STEVE: What makes Iraq even grimmer than Afghanistan as you see it?
RICKS: In Afghanistan we do have a couple of aces in the hole. The biggest one is that the Afghan people have lived under Islamic extremism and fundamentally they don’t want it to come back.
The problem in Iraq is none of the basic political questions in the country have been solved. This is one reason we’ve gone so many months now without the formation of an Iraqi government.
But the basic question is how are these three major groups in Iraq going to get along? How are they going to live together? Are they going to live together? How are you going to share the oil revenue? What’s the form of Iraqi government? Will it have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? What’s the role of neighboring countries, most especially Iran which is stepping up its relationship with Iraq right now, even as Uncle Sam tries to step down its relationship.