Thursday, November 30, 2006

Castle in the Sand - that leaked confidential memo reveals the depth of folly on Iraq

By now,most of you know that the New YorkTimes cheerfully leaked a confidential memo it admits was marked `Top Secret' from President Bush's National Security Advisor on Iraq, dated Nov. 8 and prepared for cabinet-level officials.

The release of the memo, which was a frank assesment of Iraqi prime Minister Maliki and the situation in Iraq was, of course, released bythe Paper of Refuse in time for a planned summit by Bush withmaliki and Jordan's King Hussein so as to cause the maximum embarrassment and damage to our country's interests.

This is just one more episode showing the dinosaur media's blatant contempt for our government, our country and national security - for which they have yet to face any consequences from the Justice Department or a gutless administration.

That said, the memo is astounding in what it reveals about the depth of the folly in Iraq, and the likelyhood of picking up the pieces.

The New York Times has no problem stealing other people's confidential data, but they usually tend to close down links quickly so that no one can`borrow' theirs. Here's the memo in it's entirety, along with my comments.

A long read, but worth the detour, as they say...and a real window into what's going on and what's not going on in Iraq.

"We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

{You mean, you put this guy in power and don't know the answer to this question already?}

Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.

{If Maliki isn't incommand of that expensive army and security forces we built up for him, than who is? Isn't that who we should be dealing with, rather than Maliki the straw man? And, by the way,who allowed the army and the security forces to slip out of the government's control?}

Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.

{Well duh! Why wasn't Maliki told in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable if he wanted to continue to have our support long before it got to this point? And aren't these actions contrary to that vaunted and hyped Iraqi `constitution' we've heard so much about? Who was minding the store?}

While there does seem to be an aggressive push to consolidate Shia power and influence, it is less clear whether Maliki is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

{In other words, Hadley is admitting that in typical Arab fashion, Maliki is telling the gullible Westerners what they want to hear when he's in front of them and doing what his Iranian and Sadrist bosses want the rest of the time. Once again, these are developments that happened over months. Who was minding the store?}

Steps Maliki Could Take

There is a range of actions that Maliki could take to improve the information he receives, demonstrate his intentions to build an Iraq for all Iraqis and increase his capabilities. The actions listed below are in order of escalating difficulty and, at some point, may require additional political and security resources to execute, as described on Page 3 of this memo. Maliki should:

¶Compel his ministers to take small steps — such as providing health services and opening bank branches in Sunni neighborhoods — to demonstrate that his government serves all ethnic communities;

¶Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;

{And exactly how is he supposed to do that, when Moqtada al-Sadr and Iran own Maliki and the Dawa party? And Maliki doesn't control the army or security forces??}

¶Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries;

{So, he's going to fire al-Sadr's guys, just like that..and expect no repercussions!}

¶Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that “it reflects the face of Iraq”;

¶Demand that all government workers (in ministries, the Council of Representatives and his own offices) publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions;

{Once again..Maliki is going to fire the people that own him when he doesn't control the army or the security forces? Brilliant.}

¶Declare that Iraq will support the renewal of the U.N. mandate for multinational forces and will seek, as appropriate, to address bilateral issues with the United States through a SOFA [status of forces agreement] to be negotiated over the next year;

{So..the guy has already proven himself to be duplicitous, incompetent, and unpopular even with the Shias. So let's make a deal with him to keep him in power. Ri-ight!}

¶Take one or more immediate steps to inject momentum back into the reconciliation process, such as a suspension of de-Baathification measures and the submission to the Parliament or “Council of Representatives” of a draft piece of legislation for a more judicial approach;

¶Announce plans to expand the Iraqi Army over the next nine months; and

¶Declare the immediate suspension of suspect Iraqi police units and a robust program of embedding coalition forces into MOI [Ministry of the Interior] units while the MOI is revetted and retrained.

{Lessee..the Iraqi government, or at least Maliki already doesn't control the Army and the security forces we spent millions to arm and train. And we've already seen that Maliki, or whomever is running things is basically vetting the security forces so that the Shias control them. So let's spend even more money adding to this force.

Sounds like a winner to me.

And those suspect police and military units that we've already armed and trained? Let's just fire them outright. They'd never do anything like joining the sectarian violence or one of the militias, now would they?}

What We Can Do to Help Maliki

If Maliki is willing to move decisively on the actions above, we can help him in a variety of ways. We should be willing to:

¶Continue to target Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the JAM to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner;

{a partner to whom? And who is going to `reassure' the Sunnis that they don't need their militias and death squads or al Qaeda to protect them?}

¶Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);

{ `Demonstate to Iraqis that he's a strong leader?' Moqtada al Sadr and the Iranians already know that he's their puppet who'll do what he's told. The Shias already know he's incompetant. And the Kurds and Sunnis already know they can't trust him!}

¶Continue our diplomatic efforts to keep the Sunnis in the political process by pushing for the negotiation of a national compact and by talking up provincial council elections next spring/summer as a mechanism for Sunni empowerment;

¶Support his announcement to expand the Iraqi Army and reform the MOI more aggressively;

¶Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraqi forces, although we must recognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces;

{'Additional control' ? Considering what he's already demonstrated, I dunno. And since the memo earlier calls for dismissing some of those forces he supposedly has control over, that DOES mean we're going to give him `additional control' over expanded forces. In other words, let's keep doing what we've done up to now, only more so, and expect a different result.}

¶Continue to pressure Iran and Syria to end their interference in Iraq, in part by hitting back at Iranian proxies in Iraq and by Secretary Rice holding an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December; and

{And just why would Iran and Syria do that? What are we planning on offering them, and what kind of price are the likes of Ahmadinejad and Assad going to ask? The Golan Heights
and hands off in Lebanon for Syria? A free hand to Iran for more political interference in Iraq, and no more twaddle about sanctions or interference with Iran's nuclear program? Is that price worth paying? And that `hitting back' at Iranian proxies in Iraq, like Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army...after Maliki has already said he won't allow it? The mind boggles...}

¶Step up our efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq by using its influence to move Sunni populations in Iraq out of violence into politics, to cut off any public or private funding provided to the insurgents or death squads from the region and to lean on Syria to terminate its support for Baathists and insurgent leaders.

