Wednesday, April 25, 2007

US policy takes a step closer to the abyss

Khalaf al-Alyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accord Front, has said for the moment he can't return to Iraq because his home has been wrecked and his security people arrested, in an Iraqi-forces raid on his Baghdad home last week, in which they say they found a quantity of weapons, implying Alyan could be charged criminally. (This was reported in Al-Hayat a couple of days ago, as part of an article on attempted political unification among various Sunni groups). Today Al-Quds al-Arabi says a number of Sunni parliamentary deputies say they have been forced to rely on members of their immediate and extended families for security and protection, since the government no longer provides them with security. The journalist notes this is in the context of charges by the Maliki administration that IAF members have been involved in attacks on the occupation forces, and that unregistered weapons have been found in their homes. Recall that there were similar charges made against prominent Sunni deputies just ahead of the hotly-disputed parliamentary vote on federalism procedures last October. And recall too the arrest-warrant against Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, at a time when he was touring Arab capitals and talking to heads of state about Iraqi political arrangements.

Personal escalation against Sunni leaders has become a pretty clear sign of an approaching crisis.

Meanwhile, a lot of Sunni commentary on the Adhamiya wall focuses on the element of military escalation. The Association of Muslim Scholars stresses the idea of "collective punishment against the Sunnis". The Baath party, in a statement issued yesterday, calls it part of a "scorched earth policy". The author of the piece summarized in post just prior to this one called it "a message to the Sunni Arabs that Adhamiya is just the beginning..."

Obviously there is a conflict between the expressed US-Maliki program of national reconciliation, and this apparent escalation, both personal and military, against Sunni leaders and groups. Some will attribute this to vacillating US policy. Others posit a distinction between two factions of the Bush right wing, one favoring a return to Sunni control of Iraq (and finding the Allawi-coup theory, for instance, plausible), and the other favoring a Shiite-led eradication of the Sunni establishment once and for all (a position represented by the loony tunes people at the AEI and elsewhere who say that from this perspective, things are going really well, because not only the armed Sunni resistance, but the political Sunni groups as well, are falling apart).

But the apparent contradiction between reconciliation and escalation can be explained in a much simpler way, based on what you could call the Bush "two carrots, two sticks" policy. As Hamoun Mohammad wrote in the piece summarized here yesterday, Bush appears to have deputized the Islamic Party to offer the Sunni-Arab leaders the prospect of a return to power, if they will cut their ties to the resistance, and join in the "political process". (Otherwise, the implication is, they should contemplate the "message" of the Adhamiya wall, or what the Baath party calls the scorched earth policy). This is the mirror image of the offer to Maliki, outstanding since at least the November Bush-Maliki meeting: Pacify the country, or else we will oust you from power.

What appears to have changed is in the details of Bush's assignment to Maliki: In dealing with the Sunnis, Bush has said, via Petraeus, go heavier on the stick, relatively less focus on the carrot. And in his message to the Sunni groups: Join the political process now, or else.

While the purpose is to bring resistance groups into the political process, by adding fear of annihilation to hope of power, the obvious risk is this could backfire, and Bush ends up driving some of the Sunni political groups already involved in "the political process" into joining the resistance instead. In which case the Bush assignment to Maliki could well become even clearer: Forget the carrot entirely and wipe out the Sunni strongholds.

In which case we would be back to our examination of the Krepinevich briefing on military strategy. (See "Flim-flam" and post immediately prior to that).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can figure out what this guy is saying about you, through all the pseudo-polyglot highbrow-wanna-be affect, do comment.

1:30 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Your guess is as good as mine. I think something is fundamentally a little off there. I wouldn't encourage him.

9:21 PM  

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