January 2, 2007

SHI'A NOT PETS:

For Iraq's Shiites, a Dream Deferred Breeds Mistrust of U.S. (Sudarsan Raghavan, 1/02/07, Washington Post)

Iraq's Shiites are at a crossroads in their rise from oppression to power and in their relationship with the United States. In a nation riven by violence and competing visions, they feel as if they have been handed the keys to their house but never allowed to settle down. Bitter personality rifts have undermined their ability to govern. And they have yet to bridge the growing divide separating them from the Sunnis and further deepened by Hussein's execution on Saturday.

As President Bush seeks a new strategy for Iraq, many Shiites express deep mistrust of the United States and its intentions. In U.S. efforts to engage Iraq's disaffected Sunnis, they perceive betrayal. And in U.S. pressure to dismantle Shiite militias, they see an attempt to weaken their bulwark against Sunni insurgents.

Against this backdrop, Shiite leaders have begun to push harder for more independence from their American backers. Most recently, the government ignored U.S. objections to hanging Hussein too hastily. He was executed, amid jeers from Shiite witnesses, four days after an appeals court upheld his death sentence.

Casting a shadow over discussions with Shiites such as Lefta is a despairing sense, inspired by centuries of oppression and suspicion of outsiders, that their community is handcuffed, effectively prevented from shaping its future.

Lefta's friend Wisam al-Taieb, 27, a gaunt Oil Ministry worker with dark, intense eyes, stood next to him at the mosque.

"What future?" Taieb demanded. "Now the Shia are suffering from a campaign of genocide. The Americans are in total control of our security forces. Our elected government does not have the power to move a single military unit. How do you expect me not to be pessimistic?"


Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in ’06, Bush Team Says (DAVID E. SANGER, MICHAEL R. GORDON and JOHN F. BURNS, 01/02/07, NY Times)
President Bush began 2006 assuring the country that he had a “strategy for victory in Iraq.” He ended the year closeted with his war cabinet on his ranch trying to devise a new strategy, because the existing one had collapsed.

The original plan, championed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Baghdad, and backed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, called for turning over responsibility for security to the Iraqis, shrinking the number of American bases and beginning the gradual withdrawal of American troops. But the plan collided with Iraq’s ferocious unraveling, which took most of Mr. Bush’s war council by surprise.

In interviews in Washington and Baghdad, senior officials said the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department had also failed to take seriously warnings, including some from its own ambassador in Baghdad, that sectarian violence could rip the country apart and turn Mr. Bush’s promise to “clear, hold and build” Iraqi neighborhoods and towns into an empty slogan.

This left the president and his advisers constantly lagging a step or two behind events on the ground.

“We could not clear and hold,” Stephen J. Hadley, the president’s national security adviser, acknowledged in a recent interview, in a frank admission of how American strategy had crumbled. “Iraqi forces were not able to hold neighborhoods, and the effort to build did not show up. The sectarian violence continued to mount, so we did not make the progress on security we had hoped. We did not bring the moderate Sunnis off the fence, as we had hoped. The Shia lost patience, and began to see the militias as their protectors.”


The failure to munderstand that the militias were our allies is a functiuon of the failure to understand that the war was about liberating the Shi'a and Kurds from the Sunni, not just about deposing Saddam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2007 1:03 PM
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