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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Political Crunch Time in Iraq

Council on Foreign Relations

August 30, 2007
Prepared by: Greg Bruno, Robert McMahon

The impact of the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq remains a matter of sharp debate in Washington, but there is little disagreement about Iraq’s lagging political process. The latest National Intelligence Estimate cites increasing divisions among Shiite factions and mounting criticism of the Shiite-led government by Sunni and Kurdish parties. Affirming this is a draft of the forthcoming assessment by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which finds the Iraqi government has achieved only one (WashPost) of eight vital political benchmarks. U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker expressed frustration about the lack of political progress in late August at about the same time some influential U.S. lawmakers began to raise the heat. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has failed (LAT) to bring security to Iraqis. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) have urged Maliki to step aside.

But in two recent speeches, President Bush has thrown his support behind Maliki and praised a tentative agreement on a unity government reached by Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders on August 27. The proposal, if approved by the Iraqi parliament, would end laws banning former Baath party members from joining the government; establish provincial elections; bolster security; and regulate the oil industry. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said the leaders agreed (AFP) to “overcome the political and security crisis in Iraq.” Sunni leaders praised the deal, though some expressed doubts Maliki can make good on the promises. Others called it a stall tactic (al-Jazeera) to ease pressure from Washington.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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