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Finally, Nouri al-Maliki – a guy I’ve been calling an empty suit for years – seems to have grown a pair and is standing up for the Iraqi people against the Americans.

The Iraqis want our combat forces to leave in an orderly fashion by withdrawing troops using a timetable that will be mutually agreed upon. What’s not to like in this?

Well, if you’re President Bush or John McCain, you have a political problem in that you have opposed a timetable being attached to our withdrawal for years. But that was Democrats setting arbitrary timetables not the sovereign nation of Iraq giving their problematic allies a graceful way to exit with honor and a true “Mission Accomplished.”

Saddam is gone. His WMD programs are history. The Iraqi army has proven in Basra, in Sadr City, and most especially in Mosul that they are capable of handling the security of the country (internal). The police – while still a large problem as far as corruption – performed quite well in Mosul also.

Just what is it we are still needed for?

Security from external threats? Agreed – but we don’t need 135,000 troops for that. We don’t need 50,000 troops in Iraq either. A “tripwire” force of less than 20,000 should be all that’s needed to keep Iran or Syria or any other hostile power from violating the territorial integrity of Iraq. With the pre-placement of equipment for a much larger force along with several thousand American advisers to continue the Iraqi’s training, a large combat presence will be tough to rationalize.

It was unrealistic of us to think that we could nurture this fledgling democracy through its growing pains and into the light of true liberty. At some point, the apron strings must be cut and the Iraqi government and people must go out on their own and find their own path to freedom. It will be messy. There will be stops and starts. It won’t look much like western style democracy. But the Iraqis must develop their own traditions, their own institutions if they are to succeed in joining the free nations of the world.

Ben Franklins admonishment to a woman outside of Independence Hall after the Constitution was agreed upon at the convention should hold special meaning for the Iraqis. When asked by the lady what kind of government to delegates had given the people Franklin responded “A republic ma’am – if you can keep it.” I don’t know exactly what kind of government will emerge in the coming years in Iraq. All I’m sure of is that it will be an Iraqi government. It may be free. It may be less free. It may devolve into a dictatorship – perhaps even mimicing the clerical fascists next door in Iran.

And while we will watch with great interest and even powerful emotions, it matters not what we think. We have done all that we can to give them this opportunity – an opportunity that cost us more than 4,000 brave souls and countless thousands who returned maimed, disfigured, and emotionally troubled. Other unforseen consequences will no doubt emerge not the least of which is a regional power in Iran who will try their best to undermine what we have started in Iraq. They may succeed. And then again, they may not. There are many in Iraq who are dedicated to establishing a secular democratic state. Perhaps their good hearts and good intentions will hold off the beast to the south who will work through proxies to try and destablize the nascent state.

But it will not be our direct concern anymore. Take the deal, Mr. President. The Iraqis have grown up and are ready to take responsibility for their own security, their own state. Hasn’t that been our goal all along.

Make the deal, Mr. Bush. It will be your parting gift to the country and might – just might – raise you up in the estimation of your countrymen. Goodness knows you’ve done enough the last 8 years to lower it.

By: Rick Moran at 8:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

Macsmind linked with Iraqi Call for Withdraw?...

It will be a media circus when General David Petreaus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker take their seats before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to give an update on progress in Iraq – from their point of view. The caveat is important because objective reality when it comes to Iraq is about as solid as a dish of warm jello. By any measurement, the place is still a mess – a hash of armed to the teeth militias, a still weak central government, an army of questionable fighting ability, a too long delayed reconciliation between the sects, and the ever present handprint of those merry mullahs in Tehran.

How all those ingredients are mixing together and what is emerging is a matter of dispute. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs but neither can you put a pig in a prom dress and expect people to compliment you on your choice of dates.

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that no one knows what is really happening in Iraq – including the Iraqis themselves. And that goes double for the United States government and triple for the anti-war left. If anyone did have a solid understanding of the reality of what is happening there both on the ground and in the subsurface strata made up of the perceptions, opinions, fears, hopes and dreams of the Iraqi people, a way forward would have revealed itself.

Instead, we get a multiplex spinorama from all parties. Hell, even the Iranians are spinning which tells you something about their understanding of the modern media. That little dog and pony show in Iran where a “cease fire” was reached between Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government is a perfect example of the learning curve of the Iranians when it comes to dealing with the western press. Mookie has the anti-war left convinced that he asked for the cease fire because he was beating up on the Iraqi army and wished to save civilians in Basra. The Iranians were very helpful in spinning this little fable as were several Iraqi politicians.

The problem, as we found out later was that Maliki agreed to no such cease fire and continued operations in Basra and has escalated his crackdown on the Mehdi Army in Baghdad:

Sharp fighting broke out in the Sadr City district of Baghdad on Sunday as American and Iraqi troops sought to control neighborhoods used by Shiite militias to fire rockets and mortars into the nearby Green Zone.

But the operation failed to stop the attacks on the heavily fortified zone, headquarters for Iraq’s central government and the American Embassy here. By day’s end, at least two American soldiers had been killed and 17 wounded in the zone, one of the worst daily tolls for the American military in the most heavily protected part of Baghdad. Altogether, at least three American soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in attacks in Baghdad on Sunday, and at least 20 Iraqis were killed, mostly in Sadr City.

The heightened violence came on the eve of Congressional testimony in Washington by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador here, to defend their strategy for political reconciliation and improved security in the country.

Mookie has made a habit over the years of unleashing his militia to engage the Americans (and this time, the Iraqi Army), getting a bloody nose (as in Najaf and Fallujah), and then grandiosely announcing that he is willing to talk peace thus raising his standing with the people as a reasonable sort of fellow who wants to play politics with Maliki.

The fact that this gambit worked beyond his wildest dreams with the US media and anti-war left when he lost 300-400 of his best fighters in Basra while fighting the Iraqi army is an astonishing testament to the myopia of the left with regards to any news coming out of Iraq. As J.D. Johannes said on my radio show last week (and has been repeated by many observers), the winner of a fight does not ask for a cease fire. The idea that Mookie requested an end to the fighting in Basra because he wanted to pull Maliki’s chestnuts out of the fire is silly, stupid, and worse, counterintuitive. What happened is a little more complicated.

According to Bill Roggio, some cowboy politicians from Maliki’s Dawa party journeyed to Iran (without authorization from the government) and asked the Iranians to get Sadr to stop fighting. Sadr released his 9 point statement demanding the government withdraw from Basra, stop targeting his forces, and release prisoners.

The left celebrated Mookie’s forbearance while completely ignoring one glaring fact; Maliki never authorized the overture in the first place and secondly, he rejected Sadr’s 9 points outright:

Just as the Iraqi security forces began to address the shortcoming in the operation and the situation in the center-south began to stabilize, Sadr decided to pull his fighters off the streets. Members of Maliki’s Dawa political party approached the leader of Iran’s Qods Force asking him to get Sadr to stop the fighting. Shortly afterward, Sadr ordered his troops to withdraw from fighting and issued a nine-point statement of demands for the Iraqi government.

By this time, the Mahdi Army took significant casualties in Basrah, Baghdad, and the greater South. “Security forces killed more than 200 gunmen, wounded 700, and arrested 300 others, since the beginning of the military operations in Basrah,” said Major General Abdul Kareem Khalaf, the director of operations for the Ministry of the Interior. The Mahdi Army suffered 173 killed in Baghdad during the six days of fighting.

