Saturday, December 02, 2006

A new way forward?

I think the only person more deluded than W. about the hopeless situation in Iraq is Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. After meeting W. on Thursday, Al-Maliki told ABC News that Iraqis forces would be ready to take over the fight in seven months. "I can say that Iraqi forces will be ready, fully ready to receive this command and to command its own forces, and I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready." Ready for what? To take on Moqtada al-Sadr's Madhi army? Ready to fight the Sunnis in Anbar province? Ready to take on the Badr brigade in Basra? In which alternate universe does al-Maliki see Iraqi's ragtag army of deserters and Ali Babas taking full control of the security situation by next June? He'll be lucky if he's still the PM by June, never mind being able to extend the writ of the Iraqi government beyond the blast walls of the Green Zone. Doesn't he realize his government exists on paper only?

To paraphrase National Security Adviser Steven Hadley: does this guy really know what's going on, is he lying, or is it that he really believes what he's saying but just doesn't have the power to do anything about it. I think the most likely explanation is that he's woefully misinformed. In another less quoted portion of his now infamous leaked memo Steven Hadley writes, "The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality." If anyone would know about a leader's interpretation of reality being skewed by a small circle of advisers it would be Hadley. He sees it first hand every day at the president's National Security briefing. He could just as easily be talking about W. in this memo.

This president is not only unwilling, but is also unable to make any rational decisions about Iraq policy. The question is can we afford two more years of this? The situation in Iraq goes from bad to horrific and every time you think it couldn't get any worse, it does. Just imagine where we'll be by the time W. is on his way back to the ranch in 2008. Even before the terrible bombing in Sadr City last week, which killed over 200 Iraqis in one day, the death toll for the previous two weeks was over 800. On November 20 AP reported:

"The numbers are staggering: In the last eight days, 715 Iraqis have fallen victim to the country's sectarian bloodbath. They have been beheaded, tortured and blown up while looking for work. They have been shot, kidnapped and felled by mortars. The number of killings in the last eight days is more than all but a few U.S. states see in a year. Iraq's death toll has reached at least 1,320 in November - well above the 1,216 who died in all of October, which was the deadliest month in the country since the Associated Press began tracking the figure in April 2005."

The killing might not be always as spectacular as the bombings in Sadr City, but they are constant and increasing expodentially every day, every week, every month. How long can this go on? And as the Pentagon begins pumping more troops -- sorry, "advisers" -- into Iraq to "train" Iraqi forces the insurgents are, as usual, one step ahead.

Ed Wong in the NYT reports:

"Sunni Arab militant groups suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia have established training camps east of Baghdad that are turning out well-disciplined units willing to fight American forces in set-piece battles, American military commanders said Thursday.

American soldiers fought such units in a pitched battle last week in Turki, a village 25 miles south of this Iraqi Army base in volatile Diyala Province, bordering Iran. At least 72 insurgents and two American officers were killed in more than 40 hours of fighting. American commanders said they called in 12 hours of airstrikes while soldiers shot their way through a reed-strewn network of canals in extremely close combat.

Officers said that in that battle, unlike the vast majority of engagements in Diyala, insurgents stood and fought, even deploying a platoon-size unit that showed remarkable discipline. One captain said the unit was in 'perfect military formation.'"

So, just as we're starting to get our act together on fighting an insurgency, some insurgent groups now apparently able to build bases and actually train troops in traditional military techniques!

But, not to worry, Steven Hadley says the president has now realized that "things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough in Iraq." So he's begun trying to find a "new way forward." That's great, but do we really believe it, and if it is true W. is going to turn a new leaf on Iraq, then why has it taken almost four years and the deaths of 2,901 US deaths to get him to this point?


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