Feature

Iraq

Can this nation be saved?

Iraq has reached a turning point, said Larry Diamond in the San Jose Mercury News. 'œIf you feel that you have heard this before, you have.' You heard it in January, when the Iraqis elected a transitional government, and in October, when they ratified a new constitution. Now, with this week's election of a parliament, and the formation of a permanent government, the White House is again trumpeting that democracy has taken hold in Iraq. But true peace and stability will only come with the end of the insurgency, and that can only be achieved by 'œface-to-face' negotiations with the Sunni rebels and Iraqi nationalists who make up the majority of the insurgents. With good reason, they fear they'll be shunted aside in the new Iraq, with the religious Shiites and the Kurds divvying up power. Addressing the rebels' objections directly, in talks supervised by the U.N., could 'œtransform the way the Sunnis look at the new political order,' vastly increasing the chances that Iraq can succeed as a nation.

If that dream is to be achieved, said Frederick Kagan in The Weekly Standard, the U.S. must stop this talk of withdrawing our troops. The Sunnis believe that ruling Iraq is 'œtheir birthright,' and will resign themselves to the democratic process only when they're sure that the rebellion will fail. The U.S. can defeat the insurgents by cleaning out their strongholds, one by one, and turning these areas over to Iraqi security forces. But this painstaking process will take time. 'œNow is not the time to set timetables or make promises about withdrawing forces to please domestic constituencies.'

Iraq faces a greater threat than insurgents—namely, its own constitution, said Kanan Makiya in The New York Times. The constitution creates a weak central government, with the parliament's 'œethnic and sectarian voting blocs' having little power over regional Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish authorities. In the inevitable power struggles among the rival factions, the likelihood is great that they will fly apart in a civil war. Barring major constitutional amendments, said Donald Horowitz in The Wall Street Journal, Iraq is shaping up to be 'œthe weakest federation in the world'—a nation in name only.

The constitution has another big problem, said The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial. It states that oil revenue, the country's lifeblood, will be shared proportionately among Iraq's provinces. But 90 percent of the revenue will go 'œto Shiites and Kurds rather than to a central treasury.' The Sunnis get less because, under Saddam Hussein, they took more than their share. To placate the Sunnis, said Charles Moskos in the Chicago Tribune, the wealth should be shared equally. 'œBetter for Iraq to have each of its three main ethnic and regional entities somewhat unsatisfied, rather than two supremely happy and one miserable.'

Anne Applebaum

The Washington Post

David Shribman

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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