DECK CHAIRS, SHUFFLING, SINKING SHIPS. The latest Iraq policy gambit has the US and UK getting behind efforts to remove Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari from office and replace him with someone presumably more congenial to Kurdish and Sunni Arab opinion. As Jim Henley observes this seems to reflect "as much as anything the American obsession with personality over structure. See Hussein, Saddam; Uday-n-Qusay; Baby Sadr; Zarqawi, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi." I agree. In strictly personal terms, the Iyad Allawi era already was an effort at installing an America-friendly, Sunni-friendly, Kurd-friendly Shiite as leader of Iraq, and as you'll recall it didn't work.

The only plausible alternatives to Jafari at this point are members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and nothing about SCIRI control of the government will even resolve any of the things that are said to be problematic about Jafari's administration. The West seems to be banking on SCIRI man Adel Abdul Mehdi, who people are choosing to pretend to believe is secretly a pro-Western moderate because he once lived in southern France for a period of time. Why a secret pro-Western moderate would have spent long years of his life as a loyal member of an Iranian-controlled Islamist revolutionary organization, I couldn't quite say. Nor is "spent time in France while exiled" a very solid historical indicator of moderate views -- see, e.g., Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin, etc. TAP subscribers, by contrast, really are people you can count on for intelligent views and a well-informed perspective.

The real kicker, though, is that if Jafari is booted in favor of Mehdi, and Mehdi does turn out to be a sweet and wonderful guy, Mehdi will just wind up losing power. The issue is structure, not personalities. Iraq isn't governed by nice, compromise-oriented secular liberals because nice, compromise-oriented secular liberalism has no significant social base in the country, not because the US government is incapable of locating some nice guy somewhere and installing him in power.

--Matthew Yglesias

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