Oh, Lord…

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Mario Loyola spells out the logic of the puzzling “SCIRI will save the day!” theory of fixing Iraq:

A “Plan B” now being floated by Iraqis themselves seems to me a better idea, and has the virtue of presuming (unlike most ideas these days) that we can still largely succeed in Iraq. The idea is to form a coalition of national unity that includes the the largest faction from each of Iraq’s three main communities—the Shiite SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq), the Sunni Islamic Party, and the two main Kurdish parties—even if the resulting coalition rests on a parliamentary minority. The idea is to “deputize” the strongest player in each community, and make them a primary political vehicle for laying down the central authority of the state within each community. This will immediately pit SCIRI against the Sadr Organization, on the one hand, and the Islamic Party against the Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda, on the the other.

Timed to coincide with the transfer of administrative control of the Iraqi Army to the central government (set to occur by early summer), this could really change things on the ground in Iraq. The violence might continue, but you would have achieved several vital things: (1) the leading party within each community would have declared its first loyalty to the central government; and (2) the central government will finally have a professional force with which to impose its authority; (3) the logic of sectarian conflict now threatening to tear the country apart would be replaced with the logic of intramural conflict (within the Shiite and Sunni communities) between those who support the state’s authority and those who oppose it.

Much more likely, the reverse will happen. The parties in the coalition will, in virtue of their participation in this venture, lose legitimacy and popular support. The Islamic Party and SCIRI will both be seen as handmaidens of occupation, SCIRI will be seen by Shiites as having sold out to the Islamic Party, and the Islamic Party will be seen by Sunnis as having sold out to SCIRI. Somewhat ironically, had we implemented this plan several years ago, one could imagine a scenario in which Sadr’s followers made common cause with Sunni rejectionists to form a unified anti-American nationalist front. Too many years of sectarian violence have probably passed since then for that to happen, so you’ll just get even more many-sided warfare.