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October 8, 2007
Iraqi Reconciliation a Tough Sell
In what the Washington Post is reporting as a setback for US policy, several leading Iraqi politicians have given voice to the opinion that reconciliation between the factions should not be a goal of the government but rather happen naturally as a result of government policies:
Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services. Last month, many of these same politicians condemned the US military's efforts to bring the Sunni tribesmen into the government by encouraging them to join the police and the army.
"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.
"Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself," he said. "You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that 'I want to reconcile with you.' "
The fact is, reconciliation is a hard sell. Most people are aware of that fact and don't go writing the process off before it has even gotten off the ground - except the Post, the New York Times, and other media outlets.
The question in many people's minds revolves around the sectarian government of Prime Minister Maliki and whether he is really trying hard enough to bring the factions together or whether he is simply incapable of affecting these kinds of changes. Clearly, he has problems in that his Shia coalition is falling apart - largely as a result of his inability to provide basic services like water, gas, and electricity as well as the security situation.
Whether a replacement could do any better is questionable. Right now, the Kurds and Shias are not interested in sharing anything; oil, power, wealth, or even security responsibilities with the Sunnis. This dynamic will have to change - and change sooner rather than later - if the efforts of our military are to be rewarded by progress in bringing all sides to the bargaining table.