Monday, March 30, 2009

A crucial test in Iraq: a must-read in today's WaPo

The WP's top two Iraq reporters outline an emerging crisis for not only the Iraqi government, but the nation of Iraq as a whole - and it has potentially huge impact on any proposed US withdrawal.

As I blogged yesterday, either the Maliki government walks this back (specifically, the arrest of a major Sunni Awakening leader in Baghdad, along with the detention of dozens of Awakening fighters) and makes appropriate apologies, or else Maliki commits himself (and US forces, who are committed to supporting the central government) to the probability of pitched battles and a showdown with armed Sunni militias throughout Baghdad and (probably) Anbar (western Iraq). US forces will be alongside in at least a support role, with US attack helicopters and other air support on the scene as well.

Again, these Sunni Awakening fighters are the same guys that the US military was acclaiming as patriots and heroes during the "Surge"; indeed, their success in taking on al-Qaeda in the Sunni regions of Iraq was a major reason (some say, the most important reason) why the "Surge worked" - and why security in Baghdad and eslewhere seemed to be improving. Now, as the WP report makes clear, these same heroes are feeling badly betrayed by their erstwhile patrons. ("The Americans brought us here, organized us, then abandoned us," said one of the Sunni fighters.) That gives them reason to come together as an anti-US as well as anti-Shia resistance. (Again, the Iraqi army and police are dominated by Shiites, many of them members of the militia known as the Badr Organization.)

I imagine that Fred Kagan and the usual suspects at the American Enterprise Institute are a little nervous right about now. As is Mr. Obama, because if the lid blows off Iraq, his plans for Afghanistan may be toast.

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