February 01, 2005

Devil In The Coalitions

His reporting is a bit hard to follow, but Dexter Filkins really does an admirable job of trying to disentangle the various threads within Iraqi politics. The ballots won't be fully tallied up for another ten days, and already serious (and seriously complicated) speculation has begun about the makeup of the new National Assembly.

The consensus seems to be that, depending on how well Iyad Allawi's "Iraqi List" does relative to the Sistani-blessed "United Iraqi Alliance", we'll see one of two ruling coalitions form: A "religious Shiite + Kurdish" coalition, or a "secular Shiite + Kurdish + kinda secular Sunni coalition". Either strikes me as unlikely to stabilize the country. The first would seriously freak out the religious Sunnis, who have a lot of guns, while the second would piss off the religious Shiites, who also have a lot of guns.

In fact, the only people without a lot of guns are the secular Sunnis and Shiites, but they also have the best chance of unifying all the disparate groups, so they can't really be left out of power. So if the newly elected leaders have any sense, they'll choose option (C). I don't know what that is, exactly, but hopefully it's a good one that magically satisfies everyone. Unfortunately there's a lot of bad blood between Allawi and the religious Shiites, and there's a lot of bad blood between the ex-Baathists on the "Iraqi Independent Democrats" list and the religious Shiites. Most of this bad blood consists mainly of trumped-up personality clashes that shouldn't really be an issue, but as we've seen in America, deep partisan divides can spring up over fairly trivial matters.

Anyway, there's also that 800-pound elephant in the room (accept no substitutions!)—namely, that the Sunnis most gung-ho about the insurgency, including various Salafist movements and some of the large rural tribes, will have no significant representation at all. You could plop a secular, urbane Sunni like "elder statesman" Adnan Pachachi or Ghazi al-Yawer onto the Presidency Council, but, uh, that's not really going to convince the Albuaisa or Jumaila tribes that everything's okay and politics is really quite fun and fruitful. It would be a bit like getting Pat Leahy to represent Midland, Texas in a new government because, hey, we're all white Christians here.
-- Brad Plumer 1:14 AM || ||