In the Arena

Today in Iraq: Uh-Oh

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The Maliki government, which may be well on its way to becoming not-so-democratic, is making a move against the leadership of the Sunni Awakening Councils. The decision of these Sunni to switch sides, to jojn us, to accept U.S. funding, was at the heart of the “success” of the surge. But now you have Iraqi (Shi’ite) generals saying things like:

“These people are like cancer, and we must remove them,” said Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti, commander of the Iraqi Army’s 5,000-strong Muthanna Brigade, which patrols west of Baghdad, said of the Awakening leaders on his list for arrest.

This, of course, was the fallacy of McCain’s “We’re winning” argument from the start: Who are “we” at this point? It’s the reason why David Petraeus has never been as sanguine as the neocons about the situation on the ground. Without true political reconciliation, the success of the Surge is, by definition, temporary and ephemeral. So now there are three possible scenarios:
–the Maliki government comes to its senses and makes a major effort to reconcile with the Sunnis.
–there is renewed ethnic cleansing of Sunnis by Shi’ites.
–the Sunnis return to the insurgency (if not to the arms of the jihadis).

Options two and three are not mutually exclusive, of course, and the smart betting in Iraq has always been on the side of pessimism. I do hope Maliki wises up, however, and soon.