Friday, March 28, 2008

What's Going On In Iraq?

A little elaboration on what is happening in Iraq now. TPM had a good summary on Wednesday and another yesterday, for those in need of the Cliff Notes.

Basically, what we're seeing is the likely re-escalation of the civil war in a smaller sense (guess we should've built taller walls and/or paid the insurgents more $$), but in the larger sense we're seeing a political power play between Prime Minister al-Maliki and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr... but, you know, with guns and bombs and stuff. Al-Sadr, while just a citizen, is a big political player in Iraq, with more support and allies in the Iraqi government than Maliki himself has. A fragile ceasefire by Sadr's forces has been in place for about a year (likely because he realized his political power was more important than the unpredictable fruits of war). For reasons that aren't fully clear, the Maliki government has decided that now is the time to take down the Sadr-allied militias. And while technically (for whatever it's worth) the ceasefire is still in place, the militias have been given the okay to fight back. Combine this with the news of mass defections from the Iraqi police to these militias (surprise!), and all hell is breaking loose.

But there seems to me to be another interesting dynamic at play here, one that tears to shreds (yet again) the neocons' simplistic, cartoonish view of Middle Eastern politics. Prime Minister al-Maliki is very closely allied, and backed, by the Iranian government... hence the red carpet treatment that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got on his visit to Baghdad a month ago. al-Sadr, on the other hand, is a nationalist... as likely to support the small Iranian encroachments as he would be to support the larger U.S. ones. So we have a situation where the United States (while continuing to saber-rattle against Iran) is backing the Iranian-backed Shiite militias-- I'm sorry, 'government forces'-- in their fight against the Iraqi nationalist Shiite militias (while continuing to pretend to care about the will of the Iraqi people). BEST WAR EVER.

And once again, the U.S. military is a hostage of Bush's hubris, stuck fighting someone else's war that they have no personal stake in. And once again, the President is invoking the overhyped 'al Qaeda in Iraq' to justify this mess while actually doing al Qaeda's dirty work for them. All while we enable the conditions which will ensure that a U.S. withdrawal gets farther away than ever.

This is all part of what President Bush calls a "positive moment" in Iraq's development.

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