Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq: either the secular nationalists will win — or Mookie (and Iran) will

There are bombs going off in Qaim and elsewhere. Here are two very different takes on what is going on in Iraq politics. By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, ret.) Best Defense west Baghdad bureau chief What is happening in Iraq is far from American style horse-trading. Nor is this about simple sectarianism. What we will ...

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images
Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images
Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

There are bombs going off in Qaim and elsewhere. Here are two very different takes on what is going on in Iraq politics.

By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, ret.)
Best Defense
west Baghdad bureau chief

What is happening in Iraq is far from American style horse-trading. Nor is this about simple sectarianism. What we will see in Iraq in the immediate future will be a naked power struggle among the three main elements in the Shiite community:

There are bombs going off in Qaim and elsewhere. Here are two very different takes on what is going on in Iraq politics.

By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, ret.)
Best Defense
west Baghdad bureau chief

What is happening in Iraq is far from American style horse-trading. Nor is this about simple sectarianism. What we will see in Iraq in the immediate future will be a naked power struggle among the three main elements in the Shiite community:

  • Secular nationalists
  • Islamic nationalists
  • Islamic pro-Iranians

I’m betting that one of the nationalist groups will eventually win, but that it will not be without a good deal of bloodshed. The winning party will likely be the one that the army backs, which will be the secular side, as the Iraqi army doesn’t like Sadr, who is the leading Islamic nationalist. I would also bet that Chalabi ends up in exile or worse.

The result will be a regime that is more authoritarian than we will like, but it is to be hoped, western leaning.

But wait a minute. Old Juan Cole has another take, less optimistic take. He reports that his readings tell him that last sentence of Gary’s isn’t likely to be realized: He says that al-Hayat is reporting:

… that a couple of days ago representatives of the Sadr Movement and of al-Maliki’s State of Law met in Tehran in an Iranian-backed attempt quickly to form a new Shiite-dominated government. In Iran for the talks were President Jalal Talibani and his Shiite vice president, Adil Abdel Mahdi of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

This move underlines the way in which Iraq’s election has geopolitical as well as local significance. Also that Iran is sitting pretty while the U.S. prepares to withdraw.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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