Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Iraqi Coverage

The end game is approaching.

Juan Cole reports on Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's defense of regional autonomy for the Shi'a south. Hakim, leader of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (backed by Iran) and head of the United Iraqi Alliance pushed the measure through against Sunnis, Kurds, and some Shia.

Hakim's main intra-Shia rival is Moqtada al-Sadr.

The government of Nuri al-Maliki has attempted to placate the Americans by attacking the Mahdi Army (Al-Sadr's militia). Elements of which are outside of Sadr's control. The Mahdi Army is fighting the Badr Bridage (al-Hakim's militia) and the Iraqi Army/Police in the South [Warning Graphic photo on that link]. Sadr, based in Baghdad, opposes regionalism and hence al-Hakim. The fighting involves Marsh Arabs--considered inferior by many other Iraqi Arabs, Shia and Sunni--have clung to Sadr who is a champion of the Shia poor.

Worse still, perhaps Nuri al-Maliki, Shia Prime Minister has publicly denounced the US Military for the its proposed 12-18 month pullout. His government is collapsing. The Sunni Insurgents have no buy in to the government and al-Hakim and al-Sadr are splitting the Shia apart. Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has pulled away from politics all together in protest. The Kurds are simply waiting for a way out that won't bring violence from Turkey and/or Iran.

Peter Beinart on The McLaughlin Group last week (watch it here 10/20) suggests that the rumors of a coup against al-Maliki will increase in both Washington and Baghdad. I think he is right--not necessarily that there will be a coup, but that the sniff and talk of it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will further weaken his already on life-support coalition.

Operation Stand Together to hold Baghdad has failed by the Army's own admission. They have not the troops nor the know-how to fight 4GW open-source warfare. The Army's timetable of 12-18 months is already what was formerly called "cut and run"--because it will no longer be based on benchmarks.

After the election, moderate elements from both sides--Sen. John Warner, Richard Lugar, James Baker, Lee Hamilton--are going to talk about how the pullout occurs. The consensus I think has been reached that Stay the Course is dead. Bush now publicly speaks of "flexibility" within the last week. He also stated that he has never proclaimed stay the course.

There is not yet consensus as to what to replace the strategy of clear, hold, and hand over, build the Iraqi Army, and buy-in the Sunnis that has dominated the last 2 years or so of Iraq. That policy has failed in Iraq and domestically in the US.

The Newshour, this week is doing a story of different options for the post-stay the course strategy: tripartite division, complete immediate withdrawal, timetables, etc.

This is going to happen whether or not the Republicans hold the Senate. If they do hold the Senate, how this endgame works itself out will likely go differently, but overall the trajcetory is clear. There is only now a question of how soon, how many, and what policy substitution is to take place.

We will now see the beginning of the soul searching that will have to take place in the US military, homefront, political realm, etc.
Even the American Enterprise Institute knows the jig is up.


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