4 years, 8 months ago
Ralph Peters is sanguine concerning Iraq. Daniel Pipes is much less so. I tend towards bleak outlooks, but am waiting on either of the very good analysts at Iraq the Model to weigh in, or Nibras Kazimi at Talisman Gate (with whom I have had knock down, drag out fights). Several things are clear at this point. It is clear that there is a lot of confusion. It is clear that Ahmad Chalabi is a sniveling lackey and treacherous scumbag who has empowered Iran and hurt Iraqi unity by causing the dissociation of its sects. I have complained long and loudly concerning the Status of Forces Agreement and what it has done to U.S. power in the region. We have spent too much blood and treasure to give up so much authority and allow the criminalization of so many Sunnis who participated in the sons of Iraq program to defeat al Qaeda. ITM weighed in on the exclusion of so many Sunnis from elections and concluded that it has as its basis sectarianism.
More troubling still, this sectarian violence is still going on.
Hunkered down in a community outside Baghdad, Raad Ali watched the national elections Sunday in anonymity. No one bothers him here. Strangers think he is just another displaced Iraqi from the capital.
The days are long, and he misses his wife and children.
He believes that the election results could mean either his return home or exile, far from his loved ones.
With his button-down shirts, slacks and habitual smile, Ali looks like an unassuming civil servant or eager salesman growing into a chubby middle age. The only sign of worry is his five o’clock shadow.
A little over two years ago, he was shaking U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno’s hand in his old neighborhood, Ghazaliya, where Ali commanded one of the first Baghdad branches of a Sunni paramilitary movement that helped restore calm to Baghdad. Now Iraqi security forces are hunting him, despite the fact that he took on the Mahdi Army and Al Qaeda in Iraq in his west Baghdad neighborhood.
Ali prays that the national elections will solve his problems. If Iyad Allawi wins, he thinks there would be a place for him in his country. If Nouri Maliki or another Shiite Islamist wins, he believes the harassment will never stop. It would only be a matter of time before he was jailed and separated from his family forever.
“If Allawi doesn’t win, the future is dark,” he said. “They will target everyone.”
Having allowed such a situation to obtain is not only bad for Iraq (and to say that Maliki is bad for Iraq is redundant). It is also bad for U.S. power and force projection. God help us if we ever have to go back to Iraq, or if the tribal leaders in Afghanistan see how we have deserted the Sunnis. We have no staying power, no stomach for enforcing deals we have struck. We are in such felt-need for legitimacy in our campaigns that we are willing to allow Iraq to stipulate the conditions of the SOFA when the U.N. approvals expire. To have a picture of General Odierno shaking the hand Raad Ali in 2008 while he is being hunted now is more than embarrassing. It’s belittling to the most powerful nation on earth – which is also still engaged in counterinsurgency campaigns across the globe.
I have the utmost respect for General Odierno and his son who lost his arm fighting in Iraq. I have difficulty mustering such respect for the politicians who agreed to the Status of Forces Agreement or timeline for withdrawal, or who refused to take Iran on in the regional war that it declared against the U.S. This picture is worth a thousand words, and it makes me sick.