Today, the Iraqi Parliament postponed a scheduled vote on the U.S.-Iraq Security agreement. In order to get broad support in Parliament for the security agreement, Maliki and his allies appear to have given into a Sunni demand to hold a national referendum on the agreement in 2009.
Iraq is entering a pivotal period. With little political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shia since the surge began a year and a half ago, the U.S. has now begun to transfer authority over the predominately Sunni Anbar province to the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. While conservatives have prematurely declared victory in Iraq, progressives have consistently warned that political reconciliation and the establishment of the Iraqi government will be the hard part.
In his last days commanding U.S. forces in Iraq, General Petraeus issued words of caution – the security gains that had been achieved were “tenuous.” The increase in U.S. forces played an important role in creating the decrease in violence, but during this time almost no progress has been made on political reconciliation.
This weekend Iraq’s leaders again failed to agree on a new provincial elections law, and a new wave of protests and bombings shook the region. It is a reminder that the reduction in violence we have seen recently is heavily predicated on political success.