Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thirty Days of Night Part 3

The Daily Telegraph reports that Iraqi PM Minister Maliki demanded the relief of General Petraeus because he used Sunni forces to fight al-Qaeda, but the demand was refused.

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country's prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.

Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general's moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa'eda.

One Iraqi source said Mr Maliki used a video conference with Mr Bush to call for the general's signature strategy to be scrapped. "He told Bush that if Petraeus continues, he would arm Shia militias," said the official. "Bush told Maliki to calm down."

At another meeting with Gen Petraeus, Mr Maliki said: "I can't deal with you any more. I will ask for someone else to replace you."

Well, we already know what the answer to that question is. See my previous post, which (thanks to an alert reader, saw early signs of this story) and speculated on the connection of recent attacks on Shi'ite militias in Baghdad with the political situation.



But the American power game is apparently aimed not only at influencing the political alignment within Iraq, but also within the region as a whole. More from the Telegraph.

The New York Times claimed yesterday that Saudi Arabia was refusing to work with Mr Maliki and has presented "evidence" that he was an Iranian intelligence agent to US officials. "Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the war," it reported.

Alongside the firm support of Mr Bush, Mr Maliki also enjoys the backing of Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador and his predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad, now America's representative at the United Nations.

Mr Khalilzad took a swipe at Saudi Arabia in an editorial published earlier this month that was widely seen as an appeal for a larger UN role in stabilising Iraq.

This news, in connection with the sources I cited in the previous post claiming that America is negotiating with Iran or at least going through the motions of doing so, shows that the US is finally playing both ends against the middle, with the Kurds apparently sitting in the bleachers in bemusement. Perhaps both the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, in supporting armed groups in Iraq, have provided the US with the perfect knife. America can threaten them with each other. But to successfully do this, Petraeus needed to dominate operations in the field so that he could essentially carom the sides off each other. The Surge may have concealed a deep political game and may have been in every sense, a combined arms campaign.

Update

To make things more interesting, the US is opening talks in Syria over Iraq with Saudi Arabia sitting it out. Here are the details from the IHT.

Iraq's deputy foreign minister urged his country's neighbors Wednesday for genuine support and said he hoped a meeting here on Iraq's deteriorating security would produce real results instead of broken promises.

But key regional power player Saudi Arabia was absent from the first meeting of the newly created Security Committee for Coordination and Cooperation on Iraq. A U.S. delegation, headed by Washington's top diplomat in Syria, Charge d'Affaires Michael Corbin, attended the two-day meeting, as well as representatives of Iraq's other neighbors, including Iran, the Arab League, Bahrain and Egypt and U.N. Security Council permanent members.

But Saudi Arabia's decision not to participate cast doubt on how effective the meeting would be. Its absence was likely due to its bad relations with the Syrian government. Saudi officials would not comment, but the kingdom and Damascus have been deeply divided over Syria's ties to Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon.

A Sunni Muslim country, Saudi Arabia also has been keeping Iraq's Shiite-led government at arms length — but under U.S. pressure to be more cooperative, it is now considering reopening an embassy in Baghdad.

My guess is that none of this flurry is accidental. We are watching cards long hoarded being played, some I think, under compulsion. But whether the cards laid are conforming to the calculation or miscalculation of the American players remains to be seen. One question that runs through my head is if any of this would be possible if the US had acceded to the demands to unilaterally announce a rapid withdrawal schedule a few months ago.

17 Comments:

Blogger PierreLegrand said...

The Problem Child Iran, thinking out of the box…yes we can!

Well wretchard time will tell whether this actually shuts down Iran or not.

8/08/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger PierreLegrand said...

Crap pressed send before I finished my thoughts...

We have to shut down a whole lot of folks over there before we can leave Iraq comfortable with their ability to survive as a "moderate" nation...unwilling to allow terrorists to incubate.

8/08/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

"One question that runs through my head is if any of this would be possible if the US had acceded to the demands to unilaterally announce a rapid withdrawal schedule a few months ago."

You know the answer to that question. Ever since the says of Preble, Decatur, and Eaton...our presence has accounted for our influence. It's no coincidence that US troop levels are at an all-time high at the moment the diplomatic activity is peaking.

8/08/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Interesting note on the language used in the IHT story, (more of a tease)

" Iraq's deputy foreign minister urged his country's neighbors Wednesday for genuine support and said he hoped a meeting here on Iraq's deteriorating security would produce real results instead of broken promises.

"But key regional power player Saudi Arabia was absent from the first meeting of the newly created Security Committee for Coordination and Cooperation on Iraq."

I take it the deputy foreign minister is Shi'ah, as I thought the security situation in Iraq was, in fact, improving.

Syria has long played Iran against KSA when it suits their purpose, in dealings over Lebanon, in deals made about Iraq, and in double dealing with Kurds and other of its own minorities. It would be nice to see Assad treated to a taste of his own medicine (in lieu of a direct assault).

The level of UN participation in Iraq, as in So. Lebanon, will be little more than that of a canary in a coal mine. Useful for what it is.

8/08/2007 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

This shows that everyone is still maneuvering for the post- American civil war. The Sunnis realized that continuing to fight the US would leave them defenseless against the Shia and Kurds. The Shia realize that giving the Sunni a rest, and arming them, will make them harder to defeat later.

This is good for us because it makes a civil war less likely. It also provides a much less hospitable environment for Al Qeada. With a continued Sunni presence Iraq will be harder for Iran to influence. What's not to like?

