A series of coordinated attacks on checkpoints and a Shiite mosque on Monday in Iraq demonstrated that the guerrilla opposition to the US-imposed new order in that country continues to be active and organized. Some 300-400 civilians and members of security forces are still being killed in political violence every month, not counting the insurgents themselves. The death rate from such violence appears little changed this year from last. The attacks continue to make economic progress difficult; they often disrupt the work (and even destroy the edifices) of government agencies, and they discourage foreign investment. Attacks on Shiite mosques are intended to provoke reprisals against Sunni Arabs, sharpening the contradictions and polarization and making Sunnis easier to recruit and mobilize for the resistance.
Meanwhile, one of the only ways mainstream Sunni Arabs, about 17 percent of the population, can hope to avoid another purely Shiite-Kurdish government would be to acquiesce in the formation of a government of national unity. That step would require the secular Iraqiya List, for which most Sunni Arabs voted, but which includes secular Shiites like its leader Iyad Allawi, to join the government. Thus, Al-Sharq al-Awsat (the Middle East) reports in Arabic that incumbent PM Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqiya leader Iyad al-Allawi [will soon] have met to discuss a place at the table for the Iraqiya.
This move would have benefits for several parties. Al-Maliki campaigned against ex-Baathist secularists, but his current allies, the Shiite religious parties of Ammar al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, seem insistent on replacing him with someone else, perhaps Ibrahim Jaafari. The Iraqiya might prefer al-Maliki, who has backed off purely sectarian language and speaks like an Iraqi nationalist, even though he remains head of the fundamentalist Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa), to a more sectarian candidate favored by the Sadrists. So, if al-Maliki can draw the Iraqiya in, it might be a way of outmaneuvering Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army al-Maliki attacked militarily in 2008. Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is close to Tehran, has in any case made it clear that he will not join a government from which Allawi’s list is excluded.
So the scenario I predicted soon after the March 7 election, of a core Shiite alliance but a government of national unity that includes Iraqiya and the Kurds, seems in train. It replicates the government of summer, 2006, when US ambassador Ryan Crocker worked hard at cementing it. This time, much of the work seems to be being done by the Iraqis themselves, sometimes reluctantly, as the need for political reconciliation bears in on them and they realize it is key to their future as a state.