From Bad To Worse
This is where Iraq spins completely out of control:
BAGHDAD - Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish leaders decided Friday to send an amended constitution to parliament this weekend, even though Sunni Arab negotiators said they rejected the latest document. Bypassing the Sunnis would be a blow to U.S. efforts to lure Sunnis away from the insurgency.
Unless reversed, the decision, announced by several Shiite officials after daylong negotiations, would set the stage for a bitter fight across the country. Shiites and Kurds will encourage their people to vote for the charter in the Oct. 15 referendum with Sunnis lobbying just as strongly against it.
In Washington, U.S. officials insisted negotiations were on track and that talks at some level were still ongoing before dawn Saturday. However, Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said the two-month negotiations were hopelessly deadlocked.
“This is the end of the road,” Kubba told Al-Arabiya television. “In the end, we will put this constitution to the people to decide.”
Failure to win Sunni endorsement of the draft would be a major embarrassment for President Bush, who telephoned a top Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and urged him to make compromises with the Sunnis to keep them on board.
It's hard to believe that a single phone call from the President didn't smooth over thousand year-old religious tensions. Don't the Sunnis know how popular he is?
Look, Iraq was never a country, but an artificial construct of British-determined boundaries from the beginning of the last century. Strongmen have a knack for keeping countries like this together (see Tito in Yugoslavia), but eventually they erupt into chaos. Dick Cheney said as much in 1992:
"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.
"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
"Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq."
"Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there," he said.
"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home," Cheney said, 18 months after the war ended.
Shoulda listened to... yourself, there, Dick.
Not only do you have Sunnis at the throats of the Shi'ites and Kurds, you have Shi'ites at each other's throats:
A Shiite political battle - ostensibly over constitutional differences - erupted between two powerful militias and spread throughout Iraq Wednesday night and Thursday.
Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army locked horns with the Badr Brigade, the militia of the ruling Shiite religious party the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), signaling that the fight for control of a new Iraq goes beyond the conflict between Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd.
The fighting in southern and central Iraq, where at least nine Iraqis were killed, springs from an emerging power struggle between Mr. Sadr's movement and SCIRI.
Abbas Rubaie, the political director of the Sadr movement, said Thursday that Badr Brigade members, with the help of local police and approval of the SCIRI-loyal local governor, attacked a Sadr office in Najaf, killing guards and several men inside.
Fighting cooled Thursday afternoon after Sadr issued a statement calling for calm. He thanked the government for their calls for peace, but not "the interior minister," Mr. Rubaie said, reading a statement from the cleric. The interior ministry, controlled by SCIRI, runs the police forces and is believed by many Iraqis to be dominated by the Badr Brigade.
When asked if Badr was trying to rein in the power of the Mahdi Army, Rubaie was incredulous. "They can't!" he said, insisting that Mahdi Army members far outnumbered Badr forces.
This is a complex Colombian-style Web of factions and counter-factions that our 138,000 troops are simply ill-equipped to negotiate. Before long everybody will be attacking everybody, and we'll be caught in the crossfire.
Once again, this proves that you can't go into a country with guns blazing, say the words "freedom" and "democracy" and "constitution," and expect everyone to just line up and fall in line. That was literally our entire postwar strategy in one sentence. The fact that it's unraveling is no surprise. The fact that it can, and will, get ever bloodier is no comfort. We're in big trouble now. The President doesn't interrupt his brush-clearing activities and make long-distance calls from the ranch if he didn't know that.