Over three weeks have passed since the Iraqi election, and its resolution seems as uncertain as ever. The top two factions, the Iraqiya bloc of Ayad Allawi and the State of Law party of Nouri al-Maliki remain at each others throats, and neither seems to be making much progress in gaining partners among the smaller blocs.
Instead the Maliki bloc seems to be intent on mounting as many legal challenges to Allawi’s apparent victory as possible, up to and including having victorious members of Allawi’s party arrested. Allawi for his part seems to be spending more time alleging Iranian meddling than looking for partnerships.
The only faction with enough seats to make a suitable partner for either bloc is the Iraqi National Alliance, now dominated by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who seems so reluctant to make a decision that he is said to be organizing a private referendum. All this seems to be adding up to months of political infighting and rising tensions that will threaten to eventually spill over into violence.
For the Obama Administration, an election which was once touted as a stabilizing event in Iraq is turning into a lose-lose situation. The election seems to be dramatically destabilizing the nation, the delays could throw the already tenuous drawdown strategy into disarray, and leave US troops in the nation far longer than is presently promised.
Even if the government is eventually formed it is certain to include a strong position for Sadr, who has been objecting to the US government’s presence outright for years. It seems unlikely that such a government will be very friendly with the US going forward, no matter what shape it takes.