February 13, 2008

More Progress In Iraq

The Iraqi National Assembly passed more reform legislation today, addressing a series of concerns that had American politicians impatient for progress. They have authorized provincial elections and provided limited amnesty for mainly Sunni detainees in Iraqi custody. The bill provided the finishing touch on the legislative session:

Iraq's parliament on Wednesday passed three key pieces of legislation that set a date for provincial elections, allot $48 billion for 2008 spending, and provide limited amnesty to detainees in Iraqi custody.

The three measures were bundled together for one vote to satisfy the demands of minority Kurds who feared they might be double-crossed on their stand that the budget allot 17 percent to their semiautonomous regional government in the north.

The vote came a day after the Sunni speaker of the fragmented parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, threatened to disband the legislature, saying it was so riddled with distrust it appeared unable to adopt legislation.

The provincial elections will take place on October 1st. The bill then devolves some authority from Baghdad to the provinces, allowing for more local control over resources and investment. Congress demanded it as a means to leverage tribal influence over Iraqi policy, a direction that Iraq had taken without the legislation through the various Awakening movements.

Iraq's parliament passed the de-Baathification reform law Congress demanded a few weeks earlier. They still have not formally addressed oil revenue sharing, but again, the Iraqis have been sharing revenue on a less formal basis now for months. The political reform process has shown steady improvement, if slower than the Americans desire, but moving in the right direction.

This progress will likely get poo-poohed by the opponents of the Iraq partnership. They will claim one of three things, which we've heard so often we can render them in song:

1. It's too late, baby, it's too late -- it just doesn't count unless it happened in 2005.

2. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that (immediate) swing -- Despite their calls for the Iraqi parliament to pass exactly this legislation, they will claim that the legislation is meaningless without implementation, but they won't wait for the implementation.

3. We're dreaming the impossible dream -- Iraqis (and Arabs in general) won't cotton to democracy, and all of this just is prelude to the genocidal war brewing between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis.

Those have been the goalpost-moving theme songs for the past year while the surge has transformed Iraq from a nation on the verge of collapse to a working, if contentious, democracy. I'll expect to hear the reprises in the comments section.


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