This is an interesting point of view on US strategy in Iraq emanating from Lebanon.
Hashemi Gains and Maliki Concessions
Mustapha Zein Al-Hayat - 13/05/07//
Reconciliation is the title of the US new stage in Iraq. Former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has called for and laid some of the foundations of this reconciliation, which has been adopted by the Bush Administration. It was the slogan of the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, where a bargain has been struck on making progress in this process in return for assisting the Iraqi government in consolidating its political and military authority and allowing it to further normalize its relations with neighboring countries. In other words, Iraq will exercise some of its sovereignty, following Washington's agreement with Iran and Syria on many issues that include, besides the Iraqi issue, the Palestinian and nuclear files.
Reconciliation, as proposed by Washington, is based on several points, some of the most important of which are: concession by Shiites of some of their gains, particularly in security services and the Interior and Defense Ministries, to the Sunnis; laws ratification, chiefly a new oil law that allows foreign companies, especially American ones, to invest in Iraq under certain conditions which Iraqi experts say is unfair, non-existent in any oil-rich country, and that allow federal territories to sign contracts without referring to the central government; and reinstalling former army officers and repealing the debaathification law, which was orchestrated by Paul Bremer at the beginning of the invasion.
Any reading of the reconciliation terms will confirm that the US administration seeks to invest the reality created by the occupation and formulate it into texts and laws laid down by the Iraqis themselves, after reconsidering sectarian and ethnic pro rata through eliciting concessions from this or that party. What is important is to maintain the outcome of the invasion and consolidate the correlation between Iraqi and US interests, via the oil and arms companies, and the mercenaries who have spread corruption, death and destruction without being punished by the law, and under the full protection of an administration that has lied to its people, its army and institutions to justify the war.
Cheney has warned al-Maliki that "Washington's patience is wearing thin" and that he must speed up the process of reconciliation, in the belief (or rather the fancy) that this will end resistance and allow the U.S. administration to claim that it has achieved its objectives and that it can now withdraw its forces and face the Democrats in the upcoming presidential elections.
It is painful that the Iraqi leaders have responded positively to the U.S. proposals. Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashemi welcomed Cheney's visit and lauded its outcome. He also said that the implementation of these conditions would do justice to the Sunnis. For his part, Maliki is studying the best way to implement the U.S. dictations without raising the ire of his allies in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
All the Iraqi leaders are only thinking about their communities and how to satisfy them by increasing their share in the government, while only a few people are talking about the identity of Iraq. They have replaced a united country with a splintering sectarianism.
Hashemi has managed to wrest a position in the government and within the community with US support to forestall any reconciliation with the armed factions, and, consequently, he must convince the government of his leadership and achievement. For his part, Al-Maliki has to convince the remaining Shiite parties with the necessity of relinquishing some of their gains. This will not be easy, as differences are running high within the UIA, particularly between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. Meanwhile, the Al-Fadhila (Virtue) is preparing for its battle to preserve its gains in Basra.
Cheney holds the Iraqi government responsible for the progress in the reconciliation process. He headed to neighboring countries to promote for this course, reassuring himself and others that calm will soon descend on Iraq; after that, undivided attention may be given to a conflict with Iran, using Iraq as a springboard after that country has been transformed into a sectarian strife-ridden federal State and has been consolidated to become an advanced post in the war on terror- a war that is open war in time and place. Arms and mercenary companies are always ready to engage in this war.
Neither the gains al-Hashemi aspires to achieve nor will the concessions to be made by al-Maliki build a unified country. The opposite will be the case. They instead will achieve many of the occupation's objectives, of which taking control of oil, erasing the identity of Iraq and turning it into a hotbed of religious and sectarian conflict are self-evident.
Reconciliation is only feasible through agreement on a national program that transcends sects, creeds and races. Gains can either be for all, or become a source of dissension.