Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bending with the wind

By Ehsan Ahrari
Asia Times

"Now, the new operative phrase is "flexibility", which sounds as though all options are being considered, including withdrawal. In other words, defeat by any other name is anything but defeat. This is how the ultimate truth is being spun from Washington.

But the moment of truth has finally arrived. The American people now know, first, that the Iraq war has entered a phase of no return. In other words, they have no trouble admitting that it is not winnable. Second, they also know that the old explanation that US troops would "stand down" from Iraq when the Iraqi security forces "stood up" is a hollow and unachievable slogan. Third, the American people also know that their men and women in uniform are not only being targeted by insurgents (the former "dead-enders" of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, the predecessor of Central Command's General John Abizaid), but also by other militias.

And fourth, voters are becoming aware that the long-evolving sectarian war has developed a new wrinkle. Now inter-Shi'ite violence is taking its toll in the previously relatively quiet sections of southern Iraq. Finally, the so-called national-unity government in Iraq might be on its last days, since Bush officials are already giving Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ultimatums from behind the scenes.

Even that highly pragmatic dealmaker, James Baker - who served as secretary of state under president George H W Bush - is hard-pressed to suggest alternatives to a straightforward withdrawal of US troops, which the president continues to reject.

Iraqi insurgents knew all along about America's points of vulnerability and its Achilles' heel. And they, along with the Shi'ite militias, seem to be intensifying their pressure on those points. The word is out in their midst: the United States is looking to get out of Iraq."

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