Iraq’s Political Reconciliation



Bendinelli, Ryan

This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker reported to Congress that there are improvements in Iraq. The ground commander and the chief diplomat to Iraq also reported that the Iraqi government has failed to meet benchmarks that were set by the United States Congress.

All of this has been made known by a series of reports as well as leaks to the press for some time. It has also been fairly clear that the Bush administration has heralded the areas where progress is being achieved and done its best to diminish the importance of the failed benchmarks.

Here is a quick recap of what is happening. There is some major progress being made at the local level. The military has begun to offer financial incentives for tribal leaders to cooperate. The finances go toward reconstruction projects.

One of the major success stories is in the al Anbar province. There, the people have begun to reject extremist leaders and support the government. This has led to a significant drop in violence in a place that was once a hotspot.

On the negative side, Iraq’s government does not appear to be working. Actually, it was not working at all, as it took the month of August off. Even more, it has failed to meet benchmarks that were set, such as finding a way to share oil revenues among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

To see even more progress, work must be done on this side of the world and in Iraq. If there is anyone out there who is still dreaming about a perfect Iraq filled with white picket fences, hopefully they will come down to earth soon. However, there may be some hope for a better Iraq, despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s best wishes for the war to be lost.

The first thing that must happen is political reconciliation. However, this reconciliation doesn’t need to occur anywhere near the Euphrates River but instead along the Potomac.

The leaders of the United States need to find common ground and send clear messages to Baghdad. The Republican National Committee needs to stop its weekly press releases about the “Defeatocrats.” Not only is this immature, it is also simply wrong. Many Democrats grew sick of their advice falling on deaf ears at the Pentagon for four years and have given up hope. Name calling only strengthens their resolve. On the Democratic side, the stunts in Congress need to stop. Sleepover parties on the Capitol floor to prove a point only prove one thing: Democratic Congressional leaders care more about gaining press attention than anything else.

The Iraqi people are not stupid. When more and more American leaders come out and say that it is time to leave Iraq, they know that any protection from American troops is not permanent. While no one in the United States wants to keep an American presence there forever, many in Iraq would at least hope that the country could be secured before any withdrawal. After the United States failed to come to the aid of those who sought to oust Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, there is a serious trust problem among the Iraqi citizens. Thus, there is little incentive for them to come to the aid of the United States and Iraqi government. They may not want to hurt U.S. troops, but they will not put themselves on the line to help them.

This trust problem can only be resolved with a unified message to the Iraqi people. It should be made clear that the United States will not be there forever. At the same time, it is necessary to demonstrate a commitment to leaving Iraq with a degree of stability. If Washington can stop its bickering and show a small degree of unity, then perhaps Iraq could improve. But if the leaders of the United States cannot find political reconciliation, how should members of the Iraqi government accomplish this task when they are afraid to even turn on their car?


Ryan Bendinelli is a senior political science and communication major from Millington, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].