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Cross-Sectarianism in Iraq

This is a fantastic story in both senses of the term: elegantly written and reported by The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid; and substantively a Good Thing. Shadid reports on the emerging political coalitions in Iraq that, for the first time since the invasion, cross sectarian lines. I like this anecdote between Sunni hardliner Saleh Mutlaq — whom I once saw taking care of business in a Green Zone hotel two years ago — and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who have been bitter sectarian and political rivals for three years:

Mutlak draws backing from among the still-numerous supporters of Hussein’s Baath Party in Sunni regions, and he has long pushed for reconciliation with its members. Despite his reputation as a Shiite hard-liner when he came to power in 2006, Maliki echoed the call this month. In a speech, he urged Iraqis to reconcile with rank-and-file Baathists, those he described as “forced and obliged at one time to be on the side of the former regime.”

He declared that it was time “to let go of what happened” in the past.

Mutlak said he told Maliki in a meeting two months ago that “there was a time when you stood against me on those issues. ‘You should be happy I changed,’ he told me.” Smiling in the interview, Mutlak joked that first the prime minister “stole the government from us, and now he’s trying to steal our political speech from us.”

Read the whole piece for a flavor of the complex coalition forming that’s taking place in Iraq. Much of it concerns alliances of convenience in the south, where Maliki will break bread with followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, despite their war last year. And much of these alliances are furtive and prone to collapse as the factions test each other. But that’s what’s so broadly significant. Since the occupation began, politics had been a subset of sectarian activities — violent and otherwise. For that dynamic to erode is to mean Iraq has a chance at being a functional, healthy, successful state.

TWI’s Twitter feed is also substantively a Good Thing. Follow it here.

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