Saturday, July 15, 2006

New york Times Editorial - Iraq's helpless government

New york Times Editorial - Iraq's helpless government
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: July 14, 2006


Once again, Iraqis fear their country may be slipping toward civil war as a particularly gruesome and deadly series of sectarian massacres and countermassacres spins out of control with the country's new national unity government looking on almost helplessly.

All the much-praised parceling out of cabinet posts among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis is not worth very much unless it produces a government capable of holding Iraq together and yanking it back from the precipice.

Even by the bloody standards of Iraq, this has been a terrible week. On Sunday, Shiite militiamen invaded a Sunni neighborhood, herded Sunni men into side streets and executed them. Two days later, Sunni gunmen retaliated in kind by emptying a bus carrying a Shiite funeral party through a Sunni neighborhood and executing the mourners. More than 140 people in Baghdad alone were killed in such incidents in the first four days of this week.

This is scarcely what Americans were led to expect last month when President George W. Bush flew to Baghdad to celebrate the completion of a national unity Cabinet. The very day of that visit, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced a huge military drive that was supposed to secure Baghdad against such sectarian killings. And Maliki had earlier pledged to halt "sectarian cleansing" in Baghdad and eliminate nongovernmental militias and death squads.

Why were the tens of thousands of Iraqi and U.S. troops who were mobilized for this operation so ineffective at stopping this week's organized mayhem? And why are sectarian militias still the ultimate power in Baghdad's residential neighborhoods?
Nobody expected Iraq to turn into the peaceable kingdom overnight.

But it is not too much to insist that this government live up to its own fine words. Instead, for the past few days Maliki has been almost as invisible as he has been ineffective.

As everyone from the White House to the streets of Baghdad now recognizes, the Maliki government probably represents Iraq's last chance to fulfill its people's hopes for a better, more secure life.

Fearful Iraqis have every right to expect a more competent and reassuring performance than they have seen this week.

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