The Exile Legacy

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There's a great article in today's Washington Post that goes beyond merely noting how dysfunctional the government of Nouri al-Maliki and his party is in Iraq, but tries to help explain why:

At times consumed by conspiracy theories, Maliki and his Dawa party elite operate much as they did when they plotted to overthrow Saddam Hussein -- covertly and concerned more about their community's survival than with building consensus among Iraq's warring groups, say Iraqi politicians and analysts and Western diplomats. [...]

But Dawa members and other Shiites remained suspicious of the motives of the United States and the Sunnis, partly because of the Shiites' history of being oppressed and betrayed, including what they viewed as an American failure to back a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

On the one hand, this makes the leaders of the Shiite parties hesitant to compromise with Sunnis. It also, in a totally understandable way, makes them freak out about things like the U.S. military giving training and support to local armed Sunni groups that we're partnering with to fight al-Qaeda. They have no trust in Iraq's Sunni elites and no trust in the United States. At the same time, trying to work with Sunnis who are willing to cooperate with us against al-Qaeda is the right strategy for us. Except that the real right strategy for us is to recognize that things are far, far, far too screwed up for us to unscrew them at this point.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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