Pax Americana In Iraq Is Changing - Part 11 - US Politics.
President Dick Cheney on May 8 began a tour of the Middle East as he arrived in Abu Dhabi on visits focusing on Iraq and the US-guided Arab Quartet - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. This is a security quartet whose strategic projections go beyond those of the International Quartet - the US, UN, EU and Russia - for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and one of its purposes is to contain and eventually neutralise Iran's nuclear and geo-political ambitions in the Muslim world (see news15-ArabSecurityQuartet-Hariri-Apr9-07).
The June & Autumn Deadlines: There are two deadlines, one for the Iraqi and KRG leaders and the other for the Bush administration. Before end-June, the cabinet of PM Nouri al-Maliki and the KRG under Kurdistan President Mas'oud Barzani must help one another for Baghdad to achieve four inter-dependent objectives:
(1) A "true national reconciliation" among Iraq's main communities - the Kurds in the north, the Sunni Arabs in the centre and the Shi'ite Arabs in the centre and the south.
(2) Approval of a petroleum law by the federal parliament of Baghdad, which must be satisfactory to all sides.
(3) Amendment of the constitution in a way which should reflect - or help bring about - the national reconciliation.
(4) Changing the process of de-Ba'thification from being political to become a fairer legal one in which only "the real criminals" will be affected, and this will be a very complicated exercise.
Along with these benchmarks, Maliki also must deliver on his repeated promises to get all militia forces in Iraq to be disarmed, including the Shi'ite groups like Jaysh al-Mahdi. This also applies to the Sunni groups as well as the Neo-Salafi terrorists. Cheney arrived in Baghdad on May 9 and pressed the Iraqis on all these matters.
For the Bush administration, the deadline in September/October when US officials and military commanders in Baghdad present Washington with a final assessment of the chances of success or failure of the current Pax Americana for Iraq. The house Republican leader, Representative John Boehner, on May 6 warned that unless progress was evident in Iraq in the assessment, many Republican lawmakers would begin losing patience.
Boehner's comments were significant at a time when the Democratic-controlled Congress is wrestling with Bush over his request for about $100 bn to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some Democrats favour the idea of providing funding only until the autumn, when the administration has promised a detailed progress report. Boehner, a conservative from Ohio, said it would take months to assess Bush's troop-increase plan.
Boehner said on Fox television: "We don't even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet, so we're supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of succeeding". And there were early signs of success, he said.
In Bush's plan, by late 2007 there will be about 165,000 US combat forces in Iraq. These are in addition to 126,000 contracted and private security people now serving in Iraq in various functions and consisting of various nationalities who also help in regional matters (see sbme5-IraqUS-IranRegionalMay7-07).
Boehner added: "by the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?" It is Plan B which should worry Iraq's neighbours, mostly notably including Iran and Syria as well as the Arab Quartet and Turkey, the latter being a key NATO power. Hence the importance of Cheney's current tour.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership, pointed to Boehner's comment as a significant reflection of fading support for the war. Schumer said that Democratic leaders, who with their Republican counterparts are negotiating with the White House on a war-funding bill to replace the version recently vetoed by Bush - he refused to accept its timelines for troop withdrawal - were unbowed.
Schumer said on CNN: "We have to force a change in direction in Iraq. What Congressman Boehner said, I believe, means we're going to get that change in direction".
Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said he sensed increasing Republican scepticism about the Bush approach to Iraq. "So we may disagree politically here", he said on Fox, "but remember where the American public is on this issue: They want a change".
While Republican defections would be significant, the Democrats themselves are riven on how exactly to proceed on Iraq. Another Democratic presidential aspirant, John Edwards, has called for the Democratic leadership to keep resubmitting the vetoed bill to Bush.
Edwards was asked on ABC about the criticism of some fellow Democrats that his approach amounted to "cynical political theater" that might end up with the Democrats being blamed by American voters for cutting off funding needed by troops. Edwards said: "It's not the Democrats doing it. It's the president".
A US press editorial on May 7 said (with bracketed comments and underlining by APS: "Whether out of blind loyalty or blind denial, most congressional Republicans are prepared to back up...Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill. It is now essential that the revised version not back away from demanding that...[Shi'ite PM] Maliki finally deliver on the crucial national reconciliation measures he has spent the last year dodging. And it must make clear that American support for his failures - and Bush's - is fast waning.
"What Maliki needs to do to slow Iraq's bloodletting is no mystery. Iraq's security forces must stop siding with the Shiite militias. Iraq's oil revenue must be apportioned fairly. Anti-Baathist laws now used to deny Sunni Arabs employment and political opportunities must be rewritten to target only those responsible for the crimes of the Saddam Hussein era.
"Without these steps, Maliki and his allies cannot even minimally claim to be a real national government. With them, there is at least a chance that Iraqis can muster the strength to contain the chaos when, as is inevitable, American forces begin to leave.
