1.22.2004

POLITICS - Oh, That's Why

Bush's SOTU address is a little interesting. He doesn't say anything specific about the current situation in Iraq, and the only firm committment is to help the UN and the Iraqis "prepare for a transition" in June. If we can't make that timeline, surely the UN must be to blame, not the US. If everything goes downhill from now, there's nothing in the SOTU that we can hold him to.
From Today's Seattle Times
CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.
The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.
[...]
These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national-security aides and the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.
Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.

Bush was definitely discussing this issue during the week of the SOTU, and it's very likely that this has been a hot button issue over the last few weeks. What exactly would it take for the US to go back to the UN? The possibility of some type of civil unrest and/or war definitely can't be on this Administration's hands alone. That's why Bremer has been to the UN, and the above meeting this week is certain to include our "progress" at the UN.
One option being discussed informally is to delay the transfer of power until later in 2004, which might give the United Nations time to organize some sort of elections, one official said. But that is almost certain to be opposed by White House political aides who want the occupation over and many U.S. troops gone by summer to bolster Bush's re-election chances, the official said. "It's all politics right now," he said.

Other options are to go ahead with the June 30 turnover as planned, whatever the fallout, or to accelerate it by handing over power to the Iraqi Governing Council in March or April, he said.


I'd expect to hear a lot more about this in the next couple weeks. Today, IslamOnline noted
The question of Iraqi sovereignty and the nearing division of the country into disparate regions came to the fore last week when Kurdish peshmerga killed five Arabs and wounded 16 others during a 2000-strong Arab-Turcoman peaceful demonstration calling on Kirkuk to remain within Iraqi sovereignty. Iraqi intellectuals both in and outside Iraq have been warning for months that a civil war may be brewing in Iraq; the Kurdish-Arab conflict highlights the dire predicaments that a post-Saddam Iraq will produce.

February is supposed to be the month that the Kurds will practice civil disobedience, and professor Juan Cole believes that major Shiite demonstrations may be on the horizon. If Bush cuts and runs in April or June, this could be a disaster of Biblical proportions. I have to admit, I never thought Bush would be capable of that. System of checks and balances, indeed.


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