"U.S. officials have called the meeting a make-or-break moment for the government, which was formed in 2006 to reduce violence by including all groups but has been paralysed by boycotts and infighting on ethnic and sectarian lines.
The worst split occurred this month when the main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, withdrew its six members.
"The Sunni Arabs, who along with Shi’ites and Kurds are one of the three parts of Iraqi society, will not be excluded from the government," Maliki said.
He said he hoped the front would return. But if not, he could replace them with others — possibly tribal sheikhs who have emerged in the past year at the helm of the first Sunni Arab armed groups loyal to the government and its U.S. allies.
The sheikhs have seized control of areas from insurgents in the western desert province of Anbar, and are believed to have national political ambitions. Asked if he had agreed to give the sheikhs seats vacated by the Front, Maliki said: "There are people who have come forward and offered to be an alternative."" Reuter
This makes Maliki seem a bit like Custer at the Little Big Horn or Chelmsford at Isandhlwana.
So, he is going to replace the Sunni politicians with tribal sheikhs and village mukhtars? Great idea. The whole thing may hold together long enough, just long enough.
Realistically, the most likely outcome of his coming failure to make political peace among ethnic enemies will be his replacement. Then we will go through this drill with the next man.
Well, let’s get on with it! Eventually we will decide that we have to make enough deals with enough players to enable us to leave. pl
That’s a pretty tough graphic the Colonel has put by the title, “Maliki’s Last Chance (almost)”.
But it certainly is realistic.
The cited Reuters article says that “U.S. officials have called the meeting a make-or-break moment for the government”.
Oh, really? Let us remember the fanfare when the U.S. turned sovereignty “back” to Iraq. We’ll ignore the little problem of whether a country loses sovereignty upon invasion and occupation under so-called international law, and just say Iraq (supposedly) got its sovereignty back.
Now, sovereignty means that no outsider dictates anything to the sovereign country. Thus, from the date of the invasion in March 2003 through today, Iraq has not been and is not sovereign.
Keeping this in mind, we go back to the Reuters story, which also says:
“U.S. officials have expressed growing frustration with the stalled political process in Baghdad as Maliki’s government has failed to agree on laws aimed at reconciliation.”
This lets me segue to one of my favorite subjects, the Republic of Iraq (laughter) Draft Iraq Oil and Gas Law, also known as Grand Theft Oil.
I have previously stated some of the juicy provisions of that proposed “law”, and won’t repeat them here. Needless to say, Iraqi Arabs who have managed to mount the insurgency they have to date know a scam when they see one, and the oil and gas law has not been approved.
Some numbers have been thrown around about how much oil is in Iraq; figures like 115 billion barrels of proven reserves and maybe another 215 billion barrels possible.
For you arithmetic buffs, let’s do some, using “Arabic Numerals”. One hundred fifteen billion barrels of oil times $70 per barrel (as of two days ago) equals $8.05 trillion dollars. That’s “trillion” with a “t”, and is real booty, as the pirates used to say.
Why we always hear oil spoken of in terms of one price per barrel for the whole world is an intriguing question. I don’t know if it is permissible to mention a book on this weblog, but a man named Stephen Pelletiere, who may know Col. Lang, wrote a book called “Iraq and the International Oil System”, which I first bought when it was in hardback and expensive. A paperback version is out, and I have given it as gifts.
This fascinating book will not be discussed on television or on the radio. Its ISBN number is 0944-624-456, if you want to order it. Mr. Pelletiere is a serious person, and you will so discover.
If Mr. Maliki will not be the requisite puppet for the U.S., Britain, and Israel, those three countries will seek to replace him with someone who is. Until then, we’re not leaving Iraq, unless a person of moral integrity is elected president of the United States in 2008.
I realize the the Iraqui constitution ‘is a work in progress’. Since the people being replaced were in fact elected Or does he and we just ignore the whole political process and proceed on?
Send Cheney to replace Maliki. As a wise man once said, “their gain would be our gain.”
