Posted by Reidar Visser on December 1, 2009
What this all suggests is that the main problem in the Iraq “surge” was never related to military hardware at all but rather to deep epistemological issues. Through insisting on dealing with Iraq through ethno-sectarian lenses instead of adopting a genuinely post-sectarian approach, Washington has contributed to reifying those very political cleavages that the “surge” was supposed to transcend.
Through focusing on the formalities of getting an election law passed without causing too much Iraqi nationalist excitement over Kirkuk, the Obama administration does not appear to have realised how much momentum related to political development and maturation was lost during the Iraq policy vacuum in the first part of 2009.
In Washington, Iraqi nationalism is ignored at best and seen as harmful by some; as a consequence what is coming to the forefront in Iraq has the appearance of a Turco-Kurdish-Iranian project far more than an American-Iraqi one. While this may seem consonant with earlier ideas articulated by Biden about “regionalising” the conflict, it remains in stark contrast to the declared intention of the Obama administration to focus on Iraqi territorial integrity and unity. Unless Maliki wakes up and realises that he may end up being marginalised entirely by the other Shiite Islamists and the Kurds (who have always been sceptical about him and his centralism), it is hard to see how this trend can be reversed.