Sunday, December 24, 2006

Why presume to know Iraqi politics?

Clearly the US leadership has no idea what is going on politically in Iraq. Heck, the leading senator on the intelligence committee didn't even know that Hezbollah was Shiite and Iranian-backed, while Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group. That would be like someone having tried to broker a ceasefire in Ireland without knowing the difference between Catholic and Protestant.

The question I have, given the obvious ignorance of our leadership, is why do they continue to try to formulate their own solutions for the problems of Iraqis? The latest bad idea involved a really strange mix of secular Sunni Iraqis, fundamentalist Iranian-backed Shia, and Kurds. Basically, the three groups in Iraq most at odds with each other. The whole idea was to isolate Muqtada al Sadr, a nationalist local Shiite leader, who is a "cause" of some of the problems in Iraq. The plan was submitted to the leading Shiite leader, the Ayatollah Sistani, and Sistani rejected it flat out; not so surprising: Link.

There was an opportunity after the invasion to get things rolling in the right direction. That opportunity has long since been missed by our leadership (including "the greatest secretary of defense in American history", according to Dick Cheney). I said it recently, and I'll say it again. There is no putting a lid on this violence. Bush can send all the troops he wants; every faction in Iraq now knows that America's days in Iraq our numbered - till 2008 at most; I can pretty much guarentee nobody is going to fold to our bluff.

America cannot stabilize Iraq - only Iraqis can do that. At this point, we better start deciding who our real enemies are, and pick our allies accordingly. Our two main enemies are Al Qaeda, first and foremost, and Iranian-backed Shia fundamentalists (SCIRI/Badr), to a slightly lesser extent. We should be backing the secular Sunnis, as they oppose both of these. And we should be backing Al Sadr. He isn't our enemy, he is a nationalist. He opposes America because we occupy his country, not because of who we are. He would fight Iran just as quickly, had they occupied his country.

I am many things; a pessimist is not one of them. But the new path that we have chosen in Iraq, is not going to work.

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