Friday, May 04, 2007
a million engines in neutral:
No wonder Condoleezza Rice warned of "overreaching expectations" for the Sharm el-Sheikh conference. Not only is the Sunni Accordance Front is threatening to abandon the political process, but Sunni leaders are pushing a message of total opposition to Maliki in Egypt. Slogger:

The official spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq Sheikh Mohammed Bashar Al-Faidhi described the Iraq conference at Sharm Al-Sheikh as a “failure,” as he warned Iraqis not to expect any positive results from it. “This is the final attempt by the international community and the occupation to support the current government, which is guilty of crimes against the Iraqi people,” said Al-Faidhi, adding that the five-year “International Compact” plan adopted overwhelmingly in the conference is an attempt to save the government, not the Iraqi people. “If there was a sincere intention to save Iraq from its predicament, they should have invited Iraqi political opposition groups and the resistance for a dialogue,” he said.

Not entirely unlike the last regional reconciliation conference, then. That time around, the effort was to bring the Sunnis into the political process, something the Sunnis accepted when they saw the efforts of the Kurds and Shiites to push through their visions of Iraq unobstructed. Now, the Accordance Front -- the larger of the two Sunni parliamentary blocs -- sees politics as insufficiently obstructionist to the Shiites. Recall that most of the parties represented in the Accordance Front were the only Sunnis that didn't boycott the Maliki-led December 2006 reconciliation conference. Sunni opposition to Maliki is now at a high point inside and outside of Iraq precisely when he and the U.S. are trying to convince the region he's a national leader.

It's true that the bloc has made this threat a few times over the last few weeks without following through. At the same time, the more significant fact is that the political process is showing greater fatigue, not less, during the troop surge, which, remember, is supposed to bolster reconciliation. Concede General Petraeus's point that sectarian killings in Baghdad are a third of what they were in January: clearly the statistic is less persuasive to Iraqi Sunnis than it is to Americans. It makes little sense to expect more of the surge to advance a political dynamic whose fractures are deepening despite the surge's successes.

More fundamentally: the Sunni push against Maliki is a push against Shiite control. How the process anoints another Shiite leader -- Adel Abdul Mehdi? -- without repeating the experience of the Maliki government is difficult to understand, but elevating a non-Shiite leader given the Shiite majority in Iraq is unthinkable.
--Spencer Ackerman