Sunday :: Mar 4, 2007

Tie The Saudis And Iranians To The Solution


by Steve

There’s an eye-opening Page One in Monday’s Post, confirming what many of us in the center-left blogosphere already know: the Bush Administration doesn’t appear to be actively developing a Plan B if Plan A, The Surge, fails. The story reports that entities outside the administration seem to be engaged in looking for a Plan B, while the administration itself says that Plan B is to make sure that Plan A works. In other words, Bush is pursuing a faith-based military strategy and gambling that he can ride this out and dump it on his successor if the Iraqi government fails to meet its commitments and if the violence doesn’t abate enough for political reconciliation to take root. But what if the surge works well enough for Democrats to question why we need to maintain these troop levels indefinitely? Alternately, what if in the interim the al-Maliki government is found to be riddled with sectarian lawlessness and corruption, and is part of the problem itself? Should we have to stay indefinitely?

Amy Goodman recently interviewed Wesley Clark in New York, and he made several interesting points about Iraq. The first is that Congress should be focused on developing an alternate strategy, not on dictating a change in tactics or troop levels, which he feels are the province of the executive branch. Second, Congress could then implement that change in strategy by forcing a change in behavior from the executive branch by delaying or shutting down things the president wants. Clark specifically mentioned that threats to cut off funding in the current budget year are not only counterproductive, but are also meaningless, because the GOP congress on its way out the door passed the 2007 defense appropriation bill. Clark says that as a result, Bush has enough money to do what he wants in Iraq in the current fiscal year without congressional approval.

Clark’s comments, and the meeting over the weekend between Iran’s president Ahmadinejad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia after months of effort between the two countries to “cool sectarian violence in Iraq” made me rethink what an alternative policy could look like. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Seymour Hersh’s recent piece is accurate, and the White House and the Saudis are fomenting Sunni jihadists to fight against Shiite interests in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere at the same time that the Saudi Royal Family is trying to make nice with the Iranian leadership.

Why not do the following?

On the military strategy front, Democrats adopt the Sestak plan for an early 2008 withdrawal and tie it to the 2008 Pentagon budget bill, legitimately holding up defense spending until Bush and the GOP acquiesce to a significant withdrawal during his administration. If the GOP wants to filibuster such a move in the Senate until the language is stricken, let them go ahead. It will cripple them as we head into the 2008 election season this fall.

On the diplomatic front, and to answer critics on the right who bellow that we can’t leave because it will create a vacuum, Democrats will insist all during the spring and summer that the Bush Administration fully commit to the regional talks starting March 10, and begin talking with Iraq’s neighbors about taking over our responsibilities next year. That’s right Shooter, you heard me correctly. Let’s test how much the Saudis and Iranians want Iraq to work. Commencing in late 2007 commensurate with our reduced funding for the Iraq occupation in the 2008 defense budget bill, Democrats should publicly call for the Iranians to commit their support militarily and financially for the Shiites in the south, while we call for the Saudis to openly support the Sunnis in Al-Anbar. Let both countries openly take a major role in tackling terrorism, and make them responsible for working with the Iraqi government. Their troops can step in to replace ours as we step out in 2008. Make the Saudis confront the Al Qaeda monster they have funded in Al Anbar, and make the Iranians confront the militia death squads they have supported, all under a new UN mandate that is hammered out through these regional meetings during the summer. Let’s take the sinister plan that Cheney has hatched and force it into the open and have it dealt with by the countries in the region as part of the solution. In other words, Democrats should shine a light on what is going on and make all the countries involved vest themselves with the solution so that the Bush/Cheney cabal no longer has an excuse to keep our troops there under the false premise that no one else can do this.

Instead of standing by while the White House tries to game the covert involvement of the Saudis and Iranians inside Iraq to their advantage, Democrats should shine a light on it and turn the tables on the White House, the Saudis, and the Iranians. Democrats should talk openly about getting these countries involved directly with the Iraqis under UN supervision, and tie them to our drawdown in 2008.

Steve :: 9:58 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!