Sunday, April 29, 2007
i want it all:
Condoleezza Rice says there must be no timeline for withdrawal. Why?
The Iraqis, many of whom are paying great sacrifice to try to make this national unity government work, want to be able to move forward on the reconciliation.
... and an announced withdrawal will hinder reconciliation, which is the underlying political goal of the surge; if not the entire war at this point. Leave aside for a moment that General Petraeus recognizes Nouri al-Maliki's government is "not a government of national unity." Maliki has demonstrated repeatedly that there's only so far he'll bend in the direction of concessions to the Sunnis, no matter how hard the U.S. pushes, which makes sense in the context of consolidating Shiite gains. If more evidence is necessary that that's where Maliki's interests lie, consider that his proxies have been purging the Army and National Police of commanders who take too aggressive a line against Shiite militias:

At the national level, some U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about the Office of the Commander in Chief, a behind-the-scenes department that works on military issues for the prime minister.

One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has "stifled" many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence.

"Her office harasses [Iraqi commanders] if they are nationalistic and fair," said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern over publicly criticizing the Iraqi government. "They need to get rid of her and her little group."

And it's safe to consider the appearance of this piece a nudge in that direction. Yet the basic problem with Maliki remains: owing his political life to more-radical and more-sectarian elements in Shiite politics, he'll either break with them and marginalize himself or muddle through by conceding only so much to the U.S. and his sectarian competition. It's no wonder that Iyad Allawi is renewing his push to replace Maliki, resubmitting his resume to the U.S. that there's a less-sectarian quasi-strongman option still on the table, regardless of how that all turned out the first time around. Rice, for one, might not think it such a bad idea at this point, hard as it is to imagine the return of Allawi. All this is to say that reconciliation -- and who knows what reconciliation even means anymore, really -- is more of a necessity for her than for Maliki.

Finally, some wild speculation: the Post story on Maliki's security purges is comes on the heels of this week's big Iraq conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. The regional players, save Iran, are going to demand Maliki restrain Shiite power -- let's not be euphemistic here -- and he's going to insist on their less-than-qualified support for his government. (Already Saudi King Abdullah is rumored to be snubbing Maliki at the conference.) As much as the U.S. wants Maliki to come home with some secured promises for support from his neighbors, it also wants Maliki to flex against the Shiite Crescent. Confirming some stuff that damages the Iraqi PM in the eyes of the Sunni powers ahead of the conference might not be as perverse for the administration as it seems on first blush.
--Spencer Ackerman
So you are saying the surge is working, right?

But seriously, when are you going to be linking to your Iraq pieces in The Nation and The Prospect?
Blogger Eric the Political Hack | 1:30 PM

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