Newsday. The internally conflicted US policy on Iraq continues to do damage. On the one hand we need local support (particularly from the Shiites in the south and central Iraqi cities), yet we aren’t willing to talk, negotiate, or work with the person that that could make this happen (and the person who will likely be a major political player in a post-Saddam Iraq): Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim. Our inability to work with this spiritual and political leader of Iraqi Shiites has resulted in the following:
… al-Hakim has sent instructions to his supporters and secret cells in Basra, Najaf, Karbala and other southern Iraqi cities not to start an uprising or support the American-led coalition in any way, according to two of his top advisers. Al-Hakim also issued a “message to the Iraqi people” last week urging them not to side either with the United States or the Iraqi régime.
This has not stopped the Kurds from working with al-Hakim’s forces, the Iranian-housed Iraqi Shiite Badr Brigade:
A senior Kurdish official said the Badr forces were invited by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern part of the Kurdish self-rule area. The group invited al-Hakim’s forces in preparation for sending Iraqi opposition militias into the strategic northern city of Kirkuk, which is home to some of Iraq’s richest oil fields. The Kurds want to send some Arab fighters into the city so that it would not appear that they are trying to take it over for themselves, the official said.
It’s disheartening to think that the US military and political leadership assumed that there would be popular support for US military action in Iraq without working hand in glove with extremely popular opposition leaders. Granted, these meetings are starting to occur, but they are in many ways too little, too late. In my view, a face-to-face meeting between Bush, Barzani, Talabani, Chalabi, and al-Hakim should have been a prerequisite for any military action in Iraq.
[John Robb’s Radio Weblog]
I think it’s good for the Iraqi people that the Shiites and Kurds are working together like that. Together the two groups represent about 80% of Iraq’s population, and it’s nice to see signs that they don’t intend to start killing each other the first chance they get.
On the other hand, this is bad news for the US government. If the main Iraqi opposition groups are already working together, it doesn’t bode well for the Proconsul’s rule once the conquest is complete.