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April 16, 2006
STRATEGYPAGE LOOKS AT DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ and sounds two themes often heard here -- that the problem is political, not military, and that the biggest political problem is corruption:
It's corruption that Iraqi politicians understand as well as their Western counterparts. Get elected, get access to public money, and steal as much as you can without getting punished. This is where the real war for Iraq's future is being fought. There will be some corruption, that is understood. No government on the planet is completely free of it. But too much, and the government does not work. The voters become unhappy, unrest grows, and you end up with another dictator. Right now, the politicians are so corrupt that they could drive the country back to a dictator in less than a decade. Many Iraqis are aware of this. The question is, will enough honest Iraqis step up, at great risk to themselves, to establish and maintain a viable (relatively honest and efficient) government? No one knows, and the politicians are still arguing over who will have what ministry so that we can start ruling, and dealing with some very pressing problems.
The government has to deal with corruption, in the long run, and the militias, in the short run. The Sunni Arab terrorists and Saddam loyalists are still fighting, but they have lost. Most Sunni Arab leaders are now more concerned about protecting their people from the Iraqi army and police. These security forces are not only dominated by Kurds and Shia Arabs, but are strong, and growing stronger. Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors have given up any ideas of actively supporting putting the Iraqi Sunni Arabs back in power. Instead, the neighbors are hoping the Shia Arabs and Kurds running the new Iraqi government will help containing Iran. That is the major goal of the Arab nations of the region. That sometimes gets forgotten in the West. They never forget it in the Persian Gulf.
Turning Iraq into a dependable ally against Iran has always been part of the strategy, I think. I hope it works, and sooner rather than later.