The best evidence of political progress in Iraq

On page 8 of the Washington Post’s news section today, we learn that, according to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq has met all but three of the 18 original benchmarks set by Congress. The only three that have not met are (a) enacting and implementing laws governing the oil industry (though it’s not clear why formal laws are necessary), (2) disarmament of militia and insurgent groups, and (3) making the Iraqi police more professional.

The Post hastens to add, however, that other recent assessments find that Iraq has failed to achieve “many of the goals that the Baghdad government and President Bush said would be reached by the end of 2007.” But a parallel statement can probably be made with respect to the domestic situation here in the U.S.

The best evidence of the extent to which political progress has been made in Iraq is found in another story that also appears on page 8 of the Post — the fact that Iraq’s main Sunni Muslim political bloc is on the verge of rejoining the Shiite-led government after a boycott of almost a year. If this bloc, known as the Tawafaq Front, does join the government, that itself will represent progress. Perhaps more importantly, the bloc would not be ending its boycott in the absence of major progress.

The bloc withdrew from the Iraqi government last August over demands for constitutional change and the release of Sunni detainees from Iraq’s prisons. Now, according to the Post, its leaders say the government has done enough to satisfy their core conditions. In particular, they cite the passing of the amnesty law and the government’s efforts to crack down on Shiite militias.

A spokesperson for the Sunni bloc said: “We feel that a great deal of [the conditions] have been fulfilled.” Considering the stakes for Iraq’s leading Sunnis and their close proximity to the situation on the ground, this assessment seems persuasive, and far more probative than any assessment by the GAO.

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