Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Playing for the End Game

Okay, it sounds like we’re there. That’s not declaring victory by any means, but saying it’s time to focus on the end game. It’s time to have the showdown in the street with our real enemies in Iraq. High Noon time.

Wretchard at quotes both Alaa the Mesopotamian and Baghdad Burning, reporting on some disturbing developments in Baghdad. He also links to a news report in the The Guardian:

Unidentified gunmen opened fire in a trading company in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood Wednesday, killing eight employees and wounding six, police said. The men, some in police uniform, arrived at the al-Ibtikar Trade Contracting Co. in five black BMWs about 8:15 a.m., police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said. Those killed included five men and three women, he said.

The motive of the attack in west Baghdad's Mansour district was not immediately clear. The assailants burned part of the building and didn't appear to have taken any money, Abdul-Razzaq said. Those who survived told police that the gunmen identified themselves as Iraqi Interior Ministry intelligence agents. They first asked for the manager, who was not in, then apparently gathered the victims together and shot each of them before fleeing, police and survivors said.

Too contrived, no other evident motive, the target too soft; this is clearly an internecine attempt to discredit the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Somebody’s decided it’s time to gore the ox. Wretchard draws a compelling conclusion from this turn of events:

The fundamental problem is that while the logic of security demands keeping indigenous forces under American control, the political logic demands the opposite: taking them away and inexorably pushing them under the wing of a new unity government. Handing over to potential enemies the very thing they require to complete their plans. The Iraqi government has so far failed the test of representing all its constituencies. It is entirely possible that certain Sunni and Shi'ite political parties who hate each other are determined to sabotage the American effort; and to force the US to withdraw so they can fight it out even if it means devastating their own communities. The raids on Moqtada al-Sadr's men and the overt US opposition to Ibrahim al-Jaafari suggests the US is determined to excise what it considers to be hostile political factions by force if necessary, to clear the way for a possible unity government to emerge. Time will soon tell whether it will work or whether Iraq as a unitary nation is hopelessly compromised.

Perhaps chastened by the initial responses to this post – or some second guessing upon a calmer post-post read, Wretchard posts an additional update that clarifies that he sees more political implications than military ones:

Some readers characterized this is a "gloomy" post, so perhaps there's a couple of things I should clarify. Unlike April 2004 when the insurgency broke out, I think the current problems are largely political rather than military in character. In April 2004, there were no trained security forces to control and hold a battlespace. Today those forces increasingly exist -- physically. But the political process hasn't kept pace with the creation of those security forces. The political process determines who controls those forces. History has shown Iraq can be controlled by a dictatorship, whether a colonial administration or under Saddam. The unresolved question is whether a democratic state can ever be a successor regime to a country with this kind of history. It's a problem, but it's a different problem, though maybe a worse problem than a purely military one. But my guess is that it's gone from battle-time (operating against insurgent forces) to purge-time (cleaning out hostile factions) and the emphasis has gone from facing the weaker enemy (the Sunni insurgency) to the stronger one: Iran.

Going from battle time to purge time. I think this is right, and Wretchard concludes with who I assess as the real enemy in what we face presently in Iraq: Iran.

Iran has concluded, much as Bin Laden did leading up to 9/11, as Saddam did leading up to 2003, that we lose heart. We don’t have the stomach to fight back, and fight back with the necessary sacrifice in blood and treasure (to use a phrase greatly abused and nearly absconded by the war’s opponents).

They let up, briefly, after our initial responses to 9/11, and waited to see how long our new found resolve and backbone would hold firm. Months passed, many of our responses in the Middle East and the world fell back on pre-9/11 thinking. American support for the war fell, opposition grew emboldened, but more importantly, we maintained the classic pretense of the efficacy of diplomacy with those we must know to be our enemies. They must know, think the Mullahs, so why do they hold their fire? Because they are weak, they have no stomach for the fight, they are tired, they fear.

Iran no longer fears our response, they make the devil’s calculation that the spoils will be theirs after the catastrophe of our failure. No matter how many Iraqis are killed in the process, faithful and faithless alike.

As Wretchard adds in comments:

The Iranians by all accounts, were playing for the End Game. The End Game has now arrived. And it will be different in character from what went before.


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