Despite prodding from the United States and others, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki doesn't want to share power, the Kurds don't want to give up a shot at independence, and the Sunnis would rather stick with murderous jihadist protectors than trust a Shiite government that shuns their demands and persecutes their leaders.
Should any of this surprise us? More to the point, why do some among us persist in thinking that, through three cups of tea and a few well-aimed airstrikes, we can persuade sectarian chieftains to cede their vital interests to some greater good as defined by foreign powers?
Earlier today, after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Maliki denounced the demands for a new, more inclusive Iraqi government, saying that such a move would amount to a"coup"—which, indeed, it would. Maliki recently won the popular vote in a national election, and while his party hasn't yet assembled a working majority in parliament, no other obvious leader sits poised on the sidelines. Maliki knows that the countries most keen to beat back the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—especially Iran, the neighboring ally that counts most—have no choice but to support him for now. He might also look for inspiration from Bashar al-Assad, whose days as Syrian president were long ago deemed over and who nonetheless hangs on. Not only do delusions run deep, sometimes in the short run they're justified.