Spokesmen from the Mahdi Army claimed the Maliki government agreed to Sadr’s terms, which included ending operations against the Mahdi Army, but the Iraqi government denies this. “I refuse to negotiate with the outlaws,” Maliki said on April 3. “I did not sign any deal.”

The fact that operations continue in Basra gives to the lie to the idea that Maliki agreed to anything.

Meanwhile, Maliki got busy on the political front and lined up an impressive coalition of parties, sects, factions, and personalities to demand that Sadr disarm.

The position of Hojatoleslam al-Sadr, whose fighters fought government forces to a standstill in Basra, was looking precarious. His former erstwhile ally Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister who personally led the Basra crackdown, saw his standing bolstered by his tough approach to the militias.

Despite the inconclusive results of his Basra offensive, Mr al-Maliki has refused to back down and this weekend stitched together a rare consensus of Kurds, Sunnis and Shias to back a law banning from future elections any party that maintains a militia.

That united stance has put the Sadrists on the back foot, and support for the militia was waning even in Sadr City itself as official forces pushed ever deeper into al-Mahdi Army territory.

No, the Iraqi Army still did not perform very well in Basra. There were defections (nowhere near 1,000 as reported), there was greenness, there was a lack of coordination, there was confusion and there was a lack of battlefield leadership. But as Roggio points out, the army did much better elsewhere in the south and is doing just fine in Baghdad (with Americans backing them up). Call it a mixed bag with causes for both concern and optimism.

Sounds like the testimony that Petreaus is going to give today.

In a reprise of their testimony last September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker plan to tell Congress today and tomorrow that security has improved in Iraq and that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken steps toward political reconciliation and economic stability.

But unlike in September, when that news was fresh and the administration said a corner had been turned, even some of the war’s strongest supporters in Congress have grown impatient and frustrated. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Crocker will face many lawmakers who had expected more by now and who are wondering whether any real change will occur before the clock runs out on the Bush administration.

And that, my friends, is the problem in a nutshell. Petreaus will pretty much give a rehash of his September testimony, pointing to incremental improvements since that time, but the fact is he doesn’t know a way forward that would bring the bulk of American forces home except continuing current strategies and policies.

This may be fine and dandy for some. But the majority of the Congress – including Republicans – are finding that a bitter pill to swallow:

“I think all of us realize we’re disappointed at where we are,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at a hearing last week. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) asked, “How do we get out of this mess?” While the cost in U.S. lives and money increases, said another senior GOP senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “We cannot . . . just say we’re coasting through and waiting for the next president.”

Among the questions these and other lawmakers said they plan to ask Petraeus and Crocker is why the United States is still paying for Iraqi domestic needs ranging from military training to garbage pickup when the Maliki government has $30 billion in reserves—held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland—as well as $10 billion in a development fund, significant budgetary surpluses from previous years and a projected 7 percent economic growth rate for 2008.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John W. Warner (Va.), the panel’s ranking Republican, who projected that Iraqi oil income would reach $56.4 billion this year, asked the Government Accountability Office last month to investigate how much money the Iraqi government has.

“I think it’s a very significant issue that has not had sufficient exposure,” Levin said in an interview. “They’re perfectly content to watch us spend our money while they build up these huge cash reserves from oil windfalls. It’s a real stick in our eye, as far as I’m concerned.”

Despite Maliki’s recent success in pulling together society to call for Sadr’s evisceration, the effect will probably be transitory. The factions and sects are not going to break out into songs of brotherhood and sit down to hammer out the details of meaningful reconciliation. They can barely stand being in the same room together. Self-interest will eventually prevail and some kind of modus vivendi will emerge. But if anyone thinks that such a goal can be achieved in the next year or two, they are kidding themselves.

As I said at the top, no one really knows what is actually happening in Iraq. And because of that, we look at the good news about al-Sadr’s imminent demise as some kind of breakthrough moment in the history of post-Saddam Iraq. I’m sorry but history doesn’t work that way. Only the passage of time will prove out that theory.

And time is something the American people and Congress are not likely to grant the Iraqis who are struggling to re-invent their fractured society with guns and bombs still going off on a regular basis.

By: Rick Moran at 7:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

Neocon News linked with Petraeus engages the enemy (er, Congress…)... Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Why Iraq troop drawdown is likely to stop in July...

I would love to say that the agreement reached yesterday by the Iraqi leadership is a huge step on the road to peace and reconciliation. But I don’t see how anyone who has watched this crew in action over the last year can honestly say what was agreed to yesterday by the major sectarian factions is anything except Washington-inspired window dressing:

Iraq’s top Shi’ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.

But skeptics will be watching for action amid growing frustration in Washington over the political paralysis that has gripped the government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

While certainly significant in the sense that they were all able to sit down in the same room and basically agree that there are things that must be done to start Iraq down the road to peace, the devil, as always, is in the details:

Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.

The laws need to be passed by Iraq’s fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.

Again, I hate to be a party pooper, but these laws have been in “draft” form for months – some of them for more than a year. The oil revenue sharing law was passed in the spring and has yet to be taken up by Iraq’s parliament. In fact, precious little has been taken up by Parliament which usually has trouble finding a quorum of members to conduct business.

And frankly, it remains to be seen how much sway these gentlemen have with their various factions. Maliki has only nominal control over the Shia coalition that runs the Parliament. Vice President al-Hashemi has problems with his own party, the Iraqi Accordance Front, who walked out of the government last month over Maliki’s rank sectarianism.

As for the Kurds, as always, they have their own fish to fry. Since their long term goal is an independent Kurdish state, they can afford to be generous to the Sunnis while cooperating with the Shias when it suits them. They will support any deal that maintains their virtual independence from Baghdad.

In short, the senior Iraqi leadership has given General Petreaus one more arrow in his quiver when he gives his report to Congress in about two weeks. In addition to some progress in the security situation about which Petreaus will be able to boast, he can now claim that his deals with many of the Sunni tribes and this latest accord in Baghdad proves that his counterinsurgency strategy is working.

Unfortunately, Petreaus and the military cannot address the huge political and security problem brewing in the south as the British continue their withdrawal:

Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.

Police left the building when the militiamen, loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, arrived, the witnesses said.

The British military disputed the reports, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who has said the Mahdi Army was not there.

But the witnesses said the Mahdi Army emptied the building — taking generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty — and remained there in the early evening.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Until Maliki can enforce the will of the central government in the south, all the reforms and agreements between the factions wil largely be moot. The writ of Baghdad law does not run in Basra and other towns and villages where the Mahdi and other militias are fighting for control – an intolerable situation that has gotten worse since the British have pulled back their forces and allowed the militias to move in.

This means a final and direct confrontation with Maliki’s friend and supporter, Moqtada al-Sadr is in the offing. Will the Mahdi be the next target for Petreaus if Congress gives him the go-ahead to continue the surge? One would think that the General would be forced to deal with the Mahdi if for no other reason than to plug the holes that will be left by the British drawdown of troops. That would mean some very hard fighting for our boys.

Cynics will question the timing of these accords as well as their utility. Coming two weeks before Petreaus’s report to Congress, the agreement smacks of gamesmanship by both the Iraqi and American governments. The parties all know that the Iraqi parliament will be months, perhaps even years, examining, debating, and amending these laws. For that reason alone, Congress should give little weight to this agreement when the debate over funding the surge picks up next month.

