Jon from Dawnsinger posted a question about my posting on the Sadr situation in Iraq, regarding what I saw as a possible solution. My response ended up being lengthier than I thought it would be, and I’d be curious as to what other people think. Since I’m not sure everyone reads the comments, I’m posting separately.
Good question. I won’t do a hindsight analysis, i.e. what should have been done. The situation we have now is too pressing to let the public debate devolve into finger pointing, but I hope somewhere the historical analyses are being made to avoid future such mistakes.
The first step seems to be to cease operations in Fallujah for a bit; don’t keep hitting the hornet’s nest, especially when it appears we are undermanned there. (My aggregator just came up with a headline saying that is in fact what we are doing. Maybe I’m not so ill-informed after all.) Fallujah is a Sunni stronghold and has been opposed to us from day 1. Don’t write it off, but realize brute force is not going to get us what we need there.
Maintain operations in Najaf, which is critical to the Shi’ah. However, you need to tie in the propaganda machine. Don’t play up Shi’ah-Sunni differences as it will only create problems later. Rather, play up the fact that Najaf is terribly important historically, and the damage that could be done would be immesurable. Make it clear the US doesn’t want to fight and if the Najaf community would help stop hostilities, the US would like to help build up the heritage of Imam Ali. Concurrently make nice with Sistani. Have him start saying the same things in Najaf – stop hostilities, build up the history, etc. – and all of sudden you’ve bought back a major ally, and subverted the moral, if not practical, support of Fallujah and as-Sadr.
That would be my immediate band-aid.
As to the government’s knowledge, I’ve never been convinced before as I am now that ideology has supplanted policy in this administration. I’m sure at some point there were people who knew what was going on in Iraq, but they’ve been ignored, demoted or forced out because of the frustration level.