| Ander Nieuws week 52 / nieuwe oorlog 2006 |
Washington looks to 'blame Iraqis and run'

Financial Times
December 11 2006
By Edward Luce in Washington
As George W.Bush agonises over which bits of last week's Baker-Hamilton re­port to adopt for his forthcoming "new way forward in Iraq" announcement, an­other consensus is emerging in Washington on how to handle the situation: blame the Iraqis.
Although informed observers say that the writ of the Iraqi government stops at the perimeter of the Green Zone - the heavily fortified enclave in the centre of Baghdad - leading Republican and Democratic politicians are increasingly blaming Nouri al-Maliki's friable coalition government for a lack of progress.
It is a consensus that was crystallised last week by the Iraq Study Group, which called on Mr Bush to withhold US assistance from Baghdad unless it made progress on fulfilling a long list of US-imposed "milestones". It is also shared by many senior officials in the Bush administration, which had already drawn up an earlier list of milestones for Mr Maliki.
"You could call it 'blame and run'," said Zbigniew Bzrezinski, a former national security adviser now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "It is based on a pervasive illusion that there is such a thing as an Iraqi government. The more we blame it for doing things it cannot do, the more impotent it will become. 'Blame and run' is self-fulfilling."
Strobe Talbott, head of the bipartisan Brookings Institution, agrees. In a speech last week he criticised the view that Baghdad could be pressed to make changes such as disarming the sectarian militias by threatening to withhold military, political or economic aid. The ISG report states that Baghdad must prove that it "deserves" future aid.
"The logic of that pressure tactic - that is, why it should work with the Iraqis - is not clear, since most of them want us out [of Iraq]," said Mr Talbott. "The logic on our own side, however, is very clear indeed: having pre-emptively invaded their country, let's pre-emptively blame them for the mess we've made of it."
The breadth of support for such a line is striking. In a leaked memo last week, Donald Rumsfeld, the outgoing defence secretary, said the Iraqis needed "to pull their socks up".
In a recent speech, Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful who opposed the Iraq invasion, implied that Baghdad was suffering from welfare dependency.
"No more coddling, no more equivocation," he said. "Our best hope for success is to pressure the Iraqi leadership to finally come to a political agreement between the warring factions that can create some sense of stability in the country and bring this conflict under control."
Likewise, Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, said America's credibility was being held hostage by the Iraqi government. "We need to press consistently, privately and publicly the Iraqis to become serious about achieving an in­ternal reconciliation and po­­litical solution, and pre­sent real consequences for their failing to do so," she said.
But it is not a view that is widely shared by those with extensive direct experience of Iraq. Among the 10 members of the ISG, only Chuck Robb, a former Democratic senator, travelled outside the Green Zone when the group was in Baghdad last August.
Among those who have travelled extensively around the country, there is a fear that blaming Baghdad for lack of progress will reduce its capacity to act even further. "The more we blame the Iraqis, the less political space Mr Maliki will have to act," said a former senior administration official. "He cannot be seen to be implementing a long shopping list of items out of Washington."
On Sunday, Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq and normally a moderate pro-western voice, bitterly at­tacked the ISG report and said its criticisms of Baghdad were "unjust and unfair and contains some dangerous articles which reduce the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution".
However, the ISG report is broadly in line with American public opinion. A poll conducted by Newsweek after the report's publication showed that 65 per cent of Americans agreed with its call for strict conditions on the disbursement of future aid to Baghdad.
(c) Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2006.
Original link

| Ander Nieuws week 52 / nieuwe oorlog 2006 |