Wednesday, May 23, 2007
you got to move:
Anbar Salvation Council plus Sadr plus... Petraeus? The Post's big story on the U.S.'s evolving political strategy in Baghdad suggests that the U.S. would be amenable to such a partnership:

Finally, the campaign plan aims to purge Iraq's leadership of a small but influential number of officials and commanders whose sectarian and criminal agendas are thwarting U.S. efforts. It recognizes that the Iraqi government is deeply infiltrated by militia and corrupt officials who are "part of the problem" and are maneuvering to kill off opponents, install sectarian allies and otherwise solidify their power for when U.S. troops withdraw, said one person familiar with the plan. ...

Also part of the plan is reaching out to grass-roots groups such as tribes, religious leaders and provincial administrators that are moving forward on reconciliation efforts, said Kilcullen, noting a tribal agreement in Babil province last week to end violence and a tribal movement in Anbar to oppose al-Qaeda. "We should not restrict our view of what a 'political' settlement is, solely to the Iraqi government -- civil society also has a really key role to play."

Efforts at negotiated settlements brokered by U.S. and Iraqi officials will extend to a broad spectrum of Iraqi groups, including some that have killed U.S. troops -- a source of consternation for some U.S. officers. But they will exclude groups such as al-Qaeda that are considered "irreconcilable," officials said.

The Sadrists have played a major part in transforming Iraqi ministries into outposts of sectarian advantage. But if their efforts to align with Sunni organizations like the ASC are trustworthy -- something the Sunnis will have to decide, not the U.S. -- then perhaps reconciliation should trump prior bad behavior. Maybe this treats the Sadrists with undue credulity, but brokering some kind of durable framework against prolonged sectarian warfare means recognizing that the Sadrists have a ton of influence among Shiites.

Then there's the Maliki issue. The Post, like the Los Angeles Times a few days ago, reports that no one in the Bush administration, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or in Petraeus's brain trust has much faith in Maliki -- despite what Bush says publicly -- but there's even less of an appetite for engineering his downfall. Both Iyad Allawi and SIIC -- in the form of Adel Abdul Mehdi, who's said to be a favorite of ex-NSC Iraq hand Meghan O'Sullivan -- are angling for Maliki's job. But neither they nor Maliki have the combination of proven constituency and pan-sectarian potential that a Sadr-ASC-led coalition would possess. That coalition would inevitably be destabilizing to the Maliki government -- but the U.S. might see that as an opportunity for to get on the right side of Iraqi political development, rather than an Iraqi move toward the extremes.

Would it happen? Braintruster David Kilcullen gives the Post this explanation, which could break either way:

"Our notion of 'reconciliation' . . . is not necessarily where Iraqis are at right now," said Kilcullen, explaining that the word has no equivalent in Arabic. "The tribal and community leaders I talk to are more pragmatic and are looking for a compact or a settlement that brings an end to the violence. Restoring relationships is separate."

It could be that Kilcullen means acquiescing to whatever minimal or fig-leaf reconciliation measures Maliki puts forward. Alternatively, he could mean embracing new cross-sectarian coalitions that emerge from below, even if they weaken Maliki. If I were Maliki, though I'd be hoping that Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi doesn't go to Najaf to woo the Sadrists.
--Spencer Ackerman
I think if you want to understand more about Sadrists and Sunnis getting together you need to read Raed Jarrar's posts on Alternet.com.
Blogger markg8 | 9:36 AM

Psst.
Blogger David Weman | 5:38 PM

OT, try looking at the blog in IE. Its title appears to be "Hot for TNR." Which is just wrong on so many levels.
Blogger Anderson | 7:11 AM