On Friday, Charles Krauthammer argued that the U.S. should work with elements in the Iraqi Parliament to bring down the Maliki government. Krauthammer’s criticism of Maliki seems well-founded. But because Maliki is a symptom of the problems in Iraq and not their cause, it’s difficult to see what would be gained by ousting him.
Maliki obtained power because the Shiite population overwhelmingly believed that the Sunnis don’t deserve anything like a favorable deal in the new Iraq, given their minority status and past oppression of the Shiites. Maliki is the instrument of those who hold that view. As long as a critical mass of the Shiite population continues to hold it, political reconciliation is most unlikely to occur. And if a critical mass abandons this view, we can expect that either (a) Maliki, essentially an opportunist, will react accordingly or (b) the Shiites will cause him to be replaced without undue U.S. influence.
Ironically, it’s possible that our success in reducing Sunni violence and resistance (to the extent we’re able to sustain it) will remove a substantial incentive for Iraqi Shiites to reconcile with the Sunni population, namely the desire to reduce sectarian violence directed at Shiites. A more optimistic view would be that Shiite violence and intransigence is the product of fear of Sunni resistance, not a desire to dominate the new Iraq and gain revenge. If so, by curbing that resistance and the violence associated with it, we undercut the basis for Shiite violence and intransigence.
Much depends on which view of these two views of underlying Shiite motivation is correct. In either scenario, a U.S. led ouster of Maliki figures to be inconsequential.
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