It appears that the
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has loosened the strings that bind him to
Washington. He no doubt sees the writing on the wall.
Little progress has
been made in Iraq and the US president, George W. Bush, has lined up Al Maliki
to take the fall.
The right-wing US
media have dutifully adopted the drum beat, starting with the Washington Post's
neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer.
observers, both critics and supporters of the war, agree that the surge has
yielded considerable military progress, while at the national political the Al
Maliki government remains a disaster," he writes.
observers" alluded to are senators, congressmen and members of think tanks
who have returned from what Krauthammer calls "the battlefield" with
glowing reports on their military's achievements.
In reality, those
so-called experts were given a guided tour of the Green Zone, an upbeat
lecture, courtesy of General David Petraeus, and a hearty meal before being
driven in an armoured vehicle to the airport.
One such Green Zone
tourist who wasn't impressed was Rep.Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) She complained she
only caught fleeting glimpses of Iraqis out of a helicopter or a speeding
convoy and was appalled to hear from Petraeus that US troops would be needed in
country for a further 10 years.
Other Democrats, in
particular Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin, are happily playing the new blame Al
Maliki game. They have both called for his ouster.
There's just one
problem. Al Maliki is no willing patsy.
American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for
example Hillary Clinton and Karl Levin," he told a press conference.
"They should come to their senses."
Last Sunday, he
lashed out at American forces for operations in which civilians were killed.
"When they want to detain one person, they should not kill 10
others," he said quoting Iraqi officials who "regularly report
civilians killed in the raids."
uncharacteristically outspoken complaints come hard on the heels of a warning
delivered by the prime minister to the White House in answer to Bush's
criticisms and the former chairman of and now second ranking Republican on the
Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner's call for his replacement.
statements do not concern us a lot," said Al Maliki. "We will find
many around the world who will support us in our endeavour."
It seems the warning
was heeded. Bush quickly backtracked calling Al Maliki a good guy with a
Many argue Al Maliki
has an impossible job. Is there anyone apart from a strongman dictator capable
of unifying Iraqi groups with competing ambitions, sectarian allegiances and
There is a candidate
waiting anxiously in the wings who is being embraced by Bush's former Iraq
envoy Robert Blackwill. This secular, no-nonsense tough guy is none other than
the former Iraqi interim prime minister Eyad Allawi.
The White House
denies it supports Allawi's bid, but from its point of view Allawi, a
pro-Western, ex-CIA asset, who harbours little love for Iran would be a better
bet than the current incumbent.
"I want to save
Iraq," Allawi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I want to save the mission of
the United States."
That must be music to
Washington's ear. Just one small difficulty though. As the result of elections
showed, Allawi -- a former Ba'athist, who spends most of his time shuttling
between London and Washington -- has very little support among the Iraqi
So even if Al
Maliki's government collapses -- as it might, given the number of defections --
when presumably new democratic elections would be called, Allawi doesn't have a
hope in hell.
Or does he?
John Bednarek, a senior member of the US Task Force Lightning operating in
Diyala province may have provided a clue.
institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future,"
he said. His commander Major General Benjamin Mixon concurs. He advocates
putting in place a "government that is really a partner with the United
States. . . ."
According to CNN,
some US commanders suggest privately that the entire Iraqi government must be
ousted by "constitutional or non-constitutional" means and replaced
with a stable "but not necessarily democratic" entity.
If this is, indeed,
the plan one can only wonder how stripping Iraqis of their democratic rights
would be sold to the American people and the world when democracy has been
continuously and loudly trumpeted as the most important saving grace of the
The scene is already
being set. The US is openly arming Sunni militias and, under new constitutional
changes, ex-Ba'athists may be welcomed back into the government.
The danger is, of
course, if Shiites see their grip on the country -- gained by sheer force of
numbers -- slipping away, the US could be faced with a new and even deadlier
One thing's for sure.
This cakewalk gets gooier by the day.
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.