Big talk, little action
Dickey: Baker's Iraq Plan Not So Grand
U.S troops just don't have the means to stop Iraq's death squads. Why the Baker proposals could turn into a nightmare.
By Christopher Dickey
Updated: 10:42 a.m. ET Dec 6, 2006
Every day we move closer to the edge of a humanitarian abyss. Think the Balkans, Rwanda or Darfur, but with this grim difference: the United States won’t be able to stand back from the slaughter and wring its hands in Iraq. It is implicated up to its elbows already, and there’s more to come. Attempts to hold Iraq together by political compromise have failed. If the Americans stay there in any way, shape or form, they’re going to have to choose sides, backing Iraqi “friends” who will do whatever they think is necessary to impose order.
That was the not-so-coded message from the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, shortly after he met with President Bush in the White House on Monday. (Yes, you read the name of his organization right. Hakim’s goal is quite explicitly “the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,” but, hey, America finds its friends where it can in Baghdad these days.)
Addressing the United States Institute of Peace during his Washington visit, Hakim said the United States was soft on the armed opposition he wants to exterminate. “This fight they are getting from the multinational forces [is] not hard enough to put an end to their acts but leaves them [to] stand up again to resume their criminal acts,” Hakim said through an interpreter. “This means that there is something wrong in the policies taken to deal with that danger threatening the lives of the Iraqis.”
It’s obvious to Hakim that to prevent a civil war, you wipe out the present and potential combatants on the other side. He labels those as Al Qaeda (a small group, despite its penchant for spectacular terror), Takfiris and Baathists, which could mean a very wide range of Sunnis. “Otherwise, we'll continue to witness massacres being committed every now and then against the innocent Iraqis,” said Hakim, presumably meaning Shiites. And if the United States won’t do the job, well, then somebody has to. “Patience has its limits,” said Hakim. “I am afraid that someday the Shiite religious authorities might lose their ability to calm down the reaction to the continuous sectarian cleansing attack.”
Of course Hakim slipped by the question of the many Shiite death squads that already have made slaughtering Sunnis a major industry. Many are believed to be from his own organization, operating as part of the existing Iraqi government forces. “Such things that have been mentioned against us are just allegations and false accusations,” said Hakim.
That would include especially those of Hakim’s rival warlord, Moqtada al-Sadr. As a Hakim supporter in the government told me privately the other day, "Moqtada should be behind bars, underground or across the border—those are the three options he has—and a fourth one is for him to behave. The U.S. doesn't need to tackle him. They don't need to do the dirty work. We will do the dirty work. They should stay over the horizon."
But there’s a particular irony in Iraq. As respected Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld pointed out when I called him at Hebrew University in Jerusalem the other day, the notion that Americans can teach Iraqis the brutal arts of counterinsurgency is at best improbable. “I think that this whole idea of Americans training Arabs is so silly I cannot take it seriously,” said Van Creveld, whose new book, “The Changing Face of War” (Presidio), will be out early next year.
If winning hearts and minds is supposed to be part of the plan, then the U.S. troops just don’t have the means. They don’t speak Arabic, they don’t understand the culture, they don’t share the faith, they don’t know the history. Van Creveld doesn’t mince his words: “The American military have proved totally incompetent.”
The Hakim people are full of shit. I know desperate people in Washington want to hear them, but they are completely and utterly full of shit.
If they could have brought Sadr to heel in the last three years, they would have, since they had Sistani's blessing. But they can't. They never could.
Because if they could, why would they be in Washington? Why would they need US help? If they had the power they claim, Sadr would not own Baghdad's streets. They wouldn't have to whisper to Americans that they could perform ledergemain. They would do it.
Anyone remember Sadr saying he was taking over Basra from the Hakims? Or the provinces from the British? No? Because it just fucking happened. Sadr doesn't need American help to obtain his goals. When he humiliated Maliki-Kerensky, he humiliated him and made him cancel a meeting with Bush. He didn't have tea with George Bush.
Hakim has used the Army as a roving death squad for at least two years. The Wolf Brigade comes to mind. And now he needs permission for a pogrom?
If he can take Sadr, he might want to, because he isn't getting weaker by the day. It wasn't the Badr's who took over Iraqi TV for two hours. So if Hakim wants to make an ultimatum, what is he waiting for?
He's making the same mistake Sistani did. Blowing him off, writing him off as nuts. And that is dangerous. The only thing more dangerous would be to make him a martyr. As they lose ground, they think they can roll up to Sadr, tell him to leave and then start running things. Or blow him away.
Someone asked "are the Shia going to give up their jobs to die for Sadr?"
If he asks, yes. And here's why. The Shia have gotten the shit end for centuries, they have survived a noxious apartheid which made them second class citizens in their own land. This is their main chance. They make their move, Iraq is a Shia country. No more Sunnis lording it over them, controlling their resources. The Sunnis would have to listen to them.
Which is why all comparisons to Dayton are insane. The Shia are the clear majority. They have every right to dominate the government. They gain nothing from a power sharing deal.
Sadr says that they have a right to run Iraq. Not part of Iraq. Iraq. The Hakims tried to push for a Shia state in the South, and the Sadrists killed that idea.
The Sadrists have three advantages: one, they represent the majority of Iraqis. Not just of Shia, but of all Iraqis, 60 percent of whom are Shia. Two, they are nationalists. They have been consistent in opposing the US. Three, they represent the survivors of Saddam. Crazy or not, Sadr suffered with them and stood up to Saddam at the risk of his life.
That is a powerful combination which will survive an untimely death. Sadr, despite his flaws, is a heroic figure. Even people who don't want to listen to his commands fight under his name. What people, especially in DC and the Green Zone miss, is that people want to side with heroes, they want to march in a heroic cause. For the Sunnis, it's opposition to the US. But for the Shia, it is claiming their long denied birthright to run Iraq.
And that's why a triangulator like Hakim is hanging on by his teeth. Without the Army, he'd be back in Tehran. Money or not. He's now begging Bush for a free hand to kill his enemies? Why? If he has the power he says he does, why not get on with it?
posted by Steve @ 1:26:00 AM