Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wars Within Wars in Iraq

In today's L.A. Times, Richard Engel says to forget Bush's simplistic dogma of a struggle for democracy against terrorism.
The perception portrayed by the White House and the Iraqi government in Baghdad -- and all too often reflected, I'm sorry to say, in the news media -- is that the violence in Iraq is the result of a straightforward struggle between two opposing teams: the Freedom Lovers and the Freedom Haters.
What the President wants us to believe is that conflict in Iraq is a Manichean struggle between two sides:
  1. The Freedom Lovers: The 12 million Iraqis who plunged their fingers into purple ink on election day in December 2005, choosing freedom, moderation and democracy. Their team captains are the Iraqi government, the White House, the U.S.-trained Iraq security services and the roughly 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

  2. The Freedom Haters: Iraqi radicals, foreign jihadists, former Baath Party members and criminals supported by Al Qaeda, Syria and Iran who have formed an alliance of convenience to reject the democratization of Iraq. This team's captains are Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iranian and Syrian agents and, sometimes, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi militia.
In fact, there are many groups in Iraq fighting for many different reasons and hoping to achieve many different goals. The vast majority of them don't believe that they are fighting for or against democracy. Engle provides his readers with "program notes" delineating the teams in this mosaic of civil wars:
  • Many Sunni groups in Iraq are also fighting a war that seems to have little in common with the official U.S. and Iraqi characterizations. Al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies now fight under an umbrella group they call the Islamic State of Iraq. In April, the group issued an Internet statement saying it is fighting a "Zionist-Persian" conspiracy to rule Iraq. From what they wrote, they seem to believe that they are fighting an attempt to take over their country by Israel and Iran -- not against a U.S. mission to bring democracy to Iraq.

  • Muqtada Sadr: The radical Shiite leader and commander of the Al Mahdi militia wants to surpass the influence of his father, one of Iraq's most revered Shiite leaders. Sadr has tapped into the frustrations of Iraq's poor, uneducated and unemployed Shiite community, which is increasingly fed up with the continued presence of U.S. troops. He wants to turn his army of bandits into Iraq's version of Lebanon's Hezbollah.

  • The Kurds: Iraqi Kurds want independence in northern Iraq and control of the oil rich city of Kirkuk. They want to capitalize on their new freedom by establishing what they have been denied for centuries, an autonomous, prosperous oil-rich state.

  • Abdelaziz Hakim: The infirm leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (now known as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) wants to control southern Iraq and carve out a ministate allied with Iran. His party would rule this emirate, containing both the rich oil fields in Basra and access to the Persian Gulf.

  • Iyad Allawi: The former prime minister, ex-Baath Party member and Western intelligence asset wants to return to power, overthrow Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and unite Sunnis and Shiites under his secular rule. He wants to be Iraq's pro-American strongman.

  • Nouri Maliki: His goals are unclear. At times he sounds as though he is reading talking points from the White House, but he also is beholden to Sadr. Maliki recently told me that he and Sadr are "from the same school" and that he does not see Sadr as a threat to Iraq. The U.S. military, which is keeping Maliki in power, does not see Sadr the same way.
When Americans eventually escape the boxed-in thinking of the Administration, they will see that however-so-long we are fighting in Iraq, we are not fighting until Iraqi forces 'can stand up'.
The problem is Iraqis are already fighting for their country, and fighting savagely. They are just not fighting the war of the Freedom Haters versus the Freedom Lovers that many in the U.S. administration would apparently like them to be fighting.

What a difference 9-11 Meant!

In 1994, invading Iraq was not rationally in the national interests of the United States!
But after we were attacked in September 2001, it was okay for Shooter to lose his head, drink the Kool-Aid of preventive war concocted by NeoConservatives, and to randomly choose an Arab country to shock and awe.