By: Rick Moran at 7:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


Despite the offensive in Baqubah continuing to show great signs of both political and military success and other military aspects of the surge also proving that the strategy developed by General Petraeus is doing what it’s supposed to from a military standpoint, the Iraqi government slips deeper into chaos and ennui, negating any possible chance that the American military alone can turn the situation around and bring peace and stability to the country.

The military successes we’ve had are taking place in a political vacuum. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to wallow in sectarianism, incompetence, corruption, and a curious lethargy when it comes to addressing the issues that absolutely must be addressed if Iraq is to have a chance at internal peace. To wit:

  • A boycott of the cabinet by Sunni ministers shows no sign of being resolved. In fact, it appears that very little effort is being made by the Shias to entice the Sunnis back into the government although it is understood that American diplomats are working frantically behind the scenes to get the parties back together.
  • The Parliament is paralyzed. With 74 members boycotting the proceedings coupled with the usual bunch who don’t bother to show up anyway, it becomes impossible to gather a quorum so that official business can be conducted.
  • For every step forward, two steps back are the result. While the New York Times is reporting that a moderate group of Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds appear ready to begin working on the oil revenue sharing legislation in order to try and shepherd the bill through parliament, the largest Sunni bloc is still opposing the bill making passage a moot point. Why pass a bill the majority of Sunnis won’t support? It’s just one more indication that the Shias intend on riding roughshod over the political rights of the Sunnis.
  • And if that weren’t bad enough, Muqtada al-Sadr has joined with some Sunnis and Kurds to oppose the oil legislation anyway. Mookie knows full well that if the oil bill passes, Bush can claim political progress in Iraq and stop the momentum towards withdrawal.
  • Nearly 20 people a day are still being found in Baghdad who have been executed as a result of the sectarian violence roiling the city and its suburbs. This is half the number that was found in February. But sectarian deaths elsewhere are up and the violence appears to be spreading into formerly peaceful northern provinces, especially around Kirkuk where Kurds and Shias are carrying on a low level conflict over control of that vital oil center.
  • There is no sign of any mass movement by internal refugees back to the city to reclaim their formerly mixed neighborhoods despite incentives offered by the government. In fact, more people are leaving the country. Both Jordan and Syria are thinking of severely limiting the number of refugees from Iraq.

As competent and bravely as our military has performed, there is little they can do to affect any of these problems. Yes, they can reduce the violence. But can they change what’s in the hearts and minds of the purveyors of this mayhem? Simply keeping the murderers off the streets is not solving the problem in any lasting way. This is a job for the Iraqi people and their elected government.

We can kill al-Qaeda. We can build effective bridges to the Sunni community. We can keep the militias from causing too much trouble by keeping them off the streets. We can keep raiding insurgent strongholds and confiscating weapons and bomb making materials. We can keep building infrastructure and reaching out to the Iraqi people. But this is not a permanent solution to Iraq’s problems. The surge is not designed to permanently solve Iraq’s security problems. It was designed to lower the level of violence so that the Iraqi government could get its act together and start the long, hard, slog toward building a peaceful, democratic society. We are doing more than our part. But the Iraqi government is failing miserably in holding up their end of the bargain.

Realizing this, Republican Senators are finally abandoning Bush and calling for a change in mission. The latest apostate is Senator Pete Domenici:

White House efforts to keep congressional Republicans united over the Iraq war suffered another major defection yesterday as Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) broke with President Bush and called for an immediate change in U.S. strategy that could end combat operations by spring.

The six-term lawmaker, party loyalist and former staunch war supporter represents one of the most significant GOP losses to date. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said he began to question his stance on Iraq late last month, after several conversations with the family members of dead soldiers from his home state, and as it became clear that Iraqi leaders are making little progress toward national reconciliation.

“We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress,” Domenici said. “I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”

Domenici becomes the fourth Republican Senator in the last week to come out in favor of a change in mission. He also announced he will sponsor legislation that would “embrace the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group” – a clear sign that Bush’s days of having unfettered control over war policy are numbered.

I and many others predicted that the ISG report would eventually be used by lawmakers as political cover to change the mission in Iraq and start the withdrawal of American combat forces. The question is, can the Administration itself adopt some of the ISG’s recommendations in order to avoid the political and military disaster of being forced to accede to the Democrat’s strategy of set timetables and a much faster draw down of troops?

The answer is no. Bush has pinned his political fortunes on the surge strategy and only Congress can make him give it up. Can Domenici and a few other Republicans craft a compromise that falls short of the Democrat’s draconian plan for withdrawal while still recognizing reality and begin the process of redeploying our troops so that we can start bringing them home?

I think this is more than possible and will probably end up a reality soon enough. And I also believe there are enough GOP House and Senate members who would leap at the chance to support such a compromise to make the measure veto proof. With the American people in favor of such a withdrawal – leaving substantial numbers of troops in place to train the Iraqi army as well as keep killing al-Qaeda – the President will face the stark choice of sticking with a losing hand in Congress or grudgingly accepting the inevitable and working with the leadership to come up with the best plan possible.

That last is probably a non starter. This President has shown a sometimes admirable stubbornness when it comes to sticking to his guns on Iraq. But that same stubbornness has also prevented him from changing course when it could have done a lot more good as well as blinding him to political opportunities to work with the Democrats in order to successfully extricate ourselves from the war.

There are some parts of the ISG that most GOP members would balk at implementing. Surely there would be great opposition to engaging in any kind of dialogue with Syria about Iraq. The gangsters who run that thug nation couldn’t be trusted to keep any agreement. And the fact that Syria continues to try and murder their way back into dominating Lebanon should put the Assad regime beyond the pale of all civilized nations.

Iran may be a different story. While the mullahs have zero incentive to come to any kind of agreement with us about Iraq, they may have other issues where a mutually beneficial dialogue can be initiated. With their economy close to collapse and great unrest among the populace, the Iranians may be in a relatively weak position regarding any bi-lateral talks with us about issues of common concern (except the nuclear issue). There’s a chance that some kind of agreement can be forged – but it is a small chance and may not be worth the effort.

Bush will wait on the interim report that General Petreaus is preparing for September before even contemplating changing course. He has promised the general that much and I think Petreaus deserves it. But I am anxious to see just how realistic Petreaus will make the political section of his report given the attitude of the Iraqi government to date. With calls from senior members of the military for a withdrawal, I wonder if Petreaus will heed those calls or cave in to the Administration instead and play the rosy scenario game with his report. At his confirmation hearing, the General appeared to be pretty much of a straight shooter. I would hope he gives the President a dose of truth from both barrels.

NOTE: Comments are unmoderated. As long as we behave ourselves, they will stay that way.


Allah and I seem to be on the same page as far as the ISG goes:

Bush’s team has reportedly been murmuring for the past six weeks or so about a Baker-Hamilton resurgence and the House actually passed a measure to resurrect the Group back at the end of June. There’s no question we’re going to adopt some form of that strategy; the question is whether Bush is going to go along and pretend like he thinks it’s a good idea or if he’ll resist until Congress overrides him and then blame the chaos that follows withdrawal on them. Probably the former — I don’t think he could stand to have his war authority diminished the way the latter process would.

Either way, I think the already-dim prospects of a partisan “truce” are finished. The Dems hold the cards. What would they gain?

