Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Going Long In Iraq

By Robert Dreyfuss

"Last week, the situation in Iraq took another major turn for the worse. That might seem impossible, since the level of carnage and destruction is so immense already that it’s hard to imagine things getting worse. But get worse they did, when the ministry of the interior —the death squad-dominated, Shiite-run agency that has become a factory for torture and murder—announced that it was seeking the arrest of Iraq’s top Sunni cleric, Harith al-Dari, who heads the Muslim Scholars Association.

Widely seen as someone who is close to the Sunni-led resistance in Iraq, Dari is hardly a radical. But that didn’t dissuade Iraq’s interior minister. “We have proof that he is involved in terrorism,” said a ministry spokesman. That announcement provoked a storm of outrage from those Sunnis, including moderates and centrists, who’d decided earlier this year to take part in Iraq’s political process rather than remain outside, and many of them immediately threatened to shut down the Iraqi government and boycott parliament. “We have to decide if we want a state, or not,” said Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president, who would have done better to acknowledge that indeed, Iraq has no state at all. Indeed, over the past few days, terrorists—real ones, and the Shiite variety—launched brazen attacks against two government ministries, raiding the Iraqi education ministry and kidnapping scores of employees, and then kidnapping the deputy minister of health.

The worsening crisis in Iraq lends desperate urgency to efforts in Washington to find a solution. While the capital awaits the report of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, in December or early January, the die-hards and dead-enders in and out of the Bush administration are making one last push for, well, one last push. All reason to the contrary, they’re pushing the notion that the United States has to prepare for one more Alamo-like last stand in Iraq.

It shouldn’t need saying, but it does: This won’t work. Abizaid himself politely told McCain and Lieberman that the United States doesn’t have the forces, and even if they did, the Iraqi government doesn’t want a bigger occupation than the one they’ve got. Other experts say that chances are slim that even 50,000 more U.S. troops would help stabilize Iraq. And, of course, the whole idea is politically tone deaf. Having voted overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq on November 7, the American people would be puzzled to see an escalation."

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