Stop the presses
Fred Kaplan thinks there might be a sliver of hope that this "crazy iraq democracy" thing may work out after all. Moneyshot: But focusing back on reality, it's clear that Sunni disaffection will keep Iraq perpetually in turmoil. The Iraqi insurgency is, by and large, a Sunni insurgency. It consists of three main elements: Baathist holdovers who want their power restored, nationalists resisting the American occupation, and Islamic jihadists exploiting the resentment. The jihadists are the smallest in number but the most ferocious in their violence. Some Americans and Iraqis have long realized that the only way to win this conflict is to separate and isolate the jihadists on the one hand from the Baathists and nationalists on the other. One way to do this is to give the latter factions a piece of the power and thus a stake in the system—an incentive to help make normal politics work. This is why, a week or two ago, rejecting the constitution seemed in Iraq's long-term interest; the document, as it stood, would severely restrict the Sunnis' power, give them no stake in the system, and therefore likely swell the insurgency's ranks. But if the Shiites and Kurds are sincerely committed to extending negotiations, conducting them with a wider array of Sunni leaders, and considering substantive amendments, maybe—maybe—it's not too late to hammer together some legitimate framework for governance. Here's where the Zawahiri letter comes in. Zawahiri understands that this sort of reconciliation or co-optation is the biggest threat to the jihadists' goals. In fact, he seems to understand it more clearly than many Americans. And most arabs at that. Go read the whole thing.