Saturday :: Dec 9, 2006

Cheney Wants To Side With The Shiites

by Steve

Against the backdrop of worse poll news for the president, I want to put forward the latest White House thinking about what to do in Iraq. First though, a day after the Zogby poll showed Bush down to 30%, Newsweek’s latest poll has him down to 32%:

Perhaps President Bush figures after Democratic victories in the midterm elections, he has little left to lose following his “principles” as he told Fox News early this week. The NEWSWEEK poll supports that view: the president’s approval remains at a near-record low 32 percent and only 31 percent of Americans say they’re satisfied with the direction of the country. Sixty percent say they are dissatisfied.

The poll also shows that a majority of the public endorses the basic recommendations of the Baker/Hamilton report.

Nearly two out of three Americans (65 percent) concur with the Iraq Study Group that the U.S. should threaten to reduce economic and military aid to the Baghdad government unless it meets benchmarks for security and development. Fifty-seven percent believe Washington should reach out to its adversaries Iran and Syria in an effort to stabilize Iraq. And 61 percent believe Washington should launch a new and sustained effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sixty-two percent of Americans want the Bush administration to set a timetable for withdrawal. And not in the distant future. Forty-eight percent of Americans want U.S. soldiers and Marines to come home now or within the next year. Add in the 19 percent who say they would support U.S. troops remaining in Iraq one to two years more and 67 percent of Americans say they would support keeping large numbers of U.S. military personnel in Iraq for no more than another year or two.

Yesterday, the AP/Ipsos poll reflected that 71% of those polled wanted our troops home in two years. The 24-month withdrawal timeline seems to be the outer limit for at least two-thirds of Americans, a finding that should not be lost on Democrats, because these polls show how isolated Bush is on Iraq.

Only 23 percent of Americas sound like the president, arguing that troops should stay in Iraq “as long as it takes to achieve U.S. goals,” the lowest percentage ever recorded in the NEWSWEEK poll.

So what is the latest thinking from the White House? Apparently, after the release of the Baker/Hamilton report, Dick Cheney is reinserting himself on foreign policy. The White House has refined Bush’s choices from the Pentagon’s earlier “Go Big”, “Go Long”, or “Go Home”. Cheney wants to pick winners and losers.

The major alternatives include a short-term surge of 15,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to secure Baghdad and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces. Another strategy would redirect the U.S. military away from the internal strife to focus mainly on hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda. And the third would concentrate political attention on supporting the majority Shiites and abandon U.S. efforts to reach out to Sunni insurgents.
While one of the options involves a surge of U.S. troops, there is no agreement on what the mission of those forces would be, sources say. Discussions center on accelerating the training of Iraqi forces and helping secure Baghdad before turning it over to the Iraqis. The goal generally could be to improve Iraq's defense capabilities so U.S. combat troops could begin to withdraw faster.
The second idea is the "al-Qaeda option," which would transform the U.S. mission to focus on fighting terrorism and would disengage forces from domestic aspects of the multisided conflict. U.S. troops would take a backseat on the Shiite-Sunni conflict and instead hunt down al-Qaeda operatives, the sources say.
On the ground, for example, that could mean a shift away from operations in Baghdad's volatile Sadr City slum, or from efforts to stop car bombs and sectarian attacks. The administration is increasingly resigned to the fact that it can neither prevent nor intervene in Iraq's sectarian war, which has begun to supersede both the Sunni insurgency and al-Qaeda's operations, the sources say.

We have been suggesting here for months that the Administration work directly with the Sunni tribesmen to eradicate Al Qaeda. But this would require arming the Sunnis and rebuilding the Iraqi army, something Bush has yet to do. And while he has dawdled, the Sunnis are now getting arms and money from the Saudis and the other moderate Sunni states nearby, to help the Sunnis fend off the Shiite militias and act as proxies for the Sunnis states in holding off Iran.

Yet while the Sunni states have been forced to step into the vacuum to support Iraq’s Sunnis, the Post indicates that Iraq fatigue is setting in at the White House, for all except one guy, who is now advocating picking the Shiites as winners in Iraq, making things actually easier for Iran:

On the political front, the administration is focusing increasingly on variations of a "Shiite tilt," sometimes called an "80 percent solution," that would bolster the political center of Iraq and effectively leave in charge the Shiite and Kurdish parties that account for 80 percent of Iraq's 26 million people and that won elections a year ago.
Vice President Cheney's office has most vigorously argued for the "80 percent solution," in terms of both realities on the ground and the history of U.S. engagement with the Shiites, sources say. A source familiar with the discussions said Cheney argued this week that the United States could not again be seen to abandon the Shiites, Iraq's largest population group, after calling in 1991 for them to rise up against then-President Saddam Hussein and then failing to support them when they did. Thousands were killed in a huge crackdown.

So Cheney’s guilt from his Bush 41 days now leads him to support the Shia over the Sunnis, which not only is music to Iran’s ears, but will also require the moderate Sunni states to arm the Sunni militias and insurgents to be their proxies inside Iraq.

This is what has become of the neocon and imperialists’ talk of liberating Iraq and transforming the region into a home for democracy?

Steve :: 10:54 AM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!