Apr 10, 2004 6:25 pm


This is also an internal game. For months, the Shia leadership has kept its constituency patient. They even permitted the Sunnis to blow up their mosques and kill their people. In return, they watched as their prospective power was being systematically eroded and Sunni violence rewarded. The democratic elections they had hoped for was receding further and further and the power of the federal government diminishing. To add insult to injury, when they asked the UN to intervene a Sunni by the name of Lakhdar Brahimi came calling. Sistani may not want a general uprising nor does he wish to see power go to Al Sadr but I suspect he figured that solidarity with Falujah would remind the coalition of the Shia potential for disruption, while at the same time reassure the Sunnis of their Iraqi loyalties. In other words, the prospects of Civil war may be receding.

Chess was invented in Iran. Its time to stop underestimating the political savvy of Iraqis. I suspect Bremer no longer enjoys the trust of the Shia. Its time to bring him back for a public relations tour and place in Iraq a person the Shia can trust to make sure that they will not be betrayed yet again. After all, they only ask for what we promised - sovereignty and democracy. If that goes well, Iraqi political parties will in time lose their exclusively ethnic and religious basis in the same manner both European and American parties did.

Finally, lets take a deep breath and remember. Iraq is not Somalia, Lebanon or even Vietnam. The strategic reason we are there has little to do with WMDs, it has more to do with the reason Bob Kerry suggested responding to the attack the Cole by evicting Saddam - we must make the ME safe for democracy and Iraq, like Germany, is centrally located and, hence, eminently suitable as a base of operation. Failing to accomplish this mission now will only mean a more bloody revisit later.

So let's play it smart.

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