Those of us who had been in favor of a continuing U.S. troop presence in Iraq had warned that these forces were a vital stabilizing force in Iraq’s turbulent politics. It gives me no pleasure to be proven right. For no sooner have U.S. troops been withdrawn (the final convoy crossed the Kuwait border yesterday), then Iraqi politics were plunged into a fresh crisis.
Sunni politicians are accusing the domineering Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of sending his security forces to arrest their aides and target them. In protest, the Iraqiya coalition, the top vote getter in Iraq’s last election, has announced a boycott of parliament. As the Iraq analyst Reidar Vissar notes, rumors are rampant the crisis will escalate because of “unprecedented statements by people close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that a move is afoot to withdraw confidence in Deputy Premier Salih al-Mutlak of Iraqiyya (on charges of incompetence) and to bring legal charges against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also of Iraqiyya, for alleged involvement in the recent terror attack against the Iraqi parliament.”
Meanwhile, the Sunni-dominated provincial council in Diyala province is demanding autonomy from Baghdad. Other provinces are threatening to follow suit–demands that have already resulted in clashes between police and Shiite demonstrators in Diyala and could well result in the use of deadly force.
American leaders including Ambassador Jim Jeffrey and Vice President Biden are reportedly making phone calls to try to mediate the conflict and avert a complete breakdown of politics. But the odds of a breakdown, and a reversion to civil war, are going up by the day–and all because of the premature and irresponsible withdrawal of American military forces.