On Friday, seven months after the election to form a new government, Iraq finally appeared poised to name Nuri al-Maliki to a second term as prime minister.
The long stalemate was apparently broken when followers of Moktada al Sadr (the radical Shiite cleric in self exile in Iran) unexpectedly decided to drop their bitter opposition to al-Maliki. It was not immediately known what concessions were made to Sadr's followers for them to break the deadlock.
Sadr, of course, is closely aligned with the Shiite government in Iran and is staunchly opposed to the American presence in Iraq. His followers were at the heart of the 2005, 2006 Shiite bloodletting and sectarian civil war against the indigenous Sunni minority and their radical Sunni extremist allies (at the time) as well as fighting against the American led occupation. Sadr was responsible for calling an end to his followers armed resistance, though to this day, no factual explanation was ever given for their sudden laying down of arms (though it is speculated that the ayatollah's in Iran had influence over the young Sadr and convinced him to get his followers to end their sectarian driven killings of the Sunni's in Iraq).
Yet in today's Iraq, the country remains plagued not only with the ongoing political turmoil but also with the continuing security breakdowns i.e. roadside bombings and attacks by Sunni extremists on Shiite worshipers.
Although the current political impasse of choosing al-Maliki as the new prime minister may have broken the political logjam, resistance to Maliki returning as prime minister remains high among the followers of Iyad Allawi, a former secular Shiite prime minister who aligned himself with the country's Sunni's (in the March election). They actually captured more seats in that election by beating al-Maliki by two seats, but Allawi did not receive a majority of seats needed to automatically become prime minister and he has been unable to align himself with enough minority opposition party members to form a new coalition government with him as prime minister.
Along with these complications is the large Kurdish minority that needed to be accommodated in the new government. According to unofficial reports, the Kurds have also thrown their support behind al-Maliki, but not without garnering significant concessions from him, particularly their determination to remain autonomous and in control of broad areas of the oil rich northern of the country (presumably including the city of Kirkuk).
The news of Sadr throwing his support behind al-Maliki sent shivers of alarm through official Washington, considering his close ties to Iran and his continued vocal opposition to the American led occupation. But lest we forget, it was our unnecessary invasion and inept occupation that has created the current situation in Iraq. We broke it and now lament the latest apparent political outcome.
Considering the ongoing security failures and all the opposing factions at play in Iraq, any real political reconciliation is far from certain making the future of the country anything but stable.
Meanwhile the 50,000 American troops remaining in Iraq are supposed to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. That is anything but certain.
From here, the continued presence of American troops is still an occupying force that can only interfere and complicate Iraq's future political outcome; even whether it remains a single country or goes the way of old Yugoslavia and becomes hopelessly divided and split into separate independent states. Our presence only delays Iraq's eventual political reckoning, whatever that may be.