On Saturday Vice president Biden came visiting Iraq, initially having a talk with the American commander, General Ray Odierno. Reportedly, Biden was planning a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Ayed Allawi, the former prime minister whose coalition won the most seats in the recent parliamentary elections (but without a mandate to form a new government) and Jalal Talibani, the Iraqi president, himself a Kurd.
Biden's visit was apparently scheduled in hope that he could assist in helping to unravel the tangle that persists four months after the Iraqi elections, with the present Maliki led government in limbo and the persistent wrangling between him and Allawi contesting who has the legal authority to form the new government.
Interestingly Biden's visit coincided briefly with the visit of Senator's McCain, Lieberman and Graham apparently signaling an overall American political concern with the stalemate in Iraqi politics.
What is really surprising is our American politicos having the expectation that Iraq, with no history of political reconciliation among its various ethnic and religious rivals could somehow be magically joined together to form a viable representative democracy at all.
Perhaps they (and we?) could benefit from a little historical perspective on Iraq. The modern incarnation of the country was created by the British after W.W.I who drew lines on a map, ignoring ethnic and religious divisions and creating a rump country whereby Sunnis were installed into government and bureaucratic positions (they being the more highly educated [and thus favored] but a clear minority [25% of the population] compared with the majority Shiites [2/3's of the population] and the Kurds making up mostly the rest).
Dictatorial rule prevailed, (initially a monarchy and later the direct strongman rule of Saddam Hussein) and continued until the American preemptive invasion into Iraq in 2003 toppling Saddam's regime. Himself a Sunni he persecuted the majority Shiites, mostly in the South of the country as well as the Kurds in the mountainous North.
Our invasion and inept occupation only helped to harden the ethnic and sectarian divisions, particularly against the Sunnis who under Saddam were not only entrenched in the government and the bureaucracy, but also the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi military which Saddam used to persecute Shiite and Kurd alike.
So with Saddam gone and with our dismantling of the Iraqi (mostly Sunni) army, the Shiites were elected (installed) to run the run the new American occupied Iraqi government which resulted in the religiously inspired civil war between the newly outcast Sunnis (the prime insurgent group along with al Qaeda opposed and fighting against the American occupation) and the more numerous Shiites who exacted revenge against the Sunnis in the form of execution style killings and beheadings (to which the Sunnis responded with merciless killing of Shiites).
This civil war essentially ended by late 2007 with the advent of the indigenous Iraqi Sunni "awakening" movement (which began in the summer of 2006) turning against their formally allied al Qaeda (mostly foreign) partners in the insurgency (who were indiscriminately killing innocent Muslims (Sunni and Shiite alike), the decision by the Shiites to unilaterally end their sectarian bloodletting against the Sunnis and lastly the American "surge", the brainchild of General Petraeus and initiated by President Bush in early 2007, a decision presented at the time as the means to give time to the Iraqi's to develop "political reconciliation" among the many indigenous ethnic and religious rivals.
And this is where we are today, some three years and two elections later, still waiting for the miracle of "political reconciliation" among the Iraqi's, now with Biden and the three Senate magi (stooges?) there to assist in the "reconciliation" process. This is laughable on its face.
What we have yet to learn from our misadventure in Iraq is the country as it is presently constituted is ungovernable. It is a rump state made up of three distinct entities of Sunnis in Baghdad and to the West, the Shiites primarily in Baghdad and to the South and the Kurds in the North. There is no reconciling these groups into some viable national unity government.
The country mostly resembles the old Yugoslavia of Serbs (Eastern Orthodox Catholics), Croats (Roman Catholics) and Bosnians (majority Muslim).
Yugoslavia, of course no longer exists with all the ethnic and religious groups now comprising their own countries of Serbia (Serbs), Croatia (Croat) and Bosnia (majority Muslim).
Ultimately, this is the fate of Iraq. However with the American presence remaining (Obama will still leave 50,000 American troops there when he withdraws in 2011, a seeming contradiction to the concept of withdrawal) indefinitely, Iraq's fate is unknown.
To this observer, until the American presence is ended completely in Iraq there can be no viable and lasting political solution. Our unnecessary meddling (invasion and occupation) has created the present political instability. To expect us to be part of the ultimate political solution is American hubris. Only the indigenous Iraqi rivals can do that in their own inimitable way. The last time this writer looked that didn't include us.