Friday, May 04, 2007

Karon nails It (Iraq)

One of the shortest, single best commentaries on the US position in Iraq from Tony Karon, writing in Time.

The title is the trouble with benchmarks.

Benchmarks are not going to have massive sway on the government of Iraq--I agree. Timetables are not going to work either because the President has veto.

Key quote:
Like most Iraqi leaders, Maliki is unlikely to believe that what his government does or does not do will prompt the U.S. to simply pack up and go home. The Iraqi leadership knows that the U.S. didn't invade their country out of concern for their well-being. It went to war in order to secure its own objectives — and that's exactly what the main Iraqi political factions are doing, too. (Indeed, it's hardly surprising that both the Shi'ite and Kurdish parties that dominate the current government are more inclined to pursue their own objectives than follow Washington's script, since each has bitter memories of being abandoned by the U.S. during their abortive uprisings against Saddam in 1991.) A U.S. withdrawal, after all, would mean abandoning many of its own objectives, fatally weakening the moderate Arab regimes it has vowed to protect, abandoning some of the world's largest oil reserves to be fought over by jihadists, Baathists and proxies of Iran, while Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds slug it out on the under-card of what could quickly become a regional war. Right now, the U.S. presence may be all that is holding Iraq together, but letting it fall apart would deeply damage a far wider range of Washington's interests.
Because Karon points out the Iraqi government realizes far more effectively than the Democrats that the US has little/no leverage power. This is why the surge is winning more battles, losing the political peace.

There is no impetus for the Shia-Kurdish government to compromise. And as Karon points out there is no real alternative to Maliki. Particularly with the anti-Iranian stance of Bush, who otherwise would have led a coup against Maliki with the Hakim and Medhi of the SCIRI. Nor can a strongman be installed by the military and police are Shia to the core and especially because Sadr could have his people rise up and their would be mass defections to the Mahdi Army from the Iraqi Army. The coup leader strongman candidate is Iyad Allawi, known in Iraq as the "Butcher of Fallujah."

Fallujah is to the Arab and wider SW Asian Muslim world, their Alamo. Installing Allawi would be like installing Gen. Santa Anna as president of the Republic of Texas.

And then Karon's conclusion which sticks it (my emphasis):
Certainly the Iraqi leaders must assume that the cost in lives and treasure of the U.S. remaining in their country with no prospect of victory will become prohibitive to Washington, as it already seems to have for the majority of the American public. But postponing that moment as long as possible has its advantages, allowing the Iraqi factions to build their own strength while trying to direct U.S. firepower against their foes. Even Sadr, keeping one foot in the government of Shi'ite power and the other on the streets denouncing the Americans. The U.S. can't win in Iraq, in the sense of turning it into a stable country supporting U.S. policies in the region. But nor is it ready to accept the consequences of declaring defeat. This may be precisely the sort of dilemma that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had in mind when he warned President Bush that "Pottery Barn Rules" applied to his invasion of Iraq: "You break it; you own it."
The only way forward is soft partition.

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