pressure from the Iraqi populace, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has
boldly attempted to regain the integrity of his office. In his press conference
(October 25) he denounced Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad�s intervention in
government affairs and his demands that the Iraqi government follow a timetable
to implement his instructions.
In response to
Khalilzad�s dictates Al-Maliki stated, �This government represents the will of
the people and no one has the right to set a timetable for it.�
Donald Rumsfeld on October 26 dismissed suggestions that the process of setting
benchmarks for the Iraqi government was a formal one and involved fixed
deadlines. Similarly, President Bush tried to downplay the issue and declared
that the Iraqi government is �sovereign.� Nevertheless, Ambassador Khalilzad
has forcefully pursued his plan for benchmarks and fixed timetables.
On October 27,
al-Malilik appeared to understand the limit of his authority and swiftly
reversed his earlier statement, �We do not believe in a timetable.� He
acknowledged in a joint statement with Khalilzad that �The Iraqi government has
made clear the issues that must be resolved with timelines for them to take
positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people.� This development
evidences that al- Maliki is resigned to the fact that the ultimate source of
authority in Baghdad is Khalilzad, not the Iraqi people.
affairs experts have been wondering how Khalilzad, when it comes to Iraq,
bluntly defies the secretary of defense and President Bush. On several
occasions, Khalilzad has ignored instructions from his superiors. In an
interview with Fox News (October 17), Bush rejected the idea of establishing
three �autonomous regions� in Iraq. However, Khalilzad in a meeting with the
Kurdish warlords in Northern Iraq assured them that the U.S. is not against an
autonomous Kurdish region and made it clear that Kurdish militias can engage in
security matters in other parts of Iraq (Asharq alawsat, October 27).
Khalilzad is not a
typical diplomat. He is an ideologue and a committed neoconservative. Trained
and mentored by leading neoconservatives (e.g. Paul Wolfowitz, Albert
Wohlstetter, Richard Perle, etc.) he has learned how to fuel crises and create
political vacuums, while disregarding the gravity of their consequences. In
1990, for example, he was an adamant advocate of attacking Saddam and Iraq.
Once the popular uprising against Saddam took place in March 1991 and Saddam
lost control of most of Iraq, Khalilzad was the first to call for maintaining
Saddam in power.
After the invasion
of Afghanistan, Khalilzad was the chief architect of creating regional
governments that are out of reach of the center. But it was Iraq that
Khalilzad, from the beginning, viewed as a solely neoconservative venture ripe
for anarchistic experimentation. As President Bush�s envoy for the �Free
Iraqis� in 2002, Khalilzad gave exceptional attention to whom among Iraqis in
exile should be on the final list to attend the London Conference. It was
during that conference that Khalilzad identified those participants who share
the neoconservatives� vision for a fragmented and polarized Iraq.
he arrived in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador in June 2005, Khalilzad made sure that
all Iraq security and defense matters were kept in the hands of foreign rather
than Iraqi officers. Furthermore, he embarked aggressively on
institutionalizing sectarian discourse and identity, which were mostly alien to
Iraqi cultural norms. Since then, recruiting of Iraqi army and police was done
on the grounds of sectarian identity.
The New York Times (March 7, 2006) in an
interview with Maj. General Joseph Peterson in charge of the Iraqi police,
reported that previously applicants for security jobs were not asked about
their sectarian affiliations. The general, though admitting that Iraqis �prefer
to think of themselves as one people rather than in terms of sects,�
acknowledged that most recent recruits for security have been from a minority
sect. The report, too, revealed that most of the recruits for the army are from
an ethnic Kurdish minority.
forces, which are under the direct command of the occupational troops and are
not supervised by the Iraqi government, have flourished. These armed forces
constitute a threat to Iraqi security and have been accused by the government
and Iraqi citizens of being responsible for death squads and the kidnapping of
innocent people. These forces encompass the Facilities Protection Forces
(140,000), Special Forces, including what Iraqis called �al-Qathr� or the dirty
Brigade (10,000 mainly from Kurdish and Bedr militias), and the al-Shabh (Ghost) Forces (primarily from
former Saddam�s Baath Party).
Critics argue that
these forces have been instrumental in facilitating terrorism and inciting
sectarian strife and unrest. Indeed, Iraqis from various religious groups have
accused these three forces of conducting cleansing in several parts of Iraq;
especially in and around Baghdad. News reports evidence that most violence
conducted by these forces has targeted the Iraqi majority. Subsequently, the
majority has become preoccupied with its survival and some of its armed groups
have resorted to indiscriminate revenge.
believe that Khalilzad�s recent instructions of �Timetables� for al-Maliki has
not only tended to weaken the prime minister, but also to corner the patriotic
forces among the majority and subdue them into accepting the partition of the
country. These experts point out four recent developments: foreign
troops�intensification of raids against cities where patriotic feeling is
strong; strong encouragement and support by the occupational powers to those
who espouse partitioning Iraq (e.g., Kurdish warlords, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim,
etc.); increasing terrorism against the majority, and the announcement by
terrorist groups of establishing an Islamic Emirate in the northwest of the
In a joint
statement on October 28, President Bush and al-Maliki specified three common
goals: accelerating the pace of training the Iraqi Security Force; Iraqi
assumption of command and control over Iraqi forces, and transferring
responsibility for security to the government of Iraq. These goals are not new
and as long as the neoconservatives are in control; they may be mere illusion.
There is a
consensus among Iraqis that violence and chaos in Iraq are directly linked to
the presence of foreign troops. Experts and ordinary Iraqis, however, consider
the arrival of Khalilzad in Bagdad a turning point in Iraqi history. Terrorism
and sectarian strife have intensified and there is no remote possibility that
the situation might improve under the occupation.
The Washington Post (October 29, 2006)
describes Baghdad in gloomy terms stating, �Carnage its rhythm and despair its
mantra, the capital, it seems, no longer embraces life.� It is doubtful that
any progress in preventing the complete ruin of Iraq is possible while
Khalilzad is in charge of Baghdad. The dismantling of the neoconservatives�
design for Iraq is not only in the interest of America, but a moral duty.
Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director
in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.