The Sunnis remain “unwilling to accept minority status” and believe the Shiite majority is a stalking horse for Iran. The Shiites remain “deeply insecure” about their hold on power, meaning that the Shiite leadership views U.S.-desired compromises — on oil, federalism and power-sharing — as a threat to its position. Perhaps most ominously, the upcoming referendum on the oil-rich, multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk threatens to be explosive, as the Kurds are determined to finally regain full control over the city.
Interestingly, the listed prospects for reversing Iraq’s deterioration contradict the NIE’s assessment of where things actually stand. For instance, “broader Sunni acceptance of the current political structure and federalism” and “significant concessions by Shia and Kurds” could lead to stability — but the NIE’s earlier section viewed both these events as unlikely. To put this in the realm of the current debate, President Bush’s “surge” is designed to give political breathing room to events that the intelligence community formally judges as unrealistic.
Huh? The whole point of the surge is to tame the Sunni insurgency, which if it works will help both to convince the Sunnis to accept their minority status and to convince the Shiites that their hold on power is secure. That’s quite a bit more significant than “breathing room.” (Via Weigel.)