Sunday, January 14, 2007

Most Recent Zakaria on Iraq

Op-ed here.

The title is how by winning in this new policy we continue to lose.

He begins:
Everyone seems quite certain that George W. Bush's new plan for Iraq is bound to fail. But I'm not so sure. At a military level, the strategy could well produce some successes. American forces have won every battle they have fought in Iraq. Having more troops and a new mission to secure whole neighborhoods is a good idea—better four years late than never. But the crucial question is, will military progress lead to political progress? That logic, at the heart of the president's new strategy, strikes me as highly dubious.
In my response to Matt Dallman's critique of my Iraq posts, I quoted an American soldier who said that at every turn the Americans win tactically but continue to lose strategically. This is what Zakaria is saying by pointing out that this new policy will bring more successes but not lead to political progress.

Zakaria writes (my emphasis):

Administration officials have pointed to last week's fighting against Sunni insurgents in and around Baghdad's Haifa Street as a textbook example of the new strategy. Iraqi forces took the lead, American troops backed them up and the government did not put up any obstacles. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger concluded that the battle "looked like a successful test of unified [American-Iraqi] effort." But did it? NEWSWEEK's Michael Hastings, embedded with an American advisory team that took part in the fighting, reports that no more than 24 hours after the battle began on Jan. 6, the brigade's Sunni commander, Gen. Razzak Hamza, was relieved of his command. The phone call to fire him came directly from the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite. Lt. Col. Steven Duke, commander of a U.S. advisory team working with the Iraqis, and a 20-year Army veteran, describes Hamza as "a true patriot [who] would go after the bad guys on either side." Hamza was replaced by a Shiite.
Fareed then points out that operations against the Shia militias are less likely--they are completely infiltrated in the army and police. Conflicting reports on whether the Mahdi Army will be taken on exist--this story reports on a Kurdish brigade getting trained for urban combat who expects to fight the Mahdi Army--other reports indicate PM Maliki and Grand Ayatollah Sistani has told Sadr to keep his profile and his people out of the fight. In other words the renewed fighting will be to take on the Sunnis.

Hence Zakaria predicts:

So what will happen if Bush's new plan "succeeds" militarily over the next six months? Sunnis will become more insecure as their militias are dismantled. Shiite militias will lower their profile on the streets and remain as they are now, ensconced within the Iraqi Army and police. That will surely make Sunnis less likely to support the new Iraq. Shiite political leaders, on the other hand, will be emboldened. They refused to make any compromises—on federalism, de-Baathification, oil revenues and jobs—in 2003 when the United States was dominant, in 2005 when the insurgency was raging, and in 2006 when they took over the reins of government fully. Why would they do so as they gain the upper hand militarily?
Which means:

The greatest danger of Bush's new strategy, then, isn't that it won't work but that it will—and thereby push the country one step further along the road to all-out civil war. Only a sustained strategy of pressure on the Maliki government—unlike anything Bush has been willing to do yet—has any chance of averting this outcome.
I think this sustained pressure will come in the form of a parliamentary coup against Maliki and the new PM of Iraq (within 6 months) being SCIRI deputy and current VP Abdul Mahdi (not to be confused with Sadr who is head of the Mahdi Army). SCIRI is the main Shia rival of Sadr. Bush's thinking I believe is that Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the pro-Iranian mind you, leader of SCIRI will take on Sadr. Or at least allow the Americans to do so. But that is a dangerous policy--Hakim has no support among the Shia poor. Sadr is their hero and he can be the spoiler, a wildcard in this whole scenario.

What else is coming out is that Bush has included benchmarks without including benchmarks. While there is no timetable for lessening of troops, the surge is not really a surge but a "stagger" as Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey point out. All of the 20,000 troops are not coming immediately but predicated on Iraqis meeting certain goals.

And in a real bombshell I think new SecDef and former ISG member, Robert Gates said in his recent Senate testimony that surge success could be tied to drawdown by the end of the year. Story here.

In other words, I think what Bush has done, without admitting it, is laying the ground for a withdraw. The administration privately is talking about this plan as a middle way between McCain pro-long term surge and timetables set withdraw from Democrats.

So Gates has brought I think a modified version of ISG/Democrat policy, Condi is now off to the Middle East in the hopes of some diplomatic miracle, and Cheney (never count him out) gets a push towards Iran.

Barnett thinks we might be headed for a "splendid little war" with Iran in order to cover the withdraw from Iraq. In this sense the ISG was right--the withdraw has to be timed with political negotiations within Iraq and regional security diplomacy.

Not Condi going around the Middle East talking about how the new Middle East is a battle between the extremists and moderate forces---how moderate is the Saudi regime or Mubarak? The extremists being code for Syria-Iran and Bush's "domino theory" of al-Qaeda taking over instead (my lone criticism of Zakaria's op-ed is he brings up the AQ meme as well). The AQ in Iraq is not the AQ of Pakistan-Afghanistan who is trying to attack American soil, mostly through Pakistanis in Britain. AQ in Iraq wants to continue violence against Shia, use that as a base to attack Jordan, Saudis, Syrians, as well as the Iraqi Shia government.

Rice has lost to Cheney again. She needs to go.

Without diplomacy, darker even the regional instability and loss of influence from this plan is, as Zakaria, notes aiding Shia cleansing in Iraq. Zakaria states that without the pressure on the Shia to deal and this stagger/surge:

"The U.S. Army will be actively aiding and assisting in the largest program of ethnic cleansing since Bosnia. Is that the model Bush wanted for the Middle East?"


Post a Comment

<< Home