Apparently a signal that the US does not intend to interfere in the political deal whereby the second and third place blocs in March 7’s Iraqi election have merged into a dominant Shi’ite faction, US Ambassador Christopher Hill today remarked that the political process in Iraq has “quickened” and that he was confident the new Shi’ite alliance would form a government.
The Obama Administration has been hesitant to comment on the remarkably narrow and indecisive election, fearing the appearance of bias, but with the emergence of the new “Shi’ite mega party” (to quote Hill), the US fears of an irreconciliably hung parliament seem over.
With that out of the way, the new fear must be of a newly disenfranchised Sunni minority, which voted with great vigor for the secular Iraqiya bloc, watched them claim a narrow plurality, then saw that plurality vanish amid arrests, harrassment and disqualifications.
Furthermore, the election process is far from over, as the Maliki-demanded and now largely irrelevant Baghdad recount is still only about half way done, and that is assuming Maliki’s demands for a re-recount checking all the signatures doesn’t happen. It could well still be months before a new government is seated.
And even then, Ambassador Hill conceded, the US has absolutely no idea who the prime minister will be. Maliki seems on the outs with much of the new bloc, while the inexperienced Jaafar Sadr is looked at as a “compromise” candidate. The policies of Sadr, or any other non-Maliki candidate, remain to be seen, but with Shi’ite clerics now calling the shots the government is liable to be even less conciliatory toward the Sunnis, and may further fan the flames of sectarianism, threatening to restart a civil war that could seriously alter the Obama Administration’s timetable on Iraq.