Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Why Saddam's Execution Clouds Bush's Iraq Plan

Viewpoint: Whether or not more troops are sent, the circumstances of Saddam's hanging are a stark reminder that the U.S. may lack an Iraqi partner for its strategy

By Tony Karon

".......Having created a new state in Iraq — and not yet ready to admit that it is a failed state — the U.S. felt obliged to hand Saddam Hussein over to the Iraqis to administer the death penalty, even though Washington made clear it would have preferred that Saddam's sentence be administered at a less fraught moment — and in a less rushed manner. But being the ones to kill Saddam was a political prize for at least a section of the current government — the ultimate gesture of vengeance on behalf of the long-suffering Shi'ite majority, clearly calculated to boost the political standing of those who administered it. And so, as the video makes clear, Saddam faced death to the sound of chants proclaiming Shi'ite victory and extolling the name of the anti-American radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr — not exactly the healing denouement the U.S. had in mind for the Saddam era......

....So if, as the U.S. recognizes, the major security challenge in Iraq is sectarianism tending toward civil war, then the Iraqi government is hardly above the fray. (The two main Shi'ite militias responsible for most attacks on Sunnis, for example, are affiliated with the ruling coalition, which has tended to restrain U.S. military action against them.) While the Shi'ite leadership is willing to cooperate with the U.S. to the extent that this helps it pursue its own goals, the Shi'ite base is increasingly mistrustful of Washington's efforts to promote reconciliation with the Baathists and take down militias that many Shi'ites see as vital to their defense against Sunni insurgents. At the very moment the U.S. needs greater cooperation from the government, Prime Minister Maliki needs to show his independence from Washington, where doubts about his usefulness are no secret. No wonder he no longer wants the job....Continued."

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