President George W. Bush�s paradoxical "new
strategy" in Iraq is doomed by its own contradictions as much as by Iraqi
and regional paradoxes and would in no time prove that the U.S. president�s
go-it-alone approach will only extend the failure of the 2003 military invasion
in developing into a permanent occupation, amid widespread world and American calls for withdrawal and
a political solution.
new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq," Bush
said in a speech on January 10; on scrutiny, however, the "change" he
promised boils down essentially to upholding the same course but trying to
change the tactics; on deeper scrutiny even the "new" tactics are
unmasked as the same old ones.
speech was more a noisy acknowledgement of failure in Iraq than a robust
declaration of a new strategy for success: Four years on, he was still unable
to declare that "we could accomplish our mission with fewer American
troops" in Iraq; "the opposite happened. The violence . . . overwhelmed
the political gains."
strategy worked," he announced, referring to "Al Qaeda terrorists and
Sunni insurgents;" there are now "death squads" and "a
vicious cycle of sectarian violence."
situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is
unacceptable to me," he concluded, and took the responsibility for the
"mistakes [that] have been made."
Bush stopped short of honestly admitting his failure, though the message came
through loud and clear. According to him, "failure" is not yet the
reality of the day in Iraq, but only a possible threat that "would be a
disaster for the United States" and should be averted. Hence, his
"new strategy" to avert the imminent "disaster;" and this
was his first paradox because he could not correctly diagnose the U.S.
predicament in Iraq and consequently he could not prescribe the right course.
most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security," Bush said.
Accordingly, he resorted to more military force. Of course, the
"success" he meant was that of the U.S. invasion and not the success
of any political process that would save the Iraqis from their disastrous and
tragic status quo created by the invasion itself. Here lies his second paradox:
The four-year military failure has been brought about by the failed
"political process" his administration sponsored in Baghdad�s Green
Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and the huge U.S. embassy, and by the
absence of a credible Iraqi national reconciliation political process.
latest U.S.-air covered "Iraqi" three-day military attack on the
civilian Haifa Street, which controls the bridges linking eastern to western
Baghdad, one kilometer away from the Green Zone, was a humiliating symbol of
the failure of both the U.S. military strategy and the U.S.-sponsored political
process. How could this resounding failure be rectified by the meager 21,500
increase in U.S. troops, which Bush announced, to accomplish a mission that
140,000 could not accomplish over nearly four years?
prerequisite for any credible Iraqi national reconciliation process is the
withdrawal of the occupying forces, or at least setting a definite timetable
for their withdrawal, something that Bush was keen to completely ignore in his
"new strategy" speech, which was his third paradox.
Iraqi resistance -- which surprisingly was active on the ground on the first
days of the U.S. occupation and all throughout ever since undermined his
strategy -- is the integral backbone of any credible Iraqi national
reconciliation political process. Bush has not only ruled it out of his
political process for the past four years but singled it out as the main target
of his new military campaign, thus sliding his county into the fourth paradox
of his "new strategy."
fifth paradox is more like shooting oneself in the foot. According to Bush, the
sectarian violence is the source of insecurity in Iraq. His speech however had
no mention whatsoever of either the U.S. or Iranian-sponsored militias, the
major culprits in the death squads, ethnic and sectarian cleansing,
assassinations, kidnappings, random killings and other severe human rights
violations, all of which created a hell of an insecurity environment across
Iraq, but mainly in Baghdad.
insult to injury Bush, in his fifth paradox, wanted the Iraqis to sweep his
waste: "Only Iraqis can end" the sectarian violence, he said,
absolving himself of the responsibility for the sectarianism that mushroomed
with the rumbling and roaring of his invading tanks and war planes to shake the
very fabric of the Iraqi society and break into the peace of their daily life.
the Iraqi state could not but drive people to seek security and services in
tribal or sectarian brotherly protection, or to look for them under the
protection of armed gangs. In the absence of the state, destroying a secular
ruling ideology creates the empty space that could only be filled by sectarian,
ethnic, tribal and gangster players. Bush did exactly that; his country should
be held accountable as long as her forces remain in Iraq; only when these
forces leave can "only Iraqis" sweep away their waste.
also set the end of the sectarian violence as the main target of his new
strategy, but hinged its success on "the Iraqi government" and
offered it as a plan that complements "their campaign to put down
sectarian violence," thus indulging himself in his seventh and eighth
paradoxes. On the one hand, he entrusts a sectarian government that is part of
the problem to quell the sectarian violence depending on an army, police and
security agencies that are structured on shares for the political sect leaders
whom Bush brought in as successors to the late Saddam Hussein and the Baath
Party. On the other hand, he and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice,
undermined the credibility they tried to bestow on Prime Minister Noori
al-Maliki and his government by warning them publicly to deliver on their
"promises," otherwise "America's commitment is not
open-ended." Rice has stated on several occasions that al-Maliki is
"living on borrowed time," unless he delivers.
