Monday, November 12

Advice from a real expert on Iraq: Stay the course with the "new American-created reality," hang tough with Iraq's central government

When Michael Ware speaks about Iraq, I listen. Michael, an Australian journalist who worked for Time Magazine before joining CNN in May 2006, is, according to Wikipedia:
... one of the only mainstream reporters to have lived in Baghdad near-continuously since before the American invasion and he gained early acclaim as one of the few reporters to establish contacts with the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi insurgency. Ware was one of the first mainstream journalists to report on the severity of the growing opposition to Western coalition forces ... Ware is also known for his stark assessments of conditions on the ground and his repudiation of the overly-optimistic assessments sometimes made by politicians. Ware has also been 'embedded' with American and British military forces on numerous occasions, and the coalition forces have been the focus of many of his reports ...
Michael always looked rumpled and rather tired when he reported from Iraq, but he finally got a much-deserved vacation by covering the World Rugby Championship. On the November 10 CNN edition of This Week at War, the show host Tom Foreman interviewed Michael about his impressions since his return to Baghdad. From the show transcript:
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to say it truly is a blessing what the Iraq that I have returned to. Whichever way you look at it, yes, American and Iraqi lives are still being lost, but they are at levels phenomenally lower than they were a year ago. There is considerably less violence. This is still a war zone. There is still sectarian bloodshed, but at least now, there is something of a lid to that and that has to be celebrated as a success. The question is, a success of what?

Now, clearly the military would like to attribute this to the surge, the increase of 30,000 extra forces here in the capital and of course, the addition of that kind of military might has played a part, but it hasn't achieved the end result that it was advertised that it would, the political reconciliation between the major parties, but what it has done is it's given America time to build the Sunni militias, these concerned citizens' organizations, these awakening councils where we now see America with 67,000 insurgents on the U.S. payroll. These men that the administration called dead enders and criminals and Saddamists and rejectionists, America is now paying. They are out there slaughtering al Qaeda and they're out there forcing this Iraqi government, which is Shia-dominated and according to U.S. intelligence with many ties to Iran, to come to terms with the new American created reality, and that is that the Sunni must play a part. We have armed them. We are organizing them. You can no longer ignore them.

[...] reconciliation is the main thing, getting these incredibly scarred Sunni and Shia communities to come back together and whilst we might see that on the street level, even perhaps the neighborhood level, we are not seeing it now, and we are not going to see it at the level of the upper political stratagem. That is not what's going to happen. What we need to see is this momentum continuing, but for me personally, the blinding frustration of this enormously successful program that America has initiated with the Sunnis by bringing them in, befriending their old enemies, the men who had been shooting at them is that the Sunnis offered this four years ago.

It is almost as if we have now witnessed the end of or coming to the end of a guerrilla war we never had to have. 3,000 American lives and one wonders, did they have to be lost? Either way, now that they are finally doing it, that General Petraeus is doing what others wouldn't, this needs to be consolidated and this Iraqi government, which does not share American agendas, needs to know that America is playing tough and it has to get on board and Iran needs to know that suddenly, there is a buffer within Iraq to curb their influence and obviously, this will keep America's Arab allies happening. Essentially more of the same; this is what we need.
Tom Foreman also interviewed CNN military analyst Brig. Gen. David Grange, (Ret.) about his impressions of the situation, and General Grange came to the same conclusion as Michael:
I would caution to be careful here [about] rushing to withdraw [US troops] too rapidly when you have this type of success ... you get these spikes, these valleys. You don't want that right now, especially when we want to put pressure on Iran like Michael said, when you want to keep things going and show [that] at grass roots level where things are working in the communities, in the tribes [and say] to the national government, 'Get on with it.' Your countrymen are doing it. Now get on with it, because that has to be done.

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