Here Peter Van Buren offers a well thought out ten point outline of what to look for in the battle against ISIS.
1) “Inclusive” Government
A cornerstone of any longer-term resolution in Iraq is the formation of an inclusive government, one that addresses the needs of Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds, gives each a sense of substantive participation, equitably shares oil revenues, creates safety for each, and allows future decision-making to take place while assuring the Shias do not slink back into dominance. Since the new prime minister, ostensible handmaiden to the U.S. and approved by Iran, is a Shia and former colleague of Maliki and member of the same political party, inclusiveness falls to appointments to key ministries and the delegation of real power to those ministers.
The ministries to watch are Defense and Interior. Both ministries have been used as tools of repression against Sunnis since at least 2006. A key Sunni in one or both is good. A “for show” Sunni is bad. It is highly unlikely the U.S. will allow two Shias to be chosen, but leaving the posts empty, as they are now, is nearly as bad. Prime Minister Abadi remains acting minister for the Ministries of Defense and Interior, as did Maliki before him, since his parliament has failed to approve candidates for either post.
2) For-Show Sunnis
Of the many mistakes the U.S. made during the Occupation, one was the empowerment of Sunnis who were simply carpetbaggers out for a buck (or a million bucks), or just lesser leaders hoping to move up with U.S. help. This undermined broader support, as the Sunni people knew who the fakes were even if the Americans didn’t.
Information on individual Sunnis who come to some power will be hard to find, but look for it, as it will make clear whether such men will add to or help mask the truth about inclusiveness.
Most gestures are just that, empty statements. Any real progress in Iraq requires concrete, substantive action by the Shia government; they have a lot of distrust to overcome among their Sunni and Kurd populations.
Simple statements, however trumpeted by the U.S. as signs of progress, typically framed as “you have to walk before you run,” are likely just propaganda. A trick employed by the Iraqi government during the Occupation was to announce one thing in English to the Western media, and say nothing, or say something quite different, in their own media. If possible, check news sources with Arabic speakers on the ground in Iraq. I recommend @prashantrao, @JoelWing2, @reidarvisser,@iraqbiznews,
@tarangoNYT, @LizSly, @iraqoilreport, and just for laughs,@USEmbBaghdad.
Allowing the former Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who remains in exile under a Maliki-issued death warrant, to return would be a big deal, but is an unlikely gesture. A huge deal: give him a place in the new government. He’s no angel, but it will get the Sunnis’ attention.
For the final seven, click here.