Monday, April 07, 2008

The Story of the Day

The Story of the Day this morning originates with AP which reported:
Iraq's major Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties have closed ranks to force anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disband his Mahdi Army militia or leave politics, lawmakers and officials involved in the effort said Sunday.
If they have indeed "closed ranks", this would represent fruition of the long-held American dream of a de-Sadrized "new political base" for Maliki in the Green zone. Recall the famous November 2006 "Hadley memo", which talked about this question of weaning Maliki away from the Sadrists and the closing of ranks, at the same time, of the other GreenZone parties. Among the things Hadley said Maliki should do:
¶Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;
And under "How we can help Maliki", in addition to providing him with the additional military support he might need in connection with any such break with his traditional supporters there was this:

¶Actively support Maliki in helping him develop an alternative political base. We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc;

¶Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as to support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of his bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists;

The recent military effort against the Mahdi Army in Basra and elsewhere, and now the incursions into Sadr City, can obviously be seen as part of this effort to "help" Maliki "bring his political strategy with Moqtada to closure..." and as part of that same process, bring about the "closing of ranks" by the other parties that AP talks about in such stirring terms this morning. Beating up on the Mahdi Army on the one side (call it Side A), and "closing of ranks" among the other GreenZone parties (call it Side B) on the other: This has been part of the American strategy since at least the time of that Hadley recommendation in November 2006. That is the first point that needs to be remembered in the deconstruction of today's Story of the Day.

Moreover, the ongoing Elvis-like sightings of "reconciliation meetings" in various places all over the region reflect Side B of the strategy, which Hadley put this way:
¶Continue our diplomatic efforts to keep the Sunnis in the political process by pushing for the negotiation of a national compact and by talking up provincial council elections next spring/summer as a mechanism for Sunni empowerment;
Regrettably, the "Awakening Councils" movement had not become a real fad at the time of the Hadley memo, but I think probably it is in the context of this overall scheme that the Awakening strategy needs to be understood. It was no doubt approved as another tool for enticing "the Sunnis" into the "political process", along with "negotiations for a national compact", standing by with bribe money if necessary, and in parallel with all of this, "bringing to closure" the question of the Mahdi Army (which is obviously what Hadley in his memo was mostly thinking of when he referred to "the militias").

So: Finally, big results in the form of a "closing of the ranks" of the major pro-occupation GreenZone parties behind Maliki. But wait...

Here is what a spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front (biggest Sunni parliamentary bloc) had to say about this closing of the ranks, as reported by AlHayat:
A member of the IAF, Ammar Abdulsattar called for giving this idea of political-party disarmament a condition for participating in elections, legislative form in parliament. He told AlHayat: "We need to issue a law on political parties as soon as possible, and have it include what was in the announcement [by the Council on National Security about no armed parties participating in elections]... And Abdulsattar said he sees March 25 [when Chief Commander Maliki went to Basra] as an important watershed in Iraqi history, and as the inauguration of a nation of laws.
Which is very stirring, but he makes it clear they're not closing ranks behind Maliki on other issues:
Apart from the [the IAF's] differences with Prime Minister Maliki, it strongly supports him in the war against the militias, because what he is doing here is a national obligation.
Quite apart from whatever the IAF and its ilk may have been offered by way of "empowerment" or bribe-money or what have you, it's also good to remember that presumed Mahdi Army rockets killed two American soldiers in the Green Zone yesterday, so it isn't surprising on that visceral level that parties centered in the Green Zone would back efforts against "the militias". But what about the "Awakenings"...

Perhaps what has been happening with the Awakenings is similar to the "negotiating" process with the Sunni parties and others: The Americans are probing and sifting them to see which will agree to participate in the Green Zone occupation, and which need to be eventually taken on militarily.

But to appreciate the Story of the Day, you need to forget all that, and just focus on this idea of a "closing of the ranks" behind Maliki by the "major parties" in the Green Zone. At the price of being seen to support direct US military action against the Green Zone.


Blogger NonArab-Arab said...

Setting aside the question of who's behind this drive, it does seem on the surface to be pretty effective in the near-term tactical sense. The Sadrists seem to be left completely ally-less at the moment. Not that I think it finishes them in any strategic sense, they are a large grassroots movement(s) and can't simply be wished away by elite politics, but it does put them in a temporarily lonely and tough spot.

4:16 PM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

The Guardian
"Secret US plan for military future in Iraq
Document outlines powers but sets no time limit on troop presence"

A couple graphs:
---Iraqi critics point out that the agreement contains no limits on numbers of US forces, the weapons they are able to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term US security agreements with other countries. The agreement is intended to govern the status of the US military and other members of the multinational force.

Following recent clashes between Iraqi troops and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army in Basra, and threats by the Iraqi government to ban his supporters from regional elections in the autumn, anti-occupation Sadrists and Sunni parties are expected to mount strong opposition in parliament to the agreement, which the US wants to see finalised by the end of July. The UN mandate expires at the end of the year.

One well-placed Iraqi Sunni political source said yesterday: "The feeling in Baghdad is that this agreement is going to be rejected in its current form, particularly after the events of the last couple of weeks. The government is more or less happy with it as it is, but parliament is a different matter."---

7:57 PM  
Blogger badger said...

It's interesting, in the Guardian piece the Sunni politician is quoted:

"Parliament is a different matter"

compare the NYT today: [Basra and so on] "may give Maliki more traction to pass laws and broker deals..."

The new Maliki bolstered by a catastrophic campaign where up to 30% of his fighters deserted, followed up with strong support for US attacks on heavily-populated urban areas...? This will definitely be an interesting story to follow

3:46 PM  
Blogger annie said...

bush(cheney/addington's) position is to try to avoid understanding this as a treaty, therby eliminating the requirement for congress to have any say. as i recall bush and maliki signed the prilim to this last summer without the parliaments authorization. what if they use this same illegal move in iraq and say this can be implemented w/out parliament?

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Maliki strategy in threatening to make Jaish al-Mahdi disband is obvious. They hope to catch the key leadership off-guard just after dinnertime with this threat and cause them to laugh hysterically, vomiting in their mouths, and aspirating their dinners. This way they can kill them all off without firing a shot.


5:09 PM  

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