Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It looks bad, but really, it’s worse

Much of the “success” that is often attributed to the surge escalation by administration mouthpieces and the rah-rah chorus in the establishment media can actually be traced to a truce called by Moqtada al Sadr, and a “strategy” that has US forces paying protection money to assorted Sunni militias.

But we knew that.

However, now that fighting in Basra is reaching pre-surgescalation levels and violence is heating up around Baghdad, here are a couple of things that we are just learning.

First, to Basra:

Since August 2007, Moqtada al Sadr has established a cease fire and held back his forces from attacks but he has never denied their right to self defense. This cease fire is the primary cause of decreased casualties in Iraq.

. . . .

With upcoming provincial elections likely to show serious losses for both Maliki’s Dahwa party and Hakim’s SIIC and growing support for Mahdi associated representatives, it’s not surprising that Cheney and our occupation allies were deep in talks last week – nor is it surprising that we now see a dramatic push by green zone forces on Basra where Sadrist forces had been gaining power where Hakim's SIIC used to have considerable power.

. . . .

[During his visit, Cheney] reported[ly] gained agreement from al Hakim for provincial elections, elections in which Hakim’s SIIC is expected to do poorly given popular support for al Sadr. As Badger writes today:

These are two of the famous Bush "benchmarks": Oil and Gas Law, and progress toward provincial elections. In the case of Barzani and the Oil law, the quid pro quo was obvious. But what was the quid pro quo for the Supreme Council? One possible--I would say obvious--answer now suggests itself: In exchange for the Supreme Council dropping its obstruction of the Provincial Powers law, the US would tolerate, and provide air-support for, a campaign against the Sadrists in the Basra region.

The gains for George and Dick are clear - weaken or distract those pesky nationalist forces, justify continued troop surge and presence, gain "approval" of US benchmarks (though not popular approval) and keep control of Iraqi oil in the hands of men like Hakim.

And, literally breaking as I write this, al Maliki has given the Mahdi militias 72 hours to lay down their weapons or face unspecified serious consequences.

As for the Sunni “awakening”/bribery:

. . . a strike by (formerly) pro-American members of an Awakening council in Diyala reveals a country-wide frustration with the US, even among its allies. The men of Diyala say they have not received pay they were promised, and feel that the US does not appreciate the sacrifices they have made for the surge. They have buried over 400 of their own, and now some feel they are just being manipulated to advance an American political agenda. Of 49 groups the Guardian spoke with across Iraq, most reported not being paid. In Hillah, discontented fighters spoke of organizing a nation-wide strike.

It is discouraging enough that these “truces” are now falling apart—for Iraqis and Americans alike—but it is disgusting to realize that, once again, what little good might have come of the recent “breathing space” will now be fouled by typical Bush-Cheney greed and cynical political gamesmanship.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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