Iraq the Model and Publius Pundit both describe the political struggle to form a unity government in Iraq. Publius Pundit describes the main problem: Jaarari and the possible ascension to power by extremists that he represents.
The religious Shia UIA, which is the largest bloc in parliament, nominated Ibraham al-Jaafari as the candidate for prime minister. Being the largest bloc, they have the right to do so, but in order for him to win the position he must be approved by 66% vote by the entire assembly. Essentially this means that even though one bloc gets to pick the candidate, the choice must be agreeable to the rest of the Iraqi population at large so that one group does not dominate all the others.
However, every other party in parliament, including the two main Sunni parties, the Kurdish alliance, and the secular multi-confessional party led by Allawi disagree with Jaafari’s candidacy. Even more than that, the UIA faces splintering within its own party as Jaafari, who hails from the Dawa party, only won by a single vote due to the backing of the fundamentalist Sadrists. The SCIRI’s candidate for the UIA nomination, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, is popular with that half of alliance, including the many independents and smaller parties that make it up. He is also viewed as a moderate and a very acceptable choice for the premiership by the Sunni, Kurd, and secular blocs.
The sectarian killings over the last few weeks may have been perceived by the anti-Sadrists as a portent of fascism to come; that having nominated Jaafari by one vote, Sadrists may have felt their duty to the forms of democracy was done and that they were free to proceed with the regular course of tyranny unchecked. One man, one vote, one time.
The sectarian killings taking place on behalf of the Sadrists and other UIA affiliated militias are, in a sense, a threat to the others that Jaafari will become prime minister whether they like it or not. They want to keep power and will do anything it takes to keep it. This is why they have called the new Sunni-Kurd-secular umbrella group to bloc Jaafari’s nomination a coup. They have also asserted it to be Jaafari’s “right” to govern simply because they nominated him. This is why they no longer support America’s presence in the country — despite formerly being its staunchest supporters — because America no longer supports their monopoly on government.
The tension between Islamist factions and the rest of the political actors may also explain why the recent raid on a Sadrist headquarters was perceived by the Sadrists as a direct intervention by US forces in their power grab. Publius Pundit believes Jaafari by himself cannot withstand the American pressure. The only hope for his backers is to up the ante. "Now watch as Jaafari’s calls for Shia unity go unheard as real political pluralism and cooperation begin to unfold. The only problem now is what the isolated fundamentalist Shia will do with their militias once they lose power." Iraq the Model also suggests that the Islamic clerics would bring down the temple rather than surrender their prospects of an Islamic state. But he's not sure the clerics can pull it off.
Clerics like tyrants tend to bet on the 'street' and to have wrong estimations of how far this 'street' is willing to follow them in their fantasies; they think-just like Saddam convinced himself-that the people will explode like a raging volcano to fight for Allah and protect the faith but this is not true as history proven in more than an occasion and most of the 'soldiers' will seek shelter from harm except for a minority of enthusiasts (fanatics) who will fight until the last man.
I think the coming days will show a stiffer attitude on the end of the religious hardliners and this includes both Sunni and Shia and we will also be hearing more tense and inflammatory statements that will focus more on rejecting the American presence, not only in the form of the calls to deport or replace the ambassador like the ones we heard during Friday prayers but I'm afraid some clerics are preparing to declare Jihad as the American presence represent the major obstacle facing their dreams of a religious state.
Such declaration will no doubt find support from regional powers that are interested in seeing Iraq and America fail especially that America's failure in presenting a good example in Iraq will make America think a thousand time before trying to repeat the experiment anywhere else in the region. Some of those fanatics think this is the best time for them to seize the ground and move to next step of action and those do not put defeat in their considerations as death too is part of victory and there are more than a few verses in the Quran that makes them think this applies to them and that death or 'martyrdom' is another form of victory. Anyway, the white bearded old cleric will not feel anything for the death of the young he misleads, on the contrary, it is they who should be grateful for him for showing them the path to heaven.
Clerics are gathering and charging their followers with hatred to prepare them for a war; hatred towards anything that does not belong to their old school and this may also include provoking these followers against moderate politicians who will be denounced as cowards and betrayers of the faith.
At stake, therefore is not only the prestige of the Islamic clergy in Iraq but those of their international backers. Viewed properly, the political struggle in Iraq represents not only the rivalry between two ordinary political parties or candidates; it represents a fundamental constitutional question about which path the country will follow. In a new post, Iraq the Model updates his analysis and believes that a confrontation between the US and the fundamentalist Islamic clerics is becoming ever more likely.
On the other hand it seems that the radical elements have made up their mind to enter yet another confrontation, after putting redlines on some blocs and rejecting any discussion concerning replacing Jafari, today according to al-Arabiya TV, the Sadrists have issued a warning saying they will withdraw from the political process if Jafari is replaced by another candidate. By doing this, they are even opposing the majority opinion of the UIA as it's been made public that major powers inside the bloc gave Jafari a 3-day deadline as a last chance for him to try to convince the other blocs with his program and win their acceptance, otherwise he must step down. Of course this doesn't mean the Sadrists will withdraw to sit at home and watch others form a government but it means they will fight those who oppose their vision. In fact lately I've been hearing some Sdar followers say they predict a large-scale offensive to target Sadr city and the Mehdi Army soon and that the ranks of the Mehdi Army are kept at full alert to respond to any such offensive.
