On July 9 it was reported that the Iraqi government of Dr. Nouri Kamal al-Maliki had failed to meet many of the benchmarks set for it. Although there are mixed reports about the success of the “surge” — significant successes in bringing Sunnis to battle against al-Qaéda versus horrific daily casualty rates from suicide car-bombings — it should not come as a major surprise that the current Iraqi government is not fulfilling its duty to produce a greater success rate and to foster reconciliation among the three major Iraqi ethnic/religious groups.
Why? Why shouldn’t we be surprised at al-Maliki’s failure to meet fully even one US benchmark?
First, let’s review a little bit of background information. Iraq’s multi-party political system seems to be difficult for many Westerners to understand. It is essential to overcome this failure of comprehension and come to a realization that within Iraq’s three major ethnic/religious communities there are many, many different political parties and groups.
However, one major dividing line within Iraqi society is not that between ethnic/religious communities (Shi‘ite, Sunni, and Kurd) but rather between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist interpretations of the Islam that is the common religion of the bulk of Iraqis.
Given the overwhelming evidence of Iranian support for both the extremist militias of the Sunni al-Qaéda and the Shi‘ite Badr and Wolf Brigades and al-Mahdi Army that have caused so much chaos and destruction to Iraqi society, it should be a clear sign that Iran is in control when both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki make frequent visits to Tehran to consult with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It should not come as a great surprise that the al-Maliki government is not meeting its commitments to the US. Ayatollah Khamenei doesn’t want to see America help create a real democracy in Iraq, and al-Maliki is following Khamenei’s orders to prevent the rise of an independent, secular Iraq. Although subservient to Iran, al-Maliki’s radical Shi‘ite government currently holds the reins of power and is content with such an arrangement in which the Sunnis remain odd-man out. No wonder that there has not yet been any success in enacting a law for equitable distribution of the oil wealth among the three ethnic/religious communities.
If the Solidarity Congress is able to stand in a new national election — an event that may occur within the next half year should the al-Maliki government suffer further political erosion and a non-confidence vote — Iraq could find itself with a government that believes in a united, secular, democratic Iraq — an Iraq that is neither a satellite of Iran, nor a candidate for the 51st state. Such an Iraq is just what is needed for the land of the two rivers.
Without a doubt, the American initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 was carried out without sufficient thought to the consequences of shifting the delicate balance of power that existed between Iraq and Iran. Nevertheless, having ended the tyrannical reign of Saddam Hussein, an action that few regret, given his penchant for cruelty and mass murder in the extreme, it behooves the United States to assure the Iraqi people that it did not simply exchange a secular tyrant with its radical religious replacement. Not only would that be an act of supreme cruelty to the Iraqi people, but, given the stated intentions of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his vocal puppet, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it would guarantee a major victory for the forces of Islamist radicalism and constitute a major defeat for the West and its way of life. Although the war in Iraq is messy, as Natan Sharansky recently pointed out, now is not the time to cut and run — the consequences are too dire to allow for such a short-sighted policy.
“Let’s undo the concessions to Iran”,