The New York Times is bringing the news that the Sunnites in Iraq are threatening to leave the cabinet because they feel unable to achieve anything for their ethnic group.
This development looks surprisingly similar to what happened in Kosovo after the 1999 war. Initially the Serbs participated in the government but after some time they gave up because they felt that they were only being used for propaganda purposes.
It looks like the West is making in both areas the same kind of mistakes. They are following the traditional colonial script that has been used since ages by any conqueror: support one side and give it the free hand. In areas where just the control has shifted from one ethnic group to another this is bound to give rise to repression and intolerance.
In a normal country - even an undemocratic one - government are under some pressure to treat all ethnic groups with a certain decency. If they don't they risk uprisings and violence and the government may be toppled. But in an occupation like Iraq of Kosovo there is no risk because they can be sure that any uprising will be quelled by foreigners. And so the only effect of harrassing minorities is an electoral award amongst the rascist segment of the majority population.
The alternative is to strive for a balance where both sides get some influence and are forced to arrive at a compromise.
In Kosovo UNMIK should have granted the Serb majority areas autonomy years ago. And in Iraq the US military should simply refuse to intervene in Sunnite majority areas when they are not assisted by Sunnite Iraqi soldiers and working with an elected Sunnite provincial government.
If this sounds like surrendering to Al Qaeda consider that Al Qaeda is just a small part of the resistance. When the sunnite population turns against it Al Qaeda will soon loose its strength. Consider ths situation in Anbar province. In this province that is nearly totally Sunnite the population had enough of the Al Qaeda violence and they turned against it by siding with the Americans and government troups. Many enlisted with the police. This led to a strong reduction of Al Qaeda violence. This can only happen in tbis province because in the absense of a Shiite population there is no fear to become victim of Shiite violence that is supported by government troups.
Both Iraq and Kosovo have been advertised as "humanitarian" interventions. This supposes a kind of neutrality where we are fighting principaly on the side of justice and fairness. In reality however the Western and specially the American troops have never really been able to cut the ties that tie them to side side for whom they interfered.
It is time to realize that a humanitarian can only restore a balance of power between ethnic groups that has become too onesided. But after have restored a rough balance the interventionists should retreat and leave it to the local population to work out a practical solution.