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Sunday, September 17, 2006

I read the news today oh boy 

From Robert Dreyfuss comes this summary of the latest news about Iraq:
The Sunnis, who have been the heart of the resistance to the U.S. occupation since at least the fall of 2003, are virtually unified now. A critical piece of news, overlooked but for a brief mention in the Washington Post, is that fully 300 Iraqi tribal leaders—mostly Sunni, but including some Shiites—met in a town south of Kirkuk, to issue a demand that Saddam Hussein be freed. One of the leaders, whose tribe numbers 1.5 million, said: “If the demand is not satisfied, we will lead a general, sweeping, and popular uprising.” Such a threat would mean, in effect, that the Iraqi insurgency would be adopted officially by the entire tribal leadership of western and central Iraq. This is not al-Qaida. This is Iraq.
The Shiites, meanwhile, are entering the early stages of a fratricidal splintering. Although they have long been divided, current trends would indicate that the Shiite bloc in Iraq is about to collapse. Until now, the Shiites have been the tent pole holding up the entire U.S. enterprise in Iraq—so, if they splinter, it signals the end of the U.S. occupation. It’s a kaleidoscope: The Mahdi Army of Muqtada Sadr is restless, seemingly ready to launch another uprising, as it did in 2004—and Sadr’s army itself is seriously beset by divisions, with armed, rogue elements throughout. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is pressing hard for partition of Iraq—which it calls “federation”—and one of its leaders (who happens to be the Iraqi education minister) laid out a scenario for full-scale civil war. “Federation will cut off all parts of the country that are incubating terrorists,” he said. “We will put soldiers along the frontiers.”
Deepening the divisions among the Shiites even further, a new warlord is emerging, Mahmoud Hassani, who has built private armies in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad, and who is violently opposed to SCIRI and to Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Hassani, who also opposes the United States and who hates Iran, is emerging as a nationalist Shiite leader who could upset the whole Shiite apple cart.
And the pesky Kurds are openly threatening secession. Massoud Barzani, who is the real power in Kurdistan, said defiantly this week: “If we want to separate, we will do it without hesitation of fears.” Should the Kurds launch their widely expected operation to seize Kirkuk and Iraq’s northern oil fields, it will trigger a major escalation of civil war in Iraq.
Meanwhile, back in Washington:
Bush isn’t acknowledging these realities. The Pentagon is only hinting at them—though the generals know what’s going on. But inside the political class, an awareness of realities in Iraq is dawning. Last week, James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton, two consummate political insiders who happen to lead a hush-hush task force on Iraq called the Iraq Study Group, were in Baghdad, where (according to my sources) they got a heavy dose of reality. The Baker task force—which I wrote about in The Washington Monthly—includes top-level luminaries, including Robert M. Gates, Vernon Jordan and William Perry. Returning from Baghdad, Baker’s elite group, which also includes dozens of Iraq experts, met this week to consider a draft plan to exit Iraq, Jack Murtha-style, or alternatively, to stick around for another 12 months and then end up getting out anyway. Increasingly, after the elections, that will be the stark choice forced on the White House—by Washington’s political elite, by the precipitous drop in public support for the war and by the growing antiwar movement that has set up shop at Camp Democracy on the Mall.

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