By: Rick Moran at 8:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (48)

The Colossus of Rhodey linked with Watcher's Council results...
Rhymes With Right linked with Watcher's Council Results...
Watcher of Weasels linked with The Council Has Spoken!...
Watcher of Weasels linked with Submitted for Your Approval...

There is a very good reason I don’t write about the war as much as I used to. Well, there are actually a couple of reasons.

First, I don’t have much of anything to say. Those of you who have stuck with me on this site know my ambivalence about the current mission; that I have absolutely no faith in the Iraqi government to validate the sacrifices our troops are making by doing the things vitally necessary to create a viable, multi-sectarian Iraqi state. The last time I looked, this is still the goal of the mission in Iraq and the government of Nouri al-Maliki is doing everything it can to help that mission fail. The Shias are in control and have no desire to share power. Thus, every single political benchmark that the Administration has laid out for the Iraqi government to achieve in order to measure success is not being met.

It remains to be seen whether Bush will make good on his promise to the American people that if the Iraqi government failed to achieve the political goals he and Maliki agreed upon in Jordan last year, he would start withdrawing the troops, leaving the Iraqi Prime Minister hanging, hoisted on his own sectarian petard.

Another reason I don’t write about the war is that the commenters on this site are broken records. They say the same things in support or opposition of our efforts time and time again regardless of what I write about. That is why comments have been disabled on this post. I’m sick of hearing for the gazillionth time that Bush is an idiot or I’m an idiot for not supporting everything our President does. Not one iota of originality seeps into the discussion. Not one.

Perhaps this is what the American people are sick of regarding the war. The same arguments made by the same people over and over again about who’s to blame, who supports to the troops, who’s a traitor, who’s an unthinking Bushbot.

Reminds me of the movie Airplane! where people start getting sick then committing suicide listening to Stryker’s hard luck story about “Macho Grande” over and over again.

I’m an enabler, of course. No matter what the news from Baghdad, my analysis remains basically the same. The surge is working in some places, not so well in others. The entire Iraqi government – the cabinet, the legislature, religious leadership – is failing to budge on oil revenue sharing, constitutional changes that have been promised, National Reconciliation, and the rest. The troops continue to perform well. There are signs of hope, signs of despair, and signs that when we leave, all hell will break loose. Iran and Syria are still meddling despite our efforts at “dialogue.” Al-Qaeda still sets off car bombs in Baghdad whenever they wish in order to maximize new coverage. And our western press continues to assist them in that endeavor.

At least this time, there is news to report. The Shia holy shrine at Samarra was bombed. On second thought, that’s not really news. It’s happened before. The same appeals for calm are coming from the same people. And the same kind of retaliation can be expected in the coming days that occurred in February of 2006.

Then there are the Democrats who, in a brazen attempt to practice a little self-fulfilling prophecy, have declared the surge a failure. This on the eve of what apparently will be a massive offensive by American troops against death squads, insurgents and al-Qaeda:

Across the main war zones, American formations bolstered by the troop increase are reaching full operational readiness for what the commanders have described as a summer offensive against Qaeda-linked insurgents and Shiite death squads. But the commanders have spoken of intelligence reports pointing to plans by Al Qaeda for a “catastrophic” attack similar to the one at Samarra last year, setting off a new round of mass sectarian killings, driving a deeper wedge between Sunnis and Shiites and thwarting American hopes for greater stability.

At least the Democrats have been consistent. They’ve done everything possible to undermine the war effort to this point. Why stop now?

The real news is contained in a 46 page report compiled by the Pentagon every quarter about violence in Iraq and political progress by the Iraqi government. It is not the slanted coverage offered by the media. It is not a report written by left wing loons or Democratic defeatists. It is written by the military itself. And it does not paint a pretty picture:

Iraqi leaders have made “little progress” on the overarching political goals that the stepped-up security operations are intended to help advance, the report said, calling reconciliation between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni factions “a serious unfulfilled objective.” Indeed, “some analysts see a growing fragmentation of Iraq,” it said, noting that 36 percent of Iraqis believe “the Iraqi people would be better off if the country were divided into three or more separate countries.”

The 46-page report, mandated quarterly by Congress, tempers the early optimism about the new strategy voiced by senior U.S. officials. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, for instance, in March described progress in Iraq as “so far, so good.” Instead, it depicts limited gains and setbacks and states that it is too soon to judge whether the new approach is working.

Sectarian killings and attacks—which were spiraling late last year—dropped sharply from February to April, but civilian casualties rose slightly, to more than 100 a day. Despite the early drop in sectarian killings, data from the Baghdad morgue gathered by The Washington Post in May show them returning to pre-”surge” levels last month.

Suicide attacks more than doubled across Iraq—from 26 in January to 58 in April—said the report, which covers the three months from mid-February to mid-May.

Violence fell in Baghdad and Anbar province, where the bulk of the 28,700 more U.S. troops are located, but escalated elsewhere as insurgents and militias regroup in eastern and northern Iraq. In Anbar, attacks dropped by about a third, compared with the previous three months, as Sunni tribes have organized against entrenched fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said.

Overall, however, violence “has increased in most provinces, particularly in the outlying areas of Baghdad province and Diyala and Ninewa provinces,” the report said. In Diyala’s restive capital of Baqubah, U.S. and Iraq forces “have been unable to diminish rising sectarian violence contributing to the volatile security situation,” it said.

Not very cheery news. And then there is this about our brave allies, the Iraqi military:

While most Iraqi units are performing “up to expectations,” it said, some Iraqi leaders “bypass the standard chain of command” to issue orders on sectarian grounds. It cited “significant evidence” of attacks on Sunni Arabs by the predominantly Shiite government security forces, which have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 2 million Iraqis from their homes.

Shiite militias, which have engaged in the widespread killing and sectarian removal of Sunni residents in Baghdad, now enjoy wide support in the capital, the report said. “In Baghdad, a majority of residents report that militias act in the best interests of the Iraqi people,” it said, while only 20 percent of respondents polled nationwide shared that view. Maliki’s promises to disarm militias have not produced a concrete plan, the report said.

Mass-casualty attacks on Shiite targets by Sunni insurgents, including the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, have increased Shiite wariness of reconciliation, the report said. “The Shi’a dominated government is vulnerable to pressure from large numbers of economically disadvantaged, marginalized Shi’a” who offer “street-level support” for Shiite militias.

Peachy. Our own military is basically saying that rooting out the death squads and disarming the militias, will involve going in without the support of the street level population of Baghdad. I leave it to your imagination what kind of problems that little bit of information can cause.

Al-Maliki is still frozen like a department store manikin, unwilling or unable to move forward with reforms. The Sunnis see the endgame approaching and are desperate for the Americans to stay or at least give them modern arms in order to stave off an even bigger tragedy than the one occurring now. The Kurds continue to tweak the Turks with PPK attacks across the border, making Ankara do a slow burn over both the attacks and our inability to stop them. And Shias in the south are rapidly starting to choose sides in what promises to be a fight for dominance between Iranian backed militias and equally fanatic SIIC cadres.

And we’re worried if the surge is “working?”

But this is not news. It’s been going on for at least a year and nothing we have done or are doing currently is slowing down the momentum of this bloody country careening toward disaster. Yes, things are that bad in Iraq. Our own military says it. Maybe it’s time for the President of the United States to start saying it and at the same time, tell us what he intends to do to stave off disaster.

I would say to my one note lefty friends that removing the troops is not – repeat, is not – the complete answer to this problem. Of course, if your only goal is to see the United States humiliated in order to validate your worldview and make political hay out of the ensuing tragedy then I can see why you’d support such a position.

