They're having an election over there, too. And Dr. Irak and Ilan Goldenberg see things breaking down into two blocs -- a nationalist bloc of Sadrists and Sunnis who favor nationalism and a strong central state, and a competing bloc of Kurds, ISCI, and Dawa who favor decentralization and collaboration with the U.S. and Iran.

It's an interesting turn of events. Interesting, in particular, because it's kind of paradoxical for ISCI and Dawa, in particular, to be both so close to the United States and so close to Iran. And even more interesting because it seems odd for the in-power coalition to be in favor of decentralization while the out-of-power coalition is skeptical of it. And last it's interesting because in an abstract sense you'd think the Sunnis, as a minority, would generally line up with the Kurds and be in favor of decentralization. To some extent I think what you're seeing here is that the presence of a huge American occupying army as a political issue in Iraq is distorting the lens through which some parties see their interests.

But of course lurking behind all this is the question of what the United States wants to do. The Bush administration has consistently used its considerable ability to influence Iraqi politics in order to try to bring to power leaders it regards as friendly to the American troop presence. An Obama administration looking for a graceful way to exit would have different incentives.

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