Sunday, November 26, 2006

The end of the Iraqi government?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From The Mercury News:

Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms...

With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines, brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew over Baghdad. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority -- or the will -- to stop the cycle of bloodshed.

This may well be the beginning of the end for the Iraqi government as we know it. And it may well mean an escalation in sectarian violence beyond even what we have seen in recent days. Governments that lose the airwaves cannot govern, and, as DHinMI notes at Daily Kos, historical precedence is bleak: "Many will recall that the Rwandan genocide began when Hutu radicals used state radio to call for the massacre of Tutsi and any Hutu who didn't support the massacre of the Tutsi."

As Senator Chuck Hagel puts it in the Post today, "[t]here will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq". Indeed, "[t]he time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed". Arguing that "[w]e have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam," Hagel calls for "a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq".

Hagel's piece has prompted a good deal of discussion and debate, and will no doubt continue to do so, but one thing now seems to be clear: Iraq will continue to spiral out of control with or without the U.S. on the ground. The details of phased withdrawal, as well as of what role and presence the U.S. would have post-withdrawal, still need to be hammered out, and there will be disagreement with respect to those details, and ultimately Bush will choose his own preferred course that may or may not involve phased withdrawal in the near-term. But it doesn't really matter anymore. The Iraqis are determining their own future, in Hagel's words. And they're doing it with blood.

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  • Is it possible that the companies getting rich off the chaos are helping to incite a civil war?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:57 AM  

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