Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Al-Maliki Wakes Up With A Horse's Head In His Bed

Yesterday, we brought the story of airstrikes in Baghdad, striking at Sadr City, and at a TV station with ties to Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki himself.

Today, we were treated to two press conferences; one at which George Bush seemed to be sending a message to the fence-straddling al-Maliki, and another at which a defensive al-Maliki signaled his irritation at the idea that he was being sent a message:

The President remained upbeat on Iraq, but admitted that the US is adapting its tactics to help the Iraqi government take control, as the enemy shifts its tactics. A failure in Iraq, he said would result in a radical Islamic empire `from Spain to Indonesia' that will control oil and blackmail the world and `an Iran with a nuclear bomb.'

President Bush, without going into details, said Baghdad had accepted a "schedule" for resolving contentious issues such as disarming militias, sharing oil revenues and amending Iraq's constitution."We are pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patience is not unlimited." President Bush referred to Maliki as "the right man" to lead Iraq but emphasised "we'll push him" and warned US support would last "so long as he continues to make tough decisions".

"We've got patience, but not unlimited patience."

Interestingly enough, the President mentioned, almost in passing that he had talked to neighboring Sunni governments about exercising their influence on their clerics and co-religionists to help end the sectarian violence in Iraq. And mentioned the Saudis, the UAE and Jordan by name.

This is major...if true, it means that Bush has enlisted the Sunni autocracies in an attempt to shut down the Shiite bloc, for their own survival if nothing else.

Now, let's look at al-Maliki and check for signs that he's carrying a load of fecal bricks in his underwear:

Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- An angry Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disavowed a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid in the capital's Sadr City slum Wednesday, and criticized the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for saying his government needs to set a timetable to curb violence in the country.

Al-Maliki spoke at a news conference a day after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders had agreed to set deadlines by year's end for achieving specific political and security goals laid out by the United States, including reining in militia groups.

"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," the prime minister said.

The prime minister dismissed U.S. talk of timelines as driven by the coming midterm elections in the United States. "I am positive that this is not the official policy of the American government but rather a result of the ongoing election campaign. And that does not concern us much," he said.

Al-Maliki complained that he was not consulted beforehand about the Sadr City offensive. The raid was conducted by Iraqi special forces backed by U.S. advisers and was aimed at capturing a top militia commander wanted for running a Shiite death squad.

"We will ask for clarification to what has happened," al-Maliki said. "We will review this issue with the Multinational Forces so that it will not be repeated."

While the U.S. military said the raid had been cleared in advance with al-Maliki's government, President Bush acknowledged that al-Maliki himself may not have been consulted.

May not have been consulted?

If that's true, then that in itself is a signal to al-Maliki. I would advise that, you know, maybe, rather than lecturing the United States on what we ought to be doing, perhaps, he ought to be looking over his sholder, and checking behind the curtains when he walks into his room at night.

But, whatever. Let's check out what Joshua Pundit has to say:

My take on this is that Maliki definitely got some tough love from the Bush administration today..and that it may even have consisted of a formal timeframe for a US withdrawal if he doesn't quit walking the tightrope. I think he was told plainly that he could either be in Iran's camp or in America's, and that the raid on Sadr City, which also utilized Iraqi as well as American troops was designed to underline that message...which would explain Maliki's near temper tantrum today. I think that a request by us to Iraq for long term bases was also on the agenda. In fact, when President Bush was asked about it, he simply said that Iraq was a sovereign nation and would have to make it's own decisions on that.In view of Bush's remarks on Iran and what apparently seems to be a major change on iraq, things could get very interesting in the next couple of months...

In other words, if al-Maliki doesn't like what we are doing, that is just as well, because we've got some other pressing matters to take care of anyway.

I believe regime change in Iran is the key to shutting down the Iraqi chaos anyway. The Shias in Iraq are approximately 70% of the population. Put that together with the tacit support they have in the Shiite Iranian government, and the Iraqi Shias have come to believe they are all-powerful, as is evidenced by al-Maliki's quite cozy and well-known relationships with men like Moqtada al-Sadr.

Rick Ballard, at YARGB, seems to be concerned, in fact, that al-Maliki may have decided (a la Mubarak) that he has been elected Prime Minister for life:

One of the larger problems involved in trying to instill hope for representative democracy in the Middle East is the quaint Islamic/Arabist custom of defining the election process as "one man, one vote, one time". Egypt, Pakistan and Syria are good examples of the successful application of that custom (Pakistan isn't Arab but it sure is Islamist). It appears that Maliki may be trying to follow his co-religionist cousins path in Iraq.

Reading this article leaves me with a definite impression that Maliki's ties to Sadr are aimed at making Sadr's militia the "enforcer" for a dreamed of power grab. If true, it would be entirely unsurprising.I wonder if toning down 'Stay the Course' rhetoric and dropping the noble lie of 'Religion of Peace' might be a prelude to engagement in Iraq in the religiously dictated muslim 'thugs and slaves' manner? Do we have an Attaturk waiting in the wings to instill democracy in the only way that has ever been successful in a muslim country?

If Maliki is hard of hearing, perhaps putting Sadr in the ground might provide a cure? It's worth a try - especially since the Iraqi Army is about two years away from being totally reliable.

I believe we should have done that long ago. But, soon is better than never.


Gordon Pasha said...

Not surprising that al-Maliki wasn't warned since he would have simply warned his buddies in Sadr City. I hope the Yanks finally realize that they have to smash a few eggs to build a better omelette.

Pastorius said...

I agree Winston. We didn't set the rules of the game right. We need to start over to a large extent.

Man, what a costly war.

Epaminondas said...

I feel the gorge rising again.

We cannot afford to lose, be seen to lose or be perceived to have lost in this.

If we cannot either win hearts or or minds, or make it plain to these foot dragging, death squad inspiring, salafi and khomeinist freaks that they are in a death spiral THEY have to get hold of today ... pull the ladies and gents into Kurdistan, and then...


Pastorius said...

I like your solution, Epa. I really do think we have to recognize that part of the process of building a democracy in the ME is possible false starts.

There is so much bullshit going on that we can't know who to trust until we are actually in the position of having to trust them.

It seems rather obvious now that al-Maliki is not a guy to trust.