Iraq Government at Death's Door

Iraq-tab-K-p17-399.jpg

Shock and awful: Turn to page 17 of your haven't-got-a-prayer book (otherwise known as "Tab K") for this exciting and formerly secret map of Iraq from the U.S. military's August 2002 invasion plans.

We already knew that the government of Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was grinding to a halt when cabinet members stopped showing up. Now U.S. pols want to kick out Maliki himself, papers are reporting this morning.

The only question is whether this stooge will flee before he's kicked out.

That's because we're in the strange situation of having stooges over there in chaotic Iraq but not being able to control anything — even them. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Hey, in August 2002, our top leaders were being told what they wanted to hear: that we were supposed to have only 5,000 troops in Iraq by December 2006. Instead, we have more than 25 times that number in August 2007.

In any case, Maliki had better have his affairs in order. From this morning's Times (U.K.) story by Tim Reid:

The Iraqi Prime Minister is facing public calls for his ousting from US military officers and senior senators on Capitol Hill, amid fears that he is incapable of forging political reconciliation among Iraq’s warring factions.

US regional commanders in Iraq and senior Democrats and Republicans in Washington believe that the military gains achieved by President Bush’s surge strategy in recent weeks will prove worthless unless Nouri al-Maliki is replaced.

Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, returned from Iraq yesterday and declared the Maliki Government "non-functional". He added: "I hope the Parliament will vote the Maliki Government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less-sectarian and more-unifying prime minister and government."

Although a long-time opponent of Mr Bush and the war, Mr Levin’s comments were given considerable bipartisan weight as they came after a joint report on Iraq that he released with John Warner, his widely respected counterpart on the Armed Services Committee and a key Republican voice on the war.

Interesting, but there are big questions (here and here) about whether the "surge" is working.

And if we pressure al-Maliki to leave, who'll be our next stooge in Baghdead? As Reid's story notes:

General David Petraeus, the US ground commander in charge of the surge, is expected to voice his support for Mr al-Maliki in his progress report to Congress, which will probably be delivered on September 11, the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

The dilemma in Washington is that, should Mr al-Maliki fall, there is no clear replacement. Moreover, any perception in Iraq that Mr al-Maliki was ousted because of pressure from Washington would be the "kiss of death" for any successor, said Dick Durbin, another senior Senate Democrat recently returned from Iraq.

"Imagine if we have to step in with a brand new leader and a new government," Mr Durbin said. "How many more months would we have to wait?"

You mean we're still waiting? According to the August 2002 plans presented to Don Rumsfeld's Pentagon and Dick Cheney's White House by the Cardassian-sounding U.S. Central Command, we were supposed to have only 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by December 2006.

It took until February 2007 to pry that "Top Secret Polo Plan" from the government, and that was thanks only to Joyce Battle and Tom Blanton, among others, at the plucky National Security Archive.

Check out the plan's "Tab K" (which includes the above slide) for a look at the 2002 map of Iraq overlaid with U.S. generals' testosterone. It's all full of "shock and awe" and "exploit" and "gain control" and "seize oil." Brother.

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