Sunday, June 15, 2008

The latest problems in Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Update (6/15/08 - 12:51 pm): See WaPo today -- "Powerful Iraqi Cleric Recalibrates Strategy":

The movement of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Saturday that it would not take part in provincial elections this year, one day after it formed a new paramilitary group to fight U.S. troops.

The back-to-back moves suggested that Sadr is trying to bolster his position as the chief opponent of both the American troops in the country and the Iraqi government, following a year in which he ordered his Mahdi Army militia to observe a cease-fire and moved deeper into the political process.

Sadr's aides said he is recalibrating his strategy as the American military drawdown transforms the U.S. role in Iraq.

Yet another massive problem. For more, keep reading...


The Iraq War and Occupation is supposed to be the key issue this election -- or at least one of the key issues -- but we're not really talking about it all that much, are we?

At least not yet.

Perhaps once the campaign begins in earnest, after the conventions, or after Labor Day, when Obama's and McCain's starkly opposing views will be presented to the American electorate for its consideration.

While Obama has been opposed to the war from the beginning and is calling for withdrawal (as soon as possible, but acknowledging the difficulties that will accompany withdrawal), McCain has been, as you all know, one of the war's chief cheerleaders. He has at times been critical of some of the specifics of the handling of the war -- that is, of some elements of the gross mismanagement of the war by Bush and his warmongering underlings -- but he has been wildly enthusastic about the war in general, including the Surge that began early last year. It is not quite clear to me just what victory would mean for McCain, nor just what he considers to be the war's objectives, but, then, the definition of victory and the war's objectives keeps changing for Bush and his underlings, too. In that respect, McCain is just like the man he seeks to replace. (As Slate's Fred Kaplan has pointed out, McCain is much more of a neocon than -- and much worse than -- Bush.)

Suffice it to say that McCain thinks the war is worth continuing even without an end in sight and that the situation in Iraq is improving as a result of the Surge. But is the situation improving? As I have argued before, the Surge is not working, that is, has not met its stated objectives, specifically the stated objective of enabling a political settlement. While it is true that the security situation has improved in some parts of of the country -- more troops, more security, to a point -- it is certainly not true that the situation in Iraq has improved to the point where there is reason to be optimistic, let alone to the point where we could begin to talk about success in any realistic way.

And, today, there is even less reason to be optimistic:

The Bush administration's Iraq policy suffered two major setbacks Friday when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly rejected key U.S. terms for an ongoing military presence and anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a new militia offensive against U.S. forces.

During a visit to Jordan, Maliki said negotiations over initial U.S. proposals for bilateral political and military agreements had "reached a dead end." While he said talks would continue, his comments fueled doubts that the pacts could be reached this year, before the Dec. 31 expiration of a United Nations mandate sanctioning the U.S. role in Iraq.

The moves by two of Iraq's most powerful Shiite leaders underscore how the presence of U.S. troops has become a central issue for Iraqi politicians as they position themselves for provincial elections later this year. Iraqis across the political spectrum have grown intolerant of the U.S. presence, but the dominant Shiite parties -- including Maliki's Dawa party -- are especially fearful of an electoral challenge from new, grass-roots groups.

Of course, the Shiites want the U.S. out because they're the ones in power in Baghdad, while the Sunnis are less eager to see the U.S. leave because some of them have strategically allied themselves with U.S. forces against al Qaeda and because they're in the minority and are not in power in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, there has been nothing in the way of political settlement, no success in building a genuine democracy in Iraq. The war unleashed long-dormant (because long-suppressed) sectarian tensions and, five years later, not much has changed.

Except that the Iraqis are now in agreement with the American people: It is time -- long past time -- for the U.S. to leave.

Which is something McCain, like Bush, just doesn't seem to understand.

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  • somehow i do not think our dear leader will see the final collapse of his iraq vision during his watch...

    By Blogger Distributorcap, at 2:45 PM  

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