Duck and cover day in Iraq:
Yesterday was the third anniversary of the "liberation" of Iraq, or "Freedom Day." Next month, we'll be celebrating "Mission Accomplished Day" followed soon after by the two year anniversary of the official turnover of "sovereignty" (two days early!) to the Iraqis. The most important date to remember, though, might be the Dec. 15th elections.
It must now be clear to anyone observing the slaughterhouse that is Iraq, that those "landmark" elections have produced nothing but a fiery hurricane of death and destruction. Going into the fifth month of forming a government of "national unity," any expectations at this late date of an actual liberal democracy resulting from all this bloodshed seems just slightly naive. The media and the pundits can keep pushing the fiction that there is a solution to the political "impasse" between the Shiites and the Sunnis, but there really is no "stalemate" or “gridlock." Indeed, the Iraqis are moving right along quite well to resolve their differences politically, only not exactly the way W. & Co. expected them to. In fact, they've taken a page from Clausowitz and are conducting their politics by other means (i.e. war).
For instance: Hundreds of bodies are popping up all over Baghdad every week, presumed to be the victims of Shiite death squads, and in retaliation the Sunnis are blowing up Shiites in their mosques. Any hopes that the bombing of the golden dome mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22 was an aberration, have been dashed. The mosque bombings are only becoming even more frequent and horrific. On Thursday, 10 people were killed in a car bombing in Najaf next to the Imam Ali shrine and on Friday, three suicide bombers killed 85 people and wounded over 150 in Baghdad.
These bombings don't seem to be just random acts of mass murder, either. The bombing in Najaf took place in the same neighborhood where Ayatollah Ali-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr live and the attack on the Buratha mosque in Baghdad might have been targeting Sheik Jalal Eddin al Sagheer, the preacher there and a leading Shiite politician, who just last week called for al-Jaafari to step down. This begs the question: were these Sunni on Shiite attacks, or Shiite on Shiite attacks? The tribal, ethnic and religious morass of Iraq is so murky; it's difficult to rule anything out.
Even worse, if that's possible, ominous reports are starting to become more frequent of Shiah and Sunni civilians being forced to leave their mixed neighborhoods to seek refuge in areas dominated by their respective religious factions. The appearance of refugee tent cities is a dead canary in the mine if I ever saw one.
As if to put a finer point on this, AP reported yesterday that a senior Iraqi official, Maj. General Hussein Kamal (Not the one who said Saddam had no WMD
) said Iraq is in the midst of an "undeclared civil war." Kamal told the AP
that, "All these bodies that are discovered in Baghdad, the slaughter of pilgrims heading to holy sites, the explosions, the destruction, the attacks of mosques are all part of this." (You think?)
So what to do? John Kerry said on Meet the Press
this Sunday that his plan for a May 15th deadline for the Iraqis to get themselves together or we leave, isn't a cut and run proposition. He advocates a diplomatic approach along the lines of the Clinton's Dayton Accords that brought "peace" to Bosnia. He thinks a diplomatic get together where all the powers of the region can chew over the details of a permanent Iraqi peace is the ticket out of our new quagmire. That sounds like a more constructive idea than nuking Iran, but it’s a fantasy. Can you imagine a room full of Sunni Arab dictators agreeing on turning over Iraq to the Shiites?
No amount of diplomatic pressure or threats by us is going to make any difference. It's too late. Despite Condi Rice and Jack Straw's "surprise visit" to Baghdad last weekend and their effort to put a fire under the squabbling Iraqi politicians to get their act together, the visit may have only made things worse. Kirk Semple in the NYT
reported on Thursday that, "a top adviser to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Wednesday that the visit this week" by Rice and Straw "had backfired." Haider al-Abadi said, "Pressure from outside is not helping to speed up any solution. All it's doing in hardening the position of people who are supporting al-Jaafari."
This view is not unique to the supporters of al-Jafaari. Semple writes that even politicians who oppose al-Jaafari thought the visit was a mistake. Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said, "They complicated the thing, now it’s more difficult to solve. They shouldn't have come, and they shouldn't have interfered." The complaint that the Americans are interfering goes for ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, too, who is quickly wearing out his welcome. His insistence that the Shiites accommodate the Sunnis is grating on Shiites who see their Sunni counterparts as nothing more than the political front of the suicide bombers.
On the 31st of March a senior cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yacoubi, denounced Khalilzad in a sermon and called for him to be replaced. He said the Americans were trying to "change the demography of the Iraqi people and weaken the strongest component in Iraq, represented by the followers of Imam Ali." Khalilzad, he said, was offering "political support" for the "political front of the terrorists."
This is the mess we find ourselves in and it's all of our own making. We can complain that the Iraqis should be listening to us because we've spent so much treasure and blood to free them from Saddam, but then again, they didn't ask us to liberate them and they certainly didn't ask us to occupy their country for so long (Freedom Day celebrations notwithstanding). For us at this late date to be telling the Iraqis to solve their own problems after we wrecked their country and put them in this position is just slightly arrogant. Who are we to be telling them what to do?
I don't know what the answer is, there are no good options. A slightly less awful option is to extricate ourselves from the middle of this centuries old blood feud before we go completely bankrupt and damage our military beyond repair. Though this might lead to Iran increasing its influence in Iraq, they would be unlikely to take over totally. The Iranians are Persians, after all, and the Iraqis are Arabs. And the Iranians won't want to repeat our mistake by getting in over their heads in Iraq, either. One upside to our getting out would be al-Qaeda being weakened. The Iraqis themselves would expel the foreign elements of al-Qaeda that are there now, so there would be no chance of Iraq becoming another Afghanistan under the Taliban. And al-Qaeda would have a hard time recruiting new fighters if the "Great Satan" wasn't there to kick around anymore. Of course, they would all congregate in Afghanistan, but, hey, we'd still be fighting them over there and not on the streets of New York, right?
This is all speculation, of course but I think this is the least terrible option.
Posted by bushmeister0
at 1:48 PM EDT