During my last visit to Iraq in January, I expressed my reservations about the ability of the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Maliki, to make the tough political decisions necessary for Iraq to resolve its sectarian divisions. Since my visit, Iraqi leaders have not met their own political benchmarks to share power, modify the de-Ba'athification laws, pass an oil law, schedule provincial elections, and amend their constitution. During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve, confirmed that the Iraqi Government’s failures have reinforced the widely held view that the Maliki government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders.
I share Senator Levin’s hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks.
Such as who?
The sad fact is that there is currently no unifying figure in Iraq. In fact, Maliki was the original "unity" candidate. Picked after the Shiite's preferred candidate al-Jaafari was pushed aside with a shove from the American ambassador. Maliki was supposed to be acceptable to the Shiite majority, and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities, alike.
The problem is not Mr. Maliki’s narrow-mindedness or incompetence. He is the logical product of the system the United States created, one that deliberately empowered the long-persecuted Shiite majority and deliberately marginalized the long-dominant Sunni Arab minority. It was all but sure to produce someone very like Mr. Maliki, a sectarian Shiite far more interested in settling scores than in reconciling all Iraqis to share power in a unified and peaceful democracy.
Maliki was our choice. As was Allawi. As was Chalabi. Americans have had a pathetic record at selecting Iraq's leaders. If Senator Clinton knows of a good candidate, now is the time to speak up.