Iraq’s civil war and the American response

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

The war in Iraq is a debacle and no amount of semantic fudging can change that reality. While it is encouraging that a number of US media outlets have finally acknowledged that civil war is raging in the occupied nation, the Iraqi people have known this fact for years. It’s a shame so few Westerners were listening.

The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn wrote this week that George W. Bush and Tony Blair (and by extension, John Howard) simply refuse to accept that foreign occupation is the main reason for the insurgency:

An Iraqi government will only have real legitimacy and freedom to operate when US and British troops have withdrawn. Washington and London have to accept that if Iraq is to survive at all it will be as a loose federation run by a Shia-Kurdish alliance because together they are 80 per cent of the population. But, thanks to the miscalculations of Mr Bush and Mr Blair, the future of Iraq will be settled not by negotiations but on the battlefield.

Behind the headlines of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group, however, lies alternative US plans that much of the mainstream media has ignored.

Former US state senator Tom Hayden has written a series of explosive articles for the Huffington Post that detail “America’s diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq”.

He alleges that James Baker has told one of Saddam’s lawyers that Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, will be released by year’s end to negotiate with the US on behalf of the Baath Party leadership.

The Bush administration has continued to negotiate with insurgent groups (except al-Qaeda), and hopes to instigate a coup against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Americans are desperate for a cease-fire, so the implication is clear; military means have failed.

Hayden told Democracy Now this week that the Americans are hoping that a ceasefire would allow them to “go after” Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Key American planners are also determined to restrict Iranian influence in Iraq, conveniently forgetting that the “democratic” governments elected by the people on a number of occasions are directly aligned to the Islamic state.

There has been a noticeable shift in war rhetoric in the last weeks. Iraqis are being blamed for the country’s troubles, not the countries occupying the nation.

Scott Burchill, lecturer in international relations at Deakin University, writes that Australia’s role in Iraq will continue without policy options of our own:

Despite overwhelming opposition from the Iraqi people, US and Australian troops will stay until a reliable Vichy-style dependent client willing to protect Washington’s regional interests is securely in place. Canberra seems committed to this goal out of loyalty to its alliance partner, if not Australia’s national interests. Stability is still some way off. Much blood is still to be shed.