November 29, 2006

NYT: NSA memo about Maliki doubts his ability to quell violence in Iraq

This is quite interesting. One has to wonder why the memo got released/leaked the day of Maliki and Bush's meeting in Jordan.

My thought is that they have been laying the groundwork for sometime to blame the Iraqi leadership for its failure to quell the violence. This memo seems to cement that. I mean, it couldn't be related at all to our invasion and occupation. As always, the blame can NEVER be laid at the feet of this administration. They are perfect, doncha know.

Most troubling, it appears Mr. Maliki's Shia heritage may be holding him back on being even-handed in dealing with the participants in the civil war.

In describing the Oct. 30 meeting between Mr. Hadley and Mr. Maliki, it says: “Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so.” It said the Iraqi leader’s assurances seemed to have been contradicted by developments on the ground, including the Iraqi government’s approach to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia known in Arabic as Jaish al-Mahdi and headed by Moktada al-Sadr.

“Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad. ..."

Among the concerns voiced in the memo was that Mr. Maliki was surrounded by a small group of advisers from the Shiite Dawa Party, a narrow circle that American officials worry may skew the information he receives.
Oy. Pot meet kettle. On the other hand, the memo doesn't say anything about us getting out, instead it suggests sending more troops while at the same time, we assist Maliki in a bit of a coup.
. . . But the memo’s authors also contemplate the possibility that Mr. Maliki’s position may be too tenuous for him to take the steps needed to curb the power of Shiite militias, to establish a more diverse and representative personal staff and to arrest the escalating sectarian strife.

In that case, the memo suggests, it may ultimately be necessary for Mr. Maliki to recast his parliamentary bloc, a step the United States could support by pressing moderates to align themselves with the Iraqi leader and providing them with monetary support.
So, let me see if I have this. That election that Mr. Bush crows about all the time can be wiped out. Maliki dissolves the parliament, and they have a new election? With candidates backed by the U.S.? Am I reading this right? And one wonders, are there any moderates left in Iraq?

Full text of memo here.

On Edit: After reading the full text of the memo, it indicates that there would be no need to have a new election, just persuasion of moderate blocs within the current parliament. So then the question has to be, are there enough moderates for Maliki to get a majority if he turns his back on the more extreme elements of the legislative body? An even better question: What happens if Maliki isn't up to Bush's muster? Do we stage a coup and install our own guy? Someone who can knock a few heads together and make the Iraqi's behave? You know, sort of a strong man.

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