OPINION: The next war in Iraq

The next war in Iraq
By Joe Klein, Time, August 23, 2007

Prime Minister Maliki greeted by President AhmadinejadIt has been clear for months that Nouri al-Maliki’s National Unity government is, as a senior U.S. official said, “none of the above.” Senator Carl Levin called for it to be replaced after his and Senator John Warner’s mid-August Iraq jaunt. And Ambassador Ryan Crocker told me, “The fall of the Maliki government, when it happens, might be a good thing.” But replace it with what? The consensus in the U.S. intelligence community is that there’s going to be lots of bloodshed, including fighting among the Shi’ites, before a credible Iraqi government emerges. It also seems that the U.S. attempt to build an Iraqi army and police force has been a failure. Some units are pretty good, but most are unreliable, laced with members of various Shi’ite militias. This was clear from my conversations with U.S. combat officers on the ground in Baqubah, Baghdad and Yusufia. It became clearer when seven enlisted men serving in Baghdad wrote a very courageous Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on Aug. 19 in which they said, “Reports that a majority of Iraqi army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric.” [complete article]

See also, Iraqi premier rebuts Senators Clinton and Levin (AP) and Iraqi prime minister’s isolation growing (McClatchy).

Editor’s Comment — As the anti-Maliki chorus grows, it’s worth remembering what happened just a year ago when a foreign official — Mark Malloch Brown, then U.N. deputy secretary general — had the audacity to make a few remarks critical of the U.S. government.

John Bolton — then U.S. ambassador to the U.N. — called the matter “very, very grave” and sternly told Kofi Annan that “this is the worst mistake by a senior UN official that I have seen” since 1989.

But I guess when the boot’s on the other foot and American officials are bashing in the head of the leader of another government, it’s different. After all, if an Iraqi prime minister can only enter office once he’s been duly stamped, “U.S. approved,” it’s only fitting that he can later get stamped, “U.S. disapproved.” Which is to say, this must all look perfectly in accordance with the natural order of the world if you happen to be a senior U.S. official or one of their media mouthpieces.

One such mouthpiece — David Ignatius — is less than enthusiastic about Maliki’s presumptive replacement, Ayad Allawi. “Allawi has bundles of money to help buy political support, but it comes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, rather than the United States.” No good getting a new prime minister if he’s not in your debt and you can’t tell him what to do. How frustrating it is trying to rig a democracy in the middle of a civil war!

But there is one particularly interesting glimpse that Ignatius provides inside the convoluted process of administration thinking (keeping in mind that this is an administration afflicted with multiple personality disorder). It is that the “contain Iran” faction (read, Rice et al), now anticipates the possibility that U.S. policy towards Iraq will also become one of containment.

Containment? Haven’t we been there before?

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