Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Through a Frosty Plate Glass

The rumor mill is churning into overdrive ahead of the Baker-Hamiltion commission report due out in a few weeks. Although the unveilling of the final report will most likely end up being an anti-climactic event, the recent trips to the region by Cheney, Hadley and Bush himself (tomorrow), have lit the fires of conspiracy that seem to always find such ample supplies of tinder in that part of the world.

Earlier, I brought you what Jim Henley described as the "everyone-but-Sadr coalition" rumor. But since Jim didn't find that one to his liking, I thought I would offer a selection of the other specials of the day.

First, Badger at Missing Links serves a heaping plate of Sunni triple layer cake. Piecing together press reports from the region, Badger offers some speculation about an imminent tilt toward the Sunnis [emphasis mine throughout]:

The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman prints a curtain-raiser on tomorrow's the Bush-Maliki meeting in Amman that makes it appear Bush will be "choosing" among a number of points on the Sunni-Iraq wish-list, and will be pressing Maliki to implement some of these on his own, or face serious consequences....it is clear that Azzaman thinks this meeting will support a major pushback by Sunni opponents of the Maliki regime.

American president Bush will be selecting tomorrow in Amman the solution that observers are calling the final one from a basket of options that has been presented to him by [the Baker group] and by a policy that has been evolved by national security adviser Stephen Hadley since his [Hadley's] visit to Baghdad last month as a solution to the question of Iraq, and there are six options: [First], issuance of a general amnesty to all of the resistance groups, and an expansion of the National Reconciliation program; [second], shutting down the de-Baathification agency; [third], including former Baathists in government and paying them conpensation for the last four years; [fourth], disbanding the militias and turning over the leaders that have been involved in crimes to the courts for trial; [fifth], freezing the law relating to establishment of federal regions; and [sixth], set a policy for the fair distribution of oil [revenues] to the people of Iraq.

In the same vein, the writers says King Abdullah, who met with Harith al-Dhari (head of the Sunni-opposition Association of Muslim Scholars) on Monday, wants to bring al-Dhari "within the environment of the talks with Bush", and although he doesn't suggest exactly what al-Dhari might do, the suggesting does give a further unmistakable Sunni/resistance-oriented tone to this.

Badger then turns to a piece in Al-Quds al-Arabi by Abdulbari Atwan to match up the Sunni tilt mentioned above with the ultimate end-game - and it does not pertain to Iraq alone. According to Atwan, the recent "breakthrough" in Israeli-Palestinian hostilities should not be chalked up to mere coincidence.

In a nutshell, Atwan says the 1991 [Gulf] war was accompanied by a promise to the Palestinians of an international conference to solve their problems (the Madrid Conference), which however produced nothing for them; and the 2003 attack was preceded by the famous Bush promise of a sovereign contiguous state for the Palestinians by 2005. In other words, these promises are attempts to rally Arab support ahead of major wars. While the two prior cases (1991 and 2003) involved support from both the Sunni-Arab regimes and the Shiite-Iranian regime, this time the situation is a little different. The pattern is going to be Sunni support for an attack on Shiite Iran. [...]

The "logic" that is suggested in these two articles is a consistent one. It is the season of gifts to the Sunni Arabs, and this is not out of a sudden welling-up in the heart of the Americans of good-will and remorse for their past tribulations. For the Iraqis, it is a harbinger of a decisive move to Part II (back-the-Sunnis) of the American divide-and-conquer strategy, and for the region generally it is a harbinger of war and the spread of the Sunni-versus-Shiite wave of destruction to the whole region.

Heading in the exact opposite direction, however, is some information from anonymous sources contained in this Washington Post article that tells of a Shiite tilt (as reported by Laura Rozen some time ago):

...[A] senior U.S. intelligence official said the situation requires that the administration abandon its long-held goal of national reconciliation and instead "pick a winner" in Iraq. He said he understands that means the Sunnis are likely to bolt from the fragile government. "That's the price you're going to have to pay," he said.

The United States also needs to reexamine other basic assumptions, he said. To be effective, for example, the Iraqi security forces -- including army and police -- should be roughly doubled from the current goal of 325,000 to about 650,000, which would require about three years of recruiting and training, he said. The expanded military, he added, would probably become overwhelmingly Shiite and Kurdish -- an outcome that many Sunnis fear.

Enough to make your head spin, huh? Nevertheless, there's something here for everyone :

First, we're teaming up with Sunni insurgents, SCIRI and Maliki (with Iran's blessing?) in order to cut Sadr down to size. Alternatively, we're giving gifts to various Sunni regimes and insurgent groups (possibly withdrawing support from Maliki and Shiite interests in Iraq), as well as orchestrating an Israeli-Palestinian rapprochment, in order to smooth the way for an attack on Iran. Or, finally, we're going to back the Shiites to the hilt in order to once and for all put down the Sunni resistance in Anbar (this might be related to the first rumor, and constitute part of the price paid to Iran for Sadr's head, but this would probably negate any possible Sunni support for that).

I report, you decide.

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