And I would also say to my equally boring righty friends that the surge may not be a failure but it is irrelevant when placed alongside everything else that is wrong in Iraq. The time has passed for any efforts of our military to make the difference between success and failure in Iraq. The Iraqis themselves have seen to that.

I am rapidly approaching the point of supporting efforts to somehow contain the conflagration so that it doesn’t spill over and start a general Middle East war. This obviously would require a substantial redeployment of our troops. I would like to see them placed somewhere they could prevent a humanitarian catastrophe involving the Sunnis but that might not be possible. Any way you splice it – with the political will for carrying on as we have virtually gone on the Hill in both parties as well as out in the hinterlands among the American people – we better be prepared for a bloody aftermath in Iraq. And we also better get used to the idea that there’s not too much we can do to stop it.

By: Rick Moran at 6:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)


This kind of cynicism deserves a special reward.

Mort Kondracke thinks he’s being sensible by coming up with a “Plan B” for the day that the surge proves itself to be a tactical success but a strategic failure. The plan is simple, elegant, immoral, and would condemn millions of people to slaughter and misery.

But hey! Who’s countin’ noses when we get our very own pet Shia running Iraq?

The 80 percent alternative involves accepting rule by Shiites and Kurds, allowing them to violently suppress Sunni resistance and making sure that Shiites friendly to the United States emerge victorious.

No one has publicly advocated this Plan B, and I know of only one Member of Congress who backs it – and he wants to stay anonymous. But he argues persuasively that it’s the best alternative available if Bush’s surge fails. Winning will be dirty because it will allow the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military and some Shiite militias to decimate the Sunni insurgency. There likely will be ethnic cleansing, atrocities against civilians and massive refugee flows.

On the other hand, as Bush’s critics point out, bloody civil war is the reality in Iraq right now. U.S. troops are standing in the middle of it and so far cannot stop either Shiites from killing Sunnis or Sunnis from killing Shiites.

Winning dirty would involve taking sides in the civil war – backing the Shiite-dominated elected government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ensuring that he and his allies prevail over both the Sunni insurgency and his Shiite adversary Muqtada al-Sadr, who’s now Iran’s candidate to rule Iraq.

What’s a little ethnic cleansing among friends, eh Mort? Standing by while Sunnis are slaughtered is going to sit quite well with our friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the majority Sunni Gulf States.

The plan, of course, is as immoral as the Democrat’s current political gamesmanship which would accomplish exactly the same thing – Sunni slaughter – but would have the advantage of giving the US plausible deniability. (“How were we supposed to know that was going to happen?”) Kondracke doesn’t even pretend the murder of several hundred thousand people would come as a surprise. In fact, it’s part of his master plan.

And in the muddle that is Iraqi politics, it is unclear whether Mookie al-Sadr is, in fact, an “adversary” of Maliki at all. In some respects and on some issues, he is almost certainly an “ally.” And while a rival for power, as long as Ayatollah al-Sistani draws breath, the SCIRI will never allow the young upstart cleric to run much of anything in Iraq – even if he’s backed by Iran.

As for the rest of this tripe, is Kondracke sure this “anonymous” Congress critter wasn’t pulling his leg? I can’t imagine the US standing by watching as Shias herd Sunnis like cattle, whipping them toward the Saudi, Syrian, or Jordanian border. It would be the largest forced migration of people since the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. But that’s what a lot of the Shias who surround Maliki are all about – making Iraq a Sunni-free nation. It’s why the political benchmarks demanded of the Iraqi government by Congress will never be met. There is not the desire much less the political will among major Shia parties and personalities to unite the country.

Kondracke’s explanation is unconvincing:

Prudence calls for preparation of a Plan B. The withdrawal policy advocated by most Democrats virtually guarantees catastrophic ethnic cleansing – but without any guarantee that a government friendly to the United States would emerge. Almost certainly, Shiites will dominate Iraq because they outnumber Sunnis three to one. But the United States would get no credit for helping the Shiites win. In fact, America’s credibility would suffer because it abandoned its mission. And, there is no guarantee that al-Sadr – currently residing in Iran and resting his militias – would not emerge as the victor in a power struggle with al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Iran formerly backed the SCIRI and its Badr Brigades but recently switched allegiances – foolishly, my Congressional source contends – to al-Sadr, who’s regarded by other Shiites as young, volatile and unreliable. Under a win dirty strategy, the United States would have to back al-Maliki and the Badr Brigades in their eventual showdown with al-Sadr. It also would have to help Jordan and Saudi Arabia care for a surge in Sunni refugees, possibly 1 million to 2 million joining an equal number who already have fled.

Sunnis will suffer under a winning dirty strategy, no question, but so far they’ve refused to accept that they’re a minority. They will have to do so eventually, one way or another. And, eventually, Iraq will achieve political equilibrium. Civil wars do end. The losers lose and have to knuckle under. As my Congressional source says, “every civil war is a political struggle. The center of this struggle is for control of the Shiite community. Wherever the Shiites go, is where Iraq will go. So, the quicker we back the winning side, the quicker the war ends. ... Winning dirty isn’t attractive, but it sure beats losing.”

Allah asks the tough questions that Kondracke shrivels from and lays out “we broke it, we’ve got to fix it” case for at least maintaining enough of a presence to forestall genocide:

We all understand the dilemma here: we’re the only thing preventing a pogrom, but it’s at a huge human cost to our own military. At what point does our responsibility to get our boys out of harm’s way morally justify leaving a power vacuum within which Iraqi Arabs can slam away at each other? We’re not going to solve a Sunni/Shiite rift that’s existed for 1400 years so why waste any more American lives trying to postpone it? The answer, or my answer, in two words: Pam Hess. It’d be unconscionable for the United States to acquiesce in ethnic cleansing in a country whose security we’ve taken responsibility for; if you believe some on the left (and right), it’s unconscionable for us to acquiesce in ethnic cleansing even in countries whose security we’re not responsible for, like Sudan. When we leave, we have to leave with a good faith belief that the two sides can co-exist, which is why political reconciliation within parliament is so important and why we’re stuck there until it happens. If you take Kondracke seriously, the best solution might actually be to have the Air Force carpet-bomb Anbar: it’d solve the problem instantly, we’d get “credit for helping the Shiites win,” and it’d send a none-too-subtle message to Sadr that he’d best not antagonize us in the future. It would also send the Sunni countries in the Middle East into a frenzy, of course, and would mean the destruction of a part of Iraq where the leadership is, increasingly, unabashedly on our side and has taken the lead in fighting Al Qaeda — but of course, Shiite ethnic cleansing would accomplish the same things.

Strangest of all, in what sense does Kondracke think “American credibility” would be served by letting Sadr put the Sunnis to the sword? We’d be hearing about it from the left and the Islamists for the next thousand years. Al Qaeda would make it a centerpiece of their recruiting strategy. Even Iran, the ostensible beneficiaries, would demagogue the hell out of it with crocodile tears about their “Sunni brothers” whom the Sadrists had no choice but to fight after the U.S. goaded them into it.

Kondracke is wrong on so many levels it is beyond belief that he isn’t just throwing this out in order to initiate discussion about what next in Iraq.

And if he’s seriously considering what he wrote as an actual course of action for the United States, he should, as I suggest above, be sentenced to be dressed in Sunni garb and dropped smack in the middle of Sadr city.

