Bing West and Max Boot write:
The strategy of "surging" 30,000 American soldiers into Iraq and stationing most of them outside of giant U.S. bases has made a crucial difference. … Now, victory is within our grasp -- if only the Iraqi government could effectively reach out to Sunnis and Shiites alike who are fed up with violence and sectarian divisions.
Yet the perverse political system stymies such an outcome. In 2004, U.S. and U.N. officials pushed through an electoral process that resulted in votes for parties rather than individual candidates. This left party bosses in Baghdad free to appoint hacks who do not answer to any local constituency and face no penalty for failing to provide essential services. Water, electricity, garbage collection and job creation are in terrible shape, especially in Sunni areas, because the government is run by Shiites. …
Believing that the White House cannot effectively pressure him without undermining domestic support for its Iraq policy, Maliki has slighted governance while consolidating sectarian control via a vulpine clique. In a flight from reality, his aides balked over sending a letter to the U.N. requesting that coalition forces remain in Iraq, even though Maliki wouldn't last a day without coalition support.
There are good reasons for the administration to be reluctant to ditch the prime minister when no consensus candidate has emerged to replace him. … But Bush should not repeat in Iraq the mistake he has already made in Russia and Pakistan: overly personalizing relations with another country. The U.S. should support democracy in Iraq, not Maliki per se.
A few weeks ago, the Kurds threatened a "no confidence" vote if the prime minister did not share power. Chastened, Maliki seemed to agree. The tests will be whether he permits Sunnis to join the police force in representative numbers, disburses funds to the provinces and permits legislation for provincial elections certain to weaken his authoritarian efforts to control Iraq. If he doesn't come through, the American president may have no choice but to cast his vote -- probably a decisive one -- against the Iraqi prime minister.
Read the whole article here.