Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pressure on Iraqis for Non-Sectarian Government

I think I am like a lot of Americans: I am no foreign policy expert and certainly not a Middle East expert, but I watch closely and care a lot about what is happening, especially in Iraq and other outposts in the global war on terror.

It also seems to me that many Americans are like me: I am conservative, Republican, a Bush voter and supporter. I supported the invasion of Iraq based on WMD concerns. When no WMDs were found, I was still comfortable with the invasion because (1) everyone thought Saddam had WMDs and (2) the prospect of replacing such a monstrous troublemaker with a democracy, right in the center of the undemocratic Middle East, justified the invasion as a sort of second prize.

So now everything seems to hang on the West's midwifery of democracy in Iraq. I suspect that millions of Americans share my anxiety about that-- we are cautiously optimistic, but worried, about the Iraq experiment. Will all that blood and treasure and trauma to the nation and world go to waste? Will Iraq fall from fledgling democracy to yet another strong-man autocracy-- or worse? Will President Bush be rewarded or punished for betting his presidency on this adventure?

Certainly those are questions being pondered in the White House, as this Washington Times story suggests. The U.S. Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, is speaking bluntly to the Iraqis about their political future:

During a rare press conference, Mr. Khalilzad said division among the
country's sectarian and ethnic communities was "the fundamental problem in
Iraq," fueling the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency and the wave of reprisal

"To overcome this, there is a need for a government of national unity,"
which "is the difference between what exists now and the next government," he
said. The outgoing government is dominated by Shi'ites and Kurds.

Mr. Khalilzad said Iraq's next Cabinet ministers, particularly those
heading the Interior and Defense ministries, "have to be people who are
nonsectarian, broadly acceptable and who are not tied to militias" controlled by
political parties.

Otherwise, he warned, "Iraq faces the risk of warlordism that Afghanistan
went through for a period." Mr. Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan and served as
U.S. envoy there.

To underscore his remarks, Mr. Khalilzad reminded the Iraqis that the
United States has spent billions to build up Iraq's police and army and said "we
are not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces
that are run by people who are sectarian" and tied to the militias.
Read the whole thing. It will inform you but if you're like me it won't necessarily make you feel better.


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