Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Iraq I: Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide

The proverbial 800-pound gorilla will be in the room when President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House on Tuesday: That would be the catastrophic failure of the U.S.-led occupation, a civil war that grows by the day and the reality that both governments have run out of options for turning things around.

As the Wall Street Journal notes:
The Bush administration has invested heavily in Mr. Maliki, a Shiite Muslim leader seen as perhaps Iraq's last and best hope of stemming the violence there enough to allow the U.S. to begin drawing down its troops later this year. U.S. officials have strongly endorsed the prime minister's strategy of offering amnesty to fighters willing to lay down their weapons while simultaneously ordering a massive security crackdown in Baghdad. Mr. Bush even made a surprise trip there last month to signal his personal support for Mr. Maliki and his government.
Maliki, who has survived umpteen assassination attempts and seems like a good sort, has been unable to stanch the bleeding, and a major U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad in June had the opposite effect -- a marked surge in assassinations and kidnappings between warring Shiites and Sunnis.

So bad have things gotten that there is serious talk of partitioning the capital into sectarian zones and even Maliki's own Shiite Dawa Party is riven by deep fractures.

The New York Times notes growing differences between Iraqi and American policies which reflect
[A]n increasing disenchantment with American power among politicians and ordinary Iraqis . . . and recent cases where American troops have been accused of killing civilians or raping Iraqi women have infuriated the public.
So what options are there?

There is but one -- staying the course. This means:
* Redoubling efforts to build a political framework that can leverage the Shiite clerics into stopping the bloodshed.

* Failing that, thinking the unthinkable: Partioning the country into Shiite and Sunni zones in addition to the present Kurdish zone.

* Continuing to train new Iraqi police and security forces.

* Planning a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, whose presence has only made matters worse.

* Praying.
In a joint news conference on Tuesday afternoon with Al-Maliki, President Bush announced that still more U.S. troops will be sent into Baghdad, where 100 or so people are being killed daily.

Oh, the futility of it all.

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