Two good reads for you this morning from independent citizen journalists:
1) A tell-it-like-is report from blogger Michael Totten in Al Anbar searching for IEDs and weapons caches with American troops. Look for the Geraldo Rivera joke.
2) An in-depth, four-part series inside Iraqi politics from blogger Bill Ardolino. Part I examines the executive branch and overall politica goals. Part II looks at progress in executive branch reform. Part III looks at the legislative branch. Part IV looks at the budget and oil profit-sharing.
A last installment will examine “the status of more pieces of legislation considered important for stability and reconciliation, including the Unified Retirement Law, de-Baathification reform, the General Amnesty Law, the referendum on Kirkuk, the Provincial Powers Act and the Provincial Elections Law.”
Takeaway from Part III:
While the media has focused on a narrative of unrelenting sectarianism as the cause of the [Council of Representatives’] inertia on passing legislation, many American officials believe this view ignores some context, including the decentralized design of the government under the Iraqi constitution and a lack of experience with democracy among Iraqi officials.
“[Sectarianism] is clearly an element; political parties are formed along sectarian lines and political blocs, too,” said [Phil Reeker, Counselor for Public Affairs at the State Department]. “That’s not uncommon in countries all over the world. That does not have to be a recipe for disaster. What it means is finding the mechanisms under the constitution they have to get through those things and do what it takes to govern, so that all the parties in government and the citizenry can feel secure and comfortable.”
And despite the splintered character of the country’s political and demographic makeup, as well as the enhanced sectarianism that flared during the bloody conflict in 2006, both Americans and Iraqis are quick to describe the existence of a strong nationalistic sentiment in Iraq.
“There’s a sort of nationalism in Iraq that frankly people don’t realize,” said Reeker. “Sectarianism is not as etched or hard-wired into the society here … as people think based on what was absolutely brutal, horrific sectarian violence … after the Samarra mosque bombing in 2006. If you look back in history, Iraq was a place where the Sunnis and Shia mixed, it was a place where there was a certain strong Arab nationalism. So [reconciliation is] something they have to keep working. They have these very difficult debates, but they have found certain mechanisms … to get some of this done, whether it’s passing budgets, executing them, getting money moved out to the provinces.”
With improved security, only time will reveal if such nationalism will result in sufficient accord within the Iraqi legislature. Many US officials shun the term “reconciliation” in favor of “accommodation,” given the difficult diversity of Iraq’s sects, ethnicities, and interests.
Both Ardolino and Totten are doing excellent work.