I wrote kind of a jokey post about losing Iraq, but I wanted to elaborate on some of the recent developments I touched on in that post.
We know that the President wants to send troops back into the country in a "last big push" to secure the country. But that push may have nothing to do with additional troops but with a change in strategy with regard to the Shiite/Sunni split. Laura Rozen wrote an important op-ed about the change in tactics:
AS SECTARIAN violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?
A U.S. tilt toward the Shiites is a risky strategy, one that could further alienate Iraq's Sunni neighbors and that could backfire by driving its Sunni population into common cause with foreign jihadists and Al Qaeda cells. But elements of the administration, including some members of the intelligence community, believe that such a tilt could lead to stability more quickly than the current policy of trying to police the ongoing sectarian conflict evenhandedly, with little success and at great cost.
This past Veterans Day weekend ... almost the entire Bush national security team gathered for an unpublicized two-day meeting. The topic: Iraq. The purpose of the meeting was to come up with a consensus position on a new path forward. ...
Numerous policy options were put forward at the meeting, which revolved around a strategy paper prepared by Hadley and drawn from his recent trip to Baghdad. One was the Shiite option. Participants were asked to consider whether the U.S. could really afford to keep fighting both the Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias — or whether it should instead focus its efforts on combating the Sunni insurgency exclusively, and even help empower the Shiites against the Sunnis.
So what's the logic behind the idea of "unleashing the Shiites"? It's the path of least resistance, according to its supporters, and it could help accelerate one side actually winning Iraq's sectarian conflict, thereby shortening the conflict, while reducing some of the critical security concerns driving Shiites to mobilize their own militias in the first place.
This is essentially advocating ethnic cleansing, allowing the Shiites to undergo their revenge killings in an attempt to crush the Sunnis under foot. The events of the next couple days appeared to show that this strategy has won the day:
A warrant was issued late Thursday for the arrest of Sheik Harith al-Dari, one of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni Arab clerics, on charges of inciting terrorism and violence, government officials said.
Mr. Dari, head of the influential Muslim Scholars Association, is an outspoken critic of the foreign military presence in Iraq and of the Shiite-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The warrant, coming against a man beloved by hard-line and disaffected Sunnis, had the potential to widen the sectarian divide in Iraq and inflame the Sunni Arab-led insurgency.
Yes, to sane people, that would widen the sectarian divide; actually, it would speed the pace of the civil war. But the idea in the Administration is that the Shiites, with superior numbers, could essentially wipe the Iraqi Sunnis off the face of the earth. This would be more likely if the Shiites themselves were invulnerable, but they're not:
Gunmen in Baghdad killed a prominent Shi'ite Islamist politician on Saturday as Condoleezza Rice appealed to Iraqis not to let sectarianism destroy their country.
In what looked like a sectarian assassination, Ali al-Adhadh of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) was shot dead with his wife as he drove in mainly Sunni west Baghdad, police and SCIRI member Adnan al-Obeidi said.
U.S. Secretary of State Rice said during a visit to Vietnam that Iraqis "have one future and that is a future together. They don't have a future if they try to stay apart."
This is what she has to say in public, but privately it seems like the US is betting on the "one future" of Iraq as a future without Sunnis. This is nearly impossible, but hell, maybe they think it worked the other way around for Saddam for 30 years, so why not give it a shot. But of course, this is a short-term solution rather than a long-term fix. The President's motives and what ought to be the motives for facing the future in Iraq are at cross purposes. Bush just wants to get to 2009 without more hijacked convoys and a wider regional war, so he can throw the problem onto somebody else. Since leaving=losing, Bush has convinced himself into believing that we'll succeed unless we quit. And the situation is so colossally fucked that the only road to short-term success, they've decided, is a Sunni genocide. That's what they're advocating. The "Shiite tilt" isn't going to yield a representative democracy. It's going to turn somebody like Al-Sadr into a strongman. The government is irrelevant compared to the militias. And be letting the Shiites run roughshod over the country, you imperil Sunni neighbors like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, you cause a mass refugee and humanitarian crisis, and you put Iraq in the hands of people who are essentially the friends and allies of the country that's enriching uranium and plutonium and has the potential to expand its influence across the entire Middle East.
There aren't any good answers left in Iraq, but "unleashing the Shiites" seems to me one of the worst. I hope the incoming Speaker can stick to her guns and hold this Administration's feet to the fire:
This morning, I visited our brave men and women at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. It is a place of prayers, of honor, of respect, and reflection. And I left there more committed than ever to bringing the war to an end.
I told my colleagues yesterday that the biggest ethical issue facing our country for the past three and a half years is the war in Iraq.
This unnecessary pre-emptive war has come at great cost. Nearly 2,900 of our brave troops have lost their lives and more than 21,000 more have suffered lasting wounds. Since the war began, Congress has appropriated more than $350 billion, and the United States has suffered devastating damage to our reputation in the eyes of the world.
It is an ethical issue. I wonder, what are the ethics behind letting one group of people just go ahead and kill the other group so order can be restored and we can sneak away?