The Iraqi government: what is it?

The International Crisis Group’s latest report on Iraq is primarily a critique of the Baker-Hamilton commission. As is usually the case with ICG’s work, the analysis is top-notch. Their most insightful comment paints the U.S. strategy of either bolstering Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s government or trying to create an alternative ruling coalition as doomed to ...

605270_mahdi_army5.jpg
605270_mahdi_army5.jpg

The International Crisis Group's latest report on Iraq is primarily a critique of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

As is usually the case with ICG's work, the analysis is top-notch. Their most insightful comment paints the U.S. strategy of either bolstering Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki's government or trying to create an alternative ruling coalition as doomed to failure:

[C]ontrary to the Baker-Hamilton report's suggestion, the Iraqi government and security forces cannot be treated as privileged allies to be bolstered; they are simply one among many parties to the conflict. The report characterises the government as a "government of national unity” that is "broadly representative of the Iraqi people": it is nothing of the sort. It also calls for expanding forces that are complicit in the current dirty war and for speeding up the transfer of responsibility to a government that has done nothing to stop it. The only logical conclusion from the report’s own lucid analysis is that the government is not a partner in an effort to stem the violence, nor will strengthening it contribute to Iraq’s stability. This is not a military challenge in which one side needs to be strengthened and another defeated. It is a political challenge in which new consensual understandings need to be reached. The solution is not to change the prime minister or cabinet composition, as some in Washington appear to be contemplating, but to address the entire power structure that was established since the 2003 invasion, and to alter the political environment that determines the cabinet’s actions.

The International Crisis Group’s latest report on Iraq is primarily a critique of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

As is usually the case with ICG’s work, the analysis is top-notch. Their most insightful comment paints the U.S. strategy of either bolstering Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s government or trying to create an alternative ruling coalition as doomed to failure:

[C]ontrary to the Baker-Hamilton report’s suggestion, the Iraqi government and security forces cannot be treated as privileged allies to be bolstered; they are simply one among many parties to the conflict. The report characterises the government as a “government of national unity” that is “broadly representative of the Iraqi people”: it is nothing of the sort. It also calls for expanding forces that are complicit in the current dirty war and for speeding up the transfer of responsibility to a government that has done nothing to stop it. The only logical conclusion from the report’s own lucid analysis is that the government is not a partner in an effort to stem the violence, nor will strengthening it contribute to Iraq’s stability. This is not a military challenge in which one side needs to be strengthened and another defeated. It is a political challenge in which new consensual understandings need to be reached. The solution is not to change the prime minister or cabinet composition, as some in Washington appear to be contemplating, but to address the entire power structure that was established since the 2003 invasion, and to alter the political environment that determines the cabinet’s actions.

Part of the problem is that each ministry has its own security forces that are unaccountable to the Interior Ministry or to the U.S. The 150,000-odd members of the so-called Facilities Protection Service theoretically protect Iraqi ministries, but many of them actually participate in militia and even death-squad activities. And each minister controls his own portion of the force, with zero oversight. It’s a recipe for disaster.

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