Debate on Iraq surge's effectiveness heats up
Gen. David Petraeus treads cautiously in public, while two Brookings Institution scholars draw fire from the left for saying that the surge should be extended.
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The prospect for that sort of reconciliation is precisely what seems to have receded in recent weeks, judging from the recent withdrawals from the national unity government of many secular and Sunni Arab officials.Skip to next paragraph
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The Washington Post reports that the five ministers from the Iraqiya coalition headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi suspended their participation in cabinet meetings on Monday, following the withdrawal of the six ministers from the largest Sunni Arab block in parliament last week.
Legislators loyal to Allawi said the ministers would continue to run their ministries but not attend any cabinet meetings. They cited as reasons for their action a lack of progress on issues such as the status of Iraqi detainees, the repatriation of displaced Iraqis and the return of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to government jobs.
"This act is not an escalation, but it is an objection to what the government is doing," Alia Nusaiyef Jasim, a legislator in Allawi's secular Shiite al-Iraqiyah bloc, told the al-Jazeera television network. "The Iraqiyah bloc participated in the government on the basis of sharing in the decision-making, but the bloc is marginalized in the government"
By Middle East historian Juan Cole's count, on his blog Informed Comment, 17 out of 38 cabinet ministers have now either resigned or suspended their membership, meaning, in his analysis, that "it is no longer possible to speak of (Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki's as a national unity government."
In his blog, Abu Aardvark, Marc Lynch, a political science professor and Middle East expert at George Washington University, says he sees a hardening of sectarian politics in recent events that bodes poorly for security and stability in Iraq.
Maliki doesn't seem particularly frantic, and it's understandable why. His government won't fall as long as he maintains the support of the Shia bloc (and the Parliament isn't in session anyway to carry out a no-confidence vote). He probably likes seeing Sunnis running around all pissed off better than he likes seeing them around the table at Cabinet meetings. He certainly would rather lose his Sunni cover in the Cabinet than actually make any concessions on the sectarian policies which are kind of the raison d'etre of his government (as if he'd really move against Shi'a militia penetration of the army at a time when, in his view, the Americans are arming Sunni militias in a parallel security force).
It's just reported that Allawi is out… that leaves Maliki with a purely sectarian government, with sectarian-minded Shia allied with the Kurds.
Meanwhile, the decision of Iraq's parliament to go on vacation as the ruling coalition has tottered, and with little progress so far on key legislation, has been roundly criticized by American politicians, The New York Times reports.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and several members of Congress already have expressed disappointment with Iraq's 275 lawmakers for recessing when roughly 160,000 U.S. soldiers are enduring Iraq's blast-furnace summer to secure the country - ostensibly to make political progress possible. It did not help that the need for a break was among the only things that the warring factions could agree on.
This political cartoon from mid-July summed up the mood.