Juan Cole's blog has a collection of the ongoing news reports about the continuing Shiite reprisals for Sunni violence, including a translation of Muqtada Al Sadr's address demanding that Sunnis not kill Shia, not join Al Quaeda, and his continuing call for the US troops to set a time-table for withdrawl from Iraq.
Members of Muqtada's bloc in Parliament, such as Faleh Hasan Shanshal, have threatened to pull out of the al-Maliki government if the prime minister follows through with his plans to meet US President George W. Bush in Amman on Wednesday. Bush's spokesman say that the meeting would be held nevertheless. Why US news services feel the need to report the rest of what the spokesman said, especially fairly high up in the article, is beyond me. Nonsense such as that Iraq is not in a civil war or that the violence will be "high on the agenda" at the Amman meeting is only worthy of being ignored or derided. If Bush was able to do anything about the violence in Iraq, he wouldn't have to meet al-Maliki in the neighboring country of . . . Jordan. I think the Pentagon has concluded that Baghdad is just too dangerous and unpredictable to allow Bush to go there anymore.
If the Iraq war is our generation's Vietnam, this latest upsurge in violence may be this war's Tet Offensive - inasmuch as it reveals the true failure of the US occupation to maintain peace or stability. Patrick Cockburn was reporting three weeks ago in the London Independent that Iraq is not "on the way to civil war" but that the entire country is disintegrating and is actively in the midst of a civil war and has been for some time. In his article "Baghdad Under Seige"
he sums it up:
The scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict. An apocalyptic scenario could well emerge - with slaughter on a massive scale. As America prepares its exit strategy, the fear in Iraq is of a genocidal conflict between the Sunni minority and the Shias in which an entire society implodes. Individual atrocities often obscure the bigger picture where:
* upwards of 1,000 Iraqis are dying violently every week;
* Shia fighters have taken over much of Baghdad; the Sunni encircle the capital;
* the Iraqi Red Crescent says 1.5 million people have fled their homes within the country;
* the Shia and Sunni militias control Iraq, not the enfeebled army or police.
In the midst of this ongoing disaster, it appears that the ever-predictable Fox news was covering something else. Now, Cheney is in Saudi Arabia, while Bush heads off to talk to Al Maliki in Jordan, and Tom Hayden, in articles at Huffington Post, says that he has documents proving that the Bush administration has been secretly negotiating with the Sunni armed resistance. None of us would put it past them to rewind the tape in Iraq to the pre-2003 war solution: ensure stability and keep the Shia out of power by ushering an appropriate Sunni "strongman" into place in the region. Alexander Cockburn puts it this way, "If some Sunni substitute for Saddam stepped up to the plate the US would welcome him and propel him into power..." However, with the carnage and dissaray we see now, "it is too late for such a course."
Who can say what the next step will be. Cockburn continues:
As Henry Kissinger said earlier this week, the war is lost. This is the man who -- if we are to believe Bob Woodward's latest narrative -- has been advising Bush and Cheney that there could be no more Vietnams, that the war in Iraq could not be lost without humiliating consequences for America's status as the number # 1 bully on the block. When Kissinger says a war is lost, you can reckon that it is.
Here is my prediction. Since Cheney is in Saudi Arabia attempting to get the US's "friends" the Saudi Wahabbis to "calm" the Iraqi Sunnis, we are going to try to create some kind of "multi-national" regional force involving the Saudis to attempt to impose order on Iraq and to keep Iran in check. The US will try to sell this group the way they sold the Taliban to us back in 1995....I just wonder where it will lead - especially given parallel efforts on the Iranian side. If a civil war isn't enough to bring on the "endtimes" maybe a regional one will be.