The NY Times has an excellent guest piece by Ali Khedery, described as
...the chairman and chief executive of Dragoman Partners. He served as special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq and as senior adviser to three heads of the Central Command from 2003-10.
The piece is "Iraq’s Last Chance" and he recounts the difficulties of turning this divided area into a nation.
I was involved in the formation of all five of Iraq’s governments between 2003 and 2010, and I know that the coming weeks will be decisive, turbulent and violent, as leaders from all factions jockey for both power and money — to help represent their respective communities and to siphon away billions of government dollars through systemic patronage.
After spending more than $1 trillion and losing some 4,500 soldiers’ lives, American politicians cannot dare reveal a dirty little secret: Iraq has since 2003 devolved into a combination of Lebanon and Nigeria — a toxic brew of sectarian politics and oil-fueled kleptocracy. The combination of religious rivalry and endemic corruption has hollowed out the Iraqi government, as evidenced by the country’s ongoing electricity crisis and the collapse of entire Iraqi Army divisions in the face of an advance by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, into Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, even though the Iraqi troops vastly outnumbered the militants.
Over the past century, Iraq has suffered from regional wars, British colonialism, numerous coups, disastrous invasions of its neighbors Iran and Kuwait, international sanctions, an American military occupation and nearly four decades of misrule by Saddam Hussein and Mr. Maliki.
Once the capital of Arab culture, philosophy and commerce, Iraq is today an international pariah and incubator of transnational terrorism, where regional actors are engaged in a bloody proxy war that threatens to spill across borders and destabilize the entire region.
Mr. Abadi has inherited a country on the verge of collapse. Whether Iraq will shatter or be salvaged is not in his hands alone. It will depend on a dizzying number of other leaders, political parties, nonstate actors, and neighboring and global powers.
Worth noting - regardless of Obama's protestations that this is a problem which must be solved by the Iraqis, Iran has and will continue to meddle:
Increasing Iranian influence has only made matters worse. America sat back and watched in 2010 as Mr. Maliki’s cabinet was formed by Iranian generals in Tehran, thereby assuring its strategic defeat in Iraq. ISIS is a direct outgrowth of that defeat. Sensing an American vacuum, both Mr. Maliki and his Iranian patrons sought to consolidate their gains by economically, politically and physically crushing their Sunni and Kurdish rivals. Consequently, today’s “Iraqi security forces” are almost exclusively Shiite, reinforced by militias financed, trained, armed and directed by Iran. Given Mr. Maliki’s blatant sectarianism and his complicity in Bashar al-Assad’s campaign of genocide against Syria’s Sunnis, Sunni radicalization and the spread of ISIS across the region were predictable.
Re-enlisting the Sunnis against ISIS won't be easy:
ISIS will also have to be defeated. The root cause of its rise was Sunni disenfranchisement and disillusionment. If the Sunnis turn on ISIS now, which they’re ready to do, then they risk being obliterated by Shiite militants within a year or two. It won’t be easy to repeat the “Awakening” of roughly 2006-10, when Sunni tribes in western and central Iraq turned against the Al Qaeda fighters who were the forerunners of ISIS.
Baghdad and Washington betrayed their promises to these tribal members in 2010, after the secular Sunni-led Iraqiya coalition won more seats than Mr. Maliki’s coalition, only to be deprived of an opportunity to form a government due to Mr. Maliki’s coercion of the judiciary.Although Iraqiya would have inevitably failed to form a cabinet in the face of Iranian objections, simply allowing it the chance would have respected the intent of the Iraqi Constitution, which America helped draft.
Mr. Maliki’s unjust victory and overt purges of Sunnis only compounded the problem. It will be much harder now to convince them that the same thing won’t happen again given that Iran has displaced the United States as the most influential actor in Iraq.
His conclusion is graphic and grim:
Sunnis can gain real influence in Iraq’s government only if Iran and its Shiite Islamist proxies allow them back to the table in Baghdad. And that would require overcoming deep fears and hatred. To Shiites, it is akin to bringing Hutu génocidaires into the Rwandan cabinet or appointing apartheid apologists as ministers in the South African government.
Iraqis face a simple but defining question: Do they want to live with one another?
Can Shiite Islamists who suffered mightily under Hussein stomach the thought of sitting in a cabinet meeting with neo-Baathist Sunnis? Can those Sunnis stand the concept of sharing power with a currently serving Shiite cabinet minister who was a general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is a death-squad commander behind an ongoing campaign to ethnically cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis by taking power drills to their skulls? Can the Kurds, who suffered decades of oppression at the hands of both Shiite and Sunni Arabs, stomach the idea of remaining part of a dysfunctional country that shares neither their language nor their traditions? This is not a hypothetical scenario but precisely what members of Mr. Maliki’s cabinet were forced to consider for the past eight years. Thus far, the results speak for themselves.
As I’ve told numerous American ambassadors and generals, I believe the answer to all these questions will ultimately be “no.” To date, I’ve seen no indication that there is enough tolerance or willingness among Iraq’s leaders to forgive, forget and move on.
Hmm. That takes us back to Joe Biden's Partition Plan. Well, the Sunni and Kurdish portions would be natural US allies as the Shiite section leapt into remained in Iran's lap. Two out of three ain't bad, but at this point it is hard to see Obama bestirring himself to achive even that.