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August 05, 2007



Is this a way out for the U.S. administration? The (English) Guardian's Mark Tran and Julian Borger reported last Thursday and Friday that the U.S. and Britain have turned to the Security Council for a resolution expanding the U.N. mandate in Iraq (due to expire August 10) - specifically to deal with reconciliation and all that political stuff. The resolution is expected to pass this week.

As the Guardian notes, it remains to be seen whether the U.N.(unlike the U.S. State Department) can persuade enough of its professional staff once again to risk death or dismemberment in Baghdad.


Lynch could be right about the Crocker and Petraeus reports. The White House has deferred so often and so explicitly to their judgment that it stands to reason they'll have quite a bit of flexibility to say what they think. I have to say I expect more from Crocker than from Petraeus, who is deeply invested in a counterinsurgency campaign that was not only his idea but was undertaken specifically as an improvement on the earlier approaches he had to watch being pursued by his seniors earlier in the Iraq war. It would not surprise me if Petraeus' September report emphasized tactical successes and urged giving the surge more time, while Crocker's dwelt more on the hopeless state of Iraqi national politics. On the other hand, in their place I'd be trying very hard to avoid having two reports each pointing in a different direction, and Petraeus and Crocker are said to get along tolerably well. So we'll see.

As to Lynch's other thoughts here I'd only ask what choice he thinks Maliki has with respect to the Sunni Arab factions. I hold no brief for the man or his supporters, but have observed that a number of commentators in the United States seem to expect an awful lot of the burden of Iraqi "national reconciliation" to fall on the shoulders of the majority Shiites persecuted by the former government and targeted for over four years now by the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency. Why this expectation is thought realistic I have never understood. Perhaps our host can enlighten me.


Zathras - the burden is on the Shia because they control the government, and no government can hope to deliver stability without finding a minimally acceptable compromise between the three major communal blocs. Maliki hasn't just failed to please Sunnis, he has overseen an actively sectarian government and facilitated the Shi'aization of the state apparatus. That goes against American interests and demands too, for what that's worth. Whether there have been any Sunni politicians with whom a less sectarian-minded Prime Minister could have worked is an unanswerable question at this point.


Well, I understand that message, and I don't doubt that its frequent repetition by Gen. Petraeus is behind some of the tension reported between Maliki and the American commander.

I can't help thinking, though, that Nelson Mandela wouldn't likely be thought a great peacemaker today if the apartheid government's army had gone underground in 1990 and started blowing up Xhosa villages and public markets. It seems to me that Iraq's Sunni Arabs had for some time an opportunity to acknowledge Shiite grievances, with the major clerics in Najaf prepared at least to urge restraint; instead, the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency added to those grievances while the politicians now complaining about Shiite sectarianism looked on.

Of course the Sunni Arabs are now claiming victim status, and what a big surprise that is. But is the question Lynch refers to here really unanswerable, after decades of Saddam's rule and four years of the insurgency? In Petraeus' place I imagine I'd be pressing on Maliki's government the case for conciliating Sunni Arab political factions and accepting their assurances of opposition to insurgent groups. But in Maliki's place I wouldn't believe gestures of reconciliation would be reciprocated, and would assume the assurances were lies as a matter of course.

I'm not sure I see where the political support for a less sectarian Shiite leader taking a different course would come from. As to questions of historic rights and wrongs in Iraq I'm pretty much agnostic; the thing I care about is liquidating a costly American commitment in a country peripheral to our vital interests in the world. And I well believe that many of Maliki's associates are pretty odious even by Arab standards. It just seems clear that Shiites in Iraq believe deeply and with considerable justice that they have been much more sinned against than sinning for a very long time. We've been trying to promote a reconciliation that glosses over this, and Shiite factional leaders aren't buying it. This is inconvenient for us, but it's political reality there and we just have to accomodate it as best we can.


Nice sourcing abu khinzeer!
First, azzaman, owned by Uday's pimp, Saad al-Bazzaz, then al-Saud's owned al-Hayat, and as if that's not enough credibility, you have Haqq which is an al-Qaida outlet!

Nur al-Cubicle

That leaves Maliki with a purely sectarian government, with sectarian-minded Shia allied with the Kurds.

But that's what the "government" started with back when Allawi was given the boot after the purple thumb manifestation of popular will. Indeed the Constitution is "sectarian-minded Shia [alliance] allied with the Kurds".

The Surge was about the Sunni Restoration...and it failed.

nur al-cubicle

Should we be concerned by the puppet? Moreover, Jafaa'ri should have been PM, not Maliki, a last ditch compromise to satisfy the Americans. I was just thinking of the hundreds of mullahs, imams, sheiks, politicans and militants who are dead or in prison as a result of thes occupation and the 3 million refugees. There is no reason why institutions should exist at all right now. There is just the presidio verde, the redoubt of the occupiers.

And why does Allawi have any importance at all? He and his allies got something like 4% of the vote. I have no idea why he even has a seat in Parliament.

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