“Cutler’s Blog” is one year old today.
The first post examined the “decision” of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step aside amidst considerable pressure from Washington.
By some measures, it looks like the political process hasn’t changed much in a year.
One year ago, Bush administration Right Arabists were busy trying to curb Shiite power and woo the Sunni minority back into the political process.
This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered that same message to Baghdad. The Washington Post reports:
Gates on Friday called the Baghdad security plan “a strategy for buying time for progress toward justice and reconciliation.”
He urged Iraq’s parliament to pass legislation on provincial elections, the exploitation of the country’s vast oil resources, the status of former members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein and other issues before the lawmakers recess this summer. “These measures will not fix all of the problems in Iraq, but they will manifest the will of the entire government of Iraq to be a government for all the people of Iraq in the future,” he said.
In April 2006, however, the US managed to oust Jaafari only to settle for his deputy, Prime Minister Maliki.
One year later, Maliki–like Jaafari–retains some independence from the Washington’s Right Arabists.
Asked how Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had responded, Gates said Maliki had reminded him that the parliament is independent, suggesting he could make no assurances on the legislation.
Hasan Suneid, a lawmaker and adviser to Maliki, said the Iraqi government would like to see both the oil legislation and de-Baathification proposal pass, but at their own pace. “These demands are already Iraqi demands,” he said. “The most important thing is to achieve discussion of these plans. Time is irrelevant.”
The “independence” of the Shiite political establishment should not be exaggerated, but neither should it be viewed as an unmitigated disaster for Washington’s political establishment.
The beleaguered Right Zionists (i.e., Neocons) have little left to show for themselves in Washington (save for David Wurmser and John Hannah in Cheney’s office and Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council, and perhaps a smattering of lesser figures).
But unlike Washington’s Right Arabists, some Right Zionists–most recently, Fouad Ajami–are quite pleased by signs of Shiite power and Shiite independence from Right Arabist Washington.
What I cannot figure out, one year later, is how this story ends.
Will “facts on the ground” in Baghdad force Right Arabist Washington to come to terms with Shiite power in Iraq? Or will Right Arabist Washington lose patience with Iraqi Shiites and force an anti-Shiite coup in Iraq?
I would not have predicted that the current political “muddle” could have gone on as long as it has.
At one point in the last year, it looked as though James Baker’s Right Arabists were preparing for a clean sweep in Washington.
It didn’t happen.
Nothing quite so dramatic has yet unfolded in 2007.
The political meaning of the surge remains highly ambiguous and the additional US forces will not be in place until June.
If Shiite power in Iraq is linked to regime change in Iran–the original Right Zionist plan for “Dual Rollback”–then there are few signs such a plan has any legs in Washington (to say nothing of its chances in Tehran).
It astonishes me that we have no political strategy that entails working with the opposition and that reflects how unpopular the theocracy is. It’s a complete failure of imagination. We had such a strategy with Franco’s Spain, with Salazar’s Portugal, with Marcos’s Philippines, with Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, and with Poland during Solidarity. In Iran you have mullahs who are acting in a political capacity—who basically rule by force, with the backing of the Basij—and they ought to receive a political challenge. There are clerics in Iran, such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who don’t like the theocracy. And there are lots of indications that a majority of the Iranian people, and certainly the overwhelming majority of young Iranians, identify with Western concepts of government… There is plenty of scope for a political strategy in Iran, and I think the Iranian mullahs fear it. They must wake up everyday saying to themselves, “I can’t understand why these Americans haven’t done anything to use our unpopularity against us.” They must be as puzzled as I am.
If Perle has any friends in high places, they are now as likely to be Democrats as Republicans.
The Washington Times reported this week that some Democrats are trying to “out hawk” the Bush administration on Iran:
Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, criticized the administration for not taking action under the Iran Sanctions Act.
That law requires imposing sanctions on foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in one year in Iran’s energy sector.
Mr. Sherman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee, included a list of foreign companies that have invested millions or more than $1 billion in Iranian energy.
Although the administration may say the deals may not go through or the full extent of the investments will not be realized, “it strains credulity to say that no single $20 million investment has occurred in Iran in the past decade driving any calendar year,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that the State Department refuses to find evidence of the investments that would trigger the act because they do not want to find evidence of such investments.”
So, the muddle continues.
And so does “Cutler’s Blog.”