“Does President Bush have a realistic plan for bringing democracy to the Middle East?” was the title of an Insight In the News Symposium from April 1, 2003. Abdulwahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, answered “YES: Human dignity, the rule of law and limits on the power of the state are clearly mandated by Islam’s holy book.” And I answered “NO: Insisting that the nations of the Middle East choose between Western-style democracy or the terror state will do more harm than good.”
My main point was that the allegiance to Sharia was too strong to be overcome. This article is not about the influence of Sharia, but that influence certainly contributes to the insoluble factionalism and unwillingness to compromise that is depicted here. If you adamantly believe that you have God on your side, you’re not going to be willing to make deals with the devil — that is, compromise with your political opponents.
“In Iraq, an impasse as U.S. troops draw down,” by Liz Sly in the Los Angeles Times, August 2:
With less than a month to go before the U.S. military completes its drawdown to 50,000 troops and political negotiations still deadlocked, it now seems all but certain that the American combat mission here will end without an elected Iraqi government in place.
Most politicians are predicting that the 5-month-old impasse will continue at least until September, and that a new government could take even longer. Iraqis fear violence will intensify as tensions increase between political factions and as insurgents seek to take advantage of the vacuum left by the departing troops.
Thousands of U.S. troops have already left, even though the process of forming a government has hardly progressed since the March 7 election. American officials stress that nothing will stand in the way of reducing the size of the force to 50,000 by the end of August.
But uncertainty deepened Sunday after the effective collapse of an already frayed alliance between the two major Shiite Muslim blocs that had been seeking to block the candidacy of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite whose support comes mostly from Sunnis.
Ahmad Chalabi, a senior figure in the Iraqi National Alliance, said the group was severing negotiations with the current prime minister, Nouri Maliki, and would only resume talks with Maliki’s State of Law coalition if it ditched him as its candidate. […]
Removing Maliki from the equation is unlikely to produce a swift resolution, however, because there is no sign that majority Shiites are close to an agreement on a single candidate to replace him. The INA alone, which won 70 seats and includes the faction led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr, already has two. […]
Underpinning the machinations is the Sunni-Shiite divide that propelled Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006, as well as a broader regional divide between Iran, which supports the Shiite alliance, and the mostly Sunni Arab states, which back Allawi. The U.S. has sought to promote an Allawi-Maliki deal, though it says it has no preferred candidate.[…]
An attack in the staunchly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya last week raised alarms. Insurgents overran an Iraqi army checkpoint and raised the flag of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, killing 16 people, including 10 members of the security forces….