only normal that Bush had resorted to warnings to mobilize Iraqi support for
his doomed strategy as a prelude and a preemptive measure to lay the
responsibility for the expected failure of the "new strategy" at
ninth component of his self-contradictory strategy is leading more than 300,000
U.S.-trained Iraqi troops and police and more than 150,000 American troops and
Marines to focus on besieging Iraqi cities, towns and villages and breaking
into Iraqi homes and neighborhoods, instead of directing them to defend the
Iraqi borders against what he condemns as the infiltration of "foreign
fighters" from the neighboring countries, especially from Syria and Iran.
leads to his 10th paradox. If more than 450,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops are
engaged in domestic missions, is it not logical to engage the neighbors,
especially Iran and Syria, at least in securing the sections of the common
border with Iraq until the time those troops are ready to deploy and defend
their borders themselves?
linked to this is Bush�s 11th paradox. A success or a face-saving exit from
Iraq after four years of proven failure requires at least a bipartisan
consensus internally in the United States, but Bush seems determined to go it
alone, contrary to the recommendations of the James Baker-Lee Hamilton
bipartisan panel, the advice of his top generals and the wishes of the majority
of U.S. voters, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted immediately after Bush�s January 10
world as well as regional support is needed for the success of any U.S. plan in
Iraq, let alone a plan to turn failure into a success or to face-save
Washington with an exit outlet, but Bush�s new strategy in its 12th paradox
seems to have alienated potential support both internationally and regionally:
Only Australia�s Prime Minister John Howard offered unqualified support to the
al-Maliki government in Baghdad.
The closest U.S. allies and friends were not forthcoming:
Britain was ambiguous and said she remained on track to withdraw her forces
from Iraq, not increase them. On Thursday, Angela Merkel, the German
chancellor, declined to discuss Iraq with reporters. The French and Spanish
views had publicly favored a "broad political strategy" and
"only political solutions," according to their respective foreign
ministers, as their Dutch counterpart concluded that Bush�s new plan
"hasn�t changed anything." Italy�s prime minister criticized Bush:
"He should listen to the Baker report and to the American public."
Japan�s Asahi Shimbun warned of his "dangerous gamble." The Israeli
security expert Chuck Freilich warned of a zero-sum game that could
"splinter" Iraq, "radicalize" the region and turn Iran into
"the regional hegemon." Moscow saw that Washington�s
"calculation remains the same: To achieve a settlement of the Iraq crisis
by force," according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. France�s Le Monde
published a cartoon depicting Bush as a bulldozer driver shoveling American
soldiers into a ditch in the shape of Iraq.
Regionally Bush�s 13th
paradox is provokingly seeking the support of Sunni Arab governments in his new
military campaign against their co-religious brothers in Iraq and mobilizing
their anti-Iran efforts, while at the same time his new strategy will only
strengthen Tehran�s hands in Baghdad.
"As a key component
of the Iraqi social fabric, the Iraqi Sunni community must be included as
partners in building Iraq's future," and not targeted, Jordan�s King
Abdullah II told Rice on Sunday, a view voiced also by Egypt and the Saudi
Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, as a representative view of the six-member GCC
countries: A change in U.S. policy toward Iraq was inevitable, "Unity of
Iraq is necessary, independence of Iraq is necessary and peace in Iraq is
necessary," he said, adding: "None of these have been achieved so
far. There must be a change, of course."
latest regional tour was building on Bush�s warning to moderate Arab states
that the U.S. failure in Iraq threatens "to topple moderate governments,
create chaos in the region;" Bush held the stick but sent Rice with an
illusionary carrot: She tried to give the impression that Washington could
strike a deal with them to trade their support in Iraq and against Iran for
their hope to revive the deadlocked peace process with Israel. However very few
in the region believe the Bush administration could deliver now on what it
failed to deliver during the past six years, with less than two remaining years
Bush�s paradoxical "new strategy" blinded
him in seeing that the threats he warned against in his speech are already in
the works in Iraq and threatening to spill over the borders: The "radical extremists"
are growing and not "would grow" in strength and gaining new
recruits; they are and not "would be in a better position" to create
chaos in the region; Iran is and not "would be" emboldened; U.S.
enemies have already and not "would have" a safe haven in Iraq and
America that "must succeed" there has failed.
be a miracle if "the Iraqi government" could "take
responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November," a
date that Bush suggested to Americans as the date for success or for a U.S.
exit, although he was careful to redress by stating that "there is no
magic formula for success in Iraq."
Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank of the
Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.