Monday, June 04, 2007

Bobby Ghosh on Iraq

Clear-eyed as usual. Piece here. This one on the recent trumpeting of the so-called Sunni tribal alliances in Iraq and of the negotiations with Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq.

I am going to quote at length and analyze this piece because it is so crucial to seeing through the media lens and the so-called rightwing noise machine. [The leftwing noise machine thinks just pull out, blame the Iraqis, and everything else will fall into place unfortunately.]

The point as always is not the surge which is a tactic but the failed overall policy of a unified central government with the elections as they were constituted, with Maliki as PM.

Ghosh (my emphasis, here on):
There's no doubt many Sunnis are tiring of al-Qaeda's brutal tactics that target Iraqi civilians and all who oppose them. But it's a huge leap to suggest that the insurgents who oppose al-Qaeda are willing to make peace with U.S. and Iraqi forces. A number of attempts to negotiate such a pact in the past have failed, for several reasons. The foremost is that the insurgents hate the Americans as much as, if not more than, they hate al-Qaeda. Groups such as the Islamic Army and the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution — alongside which the U.S. fought on Thursday in Baghdad — continue to kill Americans at every opportunity: it is their badge of honor and recruitment tool. They also loathe the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government, branding it a puppet of an older, more reviled enemy: Iran.
The issue is militia-militia warfare. There is no political solution and every side is simply using the US (the biggest militia in the country) for training, weaponry, and to help them fight their other enemies while still fighting the US:
If Sunni insurgent groups do respond positively to Odierno's offer, it will be because they could use U.S. help in fighting al-Qaeda — but it won't necessarily they'll stop attacking Americans. There's already clear evidence that some groups are playing both sides of the fence, collaborating with the U.S. by day and attacking it by night. Some of the Shi'ite militias who have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces are happy to receive American training and equipment, only to turn these against U.S. forces whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Clear evidence. As in how can individuals (majority from the political right) declare this part of a victory? How is training forces to participate in killing of US soldiers a success?

And here the most obvious point about why these negotiations with Sunnis will not work:
Moreover, no matter how hostile they are to al-Qaeda, Sunni insurgent groups are unlikely to recognize the current Iraqi government, much less swear loyalty to it. Insurgent commanders TIME has interviewed in recent months have been adamant in demanding that the U.S. suspend the current parliament, topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and hand power to "real Iraqis" — in their lexicon meaning Sunnis.
See that happening anytime soon?

And what about the so-called Anbar Salvation Front, which is a recent alliance made between the US and anti al-Qaeda Tribes under the leadership of Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi (lionized by Eli Lake and National Review among others).

Turns out Rishawi's tribe is infamous for highway robbery (literally) and then this from Ghosh that Rishawi:
is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front's impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom.
A personal militia? Not loyal to the government? Where we he get that idea? The guy's not stupid. And neither is the central Shia fundamentalist government which has not been sending him arms. Wonder why? Because Maliki knows as soon as the Americans leave and they have wiped out al-Qaeda in Iraq those guns will be pointed at the Shia.

There is no political settlement. Absent that, talking to and/or working with these groups is only arming people from a coming post-US pullout fight.

The mainstreams of the insurgency has made clear its demands from the beginning, the same ones mentioned in this piece:

1.New elections (overthrow the Parliament)--the Sunnis incorrectly believe the myth that they are the largest segment of the population. In another election they assume they would win.
2.Overthrow Maliki
3.Re-establish Sunni hegemony.

It is all they have ever known, it is as Ghosh says their badge of honor. It is their identity--to be the ruling elite of the country. Their demands can not be met and will not be accepted by the Shia and Kurds.

Absent that, the Sunnis have no bargaining chip with the Shia and the Shia after their long history of oppression are suspicious of letting back any Baath, often more broadly any Sunnis, back into power.

Rock and hard place. Bodies in between.

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