Monday, August 29, 2005

A Confederacy Of Dubyas

This is what we're settling for.

Shiite and Kurdish leaders drafting a new Iraqi constitution abandoned negotiations with a group of Sunni representatives on Friday, deciding to take the disputed charter directly to the Iraqi people.

With the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, standing by, Shiite and Kurdish representatives said they had run out of patience with the Sunni negotiators, a group that includes several former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The Shiites and Kurds said the Sunnis had refused to budge on a pair of crucial issues that were holding up completion of the constitution.

The Shiites and Kurds reached their decision in meetings that ran late into Friday night, disregarding the Sunnis' pleas for more time.

The Shiite and Kurdish representatives sought to play down the importance of leaving the Sunnis out, saying that with their Baathist links, they had never truly spoken for the broader Sunni population. The Iraqi leaders who drafted the constitution defended it as a document that would ensure the unity of the country and safeguard individual rights.

"The negotiation is finished, and we have a deal," said Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and a member of the Shiite leadership. "No one has any more time. It cannot drag on any longer. Most of the Sunnis are satisfied. Everybody made sacrifices. It is an excellent document."

Well, if you can't take Chalabi's word for it....Seriously, why is it that this is the only thing Bush insisted on a timetable for? Ironically, this tends to bolster Bush's general point about timetables -- people can just wait them out. Basically, the Sunnis feel pretty cornered right now, and with good reason. The Kurds and Shiites have a lot of payback to administer. Even without the looming specter of Shia death squads tearing al-Anbar a new one soon as we leave, they can just use the newfound institutions of "democracy" to do it, by federalizing the Sunni areas into penury and powerlessness. They know this, that's why they refuse to sign on.

But back to my original point -- the very fact that Ahmad Chalabi vouches for it is all the more reason to scrutinize both the document and the process. Turning over the country to the Vichy Chalabites just puts him in the position of playing us and Iran off against each other for the next decade or so. I'm sure Chalabi will soon have several palaces, if he doesn't already.

The decision to move forward was a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which had expended enormous energy and political capital to forge a constitution that included the Sunnis. On Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to get a deal, President Bush telephoned Abdul Aziz Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to press him to offer a more palatable compromise to the Sunnis.

The Sunni leaders complained bitterly that the Shiites and the Kurds had offered no real concessions on the two issues that still divided them: autonomy for the Shiite majority and an end to the campaign to root out former Baath Party members from government and society.

The Sunni leaders said they would urge all Sunni Arabs to vote the constitution down when it went before Iraqi voters in a referendum scheduled for Oct. 15. Under a special mechanism agreed to last year at the Kurds' insistence, the draft constitution will be rejected if two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against it. Sunni Arabs make up a majority in three provinces, though it remains unclear if they could muster a two-thirds majority in all three.


From the start, Iraqi leaders and members of the Bush administration have maintained that Sunni participation in the drafting of the constitution, and in parliamentary elections in December, were essential first steps in bringing the Sunnis into Iraq's budding democratic process. The guerrilla insurgency is largely made up of disaffected Sunnis, and the Sunni areas of the country largely boycotted parliamentary elections in January.

Some Iraqi leaders, even some who said they were fed up with the recalcitrance of the Sunni negotiators, said they were worried about producing a constitution formally agreed to by only two of the country's three major groups. Rather than uniting the country, these Iraqis said, there was a risk that such a constitution could drive the groups further apart.

Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister and a secular Sunni leader, said he agreed with much of what was in the new constitution but was troubled by its more overtly Islamic provisions, like the ones giving clerics a role in adjudicating family law.

Mr. Pachachi, one of the Americans' closest friends in Iraq, said he was growing increasingly worried about the overweening power of the cleric-dominated Shiite political leadership, which maintains extensive ties to the Iranian Islamic government next door.

"They want to inject religion into everything, which is not right," Mr. Pachachi said of the Iraqi Shiite leaders. "I cannot imagine that we might have a theocratic regime in Iraq like the one in Iran. That would be a disaster."

Indeed, under the constitution now completed, Islam will reign as the official state religion and as a main source of Iraqi law. Clerics will in all likelihood have seats on the Supreme Court, where they will be empowered to examine legislation to make sure it does not conflict with Islam. They will be given an opportunity to apply Islamic law in family disputes over matters like divorce and inheritance.