The Strategy Page described the process through which first the Sunni insurgency was brought down.
After three years, the Sunni Arabs, who long dominated Iraq, most recently under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, are giving up. It took so long because of a quirk in Arab culture, one that encourages the support of lost causes. The term "cut your losses and move on" is not as popular in the Arab world as it is in the West. But even the slow learners in the Sunni Arab community had to finally confront some unfavorable trends. Chief among these was;
The Kurds and Shia Arabs have formed a national police force and army that is far more powerful than anything the Sunni Arab community can muster. Over the last year, Sunni Arabs realized that the police and army were in control of more and more Sunni Arab towns. This was a trend that could not be ignored. Added to that was the number of Kurds and Shia Arabs who had lost kin to Sunni Arab terror over the last three decades. Many of these people want revenge, and they all have guns. Many, especially those that belong to the police, or militias, are taking their revenge. The Sunni Arabs want protection, for they cannot muster enough guns to defend themselves. Now the Sunni Arabs want the Americans to stay, at least until there's some assurance that the Kurd and Shia Arab vengeance attacks have died down.
The alliance with al Qaeda was a disaster. These Islamic terrorists were obsessed with causing a civil war in Iraq, and they insisted on doing this by killing lots of Shia Arabs. The Sunni Arabs didn't want to kill lots of Shia Arabs, they wanted to rule them all once more. But that raised another contentious issue. While some Sunni Arabs were in favor of an Islam Republic, which al Qaeda insisted on, most Sunni Arabs wanted a more secular Sunni Arab dominated government. This dispute was never resolved, as the split between al Qaeda and the Sunni Arab community widened. At the moment, al Qaeda is not welcome in most Sunni Arab areas. That's "come near this place and we'll kill you" not welcome. This after al Qaeda tried to terrorize the Sunni Arab tribal leaders into compliance. Killing Sunni Arab tribal chiefs didn't work.
The BBC reports that a "leading Islamist" says Zarqawi has been replaced as the head of the insurgency, which lends collateral support to the Strategy Page analysis. The insurgency as an enterprise is not doing well, so they are restructuring the management.
Huthaifa Azzam, whose father was a mentor of Osama Bin Laden, said Zarqawi was replaced by an Iraqi two weeks ago. Mr Azzam claimed some were unhappy about Zarqawi's tactics and tendency to speak for the insurgency as a whole. However, experts say choosing an Iraqi as political leader is a tactic aimed at giving the insurgency an Iraqi face.
Michael Ware of Time Magazine has a contrary point of view. In an interview on March 22 said "Who’s winning from this war? Who is benefiting right now? Well, the main winners so far are al-Qaeda, which is stronger than it was before the invasion. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a nobody. Now he’s the superstar of international jihad." That may be wrong, but he also said, "And Iran, Iran essentially has a proxy government in place, a very, very friendly government. Its sphere of influence has expanded and any U.S. diplomat or seeing a military intelligence commander here, will tell you that. So that’s the big picture." Having discussed the fate of the Sunni insurgency, Ware's comment brings us to the second part of the equation: how the political confrontation with Iranian-backed proxies will fare.
In my own view, the Sunni insurgency is fundamentally finished. We have moved onto a second phase. The main effort now is the political struggle to form a unity government the principle roadblock to which is the desire by Islamist parties to monopolize power. This has led to a direct confrontation between the US and Iranian-backed elements within the Iraqi political scene as described by Publius Pundit and Iraq the Model and to a certain extent, by Michael Ware. While the coming confrontation will have violent aspects I don't believe it will be fundamentally military in character unless there is major foreign intervention. The religious militias do not seem to have the operational capability of the Sunni insurgents and have many powerful indigenous enemies. Any fight against them may well resemble a campaign against warlord armies and gangs and may be more politics than combat. That's my hope anyway.
Austin Bay quotes Marc Ruel Gerecht on a possible roadmap for the political struggle.
We are now in the unenviable position of having to confront radicalized, murderous Shiite militias, who have gained broader Shiite support because of the Sunni-led violence and the lameness of U.S. counterinsurgency operations. The Bush administration would be wise not to postpone any longer what it should have already undertaken–securing Baghdad. This will be an enormously difficult task: Both Sunnis and Shiites will have to be confronted, but Sunni insurgents and brigands must be dealt with first to ensure America doesn’t lose the Shiite majority and the government doesn’t completely fall apart. Pacifying Baghdad will be politically convulsive and provide horrific film footage and skyrocketing body counts. But Iraq cannot heal itself so long as Baghdad remains a deadly place. And the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside. To punt this undertaking down the road when the political dynamics might be better, and when the number of American soldiers in Iraq will surely be less, perhaps a lot less, is to invite disaster. The Iraqis and the Americans will either save or damn Iraq in the coming months. Quite contrary to the purblind charges of Michigan’s Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, the Iraqis really are doing their part–better than what anyone historically could have expected. The real question is, will Gen. Abizaid and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld do theirs?
Bill Roggio has more: A senior representative of SCIRI and confidant of Ayatollah Sistani calls for Jaafari to step down