The political process in Iraq has reached another very critical and important stage. This is the time that will decide if Iraq will emerge as a country that can sustain itself and where groups of people-while have many differences-can share this nation and coexist peacefully.
There's no doubt that this is going to be a difficult journey until key requirements to reconciliation, especially the oil distribution law and the Justice and Accountability law (which will replace the debaathification law) see the light. Many concessions will have to be made by every one of the major constituents of this country before the final compromise is reached.
The challenge this time is not about logistics as it was with holding elections. This time we're asking Iraq's political leaders to strike a deal that will shape this country and draw the prospects of the future of their corresponding public bases.
The efforts to reach a final agreement will be faced by many obstacles. Some of those are coming or will come from parties that simply want to get a better deal for themselves and their public bases while other obstacles will come from parties that simply do not want to see any compromise take place even if that meant the disintegration of the country and the failure of the democratic project.
As an example of the first category we have influential people like Ayatollah Sistani who told the delegates sent by Maliki two days ago that he was against making hasty legislations. Sistani isn't against stability or peaceful coexistence with Sunni Arabs or Kurds but emotions and history make him and others around him wary from rushing toward accepting former Baathists among them.
Sadr and his movement are the biggest example of the second category; they are not interested in nation-building and will keep opposing every sincere effort in this direction, thus their attempt to undermine Maliki's efforts and Bush's new strategy. But I wouldn't panic about that because I can tell their bill will be blocked. Critical decision require more than a vote, they require consensus among the leaders of the blocs and the people in top offices and such consensus is unlikely. And I wouldn't panic about the two-month recess either because the lawmakers know it's political suicide to insist on such a childish inconsiderate demand especially with a public long angered by all the vacations and benefits the lawmakers give themselves; I think all they wanted was to not look as if they were taking orders from America.
The major representatives of Sunni Arabs have varying attitudes as well. There are people like VP Hashimi who sat down with Maliki on Wednesday to figure out a way to reach an agreement and there people like Khalaf Ilayan who is sitting in Jordan and threatening from there to withdraw from the government.
Meanwhile the Kurds are staying as neutral as they can so far, which is their usual attitude whenever their direct interests are not seriously threatened—debaathification is not a big concern for them and equal distribution of oil revenues would give them a bigger share of the oil than if they get control over Kirkuk's oil alone, at least for years to come given the current rates of production and export. Even if my math isn't very accurate then the newly estimated additional 100 billion barrels of oil in the western part of the country will make equal distribution a good idea in the long run.
However they agreed to send one of their senior guys Barham Saleh-as duputy PM of Iraq, not as a Kurdish politician though-to Washington to seek support for the ongoing security and political efforts among the Congress.
While it is frustrating to see this process take relatively so much time-and I say relatively because we're talking about only a few months but even this is too much time given the current situation an pressures-I can see that the negotiations among Iraq's leaders tell us who are watching whether from within Iraq or from afar that the difficulty in the negotiations is because the political leaders know this deal and these legislations will not be mere ink on paper.
They view these legislations and their effects as the contract that will define their and their people's position and rights in this country for a long time to come. Perhaps the politicians themselves might not be aware of this particular idea but to me I see that their yelling, disagreements yeas and nays in fact reflect a will to establish rule of law but that will first go through passing the laws they agree to rule and be ruled by.
On the other hand those who are opposed to reaching a compromise unfortunately might have the power to delay the progress through the votes they have in the parliament as well as through violent means, therefore we will need to win every positive voice we can to override those who are against the effort to reach stability and rule of law.
It's not going to be easy though, no one said it would be—we're stuck for another two and a half years with a parliament that has plenty of people who don't respect the concepts of dialogue and compromise and neutralizing their destructive effect will require a lot of courage and hard work from those how do and a good deal of understanding and patience from our friends in the world.