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Tattered Shoes of the Iraqi Shi'a

The sudden resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld clears the way for former CIA Director Robert Gates to chart a course at the Pentagon and, most notably and obviously, in Iraq.

What course might that be at first glance appears unclear. However, Robert Gates is a current member of the Baker Commission, which many suspect is about to throw in the towel on the 'democracy experiment' in Iraq, including this 'Pessimistic Hawk' who wrote Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's The Corner before the surprise Rumsfeld resignation announcement:

Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better. The truly ironic thing is that Iraq is likely to be held up as an example of why "Arabs/Muslims can't handle democracy," because to believe otherwise would be to admit that we should have done more, fought harder, and worked better to save them.

The nomination of Gates likely telegraphs President Bush's intent to implement one of the Baker Commission's options (formally known as the Iraq Study Group) for the future of Iraq. After having been read at least one of the options considered over the phone, The New York Sun's Eli Lake concluded that "making Iraq a stable democracy" is most certainly not a near-term priority. From Lake's October 12 report Baker's Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory:

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.

They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should "make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are." It also says America's top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

The outlook for Jihadis just got decidedly better. The outlook for Iraqis is frightening.

To that end, it is worth noting that at the end of the Gulf War, Iraq’s Shi’a were encouraged to revolt against Saddam Hussein and promised American support. When they did, the political decision was later made (in the interest of ‘regional stability’ – Iran) to not extend the support that provided them the courage to act. This left the Iraqi Shi’a of southern Iraq at the brutal hands of Saddam Hussein’s vengeful henchmen for over a decade.

This is not to disparage the decision to withhold tangible support for and defense of the Iraqi Shi’a at the time, for it most surely would have lead to unacceptable Iranian encroachment and expansion, possibly sparking another Iran-Iraq War. It is rather a rebuke of inspiring a revolt by the under-armed against a brutal tyrant in the first place without the clear decision beforehand to follow through without waver on promises made.

Perhaps the Iraqis are sensing a bit of déjà vu. The recommendations that look to be put in place – and put them at great risk in the face of a new terror - come from an American group headed by the man who was the US Secretary of State when America averted her eyes from the ensuing slaughter in 1991. Considering also that Saddam Hussein’s legal defense team has been headed in part by a former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, is it any wonder if the Iraqi Shi’a neither embrace nor trust the United States of America?

Disregarding the Iranian-empowered Muqtada al-Sadr and his band of terrorist thugs altogether, walk a dangerous mile in the tattered shoes of the Iraqi Shi'a.

7 Comments

This is awful. Bush said he would only look at the baker findings. He never said he would follow them. Now he fires Rummy? Hires his daddy's cia/nsa person to be sec/def?

I am afraid for the Iraqi people, and I am afraid for the friends I have made over the past 3 years. How do I just forget them? I won't, I tell you. I won't!

Who can I call? What can I do? Besides the Pres. He doesn't seem to know where his head is anymore...

I'm not sure just what Bush is supposed to do in the light of the election results. No one has worked harder for democracy in Iraq than Bush. I agree that Iraq needs more time to establish democracy but apparently Americans (who should appreciate how much democracy is worth) don't care enough about the importance of establishing it in Iraq. I don't blame Bush. I blame the American people who have always been self-centered.

Mr. Schippert...

I am disappointed in your take on this matter. You give the impression that Rumsfeld's resignation was sudden, but only to the ill-informed! His departure was in the works for weeks if not months----even Bush admitted he misled the media. What the election did was to move up the departure date or else it would have been a few months removed and like my mother would say, "Good riddance to bad rubbish." And now we go from the ideologue to the pragmatist (Gates) who is a confidant of Baker and Bush the first. Like I said before, "Ahead to the past."

The big question is how long before Bush gives Rumsfeld the Medal of Freedom?

What will be interesting for Mr baker is if the Iraqi's themselves don't agree with his ideas. How's he going to explain that.

Nailgun...

The only Iraqis who are concerned with the recommendations of the Baker Commission are those in power. The common Iraqi wants the US out and an end to the civil strife.

Blackspeare:

Don't be so sure about that. There are a lot of Iraqis that understand that it's unlikely you have it in the right order.

I saw that "pessimistic hawk" letter on NRO too, and like you agreed with the author's sentiments.

I am deathly worried that this Baker Commission is going to recommend some version of "declare victory and leave", or better yet, "pull out and let the Iraqis deal with it".

Whether we like it or not, we took out Saddam - the old order - we have a responsiblilty to make the new order work. "You break it you fix it" and all that.

I vote that rather than withdraw, the ratchet up the pressure on the jihadists. Let them see that despite the elections we are the "strong horse" that won't go away. Yes I know this will be politically difficult, but it can be done if Bush acts quickly. Unfortunately I fear he won't.