Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The memo said there are reports of "intervention by the prime minister's office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq's most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries."

The report said it isn't clear that al-Maliki is "a witting participant" in this push for Shiite power, but "the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

"The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change," the memo said. It was referring to al-Maliki's Dawa Party, one of the major Shiite political movements in Iraq.

Because of such problems, the memo concluded that "we returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others."

"Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq?" the memo asks.[1]

These are excerpts from a memo by National Security Advisor Steven Hadley dated 11/08/2006, after meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister. In the memo he discusses if Mr. al-Maliki will be able or willing to reconcile the people of Iraq. This administration has been playing this back and forth game of support and non-support with al-Maliki from almost the beginning. One moment they are lavishing him with praise and the next they are fermenting a coup against him.

It appears that Mr. al-Maliki has had about enough of the American politicians calling for his ouster or interfering in his government. It is reported that he has become angry and frustrated with the American's criticism and has spoken out against it.

Maliki fired back at his U.S. critics at a news conference Wednesday, saying the United States has no right to impose a timetable on his government.

"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people," he said at the end of a three-day visit to Damascus, according to the Associated Press. "Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere." Maliki said.[2]

Once again this administration and the war planners don’t have a clue. First of all, al-Maliki was a compromise candidate for prime minister. He was the guy with the least amount of baggage and had no direct ties to Iran. He did not come in with a mandate or a majority of support. His control of the government was tenuous at best. In order for anyone to make the wholesale changes that are needed in Iraq, he is going to need more support than this guy has. Just because Bush felt like he had a mandate even though he lost the popular vote in an election doesn’t mean that logic is going to work in an infant democracy. Mr. al-Maliki was chosen to be a caretaker at best, until there could be a candidate who could garner broader support to be able to pull all the factions together. Remember, it took a dictator to hold the country together before, so some compromise choice is not going to have the necessary credibility to unite so many different factions.

I don’t think that al-Maliki is incompetent, he is just being asked to do a job that I believe is currently not humanly possible. You have all of these warring factions and all of these personalities who have been exiled from participation in their homeland, all wanting to get a piece of the action. There can be no unified government without some unity. About the only thing the Iraqis are united about is wanting us out of their country. It will take a dynamic and charismatic leader to unite all the Iraqis, the problem is they don’t have time to wait on him to come. This is why liberation must be homegrown and come from within; it builds credibility for the leadership to govern. Mr. al-Maliki has no credibility to govern short of what we give him; he has not won any popular support through commanding battlefield operations. Where does his authority to lead come from? He has no standing in the community at large; he is not a figure to rally around.

To lead a fledgling democracy requires deft political skill and charisma, Mr. al-Maliki does not seem to possess either. In order to get the people to sacrifice their sectarian loyalties for the good of the country, the leader has to be someone that commands the respect of the people or he must be someone the people fear. I do not believe that Mr. al-Maliki is capable of doing the job he has been asked to do, there will be no unified government under his leadership. I believe that he wants to unite his country, but as much as he tries this little engine can’t get over the mountain. We should be considering other options, this government will not stand for long.



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