Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Will This Man Rule Iraq?
In an interview with MSNBC yesterday, Washington Post Pentagon reporter, Thomas Ricks, said the Pentagon is seriously weighing dropping its support for the existing, multi-ethnic Iraqi government in favour of Shia strongman rule under Muqtada alSadr.
Ricks said the Pentagon has concluded that alSadr's star is rising in Iraq. It is believed that, if an election was held today, he would win almost all seats in the Shia region, including Baghdad. The inability of the Maliki government to control terrorism and lawlessness in Iraq has led the Pentagon to now favour Shia rule under alSadr even to the exclusion of Sunni Iraqis.
There have been rumours for months that Washington was rethinking its commitment to democracy for Iraq and mulling over the benefits of a return to strongman rule.
Meanwhile, ignoring their own responsibility for the violence that besets Iraq today, all manner of Americans are freely laying the blame on the Iraqis themselves which many believe marks the prelude to withdrawal of US troops.
"Thomas Donnelly, a hawkish defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he considers blame a legitimate issue. 'Ultimately, just like success rests with the Iraqis, so does failure,' he said. 'We've made a lot of mistakes, but we've paid a huge price to give the Iraqis a chance at a decent future.'
"The blame game has also been playing out somewhat divisively within the secretive Iraq Study Group. The bipartisan commission, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), is deliberating policy recommendations to put forward next month.
"'I'm tired of nit-picking over how we should bully the Iraqis into becoming better citizens of their own country,' former CIA Middle East expert Ray Close wrote in an e-mail to the other advisers to the study group.
"Several other experts of various political stripes said this tendency to dump on Baghdad feels like a preamble to withdrawal.
"'It's their fault, and by implication not ours, is clearly a theme that's in the air,' said retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and longtime skeptic of the war in Iraq. It reminds him, he said, of the sour last days of the Vietnam War, when 'there was a tendency to blame everything on the 'gooks' -- meaning our South Vietnamese allies who had disappointed us.'"
The days of the Maliki government may be numbered in months, perhaps weeks. alSadr has already begun his moves by withdrawing from the Baghdad government. At the end of the day, Washington may have no choice but to annoint him strongman ruler of Iraq.