10 years ago
ThreatsWatch has an interesting and carefully-reasoned commentary entitled “Iraq Coup Rumors, and Reality.” Kirk Sowell’s analysis is more informative than is my “How Long Can a Hapless Maliki Hang On?” After examining each of the major players on the Iraq political stage, Sowell concludes that there isn’t a person or a group that has the political or military capital to pull off a coup.
If this is true, then the lack of a new regime might be as unfortunate as the outcome of a potential coup. As we discussed in “Land of Many Wars,” there are many small wars taking place in Iraq at the present. Al-Sadr’s forces are warring in Kirkuk, probably over whether this city will be Shiite or Kurdish and the future of oil revenues. The Shiite militias are warring against the Sunni for years of repression, and the Sunnis are warring back in order to protect themselves. Al-Qaeda is warring against everyone who has not thrown in their hat with them, and as we write the war between competing Shiite militias is being reported.
Weak political leadership in Iraq will not be able to call the country back from the brink of disaster. Iraq needs a strong central figure who does not depend upon political winds to stay in power. However, as Time reported several weeks ago, the ugly and disheartening irony is that the U.S. may have forced a political system upon Iraq that prevents a political solution to the problem.
The few secular politicians with any name recognition, like Allawi, have become marginalized, their voices drowned by the sectarian din. In two general elections, Allawi has failed to get more than 14% of the vote, and the flight of middle-class Iraqis is eroding his natural constituency. He bemoans the growing power of sectarian forces but can only watch in despair. In private conversations even politicians with no pretensions of secularism occasionally wish for a unifying leader. Some months ago, Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlak and I chatted about the kind of leadership it would take to pull Iraq back from the brink. We agreed that there were no giants on the political landscape, and he shook his head dolefully. “Not only that,” he said, sighing, “but the political system we have created makes it impossible for such a figure to emerge.” Politicians, he said, have discovered that the easiest way to win votes is to appeal to sectarian chauvinism; they have little incentive to take the higher, more difficult road.
If there are no chances of a coup, and there are no leaders on the horizon, then the political situation in Iraq might be intractable. The Parliamentary system that has been set up in Iraq forces Maliki to depend upon the very militias he is supposed to reign in to stay in power. Without them, he has no coalition.