Basra and Iraqi Political Reconciliation

As critical as I’ve been about recent developments in Iraq, I thought I’d link to this Foreign Policy article by Jason Gluck that suggests that the Iraqi political process is not as hopeless as I’ve suggested. Yesterday I mentioned the challenge of finding metrics that actually reflect what’s going on in Iraq, as opposed to what we want to see. The kind of legislative compromise Gluck describes is tough to quantify, but significant. Hopefully it’s not also irrelevant in light of this week’s violence.

Meanwhile, in a sign that Maliki’s crackdown on Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia was either pre-mature or absurdly ill-conceived or both, he just extended that menacing three-day deadline for Mahdi fighters to disarm by ten days. Given that by the same report, al-Sadr’s fighters seem to be gaining the upper hand in the fighting so far, that kind of ultimatum-wilt would be comic were it not so tragic.

On a positive note, it does seem like the momentum is moving all sides towards a political resolution to the violence, even if all that amounts to is a ceasefire that greatly strengthens al-Sadr’s position. This kind of standoff, where everyone can inflict pain but no one can actually win, could actually wind up being the catalyst for a real embrace of the political process, so long as all sides are willing to implement the kind of tough compromises Gluck mentions above.

But with the entire operation seemingly working at direct cross-purposes to American interests, and with American forces reportedly being dragged into the fighting in Baghdad, the question of whether the American command was out of the loop on this, as claimed, becomes enormous. Between embedded American trainers in the ISF, the kind of logistical preparations this kind of attack requires, and the fact that Dick Cheney was in Baghdad two weeks ago, that seems like a stretch to me.