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Why Maliki Is Failing

New Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jun 09, 2006
Iraq's new so-called unity government has produced not unity, but increased chaos and civil war. In central Iraq, Sunni insurgents are escalating the sectarian conflict with ever more blatant mass killings of Shiites.

In southern Iraq, Shiite militias entirely outside the control of new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security forces escalate their confrontation and boldness towards British security forces by the day.

In the less than half a month since Maliki's government was appointed, the slaughter of civilians by the Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias acting in reprisal has escalated to new levels of scale and ferocity. What went wrong?

The answer is that more than three years after the first violent clashes between U.S. forces and proto-insurgents in Fallujah heralded the still-escalating insurgency, Bush administration policymakers and most pontificators in the U.S. media still fail to grasp the nature and scale of the problems in Iraq that underlie the insurgency and emerging civil war.

Bush administration policymakers remain fixated on their chimera of establishing a working democracy in Iraq and they have gone to great pains to micro-manage the simulacra of democracy -- open parliamentary elections, a parliament and coalition wheeling and dealing. Much effort over the past two years has also gone into building up new Iraqi police and military forces already more than 220,000 strong.

The trouble is: None of it is real.

The surface paraphernalia of democratic government is not connected to any real network of acceptance, consent and public administration. Real power and the ability to provide basic services at a local level and any modicum of safety has steadily devolved into the hands of Sunni and Shiite local militias.

The Shiite militias have heavily penetrated the police and the army. Sunni intelligence agents have most likely deeply penetrated the new security forces, as reflected in their ability to strike continuing devastating bomb attacks against police stations and gatherings, apparently at will.

The previous government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari was becoming increasingly anti-American and had become reliant on the support of Shiite hardliner Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi army militia. The Iranian-backed Mahdi army is the most important and fastest growing Shiite militia across the south of Iraq and in the port city of Basra. And it is also a growing power in Sadr City, a densely populated area of Baghdad.

But Jaafari's eagerness to embrace Iran and rely on Sadr was anathema to U.S. policymakers who pushed for his fall and replacement by Maliki. The trouble is that, for all the superficial support American wheeling and dealing has won for Maliki in the new Iraqi parliament, his real levels of support and credibility among Iraq's 60 percent Shiite majority is negligible. And the impact of the intensified Sunni insurgency since he took office has dealt a a probably mortal blow to his political legitimacy.

Even worse, Maliki does not have even the titular level of support from the Shiite militias that Jaafari did. Therefore the prospects of a dangerous clash between the Shiite militias, especially in Basra, and the British and U.S. forces that support the new government, continue to grow.

As yet, Maliki still has not even been able to get his supposed coalition partners to agree on ministers to head Iraq's defense and interior ministries.

The bottom line is that even if Maliki can put a superficially credible government together, as he has so far failed to do, he has given not the slightest hint of coming up with any policies that will take the steam out of the insurgency and either undermine it militarily or reduce its popular support in the 20 percent Sunni minority community.

Even more crucially, he faces the challenge of restoring basic security to the capital Baghdad and a resumption of normal services and economic recovery for the 16 provinces of Iraq not primarily impacted by the Sunni insurgency in the remaining two of them.

The prospects of Maliki managing to do any of these things currently appear negligible. His army is ineffective and demoralized; his police at best unreliable and at worst harboring criminal elements and militia cells itself. Far from becoming a rescue ship for the Iraqi people from the hurricanes pummeling them, Maliki's government appears to be just another piece of driftwood tossed on the waves by the unforgiving storm.

Source: United Press International

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The man who made Iraq tremble died Thursday, killed in a U.S. air strike, along with several of his followers. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was his nom-de-guerre; a Jordanian by birth, his real name was Ahmed Fadel Nazzal al-Khalayila.

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