Methinks his perspective on Shia ethnic cleansing would benefit by a little first hand experience with the process.

By: Rick Moran at 3:47 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (33)

Pajamas Media linked with What's A Little Ethnic Cleansing Between Friends?...

Forget the surge. Forget the Democrats and their idiotic timetables and benchmarks. Forget that the President is once again mishandling the delicate political situation in Iraq. This news from the Iraqi Vice President about the Sunnis simply up and leaving the government is the crisis of the war:

Iraq’s top Sunni official has set a deadline of next week for pulling his entire bloc out of the government—a potentially devastating blow to reconciliation efforts within Iraq. He also said he turned down an offer by President Bush to visit Washington until he can count more fully on U.S. help.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi made his comments in an interview with CNN. He said if key amendments to the Iraq Constitution are not made by May 15, he will step down and pull his 44 Sunni politicians out of the 275-member Iraqi parliament.

“If the constitution is not subject to major changes, definitely, I will tell my constituency frankly that I have made the mistake of my life when I put my endorsement to that national accord,” he said. (Watch al-Hashimi express anger over lack of power-sharing )

Specifically, he wants guarantees in the constitution that the country won’t be split into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish federal states that he says will disadvantage Sunnis.

Al-Hashimi’s cooperation with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government is widely seen as essential if there is to be a realistic chance of bridging the Shiite-Sunni divide in Iraq—one of the key goals of the Bush administration.

Al-Hashimi is no fool. He can see as well as I or anyone else who has bothered to pay attention that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is not making a sincere effort to address the issues that would facilitate reconciliation between Sunni and Shia and start the process of making Iraq a whole country again. The oil revenue sharing bill has been languishing for months in the Iraqi Parliament with no sign that the objections of the Kurds or Sunnis are being addressed much less that the Shias are anxious for the bill to become law in the first place.

Some of the other vital issues that Maliki is either avoiding or approaching in a half hearted manner guaranteeing failure include the proposed de-Baathification board that would allow those Sunnis who worked for Saddam but did not participate in the atrocities to work for the government – an important economic measure for the Sunni community where unemployment is rampant and where many thousands are prevented from police and army duty by their past affiliation with the regime. And Maliki’s reconciliation plan – submitted to Parliament with great fanfare last June – seems to have slipped through the cracks with nary a word heard about it in months. A Reconciliation Conference held last spring was a spectacular failure as most of the Sunni invitees refused to attend. And why should they? Until amnesty for insurgents is put on the table, what’s the point?

There are other issues that al-Hashimi and the Sunnis are concerned about including the above mentioned changes in the constitution. Outnumbered, outgunned, and nearly out of time, the Sunnis need those constitutional changes to salvage what’s left of their community. With nearly 2.5 million refugees outside the country and 750,000 internally displaced citizens (the vast majority of them Sunnis) the Sunni population has declined by an estimated 15% and is only getting smaller. They must have hope that there is a place for them in the new Iraq. And Maliki and the Shias are spitting in their face by not addressing any of their concerns.

To be sure Maliki finds opposition to these plans at every turn. Some of it almost certainly inspired by an irrational desire on the part of some Shias and Kurds for revenge. That, after all, is why Iraq is in a civil war. But there also appears to be some calculation involved on the part of both Maliki’s Dawa party and the largest political party in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Dragging their feet in Parliament and in the Cabinet council can be seen as a deliberate attempt to effect exactly the outcome al-Hashimi is threatening; a Sunni withdrawal from government which would give these Shia elements the excuse to either “ghettoize” the Sunnis by confining them to central and western Iraq or worse, it would give some of their more radical members a pretext to begin slaughtering the Sunnis wholesale in order to bring about a “Sunni-free” Iraq.

But if al-Hashimi and the Sunnis leave the government, it begs the question: Just who or what is Maliki in charge of in Iraq? The answer is not too damn much. Hence, a Sunni withdrawal would make the Maliki government nothing more than an empty shell, not even in charge of many Shias especially in the south where rival militias are already clashing in earnest in an attempt to gain control of towns and villages.

Maliki seems paralyzed, unable to face the facts regarding what must be done to save his country. Here’s al-Hashimi on the consequences of a Sunni withdrawal from government:

The withdrawal of the Sunni bloc would unravel months of efforts to foster political participation by Sunnis in Iraq’s government. It also would further weaken al-Maliki just weeks after Shiite Cabinet ministers allied with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr bolted from the government.

Al-Hashimi’s Iraqi Islamic Party was key in getting Sunnis out to vote in the December 2005 election. Sunnis had been reluctant to take part in the political process, and many were only convinced to do so with the promise of changes to the Iraqi Constitution. Al-Hashimi said the United States co-signed those changes, and now a year and a half later nothing has been done.

Without a change to the constitution, he said, “The situation would be a disaster for Iraq.”

He added, “I would like to see the identity of my country, in fact, restored back.”

Meanwhile, the President has been ineffective in his jawboning the Iraqi Prime Minister, failing to get Maliki to face up to his responsibilities:

On Monday, the president held a 25-minute videoconference with al-Maliki, the White House and the prime minister’s office announced. In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said political reconciliation efforts were “the focal point of those conversations.”

Al-Maliki talked about getting leaders of Iraq’s major factions together “to sit down in a very practical way and say, ‘Let’s get this stuff fixed,’ ” Snow said.

“What you got was a very clear sense from the prime minister that it was important to be making progress,” he said.

It may be “important to be making progress” but one wonders to who; Bush or Maliki?

Al-Maliki’s office said Bush will dispatch a senior administration official to Iraq to rally support for the government, while the prime minister “reaffirmed the importance of continuing cooperation and coordination” between U.S. and Iraqi troops now trying to pacify the capital.

The importance to Maliki that the Capitol be pacified is that if the Americans leave, he’s very like to find himself on the short end of a very long rope. So he will try to keep the Americans pacified by saying all the right words about reconciliation and power sharing while doing nothing to affect the former and actually try and sabotage the latter.

What to do? The Administration efforts in the political sphere have failed miserably to this point. Might it be time for Bush to bite the bullet and give Maliki the heave-ho, replacing him with some kind of government that would do what everyone agrees is necessary but that no one seems willing to work for?

It would be like taking all of those purple fingers raised in triumph following the election and cutting them off at the knuckle. But it may be the only way to save the country. This would be a last resort, the last arrow in Bush’s quiver and he may not use it anyway. Perhaps he’d rather see Iraq disintegrate than give up on his personal dream of promoting democracy in the Middle East.

There will be efforts to entice the Sunnis back into government if they leave. But I am absolutely convinced that Maliki, as with every other promise he has made to us, will do only the minimum necessary to bring that about. Al-Hashimi probably senses the same thing which is why he is willing to walk out in the first place.

This is without a doubt the crisis of the war. How the Administration handles the delicate matter of trying to keep the Sunnis in the government while putting pressure on Maliki to get busy with reforms will tell the tale of whether or not Iraq can be put back together again or whether it will fly apart at the seams.


Allah is back at Hot Air blogging about Iraq. He has the story of Sadrists guarding a Shia shrine – at our request. Trenchantly, he fleshes out the pros and cons.

