Trouble in paradise

Where is the love?

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.

Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general’s moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa’eda.

So we have a puppet president who wants Washington’s poster boy out of Iraq. tThe Saudis, who make up the majority of foreign fighters in Iraq, don’t trust him… because of his ties to Tehran.

To make matters worse:

— Al-Maliki, a Shiite who spent years in exile under Saddam Hussein, hotly objects to U.S. tactic of recruiting men with ties to the Sunni insurgency into the ongoing fight against al-Qaida. He has complained loudly but with little effect except a U.S. pledge to let al-Maliki’s security apparatus vet the recruits before they join the force. He also has spoken bitterly, aides say, about delivery delays of promised U.S. weapons and equipment for his forces.

— Petraeus is confronted with an Iraqi military and police force, nominally under al-Maliki’s control, that has in many cases acted on sectarian — namely Shiite — not national Iraqi interests. He has faced a significant challenge in persuading al-Maliki to shed his ties to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who runs the Mahdi Army militia.

— Crocker’s problems with the Iraqi leader are the appearance of foot-dragging or ineffectiveness on the political front — the need to shepherd critical benchmark legislation through parliament. U.S. opponents of the war will undoubtedly demand from Crocker, when he reports to congress in September, an explanation of why U.S. troops are fighting and dying to give al-Maliki political breathing space that the Iraqi leader will not or cannot capitalize on.

In other words, this latest strategy by Petreaus completely undermines the “when they stand up, we’ll stand down” strategy. All it is doing is further alienating what exists of Iraq’s security forces for the occupation and the government. Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile,

The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces in order to improve security and promote reconciliation at the neighborhood level, according to senior U.S. commanders.

Within the past month, the U.S. military command in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq ordered subordinate units to step up creation of the local forces, authorizing commanders to pay the fighters with U.S. emergency funds, reward payments and other monies.

Isn’t it about time the people now making noises about how we can’t leave Iraq because of the threat of sectarian strife stopped funneling weapons into the sectarian conflict?

No wonder the Pentagon is:

…making contingency plans for a U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who called the planning a “priority.”

At last. The first sane strategy the US military has come up with.…  It only took them 4 and a half years.