New, inclusive Iraqi government: A better partner for US
The new Shiite-led coalition government in Iraq includes Sunnis in high posts. That, and other successes, spell a strategic advantage for America in the Middle East.
What a mission impossible: For the first time since the 2003 American invasion, Iraq has a government that includes all of its major political parties.Skip to next paragraph
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It took nine months of wrangling since the March 7 parliamentary elections for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to claim a second term and finally present his coalition cabinet on Tuesday. Now even a minority Sunni politician once aligned with Saddam Hussein is a deputy prime minister.
Problems such as electricity blackouts and terrorist bombings remain, of course, but with reconciliation of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds making strides, some 50,000 American troops are set to exit in a year’s time.
The United States is also making its largest transition from military to civilian assistance for a single country since the Marshall Plan in postwar Europe. US consulates are opening in cities outside Baghdad. And Iraq has become a hot attraction for foreign investors as it tries to beat out Saudi Arabia in oil exports.
The time is now ripe for Washington to prepare for an Iraq – a nation that once had little democratic tradition and invaded two of its neighbors – that can be a key partner in reshaping the Middle East, much like the role Germany plays in Europe or Japan in Asia.
Americans should expect no less, after more than 1.5 million US soldiers served in Iraq with a loss of more than 4,440 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqis. The two nations are now inextricably bound by a contentious history born of post-9/11 fears but also hopes for a Middle East that can be rid of jihadism through contagious democracy.
As President Obama said in August, “We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people – a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.”
The fragile but definitive successes in Iraq are already serving as a model for other conflicts, such as Afghanistan. Ending the civil war that erupted in 2006, for instance, required a careful mix of a troop surge, diplomatic finesse of sectarian factions, and the use of reconstruction teams in the provinces.