Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Precarious Iraq

Despite the relative recent calm in Iraq the fissures and fractures that run through the country remain very close to rupture, trembling and threaten to re-explode at any time. Yesterday the lack of political cohesion was underlined when Iraq's parliament passed legislation setting new rules for provincial elections. The Kurdish legislators boycotted the vote. The law was quickly vetoed by Kurdish President Jalal Talabani. This will likely delay parliamentary elections which had been scheduled for October 1st into next year, assuming the Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki doesn't attempt to impose the outcome by force.

It underlines the fundamental fact of the Iraq debate, force has imposed calm, but peace and harmony can not be externally imposed. The splits between (and internally amongst) Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Turkomen and others have deep roots in Iraq. Despite the United States military's recent surge, all sides are well armed. Worse oil revenue, territorial boundaries, control of local policing, and the levers of state, all remain disputed.

Barack Obama got the tenor of the situation when making remarks upon departing the country, "So far, I think we have not seen the kind of political reconciliation that's going to bring about long-term stability in Iraq."

It is essential to recognize that the map on the ground of the state of Iraq was externally imposed by an outsider. The ramifications have yet to be resolved.

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