Those provisions have raised concerns here, especially among Iraqi women and secular leaders, who fear that they are laying the groundwork for a full-blown Islamic state.

So. There's your "noble cause", Dear Leader. How do you like it?

Until the Iranian-backed Sistani group started gaining traction, Pachachi was actually the man. But he's in his 80s and from a minority that, by will of the rest of the country, is about to be put on ice. Make no mistake -- the constitution might get bulled through, and they might get their referendum and all, but the Sunnis will keep pushing toward civil war.

Not only that, but let's face facts -- even if the Sunnis had just signed on willingly, it's still a document that takes the country a few steps toward a theocracy that oppresses women. I don't think anyone signed up for that, and all the anodyne "let's take what we can get" arguments don't change that simple fact.

General Wesley Clark has some ideas that make sense -- which naturally means that they won't be implemented.

On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.

Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground remains poor at best. U.S. armed forces still haven't received resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Only in June, over two years into the mission of training Iraqi forces, did the president announce such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units and training Iraqi ministries to conduct antiterrorist operations. But there is nothing new about any of this; it is the same nation-building doctrine that we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists? Where are the flexible, well-resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces -- U.S., coalition or Iraqi -- to strengthen control over the borders?

Indeed. All we heard in the marketing phase of this clusterfuck was how leaner, meaner fighting forces would enable us to "finish the job" that much faster, because of their greater mobility and adaptability. Logistically, that was true enough -- armies travel on their stomachs, and every general back to Sun Tzu knows that logistics are every bit as key to success as training, strategy, and tactics.

However, where the braintrust fell short was strategy. Strategy is more than having an effective playbook and game plan; it is also about adapting to changing or unforeseen conditions. That is where we fell woefully short. Apparently they really meant it about the expectations of rose petals and candy. They meant it so much they failed even to plan for the possibility that they might have guessed wrong.

Whatever. We're here now, and hopefully the voters will recognize that the morons who insisted on all this are considerably worse than their feckless enablers in the "opposition" party. What do we do now, General?

Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. The United States should tone down its raw rhetoric and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. In addition, a public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would be a helpful step in engaging both regional and Iraqi support as we implement our plans.

On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution is less important than the substance of the document. It is up to American leadership to help engineer, implement and sustain a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and Iraq's neighbors can support. So no Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.

In addition, the United States needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice, along with additional U.S. civilian personnel, to help strengthen the institutions of government. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice established (and its personnel trained) and the rule of law promoted at the local level. There will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqis concerned with their nation's sovereignty. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential.

On the military side, the vast effort underway to train an army must be matched by efforts to train police and local justices. Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist. Neighboring states should also provide observers and technical assistance. In military terms, striking at insurgents and terrorists is necessary but insufficient. Military and security operations must return primarily to the tried-and-true methods of counterinsurgency: winning the hearts and minds of the populace through civic action, small-scale economic development and positive daily interactions. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters. A better effort must be made to control jihadist infiltration into the country by a combination of outposts, patrols and reaction forces reinforced by high technology. Over time U.S. forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.

There's a lot of great points there, and the Vulcans would do well to take them under advisement. Sadly, despite all the talk about how we won't "cut and run", it sure seems like that's what they're preparing for. I don't know how that's possible in the context of all those permanent forward-deployment bases we've set up there, but the current attitude of the beleaguered (by their own ineptitude) administration is that they'd be happy to leave it to Chalabi and friends. And you just never know who this guy keeps around as a "friend". Chalabi is little more than the usual distributor of thick envelopes, and as such, I have no doubt he'll have the place humming like his own personal Indian casino in several years.

But despite Dear Leader's hoary proclamations that the best way to honor our dead is to stay this nebulous course, it seems people are starting to finally wonder about the simplistic Yogi Berra wisdom in Bush's little verbal gems. Better late than never, I suppose. Even Bobo, in his own special way, may be starting to realize it, though he'll never fully admit it.

Oh yeah, someone else is registering their approval and endorsement of the new draft constitution:

Iran on Tuesday heralded the submission of Iraq's draft constitution to parliament, saying the text would improve "security, peace and sovereignty" across the border, according to AFP.

"The composition of Iraq's constitution is an very valuable and important step towards the independence and integration of Iraq," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told official media.

"It will help the Iraqi nation to gain security, establishment of peace and sovereignty."

Can't say we weren't warned.


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