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    Middle East
     Nov 29, 2006
Page 1 of 2
Bury my heart in the Green Zone
By Pepe Escobar

We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq.
- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, November 27, in Tehran

As dozens of people a day (sometimes a couple of hundred a day), every single day, Sunni and Shi'ite alike, continue to be beheaded, tortured, blown up, shot, kidnapped, struck by mortars and even doused in gasoline and set on fire in a non-stop

gruesome ritual, every big player seems to be laying down a desperate game to "save" Iraq. This includes the ongoing summit between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and his Iranian counterpart Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Iran and this week's meeting between President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan.

But they all have forgotten to consider the guerrilla point of view; as far as the Sunni Arab resistance is concerned, any summit is guilty of legitimizing the "puppet" Iraqi government.

The Talabani-Ahmadinejad meeting was supposed to have included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria had to walk a careful diplomatic tightrope to evade Iran's invitation without alienating a close ally and at the same time send a signal to Washington it is willing to talk with no preconditions. James Baker's and Lee Hamilton's Iraq Study Group (ISG), after all, will propose a chaos-defying summit between Iraq and all its close neighbors.

Non-stop White House and Pentagon accusations swirl around: Syria facilitates the flow of jihadis into Iraq through their deserted, 1,200-kilometer border. This simply does not make sense (in fact the exodus is the other way around: every day up to 2,000 Iraqis flee to Syria, and more than 1,000 to Jordan, according to the United Nations). Syria may have a Ba'athist regime, but the power elite is configured by Alawites - who follow a branch of Shi'ism completely different from Iran's duodecimals (who believe in 12 imams). The utmost fear of the Assad regime is exactly Salafi-jihadis of the al-Qaeda kind, so Damascus would not be aiding them.

Kurdish warlord-turned-politician Talabani may have been US-protected during the days of Saddam Hussein, but quite a few players in the White House and Pentagon axis will have their reasons to regard the summit in Tehran as a pure "axis of evil". As for the helpless Maliki, there's not much for Bush to lecture him about; his days in power may be numbered. According to various and persistent reports, including from Western and Arab networks, a coup d'etat may be in the works in Baghdad: the US in the Green Zone may have enlisted four of Saddam's Sunni Arab generals with the mission of toppling the Shi'ite-majority Maliki government to install a regime of "national salvation". It would then restructure the Shi'ite-dominated ministries of Defense and Interior and finish off Shi'ite militias such as the Badr Organization of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Call it the return of the Ba'athists - minus Saddam. Even before rumors of a coup began circulation, one could see the so-called diplomatic strategists of Baker's ISG coming up with the idea of trying to co-opt the resistance into entering a coalition government.

But that does not mean the plan will work. The US might invest in an Asian-style face-saving operation spun by heavy public relations by getting involved in direct negotiations with the Sunni Arab resistance. But only a Saddam-style dictator is capable of assuring a strong, stable central government in Baghdad in charge of security for everyone, with no discrimination. That would mean alienating the Shi'ite religious parties and their paramilitary factions to the limit.

The return of the Ba'athists fits into a "stay the course" pattern. And it also somehow fits into the Pentagon's "go big" (more troops) and "go long" (many years) strategies - which would take at least up to 2015 before Iraqization of the security forces is complete. In the end, these "strategies" amount to little more than a catchphrase - a muddled "go big but short while transitioning to go long".

A web of myth continues to be spun by much of the world's press, according to which Iran, as an overpowering entity, uses the US occupation to crush the Sunni Arab resistance while manipulating Shi'ite militias. This is a two-pronged fallacy. The Pentagon's finest in Iraq are not crushing anything - on the contrary. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has all but installed an Islamic emirate in al-Anbar province, while the Mehdi Army reigns in Kufa, south of Baghdad, and in Sadr City in Baghdad itself.

The 10,000-strong Badr Organization - affiliated with SCIRI - may have been trained by the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, but it does not take any orders from Tehran. As for Muqtada's 7,000-strong Mehdi Army, it is split into at least three different factions (two of them don't even respond to Muqtada anymore). But all of them are opposed to Iranian interference.

Continued 1 2 

The Saudis strike back at Iran (Nov 28, '06)

Iraq: Kissinger's 'decent interval', take two (Nov 23, '06)

Iraq's fate hanging on a new axis (Nov 23, '06)


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