Sunday, August 19, 2007

US 'better off with Sadr'

Aug.19, 2007

US 'better off' with Sadr as an ally

ONE OF the most interesting theories that have come up recently is that the US would be better off working with firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr to restore the "state" in Iraq and with Iran to restore normal Washington-Tehran relations if it were to hope for a face-saving formula to get out of the Iraq crisis.
The strongest proponent of the theory is William S. Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington.
The practical implementation of Lind's theory hinges on the precondition that the US administration accepts that its maximalist objectives of the invasion and occupation are not realisable, and it could no longer hope to dictate terms but could only hope to try influence things in a manner that reduces its losses and produces a way out of Iraq.
Essentially, Washington has to accept that the US is already defeated in Iraq and should act immediately in the light of that acceptance rather than wait for events to take their course towards the inevitability of having to eat crow in Iraq.
Indeed, that is where the problem is rooted. The US continues to believe that a victory in Iraq means the chaotic country being turned into an American satellite that is friendly to Israel and will guarantee US energy interests and offer military bases from which American forces can dominate the region.
That is where the neoconservatives who planned and orchestrated the Iraq war made their biggest mistake. None of these objectives were ever attainable and would never be attained regardless of how much military power the US throws into Iraq.
Let us start from point zero. The US-led invasion destroyed the "state" in Iraq and restoring it should be Washington's first priority. However, it would be unable to do so as long as it continues on its present course. The US would never be able to turn the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to be the unifying force capable of re-knitting Iraq because any association with the US becomes an immediate disqualifying factor for any Iraqi politician, whether Shiite or Sunni. The US remains an invader and occupier in most Iraqi eyes and it is simply impossible for Washington to be the creator of a post-Saddam Hussein state in Iraq. It has no option but to work with the country's Shiites to create a new state but only with a clear and public declaration of its intentions not to continue its occupation of Iraq and of a clear timeline for military withdrawal from that country. And Sadr, by his steadfast resistance against the US, is, at this juncture in time, the most credible Shiite leader in Iraq, no matter how Washington evaluates him in view of his known links with Iran.
Sadr has played his cards right. He has even reached out to Sunni groups by ordering his Mahdi Army militiamen to call off their violent campaign against the Sunnis and entering a de facto alliance with some of the Sunni factions.
There are many who believe that Sadr has already set his eyes on the highest position of power in Iraq and hence his strong emphasis on Shiite-Sunni unity against the US. They are suggesting that the time might not be more opportune for the US to make an overture to Sadr if indeed Washington is sincere in its declaration that it does not want to continue its military occupation indefinitely.
The US should essentially realise that it is no longer a question of ensuring that Iraq would remain US-friendly when the US forces withdraw from that country. It is simply impossible, given the way the US conducted itself in post-war Iraq. The question should indeed be how to ensure minimum losses and maxium protection for US forces as they withdraw from Iraq. In order to achieve that there should be a state that would co-operate with the clear understanding that the US military is leaving Iraq for good. In fact, the leaders of that new state would be more anxious than the American themselves to create an environment that is conducive to an accelerated US withdrawal from the country.
There would indeed be Sunni rejection of any US-Sadr deal. But then, the US should know that it could not please everyone. The Sunnis of Iraq have to accept that their days of domination are over and their only hope is to negotiate and bargain for the best deal they could get from whoever emerges as the political leader in a post-US occupation Iraq.
Of course, the strongest opposition to any US move to enter a compromise of sorts with Sadr would come from other Shiite leaders, but that is where Iran comes in with its clout with the Shiite community in Iraq in general to remove challenges to Sadr.
That is precisely the reason why the US should abandon its determination to subdue Iran and seek to launch an all-embracing dialogue aimed at settling most, if not all, differences and stabilise relations with the Islamic republic.
Washington should drop its belief that ending its in-built hostility towards Iran's theocratic regime and normalising relations with Tehran implies defeat for the US. Simply put, there would never be a US victory in Iraq as long as Washington pursues a belligerent course towards Iran.
Dropping hostility and negotiating an end to the tension with Iran is not seen as an option for the US at this point because Washington is convinced that it is not possible to co-exist with Tehran. The Iranian regime is similarly convinced, and Tehran could not be expected to help Washington to stabilise Iraq as long as the US military is present there. Instead, Iran believes that its interests of getting the US out of the region and emerging as a dominating regional power could be served only through continued destabilisation of Iraq. One could also throw in Afghanistan for good measures.
Within Iraq, the US could strike a deal with Moqtada Sadr, but that would be at the expense of accepting and acknowledging that it could not realise its objectives of the invasion of that country. Beyond that, it would simply mean giving up Iraq to be controlled by forces friendly to Iran, a much worse fate than being defeated in Iraq.
It is almost certain that with Sadr as the dominant Shiite political figure (under a hypothetical deal engineered by the US), there is no telling how the cookie will crumble in Iraq.
On the other hand, stabilising relations with Tehran and working out a face-saving formula by promoting Sadr, the US would be able to work out an exit strategy out of Iraq and also be assured that groups like Al Qaeda are significantly weakened because the new state in Iraq would make sure that such destabilising forces are chased out after the US quits the country.
It would indeed be a key scoring point in the US-led war against terror.
The Lind theory is an excellent suggestion for Washington because it offers the best way out of the US with the minimum loss of face. Washington and Tehran may not be become buddies, but they would be able to work out a formula under which they would avoid a confrontation and that is good news for the region.
However, the element that deflates all prospects for such course of events is the obvious determination among the Washington hard-liners, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, to stage military action against Iran and not to allow anything to stand in their way of eliminating that country as a potential threat to US and Israeli interests in the region.
It is the same Washington camp that plotted and orchestrated the invasion of Iraq that is behind the campaign for military strike against Iran. And it is also clear that all they need is a pretext to launch action, and the neoconservatives are admitting it in public.
nother 9/11 attack.
In an article titled "To save America, we need another 9/11," Stu Bykofsky writes in the Philadelphia Daily News that the fight between the Republicans and Democrats over Iraq shows that the US is divided and that the unity of Americans brought about by the Sept.11 attacks has disappeared.
Therefore, Bykofsky argues, the US needs another 9/11 style attack "quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail."
What Bykofsky falls short of suggesting is that Iran has already been lined up as the target for the "righteous rage" and "singular purpose."
Against that reality, theories and proposals such as those made by Lind have as much chance of consideration as the Iranians opting to buy Japanese caviar.