Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Iraqi Debacle

An Informative And Lengthy Interview
With Gilbert Achcar

(Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches political science at the University of Paris-VIII. He is the author of, among other works, The Clash of Barbarisms)

Iraqi dynamics

Q. Polls show the Iraqi population eager for a U.S. withdrawal, yet Iraq's elected leadership seems to strongly reject such calls. What do you think is going on?

Q. How do you judge Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki? Are his disagreements with Washington carefully staged to give him popular support or are they indicative of a genuine divergence of interests?

Q. The Bush administration has been pushing hard for the Iraqi National Assembly to enact a new oil law. Press reports seem to indicate that the law will be extremely lucrative to foreign oil companies. Is the Iraqi legislature preparing to turn the economy over to multinational corporations?

Q. A recent Pentagon report has said that Muqtada al-Sadr's militia is more of a threat to the U.S. military than is the insurgency and Newsweek has termed al-Sadr "the most dangerous man in Iraq." What do you make of these claims?

Q. How would you assess Muqtada al-Sadr?

Q. Some accounts have suggested that some members of Sadr's Mahdi Army are no longer under Sadr's control. Does this seem to you to be the case?

Q. Is Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani still the most influential figure in the country?

Q. Has the sectarian violence in Iraq passed the point of no return? Is all-out civil war inevitable?

Q. Who do you think would have the upper hand in an all-out civil war?

U.S. policy

Q. The U.S. occupation of Iraq has obviously been a disaster, even from the point of view of U.S. elite interests. There is a lot of second-guessing going on now trying to explain how this catastrophe came about. Was it wrong to disband the army and order de-Baathification?

Q. Do you think that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will lead to even worse sectarian violence? Will withdrawal lead to the victory of either Baathists or Islamic fundamentalists?

Q. The U.S. has seized and detained Iranians in Iraq and has been accusing Iran of meddling in the country. The Bush administration has charged that some of the sophisticated explosive devices being used against US troops in Iraq come from Iran, with training provided by Hezbollah. What do you think Iran is up to? Are Iran-backed Shiite groups engaged in military encounters with U.S. forces?

Q. What do you see as the likely consequences of various policy proposals that have been put forward:

(a) Bush's "surge," adding some 21,000 more U.S. troops

(b) the Baker-Hamilton committee recommendations;

(c) the Peter Galbraith-Joe Biden-Leslie Gelb proposal to divide Iraq into three separate countries.

Q. What do you think Washington will do next?

Q. To what extent has the antiwar movement had an impact on policy or policymakers?

Q. What should the antiwar movement be calling for now?

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