Thursday, January 11, 2007

Decoding the "new strategy"

Al-Quds al-Arabi decodes the "new strategy" as follows: (1) The references by Bush to the influence of Iran and Syria are his way of referring to the Mahdi Army and AlQaeda respectively, and these will be the new focus of the American military efforts. (This is in line with the worst fears of Vali Nasr and others, who have warned that taking on the Mahdi Army could cause an uprising against the Americans in the south). (2) When Bush talks about "mistakes" that have been made, the main one is that in the past US military operations were shackeled by interference from Iraqi politicians, but that will now change. Here the journalist refers to pre-speech TV remarks by Bush adviser Dan Bartlett; but the same conclusion can be drawn from the speech itself, where Bush says the US forces have been subject to "too many restrictions", and will now be able to "enter these neighborhoods...home to those fueling the sectarian violence". (While Al-Quds doesn't elaborate on this picture, it is hard to avoid the feeling that what is being created here is another Palestine).

In other words, the focus of the American military operations shifts from fighting the Sunni armed resistance, to fighting the Mahdi Army, moreover with a free hand, so that the Shiite government will no longer be able to prevent the Americans from carrying this war into Sadr City and other "neighborhoods...home to those fueling the sectarian violence."

As for the reactions of Iraqi political observers, the Al-Quds journalist leads with this:
Iraqi sources expressed skepticism a out the ability of the Maliki government to survive in the face of a continuing open war between the American forces and the Mahdi Army, under Moqtada al-Sadr, who is politically allied with the Prime Minister.
After citing views to the effect that the Mahdi Army itself is "out of control" having been penetrated by other groups, the journalist says these observers think that in these circumstances [open war between the Mahdi Army and the American forces]
This confrontation could lead to a year that will be the bloodiest in Iraq since the occupation in 2003.
And as for the situation in southern Iraq that Nasr and others have warned about, the journalist says Iraqi sources put it this way:
They don't rule out the possibility that targeting what Bush is calling the agents of Iran within Iraq could lead to provoking Iran, and the outbreak of a proxy war between America and Iran in southern Iraq.
Finally, the writer says analysts don't think the target date of November 07 for the Iraqi army to take over all security operations is realistic, and this will eventually present Bush with few options besides leaving Iraq in a state of complete chaos and civil war, having invaded it in 2003 with the promise of freedom and democracy.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, both in this front-page news item, and in its lead editorial, stress the liklihood that the US-Sadr controntation will lead to the fall or replacement of the Maliki government, but the paper refrains from saying anything about the possible or likely shape of a successor administration. (It should be remembered that the paper is a strong supporter of the Sunni armed resistance, so that particularly in the wake of the Saddam execution it won't see the fall of the Maliki administration as any great tragedy in and of itself).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: the palestine model, when Badger do you expect to hear talk from Washington about lacking a "partner for peace in Iraq"?

10:58 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Good question. pretty soon I guess. Although I wouldn't rule out a new motto, maybe something with "moderate" in it...

11:47 AM  
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