Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A coherent view of American strategy

Al-Quds al-Arabi publishes an interesting reading of Sunday's Ignatius WaPo piece, not referring to Ignatius by name, but referring to it a Washington Post "report", and highlighting as its main point the following: The emergence of Allawi as the potential successor to Maliki is part and parcel of a "new" or "changed" American policy, the new policy being to make Iraq the place for facing down Iranian influence in the region. While the text of the article talks about this facing-down as "containment", the headline writer for the piece puts it this way (summarizing the Al-Quds reading of the WaPo piece): "Events confirm a change in American strategy [toward] turning Iraq into the locus of war with Iran--WaPo asserts, and Allawi denies, that he received Saudi and Emirati funding in support of his return to power".

And the writer of the Al-Quds piece stresses and highlights another point that was somewhat latent in the WaPo piece. Ignatius wrote:
What modest progress the United States has recently made in Iraq has largely been in Sunni areas, such as Anbar province. It's an alliance of convenience: The Sunnis increasingly see U.S. troops as their best ally for containing the power of Iran and its proxies in Iraq. As the leverage of America's new Sunni friends grows, there has been increasing interest in a coalition to replace the feeble Maliki.
The Al-Quds writer puts much more of a fine point on this, linking American strategy inside Iraq with its support for its regional allies. He writes:
The Washington Post report said the strategy of containing Iran is based on continued support for the Sunni Arab states in confronting it [regionally], and it pointed out that the United States is undertaking a strengthening of its alliance with the Sunnis inside Iraq in order to check growing Iranian influence there [domestically in Iraq].
This is an important point. The writer is taking it for granted that the American strategy of arming Sunni groups in Anbar and elsewhere has, at the very least, an important anti-Iranian dimension. Where Ignatius muddies the waters by talking only of an "alliance of convenience" and the "leverage of America's new Sunni friends", somewhat magically morphing into pressure to replace Maliki, the Al-Quds al-Arabi writer spells it out: The American confront-Iran strategy is based on twin policies of arming Sunni regimes regionally, and arming Sunni groups domestically. And the Allawi phenomenon is one manifestation of the overall strategy.

7 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

But couldn't this strategy really only be considered coherent if and when the US does decide to jettison Maliki and turn against the UIA slate (including Sadr) and Sistani?

Otherwise, we're funding and arming Shiites close to Iran (the Iraqi government, including Dawa and SCIRI), while funding and arming Sunnis in and around Iraq with the purpose of countering Iran's power - including the aforementioned Iraqi Shiite groups that we are arming and funding.

It seems as if we are funding both sides in the hope of weakening one. That doesn't seem incoherent to you?

Or are you predicting a total shift in the near future?

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Yohan said...

Just because it won't work doesn't mean it's incoherent.

The US has already abandoned Maliki, it just hasn't moved directly against him...yet. And the US isn't directly funding or aiding any UIA militia, the US tried to create an independent Iraqi army and security apparatus whose stated goals were to monopolize force at the expense of the militias. That the militias thoroughly infested these supposedly national forces was not in the US plan. Thus, to counter these Shia partisan security forces, the US is creating well armed and funded Sunni partisan security forces, thus abandoning any institution that could be argued to be in any slightest way to be "nationalist."

That the US continues to play lip service to the idea of an Iraqi state-based security apparatus is just that, empty lip service, policy on the ground has abandoned state institutions in favor of gaming the intra and inter-state sectarian conflicts.

It is interesting(though mostly coincidental) that US Army investigations into corrupt and willy-nilly distribution of arms to the official Iraqi security services are only now going ahead rather than during the last 3 years that these problems were known to exist.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Just because it won't work doesn't mean it's incoherent.

Absolutely, agreed.

And the US isn't directly funding or aiding any UIA militia

Agreed. Not directly, but indirectly.

...the US tried to create an independent Iraqi army and security apparatus whose stated goals were to monopolize force at the expense of the militias. That the militias thoroughly infested these supposedly national forces was not in the US plan.

Agreed. Definitely not in the plan, but it occurred nonetheless.

Thus, to counter these Shia partisan security forces, the US is creating well armed and funded Sunni partisan security forces, thus abandoning any institution that could be argued to be in any slightest way to be "nationalist."

That the US continues to pay lip service to the idea of an Iraqi state-based security apparatus is just that, empty lip service, policy on the ground has abandoned state institutions in favor of gaming the intra and inter-state sectarian conflicts.


That's my question though. Have we really fully abandoned all training, arming, equipping and support missions with all official Iraqi forces other than the new Sunni cadres?

Are we not still trying, in vain, to train and arm security forces that are - against our desire - run by and infiltrated by Shiite militias?

I'm not saying that we haven't fully abandoned the Shiites in the ways that you describe, I'm just saying that I haven't seen evidence of such a clean break.

Is there any citation regarding the cessation of all training/arming/funding activities other than with respect to Sunnis?

12:50 PM  
Blogger Compulsive Reader said...

There is also a practical element to the arming of groups like the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades. As put by a soldier stationed with them: "The only thing more impressive than the Shiite IA’s ability to beat the hell out of Sunni civilians is their inability to do anything on their own accord. They simply cannot conduct patrols without us, but 1920 reigns freely in the neighborhoods they operate in. In a few months they are confident in their ability to combat Al Qaeda with minimal help from us, and the IA refuses to do a thirty minute patrol alone. And we still refuse to take off the training wheels."
http://armyofdude.blogspot.com/2007/07/enemy-of-my-enemy-of-my-enemy-of-my.html
The Shia militias we armed and trained are a failure, plain and simple. The Americans need someone to take over so they can leave. If they so happen to be enemies of Iran, so be it. Better for us?

4:41 PM  
Blogger annie said...

1920 reigns freely in the neighborhoods they operate in. In a few months they are confident in their ability to combat Al Qaeda with minimal help from us

i think you underestimate their 'confidence' in themselves. don't forget the war they fought for 8 years w/iran. they have had a lot more experience defending their country than our soldiers, with a lot less in terms of infrastructure. they might reign freely in their neighborhoods, because they have been doing it since before we arrived.

funny you should mention 'minimum help'. i think us not attacking them might be what's tipping the scales. its all well and good to frame this success as 'our doing'. some might view it as the US piggybacking on their success. after all, without this success, that report to congress would sound fairly diastrous.

This is an important point. The writer is taking it for granted that the American strategy of arming Sunni groups in Anbar and elsewhere has, at the very least, an important anti-Iranian dimension.

badger, i agree. as i mentioned in the comments of your post 'How the big blogs mislead you'
if/when allawi is placed in power i am fairly confident it would ONLY be with the understanding of agreement on an iran attack......also, don't forget they keep talking about reversing the debaathification. so yes, the US desperately wants to align w/the baath. imho. this would be the ultimo to be able to say the baath is flipping to the US side. who else are they going to use for fodder to fight iran?

not just the baath of course, that was in reference to the 'al douri flipping' propaganda. another point. the US is holding 23,000 mostly sunni prisoners in iraq. i wouldn't be surprised if they imagined unleashing them on iran.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

badger, what does SCIRI think about the emerging sunni-US alliance? Do they think it is just a trick to put pressure on the shia majority (and on Iran)? Do they think that a US-sunni military attack against shia militias is being prepared? And what are they going to do about all these developments?

Is it probable to let the US-sunni alliance slaughter the naughty sadrists?

geopoliticus

5:15 AM  
Blogger badger said...

geo, The latest post ("Hauza authorities...") doesn't really give you the answer to that, but its a first installment...

8:01 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home