He also comments briefly on al-Hashimi’s threat:

I’ll leave you with a report from CNN about Iraq’s Sunni Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, threatening to pull his MPs out of the government unless the constitution is amended to prohibit partition. He’s worried about Anbar being shunted off into its own country where it won’t get any of the oil revenue from the Shiite areas, but a report from Iraqslogger last month says he might have something even bolder in mind:

What is more interesting in Az-Zaman’s lead story is the fact that the Iraqi Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashimi, is attempting to construct a new coalition, similar to [Iyad] ‘Allawi’s in several ways and carrying a comparable “anti-sectarian” agenda. Az-Zaman said that al-Hashimi has also entered talks with the Fadhila party and that he is engaged in a race with ‘Allawi to gather allies for a bid for the Prime Ministership.

A Sunni prime minister? When the current president and speaker of parliament are also Sunnis? Not anytime soon, pal.

With both Allawi and al-Hashimi waiting in the wings for a call from the Americans, one would think that Maliki would get the message and get moving on reform. But Maliki has his own card to play; a Shia uprising if we toss Maliki and his Shia brethren.

And that, my friends, would be game, set, match.


It doesn’t necessarily worry me when lefties agree with me. But re-reading my post, I was a little uneasy that I had perhaps taken too dark a view of Hashimi’s threat.

Kevin Drum, a reasonable liberal, echoes my sentiments:

The October 2005 deal has served its purpose admirably: it got the constitution passed and it gave everyone some breathing room. But eventually the Shiites and Kurds were going to have to come through with some changes, and no real progress has ever been made on that. Just stalling.

So what happens next? Prime Minister Maliki might be able to buy himself some more time, but probably not much. Eventually it’s going to become clear that the Sunni amendments aren’t going to be proposed, or if they are proposed, that they aren’t going to pass. That day is looking ever closer, and all the battalions in the world aren’t going to help Iraq if the Sunnis irrevocably pull out of the government. Stay tuned.

Reasonable people can disagree about the extent of this crisis. But I have to make an effort to come up with something worse.

By: Rick Moran at 5:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 05/08/2007...

There are ways to leave Iraq and avoid disaster. And then, there’s rank stupidity:

President Bush vetoed the Iraq-war spending bill this evening, calling it a blueprint for failure and defeat and intensifying a showdown with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing,” Mr. Bush said at the White House, where he vetoed the bill after the signatures of Democratic legislative leaders were barely dry.

The president said the bill would demoralize the Iraqis and send them and the world a terrible message: “America will not keep its commitments.”

The President may be in for a rather rude surprise when it comes to what exactly would constitute keeping our “commitments” in Iraq. Perhaps he should be jawboning the Iraqi government into keeping their commitments to us – i.e., this is round one in a ten round bout and while he holds the upper hand today, upon each successive revisiting of this issue, it will become more and more apparent that the Iraqi government has no intention of keeping their promises made to him and to the United States to achieve much of anything in the way of reconciling their war torn and riven country.

What this will do to his “veto-proof” GOP firewall is uncertain. Judging by the nervousness of many Republican lawmakers who wish to see at least some political benchmarks laid out for the Iraqi government to achieve as part of the funding bill, my guess is that unless their is a sea change in the attitude of the Iraqi government, GOP desertions will become significant after the first of the year.

Good to see the Iraqi Parliament taking our efforts to tamp down the violence so seriously; they’re going on vacation for two months in July and August. And Prime Minister Maliki is proving himself quite the reliable ally – at least for Mookie al-Sadr and his band of cutthroats. He’s cashiered a few generals who actually took him at his word when he said he wanted to rein in the Shia militias who are causing a lot of the sectarian bloodshed.

Maliki is a practiced liar – and an empty suit of a Prime Minister as well. He and his Shia brethren in his ruling coalition can read the writing on the wall as well as anyone in this country; that the closer we get to the 2008 election, the better the chances that any veto of the Democrat’s invitation to al Qaeda to initiate a bloodbath in Iraq will be overridden with the help of an increasing number of Republican legislators who see the War as a political millstone around the party’s neck not to mention a sure fire roadmap to the unemployment line for them. (The latter reason uppermost in their greedy little minds, I’m sure.)

At the risk of incurring the wrath of my dwindling number of readers, might I suggest that the President face this reality and sit down with the Democrats in order to come to some kind of an agreement about the future of our mission in Iraq? It may be old fashioned in this day and age to talk about “the good of the country” but that’s just me, I guess – A fat old codger who can remember when lawmakers took the political adage “Politics stops at the waters edge” seriously. Of course, I’m also old enough to remember when that compact between the parties was shattered. The political ghosts of Viet Nam still haunt this country and unless we can find our way back to a sensible, rational means for the two branches to co-exist and come together on the goals and troop requirements needed for this war, I fear that the disaster that is staring us in the face will almost certainly come about much to the detriment of our interests in the Middle East and our efforts in the War on Terror (or whatever we’re going to be calling it once the Democrats admit we need to fight one).

Even a successful surge – and it is showing signs of success in important ways – will fail to bring about the desired political results that would give us the victory all of us want but is looking more and more impossible to achieve. The recalcitrant Iraqi government seems perfectly content to expend American lives to increase their own legitimacy with the Iraqi people as the violence begins to subside while not doing what is necessary to validate our men’s sacrifices by bringing the warring factions together in order to form a viable state.

So the President’s veto of this bill will not be overridden. And the two sides will sit down and probably come to a compromise agreement that will fund the troops for a very limited time – perhaps 3 months if reports are accurate – with the Democrats abandoning their formal invitation to our enemies setting a date certain for the al-Qaeda/militia bloodbath to begin in earnest. Instead, the withdrawal timetable will be advisory only, thus encouraging our jihadi friends to simply watch, wait, and keep their powder dry and their swords sharpened.

Needless to say, we can’t go on like this. But we will. And when the dust settles from this political row, we can look forward to another Congressional food fight to break out when we revisit the issue in the fall.

By: Rick Moran at 7:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (51) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Rice: Bush Will Not Give In On Iraq Bill...

For all the heartening news coming out of Iraq recently, there is a humanitarian crisis that threatens to completely overwhelm the ability of the Iraqis and the world community to deal with it.

I am talking about those Iraqi citizens who have been forced from their homes – usually at gun point – and forced to flee for their lives. Most often, the refugees make their way to a relatives home in another part of the country. The problem is that many of the smaller cities and towns in western Iraq where most of the Sunni refugees have gravitated are being overwhelmed. Social services are breaking down and there is a real danger of a humanitarian catastrophe.

To date, there have been around 730,000 Iraqis internally displaced since our invasion and occupation:

About 730,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the beginning of 2006 and are facing increasing hardship inside Iraq, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that most of the displaced were now hemmed inside the conflict-riven country.

“Reaching help and safety in neighbouring countries is becoming increasingly difficult,” Redmond told journalists.

“Many of those who have fled to other parts of Iraq have run out of resources and host communities are also struggling to absorb increasing numbers of displaced,” he added.

The UNHCR estimates that up to 50,000 people are fleeing their homes every month.

An estimated 4.0 million people in Iraq are dependent on food assistance, while the rate of chronic malnutrition among children is 23 percent, Redmond said.

We broke it. It’s our responsibility to fix it.

When 23% of the children are showing signs of chronic malnutrition, it’s time to hit the panic button. At the very least, we should be bending every effort – cajoling, pleading, begging the international community to put aside their distaste for our invasion and occupation and recognize that only with a concerted effort on the part of all can innocent lives be saved.

