Al-Maliki Criticizes U.S. Raid Against Sadr Militia
Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki has sharply criticized the U.S. military regarding a recent raid against the militias of al-Sadr.
Iraq’s prime minister sharply criticized a U.S.-Iraqi attack Monday on a Shiite militia stronghold in Baghdad, breaking with his American partners on security tactics as the United States launches a major operation to secure the capital.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s criticism followed a predawn air and ground attack on an area of Sadr City, stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he was “very angered and pained” by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.
“Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way,” al-Maliki said in a statement on government television. “This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone — like using planes.”
He apologized to the Iraqi people for the operation and said, “This won’t happen again.”
Clashes of these sort are inevitable so long as the status quo prevails in Iraq. At this point, it’s pretty clear that al-Maliki isn’t quite the puppet that I’m sure elements of the Administration had hoped that he would be. In reality, though, that’s a good thing, and the best thing that the U.S. could do right now to shore up a unified Iraq would be to show deference to the Iraqi government in matters such as this.
It’s pretty clear that this point that with the exception of Kurdistan, most Iraqis are not happy about the presence of U.S. troops in their country. (And face it, it’s hard to blame them.) But as long as that’s the case, if the Administration is serious about helping to stabilize Iraq, this is something that can be used to our advantage.
In the coming months, the best thing we could do for Iraq’s current government is to show deference to them. Give them credibility by backing down. We should definitely be taking their lead in phasing out U.S. troops. Complying with the government in this manner accomplishes several things, all of which are beneficial.
First of all, going along with the government bolsters its credibility. By showing that it won’t back down to America and “do what it wants”, the government will distance itself from the unpopular American occupation and hopefully maintain popular support. Even in U.S. military operations, the Iraqi government should be consulted (at high levels) and they should be given a veto against those operations (unless American lives are specifically at risk).
Second, by showing deference to the government and phasing out U.S. troops on its timetable, we will help remove the most valuable recruiting incentive that the Iraqi insurgent groups have: fighting Americans. From my understanding, while sectarian violence is certainly a problem and will remain so after we leave, most of the people who’ve joined insurgent groups have done so less to fight for Islamism and more to fight against “foreign occupiers.” Phasing out U.S. troops and conducting operations in conjunction with and under the auspices of the Iraqi government would undermine that recruiting tool. Fewer American troops mean fewer reasons to fight, and deference to the current government makes it hard to argue that Americans are “occupiers.”
Another major benefit of showing increasing deference to the Iraqi government is that it bolsters American credibility. Time and time again during this war, Bush has claimed that we are not occupiers but liberators, and that we will leave if asked. Showing deference to the Iraqi government (a) shows respect for that government and (b) shows that America keeps its word. Both of these factors are invaluable for Middle East policy in the future, and in Iraq in particular. It shows that we are honorable and not out for power, and that can only bolster public opinion of America in the Muslim world.
Ironically enough, it may be that the best way to help Iraq is to “cut and run” after all–so long as we’re smart about it. As Sun-Tzu wrote, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”