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Who's in charge around here, anyway?


The confusion in Iraq, it seems, at least partly mirrors confusion in Washington. As Eli Lake's stupefying account most clearly suggests, there is no unified policy on an interim government, just a rugby scrum of bureaucratic factions:

Ironically, the Salahuddin conference that produced the leadership panel Wolfowitz would like to empower was, at the time, considered a victory for the State Department, which used the opportunity to marginalize the INC, the one-time umbrella for the Iraqi opposition. In Salahuddin, the INC was only one of numerous opposition groups that it had once held under its wing, including SCIRI and both major Kurdish parties. Alongside Chalabi, delegates to the conference chose Allawi, an ex-Baathist who has received clandestine funding from the CIA since the early '90s; Abdul Aziz Hakim, brother of Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim, whose militia is trained by Iran's military; and the leaders of both Kurdish parties, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. The sixth member of the leadership committee was Adnan Pachachi, an octogenarian former Iraqi foreign minister living in the United Arab Emirates who has been courted by the Saudis and, more recently, by Zalmay Khalilzad, the president's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition. (Pachachi and Allawi have been unclear as to whether they are still a part of this group, making it essentially a group of four and leaving it Sunni-less for now.) The Pentagon plan calls for the group of four to help choose Iraqi internals and develop a power-sharing arrangement to lead an interim authority with input from Washington.
All clear now?

And the story just gets stranger. The U.S. Department of Defense has ushered its preferred candidate, Ahmed Chalabi, into Iraq with a force of a few thousand fighting men, the so-called Free Iraqi Forces, trained shortly before the war at a base in Hungary. As noted here, the FIF seem to be everywhere at once, suggesting that Gen. Franks is under orders to promote Chalabi's fortunes through his men's artificial exploits. Two similar ploys come immediately to mind: the British attempt to have Arab irregulars precede Western forces into Damascus in 1918, and the Arab liberation of Kuwait City in 1991.

At the same time, the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, headed by Jay Garner but seemingly riven by the same infighting visible everywhere else, has been signalling vigorously - too vigorously - that Chalabi is not their guy. The loudest signal to this effect was their disassociation from Chalabi associate Mohsen Zobeidi, the self-proclaimed governor of Baghdad. Sometimes the protests ring somewhat false, as in this New York Times report:

Of the new government body, General Garner said: "It will have Iraqi faces on it. It will be governed by the Iraqis." Of Mr. Chalabi, he said: "Mr. Chalabi is a fine man. He is not my candidate, he is not the candidate of the coalition."

Despite General Garner's words about Mr. Chalabi, he was having dinner with him tonight.

Subtle, this isn't.

So it seems that President Bush's singular vision for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was not matched by an equally intense focus on Iraq apres-Saddam. Insofar as the success of a military campaign can only be measured by the achievement of its underlying political goals, it may be too soon to declare victory after all. At this point, no one should question whether there actually were any political objectives worthy of the name. (#1, Get Saddam; #2, Establish democracy throughout the Middle East.) But how to get from point A to point B was never carefully thought through. As an unnamed defense analyst commented to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin last December,

...there is a "don't-worry-be-happy Zeitgeist" in official Washington that "tends to portray Iraq as the next Japan, a Sleeping Beauty merely waiting for her prince's precision-guided kiss from 15,000 feet or higher."
Chillingly indicative of this disdain for the details was a hint in George Packer's profile of Chalabi and the INC's leading intellectual, Kanan Makiya of Brandeis University, published this past March:
When [Bush] met with Makiya and two other Iraqis in January, I was told by someone not present, the exiles spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites. The very notion of an Iraqi opposition appeared to be new to him. War has turned Bush into a foreign-policy president, but democratizing an Arab country will require a subtlety and sophistication that have been less in evidence than the resolve to fight.
The results, so far, are less than encouraging. It looks something like the last Iraq War, but only moreso: a lopsided triumph on the battlefield, followed by a failure to capitalize on a victory won with blood and treasure. But the flawed outcome of 1991 is looking better every day. This time, instead of leaving Saddam in place, George W. Bush may wind up replacing the Iraqi dictator with something even worse, i.e., an Islamic Republic. Hopefully, there is some plan taking shape right about now to avert this disaster, something more meaningful than arranging for Ahmed Chalabi to take custody of Saddam. But don't hold your breath.

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by Analyst @ 07:06 AM CST [Link]


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Replies: 1 Comment

i believe that no matter how hard we try, we will never have peace in this nation. We can never get along. We always have to fight and i dont understand. i am only 15 years old but through my whole life i was told by my mother and father that we should always try our hardest to get along with other people even if we do not agree with what they are doing. i dont understand why that cannot apply with what is going on today.

Posted by Ashley @ 04/29/2003 07:27 PM CST

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