{We can't even get the Saudis to stop funding jihad here in America, let alone in Iraq. A lot of the mess in Iraq has been caused by trying to accomodate the Saudi desire to keep the Sunni minority viable power-wise anyway. As for Syria, see my comment above.}

Augmenting Maliki’s Political and Security Capabilities

The above approach may prove difficult to execute even if Maliki has the right intentions. He may simply not have the political or security capabilities to take such steps, which risk alienating his narrow Sadrist political base and require a greater number of more reliable forces. Pushing Maliki to take these steps without augmenting his capabilities could force him to failure — if the Parliament removes him from office with a majority vote or if action against the Mahdi militia (JAM) causes elements of the Iraqi Security Forces to fracture and leads to major Shia disturbances in southern Iraq. We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule. Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole.

If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament). In its creation, Maliki would need to be willing to risk alienating some of his Shia political base and may need to get the approval of Ayatollah Sistani for actions that could split the Shia politically. Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.

{Hmmm...`difficult' is putting it mildly.

If we weren't sure of Maliki's intentions, why did we push him as a compromise candidate to take power in the first place? Again, who was minding the store?

We've already seen that Maliki is unwilling or unable to `fracture the Shia politically' or to try and go against the interests of the Shia to cultivate a more moderate and balanced base that includes Sunnis and Kurds for the benefit of a unified Iraq. Why would he change now? And why wouldn't the Shia majority in Parliament toss him out if he tried? And notice, if you will that this part of the memo once again contradicts the part where it talks about giving Maliki more control over existing forces, not new ones, even though we're still not sure who is controlling the `forces' we've already spent millions on. Remember all the happy talk about how well the training of the Iraqi army and security forces was coming along?

This means we're going to pour more money down this particular rathole.}

This approach would require that we take steps beyond those laid out above, to include:

¶Actively support Maliki in helping him develop an alternative political base. We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc;

¶Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as to support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of his bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists; and

¶Provide Maliki with more resources to help build a nonsectarian national movement.

{ So, let me get this straight. We have this Shia leader who ever the Shia despise..and we're going to bribe people to form a new political party behind him that doesn't exist yet? Ahh, the wonderful aroma of Arab democracy is in the air...}

• If we expect him to adopt a nonsectarian security agenda, we must ensure he has reasonably nonsectarian security institutions to execute it — such as through a more robust embedding program.

• We might also need to fill the current four-brigade gap in Baghdad with coalition forces if reliable Iraqi forces are not identified.

{Hey....more US troops! But with the same lackof objective and handcuffing rules of engagement, and no permission from Maliki to go after the Shia militias}

Moving Ahead

We should waste no time in our efforts to determine Maliki’s intentions and, if necessary, to augment his capabilities. We might take the following steps immediately:

¶Convince Maliki to deliver on key actions that might reassure Sunnis (open banks and direct electricity rebuilding in Sunni areas, depoliticize hospitals);

¶Tell Maliki that we understand that he is working his own strategy for dealing with the Sadrists and that:

• you have asked General Casey to support Maliki in this effort

• it is important that we see some tangible results in this strategy soon;

{And what strategy is that? Something new and amazing? I'd love to know,and so would lots of other people.}

¶Send your personal representative to Baghdad to discuss this strategy with Maliki and to press other leaders to work with him, especially if he determines that he must build an alternative political base;

¶Ask Casey to develop a plan to empower Maliki, including:

• Formation of National Strike Forces

• Dramatic increase in National Police embedding

• More forces under Maliki command and control

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to make a recommendation about whether more forces are need in Baghdad;

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to devise a more robust embedding plan and a plan to resource it;

¶Direct your cabinet to begin an intensive press on Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq, connecting this role with other areas in which Saudi Arabia wants to see U.S. action;

{translation - lean heavy on Israel and the Jews.. they don't vote for us anyway}

¶If Maliki seeks to build an alternative political base:

• Press Sunni and other Iraqi leaders (especially Hakim) [Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Maliki rival] to support Maliki

{For the record, Hakim and Maliki hate each other. And Hakim is even more of a tool of Iran than Maliki is}

• Engage Sistani to reassure and seek his support for a new nonsectarian political movement."

{We're going to get a Shia Ayatollah to support a `nonsectarian political movement'? Let me know how that works out)

I will admit, I've been pretty rough on Mr. Hadley. It's obvious that he had an extremely difficult job in trying to make a policy recommendation, given what's there on the ground and had to avoid stepping on too many toes with this particular memo..particularly since it seems like, these days, even top secret confidential papers like these are happily outed by people like the New York Times with no regard for the consequences.

But I'll say this...if ever a short memo revealed a totally failed policy, this does.

If we're not willing to depose Maliki, impose a military government, take out the militias and confront Iran and Syria we need to bring the troops home as soon as possible..or better, much better, deploy them with our allies in a free Kurdistan, form a strategic base there for the coming conflict with Iran and let whatever happens in the rest of Iraq happen.

We have a war to fight and win, and a continued wasting of resources in what we've cobbled together in Iraq does nothing to advance that.

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