POLITICS IN BAGHDAD….What does Iraqi agreement on a president and a prime minister really mean? Is it just a symbolic move, or was there real compromise on core issues? Spencer Ackerman speculates:

It seems so far that the deal came as part of an agreement to dispense ministries according to a still-unclear (and perhaps mutable) sectarian formula and to accept the Transitional Administrative Law as the roadmap for reserving the more intractable issues ? federalism, Kirkuk, oil ? for the constitution. (I have a suspicion that’s what the Kurds were after all along.) Eli Lake of the New York Sun reports that the Kurds will get to keep the pesh merga as an intact force funded by Baghdad but outside any chain of command answerable to the Ministry of Defense ? that is, a parallel security structure nominally serving under the Iraqi flag. And not surprisingly, the UIA decided that what’s good for the Kurds is good for them: While still awaiting details, it appears from Lake’s piece that the UIA-affiliated SCIRI and Da’wa parties that control southern provincial governorates will have their own institutionalized militias outside formal state control. So much for Baghdad holding a monopoly on violence.

Kurdish autonomy is a deal-breaking issue, and continuance of the pesh merga militia is a key part of ensuring that autonomy. If a deal has been made, it’s hard to see any way it wouldn’t include that.

Spencer also points to a good Knight Ridder article that takes the militia story a bit further. If the Kurds have a militia, and the Shiites have militias, then it’s a sure bet that the Sunnis will keep their militias too. And if everybody has a militia, what are the odds that the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Kirkuk will ever be peaceful? Not too high.