Of late, Prime Minister Maliki has made getting some of these refugees back into their homes a priority – especially in the formerly mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad. When the Mahdi Army ruled the streets, they routinely moved into neighborhoods and ordered all the Sunnis to leave – usually within 24 hours.

But a new program initiated by Maliki could slowly start to reverse the flood and contribute to the healing and reconciliation process so vital to the re-establishment of Iraqi civil society:

At a time of epic displacement, Fuad Khamis has done something extraordinary: He has moved back home.

“When I arrived, I was overwhelmed and frightened at the same time,” says Khamis, a Sunni Arab taxi driver from Baghdad’s religiously mixed Sadiya neighborhood.

His house was damaged and there wasn’t a piece of furniture left. But the father of five says his Shiite neighbors have welcomed him back with hugs and kisses.

Encouraged by a major security clampdown that began Feb. 13, and reassurances from his neighbors, Khamis is one of the first to test Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s recent pledge to reverse the tide of sectarian “cleansing” sweeping Baghdad and move tens of thousands of people back home.

One of the major hurdles is a lack of resources to help the displaced move back in. And there are other problems with Maliki’s program:

Maliki has taken a tough line, labeling as terrorists everyone living in homes that were taken by force and informing parliament they would be arrested.

But the U.S. military, which is to contribute 17,500 troops to the Baghdad crackdown, says its forces won’t help the government evict squatters. U.S. officials believe it is a recipe for further abuses.

“It’s a no-win situation,” says Col. Douglass S. Heckman, senior U.S. advisor to the 9th Iraqi Army Division in east Baghdad.

Acknowledging the complications, Iraq’s Cabinet on Thursday gave occupants an extra two weeks to vacate the homes of the displaced or obtain written permission to remain.

Maliki’s government does not have the means to carry out a major resettlement program. Abdul Samad Sultan, minister of migration and displacement, expects many families will go home on their own once they see it is safe. They are being offered about $200 to help with the cost of the move. Apart from that, Sultan can only offer to issue badges allowing their return to contested areas and ask their erstwhile neighbors to write letters welcoming them back.

“I think that the Iraqi people have big hearts and can forgive the past,” Sultan says. “They have seen the results of violence.”

The more than 700,000 internally displaced people does not include the nearly 2 million refugees who have fled Iraq since the invasion. Coupled with another 2 million who left under Saddam, Iraq’s neighbors – especially Syria and Jordan – are having a difficult time caring for this human flood. Conditions in the Syrian refugee camps are said to be horrible and getting worse. The United Nations is giving what help it can but with these kind of numbers involved, only the western nations working together can alleviate that kind of suffering.

But with a huge problem being barely addressed in Darfur, the idea that the world will do anything to help with the refugee problems in Iraq is a chimera. Only steadfast and bold leadership from the United States can reverse the crisis. And sadly, as in other areas, the US is found wanting in that department.

By: Rick Moran at 5:34 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)


Amidst the larger political and and military moves in Iraq where grand plans are carried out and important men argue and cajole each other, there is a singular truth that has underwritten this entire effort at bringing peace: No matter what happens with the surge or the militias or Prime Minister Maliki’s government, what will really decide the fate of that blood soaked nation will occur in the quiet neighborhoods where Sunni and Shia formerly lived together in peace and friendship but where now only fear and violence reign.

It is where the sectarian strife has cleaved most deeply. Families that had lived side by side for generations suddenly found their neighbors ordering them out of their homes or face death. More than 300,000 fled for their lives to other parts of Iraq while countless others – perhaps as many as 2 million – have left the country in the last 4 years.

But despite the carnage, small glimmers of hope have emerged in recent months courtesy of the United States military.

Far beneath the radar of the mainstream press, the military has quietly been organizing meetings between Shias and Sunnis in areas where there has been conflict. These local conferences represent one of the major efforts at reconciling the various factions and seek to reestablish trust between the sects. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s) who are responsible for this program have doubled in number since the President’s speech in January and have intensified these efforts as part of the surge.

And there is some evidence that the program, if not wildly successful, may have started something significant. The proof is in the efforts by both the insurgents and The Islamic State of Iraq (al-Qaeda) to intimidate and threaten individuals who take part in these reconciliation meetings:

A recent wave of Sunni reprisals appears linked to increasingly high-profile attempts to stir popular momentum against Sunni extremists trying to drive out the Shiite-led government and its American backers.

Among those targeted include a range of Sunnis raising their voices against violence: imams, clan-based vigilantes and activists trying to bridge deep rifts with majority Shias.

“We are seeing more people beginning to challenge the insurgents,” said Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, who oversees units in the militant heartland west of Baghdad.

In Youssifiyah, a Sunni-dominated area about 12 miles south of Baghdad, One of the PRT’s organized a meeting of local tribes and religious leaders last month. Among them were two prominent local families who braved the threats of the extremists in order to help build a new Iraq. Sadly, 6 members of those families were found dead over the weekend -victims of execution style murders:

The two families gunned down at sunrise Saturday had received death threats for weeks after attending gatherings of Sunni and Shiite leaders, police said.

The first meeting, organized by U.S. military officials on Feb. 13, brought together leaders of prominent clans from both sides, said military spokesman Maj. Webster M. Wright III.

The clan chiefs held another round on their own about a week later and appointed a joint council “to discuss the terms of reconciliation” around Youssifiyah, a Sunni-dominated area about 12 miles south of Baghdad, Wright said.

At dawn, gunmen stormed the home of two families belonging to the influential Sunni Mashhada tribe, said police 1st Lt. Haider Satar. Two fathers and their four sons were separated from their wives and sisters. They were executed at point-blank range.

In the morgue in nearby Mahmoudiya, AP Television News footage showed at least two victims had their hands bound behind their backs.

One more small tragedy in an ocean of pain and suffering? The fact that the clans were willing to seek reconciliation in spite of the threats, in spite of all that has gone before has got to say something important – otherwise those men will have given their lives for nothing.

This is how Iraq will heal. When men like those who were ruthlessly executed continue to show courage in the face of such brutality and evil, progress will almost certainly be made. There are already martyrs enough on both sides. What is needed now is the steadfast belief that something better can be achieved by talking than by hating each other.

No doubt that the insurgents will continue to desperately try and derail these reconciliation efforts. This is where Prime Minister Maliki comes in. He absolutely must get to work on a National Reconciliation Plan that will bring all but the worst of the murderers and terrorists into the national life of the nation. This will necessarily mean granting amnesty to a large number of fighters who have fought and killed our troops. The Pentagon won’t like that. I don’t like it. I daresay most Americans won’t like it. But we have to understand that our occupation has fueled some of this insurgency. There are thousands of tribal militia men who saw our cozying up to the Shias as a direct threat and took up arms in what they felt was in defense of their home and hearth. Most of the Iraqi people hold these men blameless – at least less culpable than the car bombers and death squad killers who continue their rampage to this day.

Taking these men out of the fight by granting them amnesty will pull the teeth of the insurgency. It will free up our forces to concentrate on the remaining terrorists and Baathist bitter enders who carry out most of the violence against civilians. For these reasons alone, amnesty would be worth it.

Those nameless martyrs in Youssifiyah were seeking to build a new Iraq. Not the Iraq we envisioned when we invaded but one of their own creation. Let’s hope that those left behind are inspired by their courage and will continue to work toward building a peaceful society free from fear.

By: Rick Moran at 4:11 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)