That said, I have a long rant on my take of what is going on and what America needs to do. Briefly, we’re chest deep in the tibia river. Going forward is certain death as the river is too deep to stay on the current course. Staying or not backing out of the river will not get us where we want to be. It’s time to leave.
The War in Iraq has failed by any standard. There were no WMDs, it didn’t bring democracy or freedom and we took a murderous bully that gave the region stability and replaced him with us (another equally murderous bully to the civilians there!) and no stability.
The U.S. brought Iraq a civil war but it won’t (can’t) bring Iraq a peaceful end. American diplomatic means won't be successful because we waited too long, harmed too many, failed others and marginalize what could have been allies. Armed militias (many armed by the U.S) are in most of Iraq’s cities and towns. The militias are small, loosely associated tribal gangs with no real central control. Much of the current chaotic violence has to do with revenge and turf rivalry. America can’t bring any degree of stability or end to the violence mainly because it’s widespread but not centralized. There is no one group to negotiate with…no one issue…no one bargaining chip... no one potential ally to break the now hourly cycle of violence that the U.S. Iraq war put in place. Plainly speaking this is our mess but there is no solution other than withdrawal.
The larger militias are splintered in power and leadership (by design or rival power plays?). Still the most powerful and influential is the Iraqi Shiite militia (called Mahdi Army). It's leader is Moktada al-Sadr. Whenever you hear about uniformed Iraq soldiers infiltrating or kidnapping or killing, they are most likely members of Moktada Al-Sadr’s group. Every young man (age 13-35) either directly or passively supports the Mahdi Army and it's leader al-Sadr. It is a very powerful group among the profusion of groups in Iraq that carry out executions and paramilitary operations.
“In a reflection of the growing new dimension of civil strife" a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday that the militia of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has grown eightfold over the past year and now fields 40,000 to 60,000 men. That makes it more effective than the Iraqi government’s army! The official also said “Sadr is so powerful that if provincial elections were held now, he would sweep most of the south and also take Baghdad.” The Mahdi Army and leadership is one of the main forces in Iraq.
Currently the U.S. (under Bush) would like to disarm the Mahdi especially in Baghdad. This Shiite militia has a close association with Iran and to broker peace the Mahdi must be dealt with…but at what cost? Surely we will see genocide of the Baath and Al Qaeda supporters in Baghdad (we already are). Add in the Badr and Fadhila militias, various tribal leaders, Iraqi private security contractors, quasi religious and government militias, criminal gangs and local town militias and you have a cauldron already boiling over and threatening to explode throughout the region. Disarming the Mahdi Army won't be possible. It will just ignite the explosion.
The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity. As it stands today, Iraq will likely become several states instead of one larger country. Each area will be determined by local militias that identify by both ancestry and religious grouping. And each area will have 'ethnic cleansing' carried out by rival groups. There's more death and destruction to come but make no mistake, it was set in motion by the United States.
I’ve hear talk of replacing Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, including comments from the Bush administration that they are disappointed in his inability to control the violence. But al-Maliki wouldn’t abide one day in Parliament without Mr. Sadr’s support, just as anyone we might replace him with.The U.S. talks about putting in a ‘strongman’ that would be independent of the Mahdi…but that’s a long dead pipedream... It was left too late. Power bases have been established and external forces shored up. America must now accepted that the devil they got rid of (Saddam) was much tamer and controllable and stabilizing to the Middle East than the outcome of Bu$h's ill advised war. Iraq is not on the "edge of civil war". It is in the midst of it. It's a steep price to inflict on Iraq and the middle east for the pleasure of seeing Saddam Hussein die.
As to stability in the Middle East….Jordon has so many refugees that have fled Iraq (est. at 1 million) that it’s borders have crease to function and it will probably crease as a country in the near future. Look for a land grab in the next five years by neighboring states. Syria and Iran have both taken in hundreds of thousands and have taken an active role (at least behind the scenes) to move Iraq toward a stronger state in lending them stability and more power through Shiite rule.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia would like to see the U.S. continue to try but obviously fail to re-establish a more pluralistic and passively controllable government. Neither is willing to risk their armies and name to such an outcome. The most America can look for is money and arms with some behind the scenes string pulling.
Recent reports have the Mahdi army sending 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. There seems to have been a strategic decision taken sometime over late winter or early spring by Damascus, Tehran, along with their partners in Lebanese Hezbollah, to provide more support to Sadr to increase pressure on the U.S. I don’t really believe this was a mutually agreed upon joint decision but one that played out to the benefit of Lebanon and Iran and especially for al-Sadr. The Mahdi army can now clearly call the ‘shots’ in determining Iraq’s future. They certainly have more influence and power than the U.S. et al combined.
The United States needs to fold their tents and slink back into America. There can be no clear victory or win. Military force or a gradual draw down of troops will not prevail or change conditions on the ground. The outcome will be the same regardless. It is civil war (yes we created it!) but there is no strategic move that will bring both stability and peace that would be acceptable by the current power players or the general population. The best we can do is withdrawal and lend humanitarian assistances for the coming days while the state of Iraq determines its own destiny.
It's a f*cking mess but it's time to leave. Here’s what Riverbend said when she started her blog Baghdad Burning:
"For me, April 9 was a blur of faces distorted with fear, horror and tears. All over Baghdad you could hear shelling, explosions, clashes, fighter planes, the dreaded Apaches and the horrifying tanks heaving down streets and highways. Whether you loved Saddam or hated him, Baghdad tore you to pieces. Baghdad was burning. Baghdad was exploding … Baghdad was falling.”It's hard to imagine a worse scenero but she blogs today with more dismay at what is going on:
It’s not about the man- presidents come and go, governments come and go. It’s the frustration of feeling like the whole country and every single Iraqi inside and outside of Iraq is at the mercy of American politics. It is the rage of feeling like a mere chess piece to be moved back and forth at will. It is the aggravation of having a government so blind and uncaring about their peoples needs that they don’t even feel like it’s necessary to go through the motions or put up an act. And it's the deaths. The thousands of dead and dying, with Bush sitting there smirking and lying about progress and winning in a country where every single Iraqi outside of the Green Zone is losing.I wish I had a magic wand to wave over Iraq and fix what the United States put into motion. But the reality is "it is what it is", the United States must take responsibility, face up to what has come to pass, and withdrawal immediately. Iraq must determine it's own destiny. American can only look on, give humanitarian assistances, and any additional aid if determined by the international community. Yes we created this mess, but now the United States will do the right thing, the only thing, that can possibly help, we'll withdrawal from the region while offering help and assistance to Iraq in determining it's own future.