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Bush Administration Blinded By Iraqi Illusions

It is a deadly illusion for the administration to assume that the insurgency will subside once an inclusive government is formed, especially with Sunnis playing an active role in it. On the contrary, the insurgents view American pressure on the Shiite majority to include the Sunnis as vindication of their own campaign of indiscriminate violence.
by Alon Ben-Meir
UPI Outside View Commentator
New York (UPI) Apr 11, 2006
Tragically, the Bush administration has been engaged in a deadly game in Iraq from the day of the invasion more than three years ago. It has broken Iraq into pieces and now is trying, hopelessly, to recast it in its own image.

Assisted by a healthy dose of arrogance, a combination of tragic errors, terrible miscalculations, and misuse of intelligence -- especially by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld -- we have arrived at this very sorry day. Iraq is already in a state of civil war, and the country will further disintegrate unless the Bush administration changes course immediately.

One might think that the architects of the war in Iraq would have had a very clear picture of that country and its people before the invasion. As it turned out, the administration knew little about the Iraqi people, their culture, and national characteristics. The Bush team seems to have misjudged the profound impact of Islam not only as a religion but as a way of life for every Iraqi, and has demonstrated utter ignorance of Iraq's factionalism, tribal traditions, and its long history of sectarian division.

The administration was searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction when Saddam's real WMD's were his Jihadis, and Baathists, who were lying in wait for their day to come. The planners of the war never understood that the Iraqi society was a tapestry stitched together by the iron hand from above. Thus, they did not understand that after more than eight decades of existence as a unified state, and in spite of the people developing a coherent sense of Iraqi nationalism,

Iraq's social fabric remained factional, and a distinct line of separation was ardently adhered to in order to retain each faction's separate identity and the loyalty of its members. But President Bush and his defense chief charged into Iraq like the proverbial bulls into a china shop, and with shameless arrogance, have shredded the stitches that held together this delicate tapestry.

Regardless of how the current struggle for power is resolved, Iraq will remain in turmoil for years to come. Administration officials involved in the war efforts never understood that the collective stake of the Shiite, Sunnis, and Kurds in Iraq's future is far less compelling for each of the three major factions than the outcomes they believe they can independently secure for themselves. As a result, millions of Iraqis representing the entire social spectrum see the sectarian fight as existential, and they will spare no resources or efforts to safeguard what they view as their long-term legitimate interests.

It is a deadly illusion for the administration to assume that the insurgency will subside once an inclusive government is formed, especially with Sunnis playing an active role in it. On the contrary, the insurgents view American pressure on the Shiite majority to include the Sunnis as vindication of their own campaign of indiscriminate violence.

There is simply no reason for Jihadis, Baathists, and other Iraqi nationalists to give up the fight. From their perspective, no matter how large the Sunnis' share in government would be, the Sunnis have lost power and will remain indefinitely powerless unless they now carve something substantial and permanent for themselves. The insurgents have widespread local support; access to nearly unlimited financial resources pouring in from American allies, such as Saudi Arabia, and a huge cache of weapons and explosives, enough to terrorize Shiites and American forces for the indefinite future.

The other critical aspect of the Iraq war is that this administration has never understood the ultimate intentions of the Shiites. Although there is intra-sectarian conflict among the various Shiite factions, they will in the end stick together because they know that unity is their ultimate source of strength.

Guided by their spiritual Leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Shiite leaders have from the very beginning of the invasion determined to cooperate with the Americans, knowing full well that this is the only way they can secure national power. Their resolve to tolerate the bloody campaign against them, that is, until recently, forms the core of a three-part strategy.

First, they seek to consolidate their power by building a loyal military, internal police, and security apparatus. Second, they seek to keep their tens of thousands-strong militia forces intact, ready to do battle when called on. Finally, once they have achieved and consolidated power, they want to be the first to ask the Americans to leave Iraqi soil and to let them handle the situation in Iraq as they see fit. Decade's long suppression and forced incubation left very little trust between Shiites and Sunnis, and both are seeking security in areas where they demographically predominate.

This explains, among other reasons, why a self-imposed sectarian cleansing is currently in progress. Iraq is being divided and may eventually disintegrate into several provinces unless a strongman, most likely a Shiite, who will amass dictatorial powers into his hands but hopefully someone more benevolent than Saddam Hussein, emerges in the near future to stitch it back together.

Mr. Bush and some other top administration officials are finally admitting to making many mistakes in the execution of the war. These admissions, however, are disingenuous not only because they are too little and too late, but because they come at a time when the President feels beleaguered, is running out of options, and is desperate to improve his all time low ratings before the mid-term elections.

What the United States needs instead is an exit strategy that is independent of the developments in Iraq and can be executed by a predetermined date within 12 to 18 months. Otherwise, thousands more of Iraqis and Americans will die needlessly, victims of a terrible misadventure with no end in sight.

Source: United Press International

Related Links

Wolfowitz Says World Bank Has Role In Rebuilding Iraq
Makassar, Indonesia (AFP) Apr 10, 2006
The World Bank has a role to play in helping Iraq rebuild, its chief Paul Wolfowitz told AFP in an interview Saturday. "The Iraqi people deserve a peaceful, stable country and the World Bank has a contribution to make clearly on the development side," he said.

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