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August 25, 2008



It has always seemed to me that multiple deals between the American military and local Awakenings not working with one another rather increased the relative power of the central government. The alternative posed by some observers, of the central Shiite-dominated government letting bygones be bygones and letting Sunni Arab insurgents who had fought the government through mass-casualty attacks on Shiites take over effective control of large areas of Iraq, just never seemed very realistic to me -- not because it wasn't a fine idea in the abstract, but rather because it assumed Shiite opinion with respect to former insurgents is more flexible than is probably the case.

Now, I'll admit Maliki is no George Washington. He doesn't seem to me to have advanced very far beyond the views of his major constituency. But I'm not persuaded of the apparent view held by some observers, that he is hostile to integrating the Awakenings primarily because he -- individually, or in common with his close associates -- is just being sectarian and unreasonable. I don't think that's a realistic way to approach Iraqi politics right now.

This is our problem because our army is there and for no other reason. Without the American army in the middle, Maliki probably proceeds with his test of strength against Sunni Arab militias unwilling to submit to his government's authority, and what happens happens. It would be better for Iraq if this did not happen, but the United States can't afford to keep the lid on this kettle forever. I fear we're just kidding ourselves that efforts to mediate between a majority deeply motivated by past grievances and a formerly dominant minority that does not even acknowledge them is a road that leads anywhere.


Which side does the U.S. support? The Awakenings movement which it has built and cultivated, or the Iraqi government which it has built and cultivated?

Oh come on. What has the US been doing recently, apart from assisting the Iraqi government in dismantling the Sadrist-dominated local councils and inserting its own people? The US is behind the government, with open or closed eyes. That is: imperialists or tools of an autocracy. And the US will be over the horizon for a while still, lending air support to the heroic attempts of the PTBs to consolidate their control of the political process. Provided they can keep the peace among themselves, of course, witness Diyala.


What if that battle is joined, but the "former Awakenings" ("the once and future insurgency?") choose not to turn those guns against their American "friends" but concentrate exclusively on the Iraqi government.

Precisely what the US wants. Good to see you like to repeat US embassy propaganda.


Alex -

I'm really confused - you think that the U.S. really wants the Awakenings to go to battle with the Iraqi government? Why? Don't quite get it, but curious what you have in mind.


Well, I think the US wants to create a wider split between the Sunnis and the Shi'a, not necessarily to go to war, but for the Sunnis to be angry with Maliki. The reason is obvious. The issue of the SOFA has been absolutely central in US thinking, for good reason (though its importance has been concealed). Any split that can be created which might force Maliki to sign on conditions more favourable to the US is bound to be pursued. In fact, as we now know, Maliki was not playing chicken, as your US diplomat friend thought, but wouldn't have signed on anything less than something like the 2011 final date now proposed (if indeed he is ready to sign on even that). So, in fact such a US manoeuvre wouldn't have worked, but given the mentality of US officials thinking that really Maliki was playing chicken, creating a Sunni-Shia split is a move in the game.

There was also the secondary issue of making the Iraqis look still stupid, divided and fractious, in case anything unpleasant had to be done in order to resolve the problem of the SOFA.


I am more of the persuasion that the US leadership was and is acting incredibly shortsighted, without any clue as to where this thing is going - much like they went in. So naturally they have put the crushing weight of the US Army behind the factions more amenable to a US presence - they couldn't just leave, that would be admitting defeat - and because the short-term concern was getting shot at, and the detrimental effect on the US Army and the Bush administration's popularity back home this had. I don't think Iraq in any way will play out to the advantage of any American long-term, save producers of military hardware. Not even oil producers.

So they will back the IA against the Awakenings, if only to save face for the Iraqi gov - just like in Basra and Sadr City. The US Army is dedicated to upholding the Potemkin village of Iraqi peace and sovereignty, and they can't have the IA failing.

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