI’s ties with Iran because one of the rival factions in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Islamic Virtue Party is against Iran’s influence, and last month it withdrew from the UIA.
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things within the Iraqi government? Well, let’s just say it isn’t good. From the Christian Science Monitor article:
But the withdrawal of the Sadrists – who left in protest over the prime minister's refusal to set a date for the departure of US troops – highlights more troubling developments: widening fissures within the country's ruling coalition and a brewing Shiite fight for supremacy that threatens to unravel the leading political coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
"The fragmentation of the Shiites, and the fights that are taking place, are much more serious than what gets talked about publicly," says Hosham Dawod, a Paris-based Iraqi academic and author.
To win these fights – that have on occasion taken the form of armed confrontation and threaten to do so again – leading Shiite political figures are rallying popular support by clutching on big emotional causes.
In the case of Mr. Sadr, it's taking on the US military presence. For the rival Fadhila Islamic party, it's confronting Iranian influence and meddling. And for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) led by the influential Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, it's purging all remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Clearly, this is not something that can be depended on to run a government even in a country that isn’t ravaged by unemployment, lack of basic services, a civil war bordering on genocide, entire classes of people fleeing, an occupying force that everyone wants out (including the majority of citizens in that occupying force’s country) and pressure/influence/meddling from nearly every other country in the region.
Keeping power and a mistrust of others within your same overall umbrella “alliance” is doomed to fail since there is no agreed upon goal to work towards. It, by definition, can not succeed.
There has been no reaching out towards the Sunnis. There has been no attempt to quell the violence – in fact there are factions that have been accused of running death squads. There has been no ability to pass laws (or enforce them), to restore services, to rebuild the infrastructure, to stop the downward spiral of violence and hopelessness or to accomplish anything.
The government is not trusted by the Sunnis – especially since one of the UIA factions is dedicated to quashing any remnants of Saddam’s old regime and the Shiites are, in general, engaged in a “tit for tat” ruthless game of retribution bombings and killings. The government is barely trusted by the Bush administration who will praise them one day while bashing Maliki the next day.
We won’t hear about it when it ultimately happens. But it is already happening right before our eyes. As the violence continues to spiral out of control, as the benchmarks are not being met, as laws are not being passed, as factions are withdrawing from the UIA or from the government altogether – one thing is clear - the Iraqi government is not functioning. It is on the brink of completely collapsing.
And when it ultimately does, then what? What are our troops fighting for at that point? Who are we “supporting” in Iraq then?
This is where a serious presidential candidate needs to have a “Plan B”. This is where we all need to see the dire situation that is happening with the Iraqi government.
This is yet another reason why we need to leave Iraq.