Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Iraq: It's not just us


I get a little tired, sometimes, being so down about Iraq. I occasionally wonder if maybe the problem is my perspective. Am I just not seeing things properly? Is the grass really greener on the pro-war side of the fence, where victory is just a step or two away and all we have to do is gut it out?

Sadly, no.

The Arab League sent Mokhtar Lamani to Iraq to persuade its bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders to make peace. He failed, and has now resigned, disillusioned and nearly drained of hope.

He says his mission was doomed by feeble support from the Arab governments that hired him, U.S. policies and the refusal of Iraq's leaders to work together.

"I am no longer going to stand and watch Iraqis' bodies being taken to the cemetery," he told The Associated Press in Cairo, where he returned from Baghdad last week to deliver his resignation to the Arab League.

It's telling that not even othr Arabs can get the Iraqi factions to talk to each other. It means they're hellbent on confrontation, and there's no neutral "government" to defend against the bad guys; everyone is implicated.

Lamani's take:

In his Jan. 22 resignation letter, a copy of which he gave to AP, Lamani said of the Iraqi leaders: "My only problem was their own relations with each other, their strong feeling that each is a victim of the other."

Lamani said he ultimately blames Washington for Iraq's deterioration. "Its ways of dealing with the Iraqi problems, including the Iranian intervention, are not right. ... They need to change their policy in an urgent way," he said.

He has backed the Iraq Study Group's report in December that recommended Washington engage Iran as part of a regional approach to ending Iraq's violence....

Lamani also faults the 22 nations of the Arab League, saying they did not give Iraq "the necessary priority or seriousness." Arab governments were so detached from Iraq that it was "as if it were on the moon," he said.

This is a guy who spent eight months in Baghdad, living outside the Green Zone, driving an unarmored car with no bodyguards. Despite such risks and fervent work, he failed to accomplish his most basic aim: a conference of Sunni and Shiite leaders to discuss national reconciliation.

So let's recap: the Arab League representative, after eight months of trying, couldn't get Iraqi factions to agree even to talk to one another.

And we think a short-term "surge" will help?

Call me a pessimist, but I don't think so.

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