With the dropout of a slew of ministers and delay of critical
legislations, Iraq's bumpy political process is still on the rocks,
which would put the recently improved security into harm's way once
As the year is drawing to an end, the Iraqi government admits
that rifts on the political front are nowhere near bridged.
"The political process is not like what we have hoped. Steps
should be taken to bring the conflicting parties together,"
government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Nov. 17.
"The relations between the political parties are not good. There
is, in fact, lack of trust among them," he said in a straight
The hard-wrought constitution and general election could have
raised the hope for reconciliation and stability, but an attack
against a major Shiite mosque last year dashed the hope after
igniting a sweeping sectarian violence across the country.
To help Iraqis carry out their own campaign to put down
sectarian violence and insurgency, U.S. President George W. Bush
announced in January a troops surge, deploying some 30,000
additional troops in Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces.
Iraq's civilian death toll did plummet nationwide in the last
two months as a result of the surge. The official statistics showed
that the toll was 2,076 in January but fewer than 800 in
Some 39 fatalities in October also marked the lowest monthly
death toll for American troops since March 2006, according to media
count based on Pentagon figures.
However, the security pickup is generally attributed more to
other factors than a thaw of political and sectarian tension.
The U.S. military says that it is the extra troops and hardened
push against al-Qaida members and insurgents that really were at
work in the achievement.
In addition, some main Sunni insurgent groups have turned their
rifles on the al-Qaida network after rifts emerged between them
because al-Qaida members have been adopting hardline Islam and
exercising indiscriminate killings.
Various U.S. official reports have given low scores to Iraq's
political push. Senior U.S. politicians, even Bush himself, have
criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for his inability to
With Bush's administration facing internal pressures to pull out
troops, Maliki subsequently feels hard pressed to take the lead in
setting up his government's own strategy and commit to significant
political, economic, and security steps to put on a brave face on a
swift, considerable U.S. and coalition force draw down, a scenario
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari warned could produce a civil
war and split of the country.
Instead, his unity government plunged deeper into crises during
the year after 17 of the 40 cabinet members had quitted.
Internally, the Shiite leading alliance was partially dismantled
after the political bloc loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada
al-Sadr withdrew its six ministers from the cabinet in
The walkout was followed by another involving six ministers and
a deputy prime minister of the Sunni bloc of Iraqi Accordance Front
(IAF) in early August, leaving the unity government with no
Less than a week later, the Iraqi National List (INL), led by
former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, also pulled out its four
The IAF presented a list of 12 conditions for returning to the
cabinet, including the disbanding of all militias and releasing of
thousands of Sunnis who it argued were indiscriminately jailed.
The political mistrust has prevented the passage of vital
legislations concerning respectively oil resources, constitution
amendment and provincial election.
Maliki insists that his government has made some successes,
including saving the country from a civil war. Maliki also
maintains that his government is inclusive.
An alliance consisting of four major Shiite and Kurdish parties
was formed early August in a bid to push forward reconciliation.
However, the Sunnis rejected the call for joining in.
While there has been an emphasis on creating a "moderate" front,
there has been little discussion among the Shiites and Kurds
regarding the issues the Sunni Arab community says marginalize
The reversal of the de-Ba'athification process to reinstate
former regime officials has been stalled because of Shiite
suspicions, and the committee responsible for amending the Iraqi
constitution has yet to present its recommendations.
These setbacks leave many Sunni Arabs with the impression that
the current government has a clear sectarian agenda.
Besides, bitter discord emerged between Iraq's Arabs and the
Kurdish people when the central government repeatedly lashed out at
the Kurdish government for its signing oil deals with foreign
In the recent crisis over striking Turkish banned Kurdish
Workers' Party rebels in the Kurdish autonomous region, a lack of
smooth cooperation between the central and local governments could
also be witnessed.
And the referendum over the fate of the oil city of Kirkuk is
deemed very hard to happen by the end of this year because of
differences among ethnics.
Although the country's constitution stipulates federalism in the
future, the Sunnis are very much reluctant to see that, fearing
they would be excluded from the lucrative oil fortune.
Even in the Shiites, there are differences over the problem. The
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shiite political party,
zealously supports that idea, while premier Maliki is cautious and
worried that move could tear apart the country.
As the security is improving under overwhelming U.S. military
offensive and grass-roots Iraqis' self-defense campaign, concerns
remain pretty strong as for whether the peace would persist in the
absence of decent collaboration and reconciliation.
Based on more than a dozen interviews with U.S. military
officials, the Washington Post said that the Iraqi government has
failed to exploit the sharp decline in attacks against U.S. and
Iraqi civilians by reaching out to its former foes.
The U.S. also keeps pressuring the Iraqi politicians to work
hard for progress amid better security.
Phile Reeker, a spokesman of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, said
on Nov. 18 that "it is very important that Iraqi leaders continue
to work toward reconciliation, work toward taking the important
steps required to move things forward now that the security
situation has allowed that to happen."
In a latest demonstration of how far away the reconciliation is,
Maliki lashed out at Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi in an
interview with Al-Hayat newspaper.
The prime minister faulted his long-time critical for blocking
legislations and asserted that he would not seek the return of
Hashemi's IAF bloc to the government.
(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2007)