8/08/2007 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Looks like we're deliberately allowing Mr Maliki to suffer disgrace - thus setting him up to be replaced. I guess Mr Maliki exceeded Bush's patience, or miscaculated how Bush the Younger would react. This isn't as bad as whacking him with your shoe - but close.

Perhaps Bush and team have decided on a plan without Mr Maliki.

8/09/2007 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger BigLeeH said...

"The level of UN participation in Iraq, as in So. Lebanon, will be little more than that of a canary in a coal mine. Useful for what it is."

I think that gives the UN slightly too little credit. They do tend to get in the way sometimes and it costs the bad guys something to go around them. My son was deployed to Kosovo as part of the UN forces there. Mostly, he drove a truck. As he described it the UN convoy would be driving down the road when suddenly men would come running out from behind the bushes carrying construction tools (cones, shovels, etc.). The men would set up barricades and traffic cones, station a flag man to control traffic and pretend to be working on the road until the convoy had gone by. Once the UN forces were out of sight the traffic cones around the land mines were, of course, removed and the men would resume hiding in the bushes. Having the UN present meant stationing a team of men at each land mine which increased the expense of deploying them.

8/09/2007 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/09/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

8/09/2007 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger R said...

Let's play a game: Sucker!

You're the sucker. Now, how do we play you? What is the game? Who are the players? Why are they players?

When I begin to ask myself these questions, and try to play a game of who is the sucker...I get really depressed.

If America is being played as the "sucker" how would we come to know this? What would have to take place for us to be convinced that the Americans are in fact the suckers?

Yep, I am still depressed, 'cause I keep coming up with the same answer: America is the sucker!

Go figure!

8/09/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger some said...

Er, what, Wretch?

That Telegraph article has been discredited.

8/09/2007 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Is a post that is all questions really a post, or merely a form of mental masturbation for the pleasure of the writer ...

Some, you squeaked the same little correction two days ago. Since then the story has been repeated and reported throughout the world. Why should we believe that Maliki is *not* fuming over Petreus when everything we can see about Arab character (and lack thereof) says that yes, indeed, he is probably feeling pinched in a pincer-like vise between Petreus on the one hand, Al-queda on the other, Iran on the other, and the Sunni's on a 4th hand. And who's an incompetent Iraqi Prime Minister going to holler at in those circumstances, since you just KNOW he's not going to accept any blame for his current situation his very own self.

8/09/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger some said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/10/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger some said...

So, fake but accurate? Nice.

I do, however, trust our host has a bit more interest in actual facts than his gaggle of commenters.

8/10/2007 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Some, how do you come to the conclusion of "fake but accurate", unless you're projecting because that's what your group does so frequently any way? You have one itsy-bitsy denial to cite. Whereas the original story has been published world-wide now, and I haven't seen Bush, nor Petreus, nor anyone else with a dog in the fight deny it.

And really, unless you've come down with severe Bush Derangement Syndrome and are impaired any way, psychologically what would make the most sense? That Malaki is having tantrums and trying to get someone who's competent fired, or that he tugs what's left of his balding forelock, says "Yessir" to Bush, and then scurries off to explain himself to his Iranian masters?

Put it this way, if John Bolton were hired by George Soros to be in charge of Daily Kos because it's being managed so badly, do you think Markos would accept it quietly?

8/10/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger some said...

nahnsee, every single statement in your comment is wrong. I'll skip the misplaced slurs about me, and just note that Petraeus *did* deny it (since you haven't bothered clicking through the links, read Telegraph article #2), and that the baloneyness of this story headlined at one of the more prominent blogs of PJM, of which one would expect Wretchard to be aware.

If you want to go by "what makes sense", why look at the facts at all? It makes sense that Maliki isn't happy. But that doesn't mean he's forced an ultimatum, had shouting matches with Petraeus, peed in the latter's cereal, or anything else.

What you seem to have is a bizarre case of defend-your-contribution syndrome. Suit yourself, but it's silly.

8/10/2007 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I read Petreus' denial. It's one of those carefully parsed Bill Clinton denials, where he denied "shouting" had aken place. That depends upon one's personal definition of what decibel level constitutes a "shout". To Petreus, inurred by bombs and explosions, Maliki's loudness might not qualify as a shout.

Also, no one has denied that Maliki demanded that he be removed. Or that Maliki is pissed off because Americans are using Sunni troops.

And it was reported a month or two ago that Maliki *has* been actively protecting Mookie for years now and he had to be sat on to quit doing that. My guess is he's agreed to throw Sadr under the bus but still has his red phone open to warn the Sadrist militias of upcoming raids.

And then there's always the fall-back test of not listening to the words, but watching the actions. What has Maliki been DOING? Not building a government, not working on consensus, not getting oil money flowing. So what *does* he do all day? Plan his August vacation?

For you to say there was "no shouting" and no demands does mean you're standing up for Maliki, bottom line. Is that what you mean to do?

8/11/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

" read Petreus' denial. It's one of those carefully parsed Bill Clinton denials, where he denied "shouting" had taken place"

Actually, he only denies that Maliki had shouted. . .if you read the quote he doesn't say anything about shouting or not shouting himself.

At any rate, "some" has attempted to paint the commenters here in a totally undeserved manner.

To use an article that's later discredited, commenting in response out of a lack of knowledge that it HAS been discredited, is one thing.

Acting as if it never was discredited is another entirely. THAT'S where 'fake but accurate' comes into play. A good example is the defense of the Beauchamp stories in TNR by many on the left, in spite of the obvious and in-depth discrediting (by Beauchamp himself no less!) of his work. No one here is likely to continue using a discredited article as basis for analysis.

8/14/2007 03:57:00 PM  

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