Toward an Overview of Iraq 

Toward an Overview of Iraq

This piece, even though it is from the Socialist International, actually seems like a good summary. The U.S. has created something of a monster in the present Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. U.S. officials recognize that fact--that the present government might worsen, rather than improve, relations with Sunnis--and that is why they are once again pushing Chalabi and Allawi.

To the extent that really nasty insurgents, or their strongholds, can be identified, the violence of the stick must still be used and is still being used. The Iraqi government is already going farther, however--killing Sunnis who might help with peaceful development, and trying to strengthen a mullah-dominated, pro-Iranian regime. Death squads are reminiscent of previous U.S. operations; torture goes on much as it did under Saddam, before "liberation." Perhaps the cast of victims has changed, or reversed.

Kevin Drum presents two reports: Allawi fears that the new government is out of control; Abdul Aziz Hakim, the leader of the main Shiite party, says, in Drum's paraphrase, "you ain't seen nothing yet."

UPDATE: Then there is Ahmed Chalabi, during his recent visit to the U.S. His conversation over dinner with Arianna Huffington is more interesting than anything he said "officially":

Chalabi definitely wants American troops to stay in Iraq -- even though he had a lot of horror stories about the way the U.S. military is operating "with total immunity and impunity."

"American soldiers," he said, "are breaking into people's homes and are arresting and detaining Iraqi citizens without charges. Even if they run over an Iraqi and kill him they will not be charged with a crime, because they are above Iraqi law."

"Isn't that proof," I kept asking, "that the presence of the military is fueling the insurgency, and that your job would be easier if the Americans left?"

"No," he kept insisting, "we need the Americans to protect us from our neighbors. From Syria, from Saudi Arabia, from Iran."

That's obviously one of the main objectives of his current trip. He's convinced that the administration, for political reasons, is looking for a way out of Iraq. And he wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

But his other objective, which he told me he was planning to discuss with both Rumsfeld and Cheney, is to change the way U.S. troops are operating in Iraq. "America," he said, "has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs how U.S. forces operate inside a sovereign nation, with over 100 countries. But the Bush administration refuses to have one with Iraq -- and, as a result, the U.S. Army is operating outside the law. Rumsfeld feels that a SOFA will tie the hands of the U.S. military and not allow it to fight the insurgency. Of course, the lack of such an agreement has the opposite effect since it causes great resentment towards the U.S. among the Iraqi people."

Another thing made clear through the night was how much Chalabi hates Paul Bremer and what the Coalition Provision Authority did in Iraq. So much so that he's willing to praise Henry Waxman, who has criticized him harshly, but who, according to Chalabi, has done the most thorough work on what he regards as "the tragic waste and abuse of billions of dollars that belonged to the Iraqi people."

"The administration wants to cover this up," he told me. "Let's hope Waxman won't let them."

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