"Bush acknowledges that these benchmarks are important. Yet he refuses to insist, or let Congress insist, that Baghdad achieve them or face real consequences. Each time Baghdad fails a test, Bush lowers his requirements and postpones his target dates - the kind of destructive denial Bush called, in another context, the soft bigotry of low expectations.
"Consider the Baghdad security drive. Last week, The Washington Post reported that Maliki's office had helped instigate the firing of senior Iraqi security officers who moved aggressively against a powerful Shiite militia (Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi, some factions of which now are controlled by Iran's co-ruling Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - IRGC).
"After betting so many American lives, the combat readiness of the US Army and his own remaining credibility on this bloody push to secure the capital, it is a mystery why Bush would allow the Iraqi leader to undermine it. Then there is the endless soap opera that is one day supposed to produce a fair share-out of Iraqi oil revenues.
"The Bush administration prematurely popped champagne corks in February when Maliki's cabinet agreed on a preliminary draft. Now, in May, there is no share-out, no legislation, and even the preliminary agreement is starting to unravel. The leading Sunni Arab party in Maliki's cabinet is now threatening to withdraw its ministers, declaring that it has 'lost hope' that the Iraqi leader will deal seriously with Sunni concerns". (Not only is this Sunni party threatening to boycott the government, but the secular Shi'ite former PM Iyad Allawi is also considering measures to undermine the Maliki government).
The US editorial added: "Bush, by contrast, sees 'signs of hope' in the Baghdad security situation, urges Americans to give his failed policies more time and seems offended that Congress wants to impose accountability on Baghdad and the White House.
"The final version of the spending bill should include explicit benchmarks and timetables for the Iraqis, even if Bush won't let Congress back them up with a clear timetable for America's withdrawal.
"If Maliki and Bush still don't get it, Congress will have to enact new means of enforcement, and back that up with a veto-proof majority".
The Sadrist Factor: It is important to note at this point that the Shi'ite theocracy of Iran now is controlled mainly by supremacists who believe the Ja'fari Shi'ites are superior to all other peoples around the world. There is a potentially dangerous Sadrist factor in this.
The Ja'fari theocracy of Iran is based on the concept of Velayat-e-Faqih (VeF), which was first conceived by the Safawid dynasty which controlled a Persian/Turkic empire in the 16th century AD (see rim6IranJun28-04 and an earlier survey of Iraq in rim1-IraqJuly26-04).
A new version of the VeF emerged in the 18th century and had serious implications for Iraq (see rim4-IraqJa'fariFactorsOct11-04).
A modern version of the VeF emerged in Lebanon in 1969. That was when a prominent Iraqi Ja'fari religious authority living in exile among fellow Ja'faris in Lebanon - Grand Ayatullah Muhammad-Baqer al-Sadr - refined that concept, which many years later then Najaf-based Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini made it apply to Iran.
The young Muqtada al-Sadr belongs to the same school. But unlike Khomeini, who died in 1989, Sadr wants the VeF formula re-Arabised in accordance with his late uncle's teachings and applied in Iraq.
Sadr's father, Ayatullah Muhammad-Sadeq al-Sadr, a younger brother of the Grand Ayatullah who was executed along with his sister by Saddam's Sunni/Ba'thist regime in 1980, was himself killed along with two of his sons in Najaf in 1999 - again by Saddam's regime.
Whereas Iran's theocracy now is mostly controlled by Turkic/Persian supremacists who include the IRGC, the young Sadr is an Arab nationalist like his late father and late uncle (see sbme5-IraqUS-IranRegionalMay7-07).
So while Sadr now is letting some factions of his Jaysh al-Mahdi take orders from Iran's IRGC, his real ambition is to create an Arab theocracy in Iraq to live in peace with the Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities.
However, Iraq's highest Ja'fari religious authority Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani does not accept the VeF concept - whether in Iran where he was born or in Iraq where he inherited his authority from the late Grand Ayatullah Abolqassem al-Khou'i.
Like Khou'i, who died which in house arrest in Najaf in 1992, Grand Ayatullahs in Lebanon, Iran and other parts of the Ja'fari world do not accept the VeF concept. Yet, Lebanon's Hizbullah regards itself as being a branch of the Iranian theocracy and its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah calls himself the representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Against this, on the other hand, is the Neo-Salafi concept of a Caliphate which al-Qaeda's chief ideologue Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri says must rule the world. The Neo-Salafis, the most extreme and most violent strain of Sunni Islam, regard all Shi'ites as heretics. The Neo-Salafi groups in Iraq are now killing Shi'ite civilians every day (see sbme5-IraqUS-IranRegionalMay7-07 and News Service in news19-IraqShi'itesNeedUSmay7-07).
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula|
|Date:||May 14, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Iran's Position.|
|Next Article:||The Neo-Salafi Factor.|