The American benchmark of holding provincial elections would also require new elections in southern Iraq and Baghdad. If they were held, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, previously known as SCIRI), which now controls seven of the nine southern governorates, would certainly lose ground to Moqtada al-Sadr. His main base is in Baghdad and new elections would almost certainly leave his followers in control of Baghdad Governorate, with one quarter of Iraq's population. Iraq's decentralized constitution gives the governorates enormous powers and significant shares of the national budget, if they choose to exercise these powers. New local elections are not required until 2009 and it is hard to see how early elections strengthening al-Sadr, who is hostile to the US and appears to have close ties to Iran, serve American interests. But this is precisely what the Bush administration is pushing for and Congress seems to want.
But even if Iraq's politicians could agree to the benchmarks, this wouldn't end the insurgency or the civil war. ... The differences are fundamental and cannot be papered over by sharing oil revenues, reemploying ex-Baathists, or revising the constitution. The war is not about those things.
On June 25, Richard Lugar, the most respected Republican voice on foreign affairs in Congress, noted that agreements reached with Iraqi leaders are most often not implemented ... because Iraqi leaders have discovered that telling the Bush administration what it wants to hear is a fully acceptable substitute for action.