For the past year and a bit, Iraq has seemed relatively peaceful - relatively - for post-Saddam Iraq that is. Corpses haven't been stacked up like firewood in Baghdad morgues for a while and that's been enough for George w. Bush to declare victory, if not quite at hand, then just around the corner.
What Bush and his rightwing cheerleaders have succeeded in ignoring (as only they can) is that none of the hot button issues that could plunge Iraq into a multi-faceted civil war(s) has been resolved - not one. The Shiite versus Shiite conflict (nationalist Sadr, Mahdi Army versus pro-Iran Maliki, Badr Brigades) is waiting to be played out. The Shiite versus Sunni conflict remains unresolved. The Arab versus Kurdish separatist struggle awaits what appears to be inevitable violence. Syria, Iran and Turkey watch closely from the sidelines and wait.
A report in today's New York Times indicates that the simmering disputes are beginning to heat up:
Iraq appears to be plagued by political troubles that seem closer to Shakespearean drama than to nascent democracy.
There is talk of a coup to oust the prime minister. The speaker of the Parliament has abruptly resigned, making angry accusations on his way out the door. And there have been sweeping arrests of people believed to be conspiring against the government, both in Baghdad and Diyala Province.
Beneath the swirl of accusations and rumors is a power play in which different factions within the government — and some outside it — are struggling to gain ground as American influence in the country wanes and elections approach that could begin to reshape the political landscape here.
The real struggle is for the country’s identity: how much the government will be controlled from Baghdad and how much from the provinces, who will hold power and who will have to give it up.
Iraqi legislators of all strips have been gathering to plot ousting Maliki by a no-confidence vote. This time they may just have the numbers to pull it off. Worst of all - for Maliki that is - he doesn't have his very own Michaelle Jean to lock down the Iraqi parliament.