Monday, March 06, 2006

What Is To Be Done In Iraq

Professor Juan Cole directs your attention to the advice from Joost Hilterman, veteran Iraq analyst with the International Crisis Group. He has a list of four things that must be done to prevent the disintegration of Iraq and the failure of its government. The relevant excerpt, stripped of its supporting arguments follows:
First, Iraq's political and religious leaders should unwaveringly advise their followers and supporters to respond only in nonviolent ways to further sectarian attacks, which are sure to come.

Second, Iraqi leaders should make every effort to form a government of national unity that truly represents the country's diverse constituencies and starts the difficult work of healing these wounds, and of governing. The Bush administration should expend significant political capital to ensure this happens, making clear that its continued support depends on it.

Third, once such a government forms, it should revisit the constitution, revise its most divisive elements and turn it into the national compact it was meant to be. This means preventing the country's de facto breakup by establishing administrative federalism on the basis of provincial boundaries (outside the Kurdish region) and creating a formula for the fair, centrally controlled, independently supervised distribution of oil and gas revenues from current and future fields.

Finally, the U.S. should continue to assist in building Iraq's new security forces, making sure they are inclusive and nonsectarian. At the same time, the government should start disbanding the militias that, along with the insurgents, pose the most dangerous threat to the country's stability.

I have only one question. If the continued support from the U.S. should depend on the Iraqi leaders making every effort to form a government of national unity, and that support should come in the form of assistance in building Iraq's new security forces, what happens if Iraqi leaders decide that continued U.S. "support" isn't worth the price?

What do we do then, eh? Make good on our threat to remove support unless a government of national unity forms? Continue pouring blood and treasure into the project even though it just accelerates the descent into civil war?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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