Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iraq Week Jan20-27

A few things are already shaking out from the surge in Iraq.

1.The Mahdi Army is disappearing, avoiding a confrontation with the US. The Prime Minister of Iraq has told them to back down so as not to put him in a position where he has to choose between them and the Americans.

2. The US is ramping up actions against Iranian agents in Iraq. If the US ends up killing innocent Iranians--e.g. pilgrims, which number in the thousands particularly right now during the Shia high holy days of Ashura (Tuesday is the apex of the celebration), look out.

3. The US has re-entrenched its Arab allies even though most of the outside support for the insurgency comes from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sunni Syria.

4. The PM security plan for Baghdad is a Shia operation--that is fight the insurgents only plan. Anger was expressed by at least one Sunni lawmaker who the Prime Minister in front of the entire Parliament then accused, of criminal activity. Not the best of starts for sure.

5. The Americans are trying to ally with Sunni Tribal Sheiks to fight al-Qaeda. I hope this works. Story here from WashingtonPost. There is deep worry that they will undermine the Sunni parties in Parliament (who may or may not deserve some undermining honestly) and more importantly be infiltrated by insurgents, just as the Police and Army are infiltrated by Shia death squads.

For all the talk in Washington, should the Senate draft a non-binding resolution, should they not, are they aiding the enemy, should Bush be sending more troops into a civil war, I think the outline of what is to occur is fairly clear.

The American Troops will do a good job in what they can do--kill insurgents. Baghdad will experience more in the way of car and suicide bombings (this week already numerous ones) and less in the way of head to head confrontation. Insurgents will flee to other provinces, e.g. Diyala (where the US plan has not determined to send any), and violence will increase in other areas of the country. Mosul, which had been fairly quiet of late, has experienced a major uptick in violence and bloodshed this week.

Petraeus will showcase the new counterinsurgency manual which is better, from what I understand, than the previous one, and the new reconstruction efforts will I think do some good, but the question is what the President is really after. Bush is like the Catholic Church. Whenever anyone calls for change, his first instinct is to fight them, label them an aider to the enemy (heretic), and then eventually he does change his course and then states that he is not changing course and following the plan he always has. Like the Catholic Church's idea that it never teaches anything new only what it always has but perhaps forgotten. i.e. Tony Snow saying the President was "never stay the course."

The reason I bring that up is after watching John McCain on Meet the Press last week, I'm more convinced than ever that the surge is a short term surge for a quick victory in the press and begin a pullout. McCain repeatedly emphasized that this plan should not be seen as a quick victory solution. He was, without saying it, speaking to the Bush White House. The Democrats are all against the plan, so he certainly wasn't talking to them, nor the Republicans (like Hagel & Co.) who have joined them. So the only other possibility is that he was speaking to Republicans (John Warner types?) who want to oppose the surge without undermining the President and their party--that group might call for a pullout as soon as anything looks decent in Iraq.

McCain of course is for a massive upsurge, long term commitment--i.e. well into his presidency which would start in 09--until there is total victory. You may not like his policy, but at least he's been consistent. My opinion, along with Ricks, is that the US will have some force presence in Iraq for another 10-15 years. We still have troops in the Balkans for example.

Bush has tried to shoot the difference, seems to me, between the so-called McCain Doctrine and Democrat/ISG begin phased redeployment now. For all the talk of the failure of the ISG from the wonks, it has in an underground way, fundamentally changed the debate. It, with coolly and logically, dismantled the picture the administration wanted to give in Iraq.

Nixon "escalated" while simultaneously beginning talks with the VietCong. The difference here of course is that Bush is surging-escalating while not beginning talks with the VietCong-like Iranians and Syrians. The blowback from the Vietnam pullout was severe--the Khmer Rogue comes to mind.

This blowback will I'm afraid be possibly as brutal, which is why Bush has to get these countries down to the table right now. If he is moving towards withdraw, as I believe he is under the cover of "victory" in a surge or a cut and blame strategy of laying the fault on the Shia-led government, then he has an obligation, in my view, to work towards containing as much of the violence as possible. If we simply pull out with the diplomatic angle worked, the Turks may intervene in Kurdistan, which would be an enormous blow to the US--those are its only two even approaching secular Islamic democratic allies. The Saudis will most definitely be pulled in. King Abdullah of Jordan will be as well, as his regime is very worried about al-Qaeda attacks and blowback into his own country (ditto the Saudis). The Iranians are already there and well placed, far more integrated than the Americans. They can and will attack either themselves and/or through proxies, at will.

Hezbollah which this week continues its attempt to bring down the US and Saudi-backed government of Fouad Sinora, would go from street protests to assassination attempts and open warfare with the government. The Palestinians--Fatah US and Saudi-backed versus Hamas Iranian backed--would renew their open conflict and Rice's MidEast peace push would go up in flames. Three civil wars as Jordanian King Abdullah rightly predicted.

To be truly Kissingerian, Bush would be lining up this anti-Iranian coalition at then under the table negotiate with them--SCIRI would play that role. AND be stripping Syria from Iranian support by getting the Israelis to give back the Golan Heights and end their at war status.

If Bush does not push for this "diplomatic surge", then I'm afraid that events will spiral downward, and Dick Cheney will finally get his wish: an attack on Iran. I'm daily more afraid of an aerial attack on Iran occurring by the summer.

The president can initiate attacks for 60 days without Congressional mandate. Bush would not get mandate for war with Iran. If Bush pulled this trigger, a constitutional crisis is looming. Cheney might bring the White House back to its Ford-era nadir. What you meditate on you become. Cheney has meditated on the lack of presidential power for 30 decades. Now he is creating it.


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