Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sunni resistance urged to adapt to the new Bush strategy

Awni al-Qalamji, writing on the opinion page of Al-Quds al-Arabi, urges the Iraqi resistance to unify militarily and politically, something he says has become a more urgent priority in the face of the new Bush strategy. His analysis of the Bush strategy goes like this:

First, this is not just one of those showy displays of arrogance for which Bush is known. Rather, it is an expression of the determination of America not to admit defeat in its imperial effort, whether in terms of control of Iraqi resources, or in terms of Israel and regional power. It isn't just a question of re-occupying Baghdad and Ramadi. Rather it is the start of the decisive battle to finally eradicate the Iraqi resistance. All of the American harping on the Iranian and the government militias, on ending the sectarian violence, and so on, is all a propagandistic red herring. Which doesn't mean that the resistance and its leaders have been taken in by this, because in fact they are prepared for a fight that is going to be long and debilitating, recognizing as they do the fact that America's vital interests are at stake. In fact it is the seriousness of this for America which forced Bush for the first time to abandon his usual pushy arrogance and instead adopt reason. Thus he admitted mistakes, accepted responsibility, talked about the possibility of defeat, and contronted the American people with what defeat would mean. Even the "reservations" expressed by the Democrats, says Qalamji, suggested basic agreement.

Look at it this way, says Qalamji. Bush warned Maliki that he had to agree to the more-aggressive US military approach; Bush warned Hakim not to put the interests of Iran above those of the United States; Khalilzad warned both of them that the patience of the Americans is running out. Bush warned Talabani and Barzani they have to commit Peshmerga forces to the battle of Baghdad, and they have complied.

And the Sadrists? Here Qalamji says something perhaps unexpected. He says: "Sadr and his army are going to end up as part of the government forces and their armed militia, contrary to the opinion of some who think Sadr is going to be the first target [of the new strategy]. Sadr has served the occupation by turning his army into a promoter of the sectarian violence; he has served the occupation by participating in the "political process"; and also by being a close ally of the US-agent Maliki government. [The implication is that he will serve in other ways too].

Continuing with the "Bush warned" series, Qalamji writes: Bush warned Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt that an American defeat would turn their countries into hotbeds of extremism, threatening their regimes. And more particularly, ahead of the current tour by Condolezza Rice, these Arab regimes were told that Iran had gone too far [in its Baghdad political inroads] and the Arab regimes are expected to make sure that balance is redressed. Qalamji writes: "[Bush supported the Rice tour with] long telephone calls to Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi and Jordanian kings, telling them that Iran had exceeded the bounds of its agreements...and that he [Bush] wanted the restoration of the Sunni position in the Iraqi political process, and if that didn't happen, then the flames of Iranian sectarianianism would burn down their shabby wooden houses". Not surprising, says Qalamji, to see Mubarak recently bestirring himself with suddenly escalated verbal attacks on Iran.

Bush is including Turkey in the group, in exchange for a promise to keep Kirkuk out of the Kurdish bailiwick.

With respect to Iran, Qalamji says the Bush plan is not to attack Iran, as some think, but rather to stop Iran's "encroachments" on what Qalamji calls its "share" or "quota", at the same time using the Iranian issue as a way of getting other Arab states involved in encouraging some of the Sunni resistance to join in the political process.

If Bush is successful in these efforts [to bring about a degree of unity in support of the occupation], and it is quite possible he will be, then, says Qalamji, then "The resistance camp needs to be unified too, militarily, politically and informationally. What the leadership has to do is declare a general mobilization, and at the same time, immediately open lines of communication among all of the forces that oppose the occupation," calling in particular on those groups that have been "hesitating between the two camps [resistance and politics]" to make up their minds and bear their share of the historic responsibility. Qalamji calls for the "establishment of a broad national front, and for the political leadership to announce a joint political program based on the liberation if Iraq, and the establishment of a democratic and pluralistic regime".

(In an op-ed in Al-Quds al-Arabi on October 24, following the disputed vote on procedures for federalism, Qalamji said the environment for the resistance had been made that much better, because of the damage that vote had done to the political process. Now, in the wake of the sectarian troubles and the related Sunni anxieties, Qalamji appears to be saying the environment has become worse again, partly for the opposite reason, namely that Bush is now able to exploit factors pushing Sunnis in the direction of the current political process, and the resistance needs to respond to this).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm having a tough time reconciling these two portions of Qalamji's analysis:

First, the US is going to tilt Shiite, ignoring the Shiite militias in favor of attempting to annihiliate the Sunni insurgents.

Second, the US wants the Sunni regimes to play a larger role in order to counter Iran.

Problems: won't the first strategy make the second more difficult? Both from a position of trying to maintain the enthusiastic cooperation of those Sunni-led regimes amidst a massive slaughter of Sunnis as well as in terms of further fortifying Shiite hegemony which redounds to the benefit of Iran.

These just don't seem entirely compatible.

Also, he veers wildly propagandistic with his claim that Sadr is serving the coalition forces by stoking sectarian violence. That ain't helping us.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, this is an extremely interesting article indeed. I'm not very well versed in Baath/Sunni politics. What's al-Qalamji doing here? He seems incredibly well informed. It reads like a briefing from the State Department!

Is he issuing a call to arms, a redoubling of the military struggle? If so, his rhetoric doesn't seem all that sabre rattling. Or is he calling for a united front behind a political program, foreshadowing the rejectionists are debating entering the political process?

6:35 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I thought this was interesting as a sample of what a Sunni resistance spokesperson has to say and how he is thinking. I think for him the paramount thing is for Sunnis to join the resistance, and not be sucked into the political process, a danger he sees as having been augmented by whole Shiite scare in all its ramifications. For him the US tilts omnidirectionally, and the aim is to get them out. Those are the two poles, not "which way they tilt". His idea of the Mahdi Army being absorbed into the government, and as you correctly noted the wildly propagandistic accusations against Sadr are part of the post-execution Sunni vilification of Sadr. So it's nationalism without Sadr.

I guess you're saying his theory of the US strategy is inconsistent, but to tell you the truth I think the flip side of the US tilting omnidirectionally is that what he envisions is the US sponsoring a government that could be considered "power-sharing" by puppets of both persuasions. Something like that.

I think his concern is with the strength and unity of the Sunni resistance and I think he sees things as a little tougher now because the Shiite scare has sort of dissipated the focus on expelling the occupiers. I think that is the motive. So partly its a call to pulling up our socks and trying to unite in the face of difficulty. The political program part was also interesting, as you say. It could be re-casting of what they stand for now that Saddam is out of the way, but I don't know.

8:23 PM  

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