A New Dawn: What the Recent Brake in the Impasse Means for Iraq and the Middle East.
According to the Washington Post and various other news outlets, the 7 month stalemate between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Iraqi President Ayad Allawi may come to an end soon. The deal basically amounts to good old fashioned coalition-building, with Allawi’s small Sunni party of Iraqiya to support Maliki in turn for Maliki’s support of Allawi as President. At first glance, it may look like more of the same, and for good reason: this was essentially the same government that had been ruling in Iraq since the last election in 2006.
But ending the analysis there misses the point. After President Obama’s early withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq, columnists on both the left and the right were finding reason to criticize his, and our, next move. While some of those criticisms aren’t without great merit, those who feared (or hoped) that Iraq would dissolve without American influence may be on the brink of being proven wrong. If Iraqi politicians can see their own self-interest, the Iraqi government and its people can move past the barrier of civil strife and begin to establish a new and distinct identity.
This is one of those rare instances where continuity equals change. What Iraq needs now, it soon may begin to have: a role. A stable Iraq is an Iraq that can begin to find its own voice in the international arena. It will go from victim to survivor. This will not always be pretty for American interests, as Maliki (a Shia) will be cozier with Iran in the future. Despite this, deal-making between all of Iraq’s three blocs will be a net-gain for American security interests. Iraq may not shake hands with Netanyahu nor speak out against the dangers Iranian militancy, but it will no longer support rogue policies and Islamic extremism.
In short, a stable Iraq is a multinational Iraq, which serves to further isolate Iran. Realpolitik dictates that Iraq will not be an active and Americanizing force for democratic change and individual rights. To point to this as the failure of American policy, however, would be impermissibly shortsighted. All the people of the Middle East need out of Iraq is an Iraq that do no harm. Not only does this look likely to happen, but by allowing American military forces on its soil, Iraq may help the U.S. in our efforts to prevent Islamic (or nationalist) tyranny.
While no deal is certain yet, signs are looking positive. Students of American history will be quick to point out that the lapse between our Declaration and our Constitution was 13 years. In that span, we had several rebellions and dysfunctional governance. Now, after 7 months, Iraq may be on the road to self-improvement. While Maliki has been accused of centralizing power and sending troops to defend his interests, his fight against the Sadr Brigades has shown his commitment to a unified Iraq, which is more than can be said about Afghan President Hamid Karzai. So while Iraq is not quite yet self-sustaining, there is reason to take stock in its future.