6 Jun. 2007

Let's Not Talk About Iraq


It is fortunate for John Howard that the war in Iraq seems to be an increasingly ignored part of the election campaign. The Oz media seems to have given up trying to get a straight answer out of him. But the situation today speaks for itself.

The LA Times says Iraq's leader can't get out of 1st gear:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and Tariq Hashimi, the country's Sunni vice president, faced each other across the room as the latter spoke angrily of the bad blood between Sunni and Shiite officials.

A hush fell over the room as Hashimi demanded to know whether the prime minister had been accusing his political bloc of being infiltrated by terrorists.

"Are you talking about us? If you are … we would ask for proof," said Hashimi, according to his account of a recent closed-door meeting of Iraq's top political and national security officials. "I am treated as an opponent," he said, his voice rising. "If you continue treating me like this, it is better for me to quit."

Maliki sat in silence.

Iraq's government is teetering on the edge. Maliki's Cabinet is filled with officials who are deeply estranged from one another and more loyal to their parties than to the government as a whole. Some are jostling to unseat the prime minister. Few, if any, have accepted the basic premise of a government whose power is shared among each of Iraq's warring sects and ethnic groups.

Maliki is the man U.S. officials are counting on to bring Iraq's civil war under control, yet he seems unable to break the government's deadlock.

Even Maliki's top political advisor, Sadiq Rikabi, says he doubts the prime minister will be able to win passage of key legislation ardently sought by U.S. officials, including a law governing the oil industry and one that would allow more Sunni Arabs to gain government jobs.

"We hope to achieve some of them, but solving the Iraqi problems and resolving the different challenges in the [next] three months would need a miracle," Rikabi said.
As Spencer Ackerman points out, those are the benchmarks Bush laid out back in January:
Deadlines for most of the "benchmarks" have come and gone. On January 31, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to clarify what the benchmarks Bush referred to actually are, and some of their deadlines were already obsolete: the Iraqi parliament was supposed to have completed its review of possible constitutional changes by January. Instead, due to ongoing sectarian rancor, May 15 became the new date by which the committee needed to assemble proposed changes to Iraq's constitution. It didn't happen. Similarly, May 31 was the date by which Iraq needed to pass a law clarifying how Baghdad will distribute oil revenue. That didn't happen, either.
One thing the Iraqi parliament has done is pass a resolution that guarantees them an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq (due for renewal in December). That would effectively force an end to the US occupation. PM al-Maliki may veto the measure, but such an unpopular veto could bring down his government (if it survives that long).

What would Howard say if Iraq's "sovereign" (cough, splutter) government voted for us to get out of their country? Would he declare it proof that a working democracy had been established, and take the chance to bring our troops home? Or would we remain there illegally, in contravention of UN law? It's probably a moot point: I doubt the USA will ever allow such a law to be passed.

Atrios notes that it is now six months since the much-anticipated Iraq Study Group report was released, and 585 US troops have died since Bush decided to ignore it. The latest stalling tactic is Bush's "surge", which is spectacularly failing to achieve its stated goals. Military leaders plead that it is to early to determine the success of the operation, but then add that even in September it may still be too early. So it goes, so it goes. One F.U. after another...

Sir Christopher Meyer, former UK ambassador to Washington, says the "mission" is not worth the death of one more serviceman:
"I personally believe that the presence of American and British and coalition forces is making things worse, not only inside Iraq but the wider region around Iraq. The arguments against staying for any greater length of time themselves strengthen with every day that passes," Sir Christopher said.
Britian is mulling withdrawal plans "within the next twelve months" but Gordon Brown is not showing much interest. Across the Atlantic, Bush is still pushing his ridiculous Korean War analogy:
"The comparison between Korea and the Middle East is, again, not to say that the religious situation was the same - of course, it was different - nor to say that some of the influential players were the same - it's different. But it is to say that given time, these democracies will emerge."
As Josh Holland previously pointed out, this is a tacit admission that US forces will remain in Iraq for the next 50 years or more, whatever the cost. Will Australian troops remain there too? Has anyone asked Howard to comment on this new spin?

Juan Cole today says GOP Presidential candidates are sleep-walking towards disaster. The same can be said of Howard's Liberals:
The Karl Rove doctrine that when you dig yourself into a ditch, the best strategy is to dig deeper, has finally met the test of reality-based politics. It isn't going to be pretty.
UPDATE: And say goodbye to that "insurgents are turning against Al Quaeda" argument too.