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January 14, 2008

Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Juan Cole pokes some serious holes in the new Iraqi de-Baathification law.  The basic deal is that the de-Baathification law was supported by the most anti-Baathist groups, most notably the Sadrists.  Meanwhile, most of the Sunni groups in Parliament, which include a large number of former Baathists, were opposed to the law.  On top of that only 143 members of Iraq's 275 member parliament were actually present.  So as far as we can tell the bill might have passed with as little as 72 supporters. 

The whole point of these legislative measures is not just to pass them.  They need to be passed in a way that actually brings about political reconciliation by getting the various sectarian groups to buy into the agreements.  All of the benchmarks are ultimately code for getting Sunnis and Shi'a to agree on how to share power in a new Iraq. It's as much about process as it is about product.   Pushing through a Shi'a version that is opposed by most of the Sunni members, many of whom were likely not even present, is not really the point.  It's likely to be counterproductive and actually make things worse.

Update:  Solomon Moore at the Times points out more problems


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Iraq's politicians have a lot of reasons to be anti-Baathist. Not only that most of the important parties have been fighting Baathists for their entire careers, but also because today removing politicians from other parties increases their own share of power.Iran could be a mitigating factor in this. An Iranian request that Sunnis not be humiliated, along with Iranian assurances to these anti-Baathists that there will always be resources to prevent a Baathist resurgence could result in a smoother political system in Iraq.

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