Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The state of the (dis)union

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"......The winner in the short term in Iraq will be the clever chess player who has managed to ingratiate himself as Bush's man - apart from the momentarily shadowy Allawi: SCIRI's Abdulaziz al-Hakim, whose Badr Organization, holed up in the Ministry of the Interior, actually deploys anti-Sunni death squads.

Why is he Bush's man? Simple: he supports the soon-to-be-voted-on Iraqi oil law, the Holy Grail for Anglo-American Big Oil. Muqtada, on the other hand, is fiercely against it. From the Bush/Cheney system's perspective, two crucial "sins" - Muqtada's courtship of moderate Sunnis to get their act together against the occupation, and his admiration of Hezbollah's strategy - pale before the ultimate sin: Muqtada wants Iraqi oil for Iraqis.

The US plan B anyway is on. If Maliki does not deliver and defang the Mehdi Army - as he certainly won't - a US-engineered white coup will be inevitable, and there are only two possibilities: "Saddam without a mustache" Allawi, or a Hakim-blessed candidate.

Hakim is already cleverly manipulating the US escalation to strike against his two real mortal enemies - the muqawama (resistance) and the Mehdi Army - at the same time. No wonder Sunni tribal leaders started accusing the US of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. So there's no way for Iraqification-cum-surge to appeal to Sunnis. The muqawama knows it - and it is already making plans to lie low at times, hide its constant flow of weapons bought with funding from private, wealthy Saudi and Persian Gulf individuals, or retreat from Baghdad and melt away in the desert province of al-Anbar.

Bush's surge is perfect if the template is divide and rule. The Battle of Sadr City will divide the Shi'ites into a pro-US "elite" (SCIRI and Da'wa) and a guerrilla force of the damned (the Sadrists). It will divide the Shi'ites from the Kurds (peshmergas from Kurdistan killing Shi'ites in Baghdad). It will keep Shi'ites and Sunnis bitterly divided (the other battle front in the surge is against the Sunni Arab resistance). Hakim may consider himself the winner. But Zawahiri, of course, will also love it, confident that his emirate in al-Anbar - led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - will ride the storm. Like the White House/Pentagon, al-Qaeda after all insists on also fighting a two-pronged war, in al-Qaeda's case against the Americans and the Shi'ites.

With Baghdad to be divided into nine military districts, each with its dedicated Iraqi army/police and its embedded US battalion, the muqawama is also more than relishing the prospect of laying siege to the sitting-duck Fort Apaches that will spring up in each of these districts. What happened in Karbala last Sunday will be quite common in Fort Apache land: attacks by guerrilla commandos disguised as American soldiers, driving in a convoy of GMCs. And Black Hawk Down will be endlessly replayed - just like last Saturday, when a helicopter was shot down by a clumsy Russian SA-7 shoulder-fired missile.

Most of all, the dire prospect is of a devastating air war over Baghdad - followed by wholesale slaughter of Sunnis and Shi'ites alike as counterinsurgency fails (there are no hearts and minds to be won; everyone wants US troops out). But as US bombs and missiles now define who is a "terrorist" and who is not - see the recent bombing of Somali nomadic herdsmen sold as dangerous al-Qaeda operatives - Iraqification-cum-surge will be a disaster mostly for every Baghdadi caught in the crossfire.

The Pentagon cannot at the same time launch the Battle of Sadr City, fight the muqawama spread out and in control all over western Baghdad, and fight al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. Or maybe it could: if bombs and missiles from above are The Great Decider on who's a terrorist, why not take out everybody down there on the ground? Forty years after Che Guevara's "one, two, a thousand Vietnams", meet "one, two, a thousand Fallujahs". "

No comments: