Friday, August 24, 2007

Another "intelligence gap."

Just in a nick of time, the "Intelligence Community" has issued another NIE saying things aren't so hot in Iraq but -- then again -- there's been some "measurable but uneven progress" on the security front. [WaPo] Sure there was that multiple attack on the Yazidis that killed maybe 500 people a few weeks ago, but overall the "bottom up" strategy of arming our erstwhile foes is possibly the "best prospect" we have of tamping down the violence.

One teeny, tiny little fly in the ointment is that, as our new Sunni friends expel AQI, they also wind up with control of their localities and it's very unlikely they're going to turn that power over to the Shiite controlled central government once they have it. (Fiddle-dee-dee tomorrow's another day.)

As if there is any central government! "To date," the NIE says, "Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively," and things will probably become "more precarious over the next six to twelve months." But, hasn't al-Maliki and Co. already had enough time? I thought Condi had told Congress in January that al-Maliki was living on "borrowed time." We let him borrow some more? (Did he get one of those sub prime loans?)

According to Senator Craig Thomas, W. gathered a group of wavering Republicans to the White House before the surge began and, Thomas says, W. "indicated he was going to make pretty clear to what he expects from the prime minister." Thomas said Bush added that, "If [Maliki's effort] doesn't work very well there's a good chance people over there will replace him." Yet, just this past Wednesday W. said al-Maliki "is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job. . . and I support him." This coming a day after al-Maliki threatened to find "other friends" if the US yanked their support for him. [I wonder who he could be talking about. His good buddy Ahmadinejad, perhaps?]

It's no secret that al-Maliki is a paranoid freak who only listens to a small group of advisers who are thinking only of saving their own rotten hides. Khalid H. Rasheed, an adviser to Iraqi deputy pm Salam al-Zubiae, a Sunni, says "The root of the problem is related directly to the prime minister himself." Rasheed says "Sectarian-driven advisers" warn al-Maliki that the US plan of getting the Sunni insurgents to fight AQI, "is a plot to topple or overthrow the government." [AP]

Al-Maliki won't change his stripes:

The prospect of al-Maliki suddenly changing course and doing what W. "expects from the prime minister" is a pipe dream. In their brilliant analysis of the situation in Iraq, six very brave soldiers from the 82nd Airborne, pointed out in an op-ed in the NYT this Sunday that the Shiites are determined not to blow their chance of getting control of Iraq, again, like they did in the 1920's when the Ottoman Empire fell after WWI.

They write:

"The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment. [Re: Ali Sistani's rigged elections] Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. . . Political reconciliation in Iraq will . . happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers."

In other words, they're going to solve their problems the zero sum way, the same way they've been solving their problems since, oh about, 3000 BC. As NPR's Jaime Tarrabay pointed out to Terry Gross yesterday on Fresh Air (I'm paraphrasing here) we're stuck in a situation where we're groping around to make sense out of a culture that's the product of thousands of years of layers upon layers of familial, tribal, ethnic and religious traditions that we'll never be able to figure it all out.

The Surge creeps:

The intelligence community's consensus, is that if the Democrats get their way and we start reducing our foot print on the ground and go for a more Baker/Hamiltonian approach, all the "security gains achieved thus far" will be for naught. So let's say the course. Remember what happened in Vietnam!

According to a Newsweek article in the Jan. 29 issue:

"[Lt. General David Petraeus] understands that the main point of the surge is to provide just enough security on the streets of Baghdad. Then, Defense officials speaking anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss Petraeus's thinking, al-Maliki can theoretically convince Sadr to stand down his militia. If that succeeds, then the frightened Sunni population might just be persuaded to part ways with the insurgents."

It looks like we may have had a little mission creep since then. It seems the way things turned out; in order to secure the streets of Baghdad we had to make nice with the insurgents in Anbar, move thousands of troops away from Baghdad to Diyala, and elsewhere, (while the mortars rain down on the Green Zone) to play whack-a-mole with AQI, and all the while al-Sadr has been left to battle it out with Sciri down south for control of the Basra oil fields. And then there's the Kurds up north who want not only Kirkuk but also parts of the "disputed territories," which include parts of Nineveh and the northern bits of Diyala. Won't that be an interesting situation when our new friends the Sunnis turn all those guns we've given them on our old friends the Kurds? Oh, but Iraq is a democracy, don't let those "politicians in Washington" tell the Iraqis what to do.

I think Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had it right along when he told Congress recently that without a political solution, "no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference," in Iraq.

Someone call Frederick Kagan quick, tell him we need Plan A-2!!!


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