Empty Days

Friday, April 16, 2004



Iraq - good news

While the situation on the ground remains unclear and chaotic, in the stratosphere of high-power politics things have been moving in the right direction. Rumsfield has been humbled into admitting original mistake and shutting his big stupid mouth - while his arrogance was publicly exposed, and now the UN envoy in Iraq, Brahimi, has proposed a new plan for transitional government, which includes dissolving the current Governing Counsel - something people were clamoring for a long time now. As soon as Rumsfield's influenced was thwarted by real events, look what happened:
In addition, Ms. Rice's chief deputy for Iraq, Robert Blackwill, has been working side by side with Mr. Brahimi in Iraq to come up with the plan proposed on Wednesday, several officials noted. The surge of violence in Iraq in recent weeks effectively forced President Bush's hand, administration officials said. They acknowledge that any new plan had to be proposed by the United Nations and bear no obvious stamp of American influence.

American, European and United Nations diplomats all said that the Brahimi plan would probably give the United Nations a major role, and perhaps the leading role, in superintending the process of building democracy in Iraq.

"What he has come up with is an idea that he thinks will work," Ms. Rice said, referring to Mr. Brahimi. "In May he will have an actual proposal, but we have no objections thus far to what he has proposed."
And Colin Powell welcomes it with these words (notice how the vocabulary is different from Rumsfield's ugly rhetoric):
Mr. Powell told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Mr. Brahimi's proposal "reflects some very, very good thinking" and "a great deal of wisdom and experience" on his part, though he noted that the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, now needed to give his blessing.
But it won't be easy because the Rumsfield-Cheney-Wolfowitz gang is still up there while humbled and defeated by events. Still they will fight to the last to keep their own men in Baghdad. Here is how:
On Thursday night, Mr. Annan met in New York with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, to discuss Mr. Brahimi's proposal. Mr. Blair said he welcomed Mr. Brahimi's efforts "to find the right political way forward" in Iraq.

Administration officials, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issues, said they were concerned that at least some members of the current Iraqi Governing Council would try to block Mr. Brahimi's proposal or jockey to make themselves a part of it.

"There are clearly some politics in Iraq, and the governing council is part of that politics," said an administration official. "It isn't a matter of us telling Brahimi what to do. It's a matter of what he thinks is right and of his being aware of what we think will be effective."

The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council was the product of efforts led by L. Paul Bremer III, the American occupation administrator, when he first arrived in Baghdad at the close of what President Bush called major combat. At the time, American officials praised it as representative of Iraqi aspirations and perhaps even the most representative government in the Arab world. Since then, however, the council has lost much credibility in Iraqi society, American officials say.

In recent weeks, however, there were signs that American officials remained wedded to keeping the council, in an expanded version. Mr. Powell said only two weeks ago that an expanded version of the council was the most likely alternative.

Some American officials say that they expect Ahmad Chalabi, an exile favored by the Pentagon, could be marginalized as a result of the new plan. Aides to Mr. Brahimi make no secret of the envoy's disdain for Mr. Chalabi. Mr. Rumsfeld is described by knowledgeable diplomats as still favoring a major role for Mr. Chalabi in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that since the Brahimi plan was deemed "a reasonable one" by State Department and White House officials, "the odds favor a model something like what Mr. Brahimi announced."

Mr. Brahimi, a veteran of peacekeeping operations, most recently was in charge of putting together a government in Afghanistan, for which he won widespread praise. The Afghan model of convening a council of notables from around the country to approve a new constitution is similar to the one he has proposed for Iraq. Administration officials cautioned that there was some hard work to do to make sure that Iraq's various factions could coalesce around Mr. Brahimi's proposal, though they acknowledge that the chances of their doing so were better than they would be for anything put forward by an American envoy.

United States armed forces have tried to counter attacks by Shiites and Sunnis and create a stable environment in which the political process could be installed. Meanwhile, military commanders have complained that a lack of progress on the political front has hampered their own efforts to stabilize Iraq. [NYT]
Most excellent news. Most most excellent - down with Rumsfield and his cronies. Long live "wisdom and experience". More diplomacy, less stupidity. May this trend continue and gain strength.

While many are disparaging Negroponte for being vile and cruel, it remains to be seen whether that is a viable criticism. So far it seems that his replacing Bremer means better coordination for a UN diplomatic front. We'll see. It has been said the Negroponte was Powell's man in Baghdad. If that's true, Iraq is on the right course.

***

In Fallujah, US mil has finally found some representatives from the city to negotiate with. Nevertheless a 900-kg bomb was dropped on a house inside town - that's a pretty big bomb if you ask me. It's unclear whether the civil authorities in the city are in any way able to rein in the militants who go on fighting despite whatever negotiations.

***

Meantime Sadr in Najaf is claiming that negotiations have failed. Combat between Marines and militia in Kufa (which is on the outskirts of Najaf). And an Iranian delegation in the city openly denies meeting with the cleric to save appearances - while it is hard to imagine what else they went there for in the first place.

While the Iranians were ostensibly invited by the UK, it is clear that the US were not terribly opposed to the idea - and in fact CPA officials have participated in some of these Iranian negotiations.

***

Summary so far: the political ball is once again in the Coaltion's yard - clear and loud change of course. Militant uprising is rapidly losing support and is dying down. If no gross mistakes are committed from now on by US military, things will calm down soon enough.

Canadian Syrian-born hostage freed. So are the three czech guys. Not the end of all kidnappings though and many scarmoushes around the country continue.

***

And is this new or have I missed something: in his news-conference the other day Bush actually talked of occupation in reference to US presence in Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before from WH tops.





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