I would say rather like “Chinese” Gordon at Khartoum, watching the certain fall of the Nile while hoping for a last minute deus ex machina. As Governor General of the Sudan Gordon too gave the British government whose agent he was hissy fits because they just wanted to quit the Sudan with a modicum of honor–and wound up with a blood debt which bound them inextricably to the place instead. The Music Hall performers understood the public sentiment long before the government did:
Too late to save him;
In vain they tried.
Was England’s glory;
Was England’s pride.
thank you for the posting, at this point, if the US wants to end the war properly, will we have to go to both the tribal elders and the Mullahs like Sadr, and the Sunni equivalents? I can’t see how Maliki can accomplish anything unless he does go to the Mullahs and then the elders.
We sure won’t accomplish much with continued shooting up of the joint.
I don’t think we can do anything more in Iraq. We stay there on the personal initiative of Comrade Bush….oh forgive me I confused him with Stalin and the “Cult of Personality”, my bad.
Given the depth of perception in the Cheney/Bush cabal, I foresee…a third act for Ahmed Chalabi!
William Lind would agree with getting on with it, to get out — except he would go so far as to “allow” Muqtada al-Sadr or someone like him, to assume the role of a new state. Because nobody gets out alive until Iraq climbs out of failed state status. And Iran becomes an ally as opposed to foe. Reasonable to a fault.
If/when Maliki falls, my bet is the Bush admin will get behind Iyad Allawi.
If they go with Jabouri (again) he’ll be the “new” Maliki. Deja vu all over again.
The United States is never going to leave Iraq. It’s my contention the reason troops are in Iraq is to provide a pipeline that delivers oil to the United States because its economy is driven by black gold.
The more violent the Middle East gets, the more justification there is for the forces to retain a presence. If Iraq were ever to become peaceful, a new confrontation would have to break out. Iran could be in the sights.
Someone emailed this to me, thought you’d be interested:
The Iraq War As We See It
Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the
political debate in Washington is surreal.
Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents
and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To
believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago
outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local
population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched.
As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd
Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent
press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and
feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest
we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should
not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in
Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered
framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are
offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space”
remains the same, with changes only at the margins.
It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni
extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and
armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable
loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army,
which have been trained and armed at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.
A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American
soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-
piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and
a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American
investigators that Iraqi police and army officers escorted the
triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted
their own predicament: Had they informed the Americans of the bomb
before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite
militia would have killed their families.
As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports
that a majority of Iraqi army commanders are now reliable partners
can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that
battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no
influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an
incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their
Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi
armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with
our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may
have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is
to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight
against Al Qaeda.
However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a
counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the
center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed
become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their
loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself
working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is
justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies
and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the
ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this
article, this fact became all too clear: One of us, Staff Sergeant
Murphy, a U.S. Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot
in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on
August 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military
hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the
resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung
because realities on the ground require measures we will always
refuse – namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an
American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American
observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns
is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the
experience of the local citizenry and the future of our
counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast
majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an
occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years
and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each
Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet
political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass
in the government has fueled confusion while providing no semblance
of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a
lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a
lasting political solution will not be possible while the military
situation remains in flux.
The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the
Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority
members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to
make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920:
rebelling against the British and losing what they believed was their
inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. 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.
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. Washington’s insistence that the
Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made – de-
Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of
a loose federalist system of government – places us at cross purposes
with the government we have committed to support.
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our
insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It 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. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will
take. Trying to please every party – as we do now – will only ensure
we are hated by all in the long run.
The most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic
social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed
most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering
countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now
fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone
services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in communities
barricaded with concrete walls that provide them with a sense of
communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would
consider normal. In an environment where men with guns rule the
streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise,
while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of
Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary
preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be
killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an
Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need
security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released
Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of
their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to
regain dignity is to call us what we are – an army of occupation –
and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let
Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced
policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve
their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be
defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible
policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see
this mission through.
Buddhika Jayamaha is a U.S. Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a
sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant.
Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant.
Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.