The International Crisis Group recently offered an assessment of Iraq’s progress, somewhat rosier than one might otherwise expect. Here is the good news:
“The Sunni insurgency has been seriously weakened. Previously marginalised Sunni tribes found in the U.S. a new patron and turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Increasingly divided and with several important groups co-opted by the U.S., the armed movements are a shadow of their former selves. As for al-Qaeda in Iraq, it appears in disarray, a victim of U.S. attacks but also of its own brutal excesses.”
“[T]hese trends are not necessarily permanent and hardly equate with durable Sunni Arab acceptance of the political process. Instead, U.S. policy is bolstering a set of local actors operating beyond the state’s realm or the rule of law and who impose their authority by force of arms.
“None of this points to progress toward a fully inclusive political process”, says Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Syria and Lebanon Project Director. “The U.S. now seems intent on militarily defeating insurgents who, although they express deep misgivings about the current political system, are eager for genuine negotiations.””
And here is ICG’s recommendation:
“The only lasting solution lies in creating non-sectarian, impartial and functional state institutions. To this end, the U.S. government must cease unconditional military support to the Iraqi government and, instead, adjust such support by assessing the behaviour of Iraqi military bodies. Along with the United Nations, the U.S. should press for, and assist the Iraqi government in organising, free, fair, inclusive and safe provincial council elections by 1 October 2008. It should insist on a broader political process aimed at a new national compact. And it should engage in genuine regional diplomacy, including with Iran and Syria, with a view to defusing regional tensions and agreeing on red lines regarding policy toward Iraq.”