I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Politics, Iraq and spin

The wingnuts are still trying to spin the Iraqi ceasefire as a loss for al-Sadr and Iran and a win for al-Maliki and the Bush administration. Here is a little reality check for them:
  • It was al-Maliki not al-Sadr that requested the ceasefire not al-Sadr.
  • The Mahdi Army still has all of it's weapons.
  • The Mahdi Army still controls large areas of Basra and Baghdad.
  • The single most popular man in Iraq is al-Sadr not al-Maliki or his government.
  • The al-Maliki government turned to Iran not the US to broker the ceasefire.
The real loser may be John McCain.(via Crooks and Liars)
For a man who predicates his whole candidacy on foreign policy and the Iraq war, he certainly doesn’t have a clue what the Iraqi government is doing even after he went to Iraq and spoke with Maliki right before the Basra assault took place. How embarrassing for him.
McCain was asked if the Basra campaign had backfired, he said: “Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we’ll see.’’
Olbermann fills in St. McCain (or should we call him McGaffe) on his newest Iraq blunder via McClatchy:
Keith: that Sadr had only called for the ceasefire after members of Maliki’s government askedSadr to do so in a during a secret trip to meet with Sadr in Iran.—making McCain wrong about the facts on his signature issue, making Sadr not Maliki the victor in this conflict by McCain’s own reasoning. And making Iran and not McCain and not the US the mediator of choice for Iraq’s two top Shi’a factions. The Maliki government and the Sadrists.
Juan Cole reminds us what this is all about - politics.
The campaign was a predictable fiasco, another in a long line of strategic failures for the sickly and divided Iraqi government, which survives largely because it is propped up by the United States. So why did al-Maliki do it? With no obvious immediate crisis in Basra that called for such desperate measures, what could have motivated the decision to attack?

Three main motivations present themselves: control of petroleum smuggling, staying in power (including keeping U.S. troops around to ensure it), and the achievement of a Shiite super-province in the south. A southern super-province would spell a soft partition of the country, benefiting Shiites in the long term while cutting Sunnis out of substantial oil revenues, both licit and illicit. But all of the motivations have to do with something President Bush established as a benchmark in January 2007: upcoming provincial elections.

The Sadr Movement leaders themselves are convinced that the recent setting of a date for provincial elections, on Oct. 1, 2008, and al-Maliki's desire to improve the government's position in advance of the elections, precipitated the prime minister's attack. It is widely thought that the Sadrists might sweep to power in the provinces in free and fair elections, since the electorate is deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the major incumbent party in the southern provinces, the Islamic Supreme Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
I thought from the beginning that Cheney and possibly McCain put al-Malaki up to this.
Provincial elections could radically change the political landscape in Iraq. Both the Sunni Arabs and the Sadr Movement sat out the last round, in late January 2005. Thus, governments in the Sunni Arab areas are unrepresentative and in one case a Sunni-majority province, Diyala, is actually ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which Sunnis tend to see as a puppet of Iran.

Likewise in the Shiite south, the ISCI, led by Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is largely in power, even though probably a majority of the population favors Sadr. To have a minority in power and the majority feeling disenfranchised is especially dangerous in a violent society such as Iraq.
Now the wingnuts like to remind of us al-Sadr's ties to Iran but they don't like to admit that the ISCI and the Badr brigade are creations of Iran and much more sympathetic to the goals of the Iranians. It's the Mullahs in Tehran that have both the dogs in this race not the US. But al-Malaki and the ISCI are saying the right words which is all that matters to Cheney and the Bush administration. They see al-Malaki are their guy.

I still think that the ceasefire is something the Iranians demanded of both al-Maliki and al-Sadr. They weren't called Qom to negotiate, they were called to Qom to be told what they would do.