INC Kremlinology

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In an operation titled "Crescent Rising," 1,000 troops with the Iraqi National Congress have been airlifted into southern Iraq. There are any number of reasons why this move makes sense. (The Times of London has a useful overview of the mission and its history.) But the interesting thing is that INC leader Ahmed Chalabi is reportedly with the mission, raising the question of whether Chalabi has won the contest to be our man in Iraq. It's unlikely Chalabi, reportedly not well known in Iraq, would be a good candidate to march through Baghdad like De Gaulle once it's secured, but consider some points.

On the one hand, this is a win for Chalabi's civilian backers in the Defense Department. I think Richard Perle was among Chalabi's patrons, though I could be wrong about that, but he is a favorite of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. That may not mean a whole lot—Chalabi also has considerable support within the U.S. Congress. However, his ascension has been opposed by the State Department and the CIA. Notably, the favorite candidate of both the State Department and the Financial Times, 80-year-old Adnan Pachachi, has not been doing much lately. As noted in a great story in The Scotsman, Rummy's faction has also rejected Secretary of State Powell's entire slate of postwar American civilian administrators. The CIA's alleged favorite, Nizar Khazraji, has made news lately, but mostly in a "Where's Waldo" capacity.

Chalabi is also being groomed for an advisory role in the planned postwar regime headed by General Jay Garner. His entry into Iraq suggests the Garner plan may be a done deal.

One big question: What of the non-U.S.-backed opposition? The followers of Ayatollah Bakr al Hakim are still cooling their heels in Iran, but at some point they're going to want to get in on the fun. Hakim's entry into the uprisings in 1991 was one of the factors in President GHW Bush's decision to let Saddam crush the rebellion. The problem is that Hakim would be a likely candidate to do the De Gaulle march, at least in some parts of the country. Can the U.S. keep him at a distance and still keep any credibility for its postwar administration?

And a bigger thing to wonder about: Why is it generally assumed that the U.S. must repeat past strategy by placing a minority Sunni Muslim administration in place in Iraq? (Chalabi is a Shi'a, but has gotten where he is by downplaying sectarianism.) That's not a rhetorical question: It seems like there could be at least a few reasons why rebuilding Iraq under the Shi'ite majority might be strategically adantageous. I don't understand why that's considered impracticable (and if anybody has any explanations, I'd be interested to hear them).

NEXT: The Alpha and Omega

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  1. I think a Kurd should be put in charge, since they aree the only ones fighting for us.

  2. It’s wonderful stuff, this “democracy” building. Who will we put in charge, who will we favor…whoever we give the government to is bound to fail, if only for the reason that we gave it to them.

    This is the nonsense of this war.

    At least the old-style imperialists had the honesty of their intentions.

  3. Honesty… like when General Allenby told the Arabs he’d be giving them rule over their own land, when he was really just using them to fight the Turks, while secretly conspiring with the French to carve up the Near East between them? Or do you mean some other kind of honesty?

  4. Allenby’s intentions were quite transparent. The Arabs were not lied to, simply duped.

    I don’t mind deceiving our enemies. It’s when we are the ones deceived that I get annoyed.

  5. The reason that Team Bush isn’t keen on giving power to the Shiites is that they think they’re too pro-Iran and not the right sort too run a liberal democracy (the Sunnis tend to be more educated, more well-off, more used to holding power). They’re idiots, of course, because there are more Shiites in the country than Sunnis, whether Arab or Kurd. I’m consistently surprised that nobody other than war-skeptic bloggers seems to see anything wrong with the idea that a U.S.-backed regime led by the same Sunni Arabs who have always been in charge would have any credibility with people on the ground.

  6. Chalabi hasn’t lived in Iraq since 1956. He has taken almost 100 million dollars of CIA money. Plain and simple, he is a US puppet.

  7. Oddly enough, these debates have been in had in the past – specifically in India in the 19th century. Its wierd how this shit comes full circle.

  8. Bush doesn’t know a Sunni from a hole in the ground. It’s now payback time and all his ass kissers are lining up, lips puckered.

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