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Doomed to Failure

by Ghassan Attiya Thursday, Feb. 01, 2007 at 6:40 AM

Bush has ignored the Baker plan in nearly all points-except for sending troops to train Iraqi security forces. He rejects a diplomatic involvement of Syria and Iran.. Sunnites will fight Sunnis in the whole Arab world.


Interview with Ghassan Attiyah

Iraqi political scientist Ghassan Attiyah does not believe George Bush’s new strategy will work. Instead he fears a war between Shiites and Sunnis over the whole Middle East

[This interview published in: DIE ZEIT, January 2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, ]

President Bush wants to send an additional 21,000 soldiers to Iraq. Is that enough?

Lieutenant general Petraeus, the new commander of US combat troops in Iraq, recently said a relation of 20 soldiers to 1000 inhabitants is needed to counter the rebellion in the cities. Around seven million inhabitants live in the vicinity of Baghdad. That means we need 140,000 soldiers there. However only 8,000 of the 21,000 will really fight. They must also support the Iraqi security forces that are allied with particular religious groups. As Senator McCain said, if you send too few troops, they will not be able to finish the job. You will only have more casualties.

How are Iraqis reacting to Bush’s speech?

I spoke with friends in Baghdad this morning. Naturally the people hope this initiative will succeed. But they have great doubt about stabilizing the situation. They don’t believe stabilization will occur.

Do you believe Iraqi premier al-Maliki can control the situation better in the coming months as Bush demands?

Bo. In his speech, Bush put too much trust in al-Maliki. The standards are not realistic. Al-Maliki should organize regional elections in 2007. However these elections will only provoke new disputes and battles because of the chaos that already exists. The situation must be first stabilized before elections can be held. In the present situation, the Iraqis are exchanging bullets, not words.

The engagement of the US is not endless, George W. Bush warned.

That is the question. What are the other possibilities for Bush? He says he will not support Maliki if Maliki doesn’t fulfill the expectations. The question is now directed to Americans: What will they do in this case? Will they withdraw or seek another government in Iraq? In both cases, it will be very difficult.

The Shiite and Sunni militias fighting each other poses the greatest problem. The Iraqi security forces are hardly trustworthy.

Maliki should unite the moderate Shiites and Sunnis to fight the extremists on all sides. Will he succeed? I don’t know. A very sensitive point is ignored in the West. If a total civil war is feared, why should the Shiites take the risk of losing their allies like the radical militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr only to do a favor to the Americans? Why should the Sunnites gamble losing their connections to Sunnite extremists and rebels?

The new US strategy wants to strengthen the moderate forces.

If they are convinced the 21,000 additional soldiers cannot finish the job, they will hardly cooperate and battle the extremists. If Maliki fights with Sadr and the land sinks into total civil war tomorrow because the Americans withdraw, the moderate Shiites will need a Sadr in the struggle against Sunnis and other groups.

President Bush rejected the recommendations of the Baker commission. Is that another mistake?

Yes, he has ignored the Baker plan in nearly all points – except for sending troops to train Iraqi security forces. He rejects a diplomatic involvement of Syria and Iran. On the other hand, he seeks the support of Sunni Arab states. These countries are not sure that al-Maliki plays fair and that the Sunnis have fair chances in Iraq. Therefore they are cautious. The Baker plan was very reasonable for Americans and for the Middle East because it advocated a regional solution involving all countries including Syria and Iran. Bush emphasizes power relations and confrontation between two blocs: Syria and Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt on the other side. Thus Syria and Iran have every reason to torpedo American policy in the Middle East.

When will the US lose the battle for Baghdad?

When the US fails in Baghdad, they will witness a regional war not only in Iraq. Then Shiites will fight Sunnis in the whole Arab world.

Do you continue to believe in democracy in Iraq?

I don’t believe in that any more. In its current situation, Iraq needs regional and international efforts for its stabilization. We need more diplomacy. But Bush ignores this.

Ghassan Attiyah was a political science professor at the University of Baghdad and is now visiting professor for political science and international relations at Stanford. He lives in London.


While resistance against Bush’s Iraq plan grows in the Congress, the violence in Baghdad escalates. Therefore Iraqi premier Maliki demands more weapons.


[This article published in: DIE ZEIT 04/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, ]

In view of the lasting violence in Iraq, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki needs more weapons for his security forces. Only this way can the army take more responsibility for security, Maliki said in an interview with the London Times. “If we succeed in accelerating the armament of our forces with weapons as agreed, our need for US troops will dramatically decline within three to six months,” the Iraqi premier said. This assumes strong genuine efforts to arm and support the Iraqi military.

While the Iraqi government has prepared for weeks an offensive to achieve security and peace in Baghdad together with American troops, the violence escalates. This week more than 120 persons were killed in many attacks. Religiously motivated conflicts occurred between Shiites and Sunnis.

On Thursday, many persons were killed in the daily bomb attacks and assaults. In the capitol Baghdad alone, at least 17 Iraqis were killed in a series of assassinations with car bombs. Another 25 were injured.

In the US, a furious confrontation is staged in last days between the Senate and President George W. Bush. With a resolution, a coalition of Democrats and Bush’s own fellow members of the Republican Party seek to move the president to abandon the planned troop increase. A joint draft was presented in Washington on Wednesday. Sending additional soldiers is not in the national interest, this draft proclaims.

Several renowned democratic senators announced far-reaching initiatives with the goal of making troop increases dependent on the approval of Congress. For the first time, Hilary Clinton who had voted in Congress for the Iraq war also stood up for a legal control of the government in Iraq policy. The presidential candidate will present her own draft on this legal control.

The planned resolution is not binding but sets a “powerful sign” that the majority of the population and the Congress are against the troop increase, said Chuck Hagel, the spokesperson of the republican “rebels” in the Senate. Eight senators from the ruling party are openly against Bush’s plan. The democrats who only have a very slim majority in the Senate hope to strongly isolate the president with the support of republican critics so that he relents.

On this background, the initiators of the resolution – the democrats Joseph Biden and Carl Levin alongside Hagel – will bring the draft this coming Tuesday, only hours before the president’s planned State of the Union address to Congress. After lengthy debate, a vote is expected in about two weeks.

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