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November 04, 2007

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Zathras

It sounds like Maliki is mostly ratifying what the policy of his government has been for some time. That government depends for its support on Shiite factions with fairly strict limits on what they are prepare to consider in terms of outreach to Iraq's Sunni Arabs, and Maliki is making clear he will not challenge those limits. Which, really, we knew already.

Does the American role now reflect strategic drift? That's the way I would describe it, though I doubt Gen. Petraeus would. From the military point of view, the steps being taken to reduce violence are successful if they reduce violence; further justifications, such as the "bottom-up reconciliation" theme, have a certain degree of ex post facto reasoning behind them. I don't know how many American officers really believe in Anbar province as a model for the rest of Iraq. I do think they will attempt some of the things done in Anbar to achieve short-term tactical objectives, among which reducing violence is pretty important. More than this is a lot of ask of military officers trying to cope with the absence of political direction from the civilian government -- not the one in Baghdad, but the one in Washington.

Solomon2

At least everybody now has Maliki to blame. I urged over a month ago that U.S. now has the moral and political leverage to appeal to Iraqis directly, and I think we should start to apply this by suggesting the kind of agenda Iraqis should seek in their parliamentary candidates. Of course, the entire closed party-list system is a great deal of the problem here, and I could wish that that could be revised as well.

Eric Martin

...that U.S. now has the moral and political leverage to appeal to Iraqis directly, I think we should start to apply this by suggesting the kind of agenda Iraqis should seek in their parliamentary candidates

Really? We have the moral leverage? That's just wishful thinking. Close association to the Americans is a charge that politicians have to defend against because of how unpopular the US is.

Direct appeals to Iraqis will likely have at best no effect, but there's a good chance that we could induce a backlash against whatever idea it is that we are promoting.

Closed system or not, more Iraqis will take their electoral cues from Sistani, Sadr and the AMS than from George Bush or Condi Rice.

bb

Back in November last year it was Maliki, in his meeting with Bush (in Annam?), who handed Bush the Baghdad security plan drawn up by the Iraqi army. It was this plan that kicked everything off.

American commentators are so obsessed with the surge and Petraeus they completely overlook the growing strength and performance of the ISF. Without the dramatic improvement in the ISF the surge would have gone nowhere.

So Maliki seems to be reflecting growing confidence in the security situation and is giving a serve to the political opponents who tried to unseat him during this period? He seems to be saying: you have an existing constitution, an existing elected legislature and an existing government and the people who are reconciling at a local level expect you to work within it?

Yohan

Prof Lynch, has there been any reaction to Maliki from Sunnis about this?

bb, you mention "the growing strength and performance of the ISF." I've not heard of this development and am genuinely curious where one can read about this.

bb

Yohan:

News reports on IraqSlogger and Bill Roggio's Long War Journal and regularly googling Baghdad/Diyala news. Links from icasualty.org. Accounts by embedded photojournalists like Michael Yon and Michael J Totten. Plus commonsense: the US does not have enough combat troops to be getting the results they have in southern Baghdad and Diyala unless the Iraqi army was playing a significant role. The sheikhs who were kidnapped last week were rescued within 24 hours by the Iraqi army, not that anyone would know from US reporting!
It's also not surprising - it was always going to take a minimum of 4 years to get an army trained and combat experienced from scratch and the Iraqi army has now been about 4 years in the making.

So am certain Maliki's growing political confidence is coming from the success of his troops, not the US's. We should hope it is, because when the ISF is up to speed the Iraq Govt will start putting the pressure on the US to leave, as it has over Blackwater.

bb

Solomon2:

Well mean't, but direct appeals to the Iraqi people would be regarded as insulting - as was the Bush/Dem Congress's breathtakingly impertinent political benchmarks resolution.

I love US and Americans, but in their myopic Americo-centrism they have absolutely no idea of how offensive are their high minded but coercive pronouncements on how other democratically elected sovereign governments should conduct their affairs. The Turks are currently no less offended. If they tried it on my country Australia, it would be the end of our US alliance overnight.

One hundred cheers for the Iraqi political parties not bowing to directions and deadlines from the US Congress!

Andrew R.

While Maliki may be mocking Washington's fetishization of the Oil Law (RIP), he seems to be making other gestures. The Maliki government seems to be floating a trial balloon for amnesty for insurgents. This is significant because if the Surge has actually managed to break the back of AQI, then this is a gesture to offer the Ba'ath insurgents a way to end the fighting in a more-or-less face-saving manner. There's also a nice, high-profile trial in the works of a fellow who was involved in turning the Health Ministry into an engine of sectarian slaughter.

bb

Another sign of Maliki's growing political self confidence: an announcement reported in Azzaman English today that the Badr militias and the Kurds will be merged into the ISF? Surely this is a preparation for the time when the growing Sunni police and "concerned citizens" will be similarly incorporated under US pressure?

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