Or more of the same with different characters?
Word came down from Najaf and Ibrahim al-Jaafari decided to step aside after months of holding up the formation of a new government with his obstinate refusal to get lost. Jaafari said on Iraqi TV on Wednesday, "I cannot allow myself to be an obstacle, or appear to be an obstacle." (He certainly never did that!) "The one thing I cannot compromise is my dedication to this heroic people," Right, all this trouble he's caused was all in the name of democracy and the Iraqi people.
It's not going to go over well in the White House that it took Ashraf Qazi, a U.N. envoy, and a visit by him to Ayatollah ali-Sistani to get the ball rolling again. Remember, earlier on this month Condi Rice and British Foreign Secretary had made a "surprise visit" to Baghdad to try and get al-Jaafari to leave and they left empty handed. ( See, W. was right, diplomacy never works!) It looks like the Brits and the U.S. don't have too much credibility or clout when it comes to Iraqi politics these days.
Ali-Sistani does however: Robert Reid writes for the AP that, "Sistani's role was another sign of the Shiite clergy's political power. Shiite politicians turn frequently to the clergy for the politically tough decisions that they cannot make." So who's running the show over there, the democratically elected leadership or the turbaned Taliban? I'm sure all the people who have lost loved ones over there will be happy to know all their sacrifice has led to this.
Supposedly, the politicians are now on the fast track to forming new government. One little sticking point might be that part of the reason the Kurds wanted al-Jaafari out in the first place was because he had reneged on his promise to help them grab Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city that they want rolled into their autonomous region. There isn't any guarantee that the next PM, Jawad al-Maliki, is going to be any more accommodating on that score. To be sure, any future government is going to have to deal with Turkey, if the Shiites do accede to Kurdish demands for Kirkuk. [Note: Turkey has moved 50,000 troops closer to the Iraqi border. AP]
When and if we ever leave, it looks like the militias might be ones who we leave in control. There's the Badr brigade, which is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution; the Mehdi army, of Muqtada al-Sadr, who we fought to a standstill twice back in 2004 and whose numbers have exploded to maybe 15,000 fighters; and a new player on the scene, the Facilities Protection Services, which Newsweek says numbers about 146,000.
The funny thing about he FPS is that no one knows exactly where they came from or who controls them. This shadowy organization was apparently the offspring of groups of armed men who were known to be "night watchmen" for the various Shiite mosques around the country under threat form the Sunni insurgents. Now, they roam around Baghdad in police pickups, in blue police uniforms and, naturally; they're armed to the teeth. The crazy Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, denied that he has any connection to them and tells Newsweek that "they are dong some bad." He says that one element of the FPS, Battalion 16, is responsible for "sectarian killings, explosions and mortar attacks."
So even the Interior Minister, who is very likely behind many killings himself, says they're out of control. Tim Keefe, a military spokesman says, "We really don't get anywhere near them." Another American official who didn't want his named used said, "The FPS has basically become the private army for the ministries. They have no accountability."
We're pretty busy with the Sunnis and al-Qaeda, so we're staying clear of the Shiite militias and, for the moment, they're staying out of our way while they consolidate their hold over the entire country. This could change at anytime, particularly if we attack their benefactor Iran.