Thursday, November 23, 2006

End-game in the Green zone

Bashir Nafie writes in Al-Quds al-Arabi: The recent attack on the reputation of Harith al-Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars Association of Iraq, was triggered by his political activities in the region, and not by anything he said. He had been saying the same things about the illegitimacy of the occupation since 2003. What was new, and what so alarmed the Green Zone people, was his visit to Saudi Arabia and the fact he had a discussion with the Saudi King. This was shocking, because since 2003 the Arab regimes in the region have left Iraqi affairs up to their friends the Americans, prefering not to get involved themselves. Their confidence in this hands-off approach had been weakening with the reports of escalating Iranian influence in Iraq ("real or imagined" Nafie adds); then with the hit they took from their early criticism of Hizbullah in the Lebanon war; and most of all the gradual collapse of any semblance of Iraqi internal security. That isn't to say there are going to be any concrete short-term results from the King Abdullah-Dhari conversation, but it hit a nerve in the Green Zone nonetheless.

Nafie targets Iraqi president Jalal Talabani as the character who led the attack on Dhari, writing at length on Talabani's history, and not in a very flattering light either. His point is that the whole idea of arresting Dhari smacks of fear and desperation. Talabani and his associates were acting defensively, as they always do, and they were completely blind to the depth of support for Dhari, not only as "the representative of the Iraqi conscience", with considerable Shiite support as well as Sunni; but also throughout the region, citing for instance the Arab League support for him throughout this. Dhari, Nafie says, represents probably the most powerful voice of denunciation of the American occupation and its enablers.

But the miscalculations respecting Dhari are only a symptom of the way Talabani and his colleagues have lost their grip on reality. After all these years of propaganda, Nafie says, the Green Zone inhabitants are unable to grasp the fact that the resistance is at the gates.

With that as background, Nafie says the Americans have several options left: They could try "another push" in Iraq. Alternatively, we shouldn't rule out the possibility they could decide arm one set of armed sectarian groups to fight against another, as part of an overall stratgegy to divide the country into sectarian regions, no matter what the cost to the Iraqi people. Or, he says, they could decide to push the situation to total violence, "in order to teach the Arabs a lesson they will never forget," as he puts it.

(The New York Times hit-piece on Dhari isn't mentioned in this article. But if the Dhari arrest-warrant episode is a milestone in the collapse of the Baghdad government and perhaps a sign of desperate things to come, then surely that NYT piece deserves its miserable place in history too).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheney was not in Iraq and that his only currently planned travel to the region is the previously announced trip he will make to Saudi Arabia on Friday to meeting the next day with King Abdullah

he doesn't travel abroad that often

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like such a dumb move, it's hard to understand outside of pure emotional reflexivity to issue the warrant. Didn't they learn anything from the Muqtada episode? Issuing a warrant against someone you don't have the power to arrest just makes that person stronger and converts him from a smallish sectarian faction leader into an immensely popular and broadly supportable martyr figure. People who would hate Dhari in isolation are now rallying to him against the occupation.

2:07 AM  

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