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Monday, June 18

US in Iraq: Three Kings All

James Cogan, writing for the World Socialist Web Site, has a revealing analysis of where things stand regarding the Iraq government's efforts to meet US benchmarks for political progress in Iraq.
[...] Maliki has been unable to secure agreement from the various factions in the Iraqi parliament on any of the key US demands. Essentially, the US is demanding that Shiite and Kurdish parties agree to the erosion of their recently acquired power and privileges. Thus far, they have shown no signs of doing so. No legislation that meets the US benchmarks is even under consideration. [...]

The intransigence of Shiite and Kurdish opposition to the US demands is fueling a pervasive sense of crisis within both the Bush administration and the US military.

In order to curb the insurgency, US commanders have been given the go ahead to negotiate truces with Sunni insurgents behind the back of Maliki’s government. Sunni tribal heads have been given control of the western province of Anbar in exchange for calling off armed resistance. Efforts are underway to convince insurgents in the largely Sunni provinces of Salah Ad Din and Diyala to accept a similar arrangement.

Shiite politicians are objecting to a US policy that effectively places entire swathes of the country into the hands of their bitter enemies.

An unnamed official of Maliki’s government told the Washington Post: “They are forcing the Iraqi government and the Shia and the Kurds to reconcile with the Saddamists.”

Maliki has reportedly ordered the Iraqi military to treat the Sunni militia, with which US troops are arming and conducting joint patrols, as “outlaws”.

For the Bush administration, the situation is becoming untenable. It cannot achieve what it wants through the Maliki government, but there is no political alternative within the Iraqi parliament. Efforts to develop a rival bloc around former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi have thus far come to very little. In such conditions, the US may well consider some form of coup.
I have trouble envisioning a coup, but the analysis suggests the major reason that Iraq's parliament has been talking for months about taking a vacation during July and August. I guess it's their way of saying that since the US considers Maliki's government irrelevant anyhow, why go through the motions in the runup to the US military's September progress report to Congress?

Take the vacation; this will give more time for Saudi King "I am not Bush's Arab Tony Blair" Abdullah to flog the Gold Dinar Fairy to even greater activity in Iraq. If not a coup, maybe we'll see a stronger Allawi-led coalition emerge by the time the parliament returns from vacation.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues their historical pattern of wearing out their welcome everywhere they go. Al Qaeda's footprint was again evident in the bombing of the Shiite Golden Dome mosque in Samarra. But this second time, and despite a seeming 'revenge 'bombing of a Sunni mosque and Mookie's call to Shiites for a "peaceful" march to the Golden Dome in July, the Iraqis weren't provoked into a sectarian bloodbath.
Ayad Jamaludeen, a Shiite cleric and member of parliament from the secular Iraqiya party, said Iraqis are sick of violence and tired of being used as pawns by al Qaeda in Iraq.

"Al Qaeda cannot live except in a situation where there is sectarian tension and crisis," he said. "The Iraqis have understood this and now recognize who the enemy is."(1)
This is a lesson that every government and sectarian faction involved with al Qaeda has learned the hard way. Al Qaeda is the bogeyman for our era: Eat your vegetables, don't fall into clan warfare, have a strong central government that reflects the will of the people -- or al Qaeda will move in on your country and sow more grief than you can imagine.

So how are things stacking up for the US effort in Iraq? The shorter the timeline used as a yardstick, the worse things look. But considering where the people of that region were a thousand years ago; and considering centuries of machinations by Arab satraps and European colonialists, and European and US meddling in the last century; and considering Saddam's rule; and the UN embargo of Iraq -- we're muddling through.

We could muddle a lot better, but to say we're presiding over a disaster we created is to ignore the scope of disaster that existed in Iraq before the US-led invasion. It was just that the disaster didn't make headlines or cost Coalition blood; it was a disaster papered over by neglect from the world outside Iraq.

Last week I saw the movie Three Kings for the first time. The movie harks back to The Gulf War. A group of US soldiers steal gold that Saddam stole during his invasion of Kuwait. But they get involved in the plight of some Iraqi Shiites, whose doomed uprising against the government brings Saddam's wrath. The soldiers finally give up the gold in exchange for getting the Iraqis to safety in Iran. Then the soldiers leave Iraq and its troubles.

So here we are today, Three Kings all, trying to finish what Bush 41 started. Recalling that the Shiite uprising was inspired by US encouragement, the narrow view is that the lesson for the US is never encourage other peoples to rise up against a brutal regime. But now there is the bogeyman to keep us struggling on the right side of justice.

1) From As Sunni Mosque Falls, Sadr Issues a Call by John Ward Anderson and K.I. Ibrahim, The Washington Post, June 17, 2007.
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