Monday, November 8, 2010

Iraq's Future Could Look Like Lebanon

This editorial was published in Daily Star on 9/11/2010

The second general elections in Iraq since US-led forces brought down Saddam Hussein will likely not be remembered fondly – nor should they.

The poll took place in March, and while much sound and fury surrounded the meeting of the country’s political principals on Monday in Irbil, Iraq remains without a new government.

Skeptics say the new Cabinet could still take months to form because of yet more haggling over who gets which piece of which pie, but the outlines of this uncomely administration are coming into focus. It will be a government which does not really reflect the results of the elections or what the Iraqi people really want.

Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition edged out Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance, 91 seats to 89, but neither has been able to offer enough to buy the loyalty of the remaining blocs to secure a majority in the 325-seat Parliament.

Instead, what Iraq just might get, some eight months since they voted, is the result of endless and inscrutable interference from a variety of interlocutors. Turkey acted as mediator and meddler, as did Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and who knows how many other actors with their own interests in Iraq.

Instead of forming a representative government, the negotiating between the various parties amounted to little more then bazaar-style haggling over the booty of the state. And the foreign actors, one might add, were also not in the least participating in the bargaining in order to advance anybody else’s interests except their own.

Observing developments from Beirut, we can tell them with certainty about the kind of government that results from foreign “mediation” and callous deals to slice up the pie – a cabinet that will exhibit near-total paralysis instead of acting to improve the conditions of the state and its citizens.

By relying on outside forces to handle the formation of their government, the next Iraqi cabinet is guaranteeing that it will have to turn to its foreign overseers to resolve any difficulties. The new government in Baghdad will exist in a state of dependence on foreigners.

No, what Iraq needs is for its political antagonists to form a government on their own. Yes, that will present problems, and there will be crises, but at least in that case the Iraqis would have a chance to address their problems themselves, unlike today.

Demonstrating the independence to form their own cabinet would send a message to their neighbors and other interested parties to stop meddling in Iraq’s affairs. It would also restore the badly eroded confidence of the Iraqi people in the democratic process in which they bravely participated, despite threats of violence aimed at disrupting the polls.

If the Iraqi leaders need a cautionary tale that might scare them into acting responsibly, they need only look at Lebanon, a country so deeply reliant on others to manage its crises that its independence exists merely as a hollow holiday in the calendar.

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