Wait, Zelikow was smart?
My whole world view is imploding: someone at the State Department has come up with a good idea. Unprecedented.
This is how David Ignatius (Washington Post, ‘Groping for the Exit,’ December 1, 2006) summarized it in his Op-Ed:
As administration officials review Iraq strategy, one failed element is theThe State document was authored by Condi Rice’s counselor, Philip D. Zelikow, who just recently had announced his resignation. Leaving Foggy Bottom makes plenty of sense for Zelikow; he had violated a central Foreign Service commandment by suggesting a useful policy idea. Zelikow’s memo was first reported by Robin Wright (Washington Post, ‘U.S. Considers Ending Outreach to Insurgents,’ December 1, 2006) today—or ‘Robin Wrong’ as she was known among Iraqi opposition circles from her days at the Los Angeles Times. Wright/Wrong is allegedly a Richard Haas protégé, and I can’t tell if the leak was done to cast aspersions on Zelikow’s proposal or to ‘give it legs.’
policy of "Sunni outreach" pursued by the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad. Some officials have concluded that Khalilzad's approach made Iraqi Shiites fear that America was abandoning them, without achieving any meaningful reduction of the Sunni insurgency. A few officials argue flatly that it's time for America to take the Shiite side in the Iraqi conflict. "National reconciliation is a fallacy," one senior intelligence analyst said in an interview this week, insisting that, in Iraq, "You have to pick a winner."
But it does make sense: Why piss-off 80 percent of the Iraqis by making nice to the people killing them? And should the Americans be talking to people who seek to reinstate Saddam, destroy Israel or set-up a caliphate? And how does it make sense to keep talking to terrorists who refuse to show any good will by calling a ceasefire while negotiations are underway?
Don’t worry, State Department will soon get back to its good old self by promoting the very architect of the ‘Appease the Bad Guys’ strategy, Mr. Khalilzad. He is set to become Rice’s deputy. Ahemmmm.
Here is a selection of where I stood on this issue over the last two years:
Column: Leave the Sunnis Behind, November 26, 2004
History is about to turn an important corner in Iraq and it would be disastrous for it to be impeded by an American roadblock. Iraqi politics and pie-slicing are on autopilot. At the end of election day, eight out of 10 Iraqis (six Shia and two Kurds) will walk away from the voting booths feeling as if they have a stake in the future. Two out of ten Iraqis, probably Sunnis, would be busily boycotting the whole election or desperately trying to blow up the ballot stations.Column: Dances With Terrorists, June 16, 2005
The Sunnis will soon realize that, unlike their grandfathers and fathers, they missed the opportunity to be part of a newly remodeled Iraq. It took the Shias until 1927, a year after Bell died, to realize that they had missed their own opportunity and to try to rectify their situation, but by then the Sunni dictatorship had closed off all avenues to power sharing. In this century, it may take another five years for the Sunnis to get back on board. Only an Iraqi-led democratic process that is not micromanaged out of Langley, Foggy Bottom, or Cairo will leave the door open for them to do just that. Leave the Iraqis to sort this out, and just maybe Iraqi children will quarrel over
marbles and soccer rather than sectarian identity.
To make matters worse, the Americans have indicated that they are willing to bargain with the terrorists. The rationale behind this is to include Sunnis in the political process and to split the insurgency. Fine, it sounds great, but there is a danger of losing the goodwill of the Shias in the process.Column: ‘Abu Omar’ vs the Shi'as, April 12, 2006
A very weird and immoral term has emerged to describe the insurgent terrorists who only target American and coalition forces: the "honorable" insurgency. Even weirder, America's diplomats have embraced this term and are ready to bargain with these "honorable" murderers. The moral high ground of liberation from tyranny has been ceded to those who cloak their response to losing power as fighting against the "occupier." Sunni moderates who are loyal to the new era in Iraq and who early on took a clear stance against terrorism have been completely sidelined, and the Americans have indicated that the only "real" Sunni leaders they are willing to engage with are the ones bargaining on behalf of the murderers. Ms. Rice and her phalanx of diplomats, through a misguided security policy, have earned the moniker of "Dances with Terrorists."
The Americans are showing signs of Iraq fatigue, but the regular folks of that country are also exhausted. Using renegade violence should be a dead end, and the Sunnis need to learn this lesson rather than being given a seat at the table. A lack of accountability for the terrible suffering faced by the Shias in the past and present opens a venue for Shia radicals to use violence too, and they will be cheered for it. Iraq needs to move forward, but it cannot be held back in order to win over some of those who begrudge a non-Sunni dominated democratic future. Civil war is a very likely prospect, and America should build its policy on keeping its friends on its side, rather than on caving in to the enemy.
The American government, acting upon the advice of its ambassador in Baghdad, has unwisely maneuvered itself into the anti-Shia camp, which is a problematic development since the Shias are more than 60% of Iraq's population and have been[full text of Robin Wright’s story is posted in the comments section]
consistent in their support for the democratic process. By picking sides as to who gets to become prime minister for the next four years, and in contravention of the voting tallies, America is making an unstable situation far more volatile.
America is not actually out to harm the Shias as a sect, but perceptions are important. Shia resentment is so acute that the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, is referred to as "Abu Omar" in Iraqi political circles - meaning "father of Omar," with Omar being a quintessentially Sunni name as far as Shias are concerned. It doesn't help that the Afghan-American ambassador is in fact a Sunni by birth.