Cautiously Optimistic

Iraq took large steps towards independence and representative government with the formal creation of an interim Iraqi executive and cabinet, which will replace the US-formed Iraqi Governing Council. The IGC, which suffered from its association with the occupation, used its considerable political heft to install its own choices in key positions despite some opposition from both the US and the UN representative Lakhdar Brahimi. The BBC reports that President Bush waxed ebullient about these developments and the people chosen by the Iraqis:

US President Bush has welcomed Iraq’s interim government saying it represents a broad cross-section of society and has the “talent” to guide the nation. He said that the first priority for the new leadership will be to pave the way to nationwide elections by January.
Mr Bush insisted the US had played no role in selecting the new cabinet, and instead praised the UN for their input. The cabinet will assume power at once, after a surprise decision by the Governing Council to dissolve itself.
“This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people and the American people. It’s going to send a clear signal that terrorists can’t win,” Mr Bush said. “Mr Brahimi has recommended a team that possesses the talent, commitment, the resolve to guide Iraq through the challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Bush said, referring to UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who was asked by the Americans to oversee the selection process.

While the media has, over the past few hours, chosen to treat the newfound Iraqi independence as a slap at the US, in fact it demonstrates that the Iraqis can come together to create a substantial structure for a future representative government. The Iraqis chose a Sunni moderate to lead the transition, a Western-educated engineer who wants to see the occupation end but understands the need for American troops to provide security. The new cabinet says that the first priority will be the elimination of the militias that threaten civil governance, and that cannot be addressed without Anglo-American troops until a stable Iraqi security force can be established.
Unlike the media, I tend to agree with the idea that the new government and the dissolution of the IGC indicate a better chance for success for the Iraqis. We’re seeing moderates rising to the occasion, working across ethnic and religious barriers; the two Vice-Presidents are a Shi’a and a Kurd. All involved have stated that the new Iraq must be secular, federal, and united, rather than the assumed instinct to split the country along their political lines. Having a Sunni as the executive will allow the moderates in the Sunni Triangle to advance politically and cut the justification for the minor insurgencies that erupted this spring.
Lots of problems will appear before this is all over, and Bush warned that we can expect a further escalation of violence as the radicals get desperate. But one must take the first steps in order to arrive at any destination, and at least Iraq points in the right direction.