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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

The neoconservatives strike back
By Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 15, 2006, 01:25

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Just before the release of the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) report, the Washington political scene witnessed its own �Shock and Awe� act. The act was a deliberate and purposeful attempt to silence critics of the Iraqi invasion, prevent a genuine overhaul of the Middle East policy, hamper any move to withdraw the military forces from Iraq, and emotionally and psychologically drain Iraqi politicians who show the slightest concern for the future of their country and the welfare of the Iraqis.

Primarily, in designing the �Shock and Awe� campaign, the neoconservatives sought to reassert that the Iraqi venture is solely their own and that they are not, by any means, a force in retreat. Their message is that neither the outcome of the midterm elections nor the recommendation of the ISG bipartisan team would force them to hand Iraq to Iraqis, order an exit of Iraq, and bring peace and stability to that country.

In their campaign, the neoconservatives engaged in three major activities, including the leak of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley�s memo to the New York Times just before the meeting of President Bush with Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Malaki. The neoconservatives thought that by depicting al-Malaki as a weak leader and highlighting the need to forcefully suppress the popular Sadrist Movement, al-Malaki would faithfully go along with their design for Iraq and that the American public would think the administration has a workable plan.

Simultaneously, the neoconservatives initiated a smear campaign against the ISG report and its main authors, James Baker III and Lee Hamilton, while asserting that the Bush administration has its own vision to move forward. The Weekly Standard asked Bush to ignore the ISG report and to �take into his own hands the fate of Iraq and make his own decisions about what needs to be done.� Similarly, the Wall Street Journal called the report a �bipartisan strategic muddle ginned up for domestic political purposes.�

Leading neoconservatives have fiercely tried to convince the public that the report is an abandonment of responsibility. Richard Perle called it a �misadventure� and �absurd.� Frederick Kagan wrote that acting on the report recommendations �will almost certainly lead us to disaster.� Like the Weekly Standard, Michael Rubin insisted �we must not leave Iraq� and that the level of our troops in that country must increase.

Probably, the most devastating and threatening act to the existence of Iraq and to the American interest in the Middle East is the neoconservatives� reorganization of alliance among Iraqi groups which benefit from a weak and unstable Iraq. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a leading neoconservative, had a meeting with the leaders of these organizations. The outcome of the meeting was a new alliance among the two clan-based Kurdish organizations and the two sectarian-based religious groups; Iraqi Islamic Party and Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The alliance among these organizations is aimed at forcing Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki to mount a military assault against the popular Sadrist Movement, to reject any call for a timetable to withdraw foreign troops, and to abandon his goal of building a functional democratic Iraq free of terror and fear. Furthermore, the new alliance is thought to facilitate the realization of the neoconservatives� ultimate goal of partitioning Iraq and maintaining chaos in the region.

Ambassador Khalilzad, in coordination with Vice President Dick Cheney�s office, carefully orchestrated a visit for Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of SCIRI, and Tareq al-Hashimi, the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, to meet President Bush in the White House. Like their allied Kurdish warlords, both al-Hakim and al-Hashimi have an economic and political interest in maintaining foreign forces. These politicians fear that the withdrawal of foreign troops, in the near future, will ultimately lead to their political demise and the collapse of their newly found economic fortunes.

It is not surprising that these politicians broke rank with Prime Minister al-Maliki in denouncing the ISG recommendations. In particular, the Kurdish warlord and President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, called the recommendations a threat to Iraqi sovereignty. Contrary to this claim, the majority of Iraqis, however, consider the presence of foreign troops and the occupation a menace to sovereignty and the welfare of the people.

While neoconservatives project the ISG report to be a recipe for defeat and recommend instead an increase in the number of troops in Iraq, international experts fault the report for not calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops, a full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, and a clear statement that permanent military bases in Iraq are not desirable. For example, former Senator George McGovern called for orderly withdraw coupled with empowerment of the Iraqi government, apology for any harm and destruction done to Iraq and compensation for Iraqis who lost their loved ones.

The vigor and ferocity with which neoconservatives have attacked the ISG report and its recommendations evidence that they are not willing to give up on their plan for a complete incapacitation of Iraqi political and social institutions. In 1982, Oded Yinon, a political strategist, stated that Iraq constitutes an immediate threat and that its dissolution has become a priority. He suggested that Iraq should be divided �into provinces along ethnic/religious lines. . . . So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi�ite areas in the south will be separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.�

David Wurmser, Vice President Cheney�s Middle East adviser and a neoconservative thinker, was clear on how to expedite the collapse of Iraq. He stated that, after removing Saddam from power, Iraq would be �ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families. . . . The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will be ensured in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.�

For the neoconservatives, the widespread destruction and chaos in Iraq are not an unfortunate side effect of war, but an indication that everything is going according to plan. In fact, for the neoconservatives, creating perpetual disorder and chaos in Iraq amounts to victory. Certainly, the bipartisan ISG report has its shortcomings. Nevertheless, it seeks to add a dose of realism to American Middle East policy and to steer it away from the current path of destruction and bloodshed. For this very reason, the neoconservative will make sure that all efforts are made to destabilize Iraq and fuel internal strife. They are convinced that creating a chaotic Iraq is a fulfillment of a divine order.

Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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