Not having the time or energy this late in the day to apply the appropriate research and rigor to this question, I’ll jot some impressions.
I note that Saudi Arabia and Syria are suddenly sipping tea with our tinpot comandante at the Naval Academy. Of course, the designated Palestinian sellout is along, as is the tainted Israeli PM. What has driven this sudden interest in Palestine?
The way to answer that is to get at the larger context, methinks.
If you listen to the media hype, The Surge has worked, and Baghdad as well as Anbar have been pacified. In fact, what happened is more complex and it has everything to do with what we are seeing in Annapolis right now. The US and Israel are confabbing with the region’s Sunni leaders.
The US local goal has remained unchanged in Iraq, so the verdict on success or failure is not in. Permanent bases. But the larger strategic war is already lost. In the last few days, even moreso.
The Surge did not pacify Anbar; the US ceded Anbar to the resistance, which has been waging war against the Whabbist in their midst for more than two years. This is an alliance of convenience, taking the pressure off the US to try and retain its foothold in the Green Zone, and letting the Sunni nationalists of Anbar shoot al Qaeda in Iraq (not an actual organization, but a decentralized movement).
Nor did The Surge pacify Baghdad. It’s initial goal was to break the Sadrist Mahdi Army, but US ally Maliki depends on Muqutada al Sadr for his tenuous power in the so-called Iraqi government. When the surge tropops arrived, the Mahdi largely went home, and Maliki dragged his feet on the multiple US calls to attack them. So the surge turned against the tiny enclave of Sunni militia in Baghdad, ably assisted by the death squads of the Badr Army, the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revoltuion in Iraq (SCIRI)… the largest bloc in parliament. Much of the “peace” in Baghdad is the result of a succesful ethnic cleansing campaign conducted against Sunnis with American assistance.
Sadr, who has consistently called for pan-Iraqi unity against the occupation, and who has repeatedly punished Maliki for cooperation with the US, is the Shia counterpoint to the pro-Iranian SCIRI leader Hakkim (who, with Maliki, wants a federated Iraq that squeezes the former-ruling Sunnis out of future power).
The dilemma for the US has been that the whole situation has vastly amplified Iran’s influence in the region, threatening to displace Saudi Arabia as the pivotal regional actor on the global stage. So the US is allied in Iraq with Kurds who want independence, with Sunni guerrillas who were shooting at the US last year (and will commence again once the Wahhabists are dealt with), and with Iranian-trained and backed Badr militamen.
I have said from the start that the smartest guy in Iraq (yes, he is ruthless, too) is Muqutada al Sadr. No, he is not pro-Iranian in any menaingful way, as Hakkim is.
Sadr has whispered in Maliki’s ear that the US is arming and training the Sunnis to the north (which is true). But when we read Sami Moubayed’s article today at Asia Times, we see that Sadr has just thrown a fresh monkeywrench into the political works (How’s that for OODA looping?)
Sadr’s parliamentary partisan Bahaa al-Araji just reversed every intransigent unified-Iraq positon of the Sadrists over the last four years that he would not oppose oil-rich Kirkuk’s inclusion in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This has the potential to consolidate a Shia-Kurd bloc in Iraqi politics that will simultaneously consolidate the entrenchment of pro-Iranians in the goernment and armed forces, as well as quickly enlist thousands of Sadrists in the Iraq Army.
Iran is surely smiling. The irony is that this will turn into a temporary political win for the Bush administration, because their “pick” Mailiki will no longer be faced with weekly destabilizations by Sadr. The losers are the Sunnis; and the Americans can hardly speak publicly against Iraqi’s Kurds who have been US paladins throughout the war.
No one is smiling in Riyadh, in Damascus, in Ankara, or in Tel Aviv.
Kaveh Afrasiabi points out that the unstated objective of the Annapolis meeting is “containment of Iran.”
It remains to be seen whether this is as delusional as most US formulas have been for Palestine.