August 29, 2003

Najaf Bombing This is really

Najaf Bombing

This is really bad news. Ayatollah Hakim was one of those (increasingly) rare commodities--a moderate Shi'a cleric with a strong following who was also willing to work with the CPA. Initial speculation on who killed him (and scores more) centers on die-hard Baathists. But who knows? Might Sadr's followers (more radical Shi'a who want to model Iraq on the post-revolution Iranian model) have been behind it?

Either way, it's a bad development. I fear we are moving towards a new pattern in Iraq. Aside from losing roughly a G.I. a day, we seem to now be facing a major terror or sabotage event a week, ie. oil pipeline sabotage, Jordanian Embassy bombing, U.N HQ bombing, and now today's bloody attack.

We simply must do a better job on the security front. When a guy like Ahmed Chalabi, who probably doesn't have a shot in hell to run Iraq were it not for American backing, says stuff like this you know you have issues that need to be addressed. (Note: Chalabi subsequently denied he made these comments on al-J T.V.)

Keep in mind too, even if we do get a U.N. resolution that has myriad countries suddenly anteing up troops and cash--significant contingents won't actually hit the ground for many months. That might be too late. Sure, Abizaid thinks that we don't need more U.S. GIs in country at this juncture.

He talks about the dangers, in terms of impact on Iraqi opinion, for the forces on the ground to become even more heavily, in absolute numbers and proportion, American. He urges that some Arab countries provide troops. But, even if an Egypt did so, that's way down the road. And we've got attacks that continue to keep key parts of Iraq in quite chaotic footing.

Abidzaid knows a lot more than arm-chair commentators like myself about what's needed and what isn't on the ground, doubtless. But what if significant contributions from other nations are a) not in the offing or b) going to happen but six months plus down the road? If we can't provide security and repair key services during that time, and you add increasing Kurdish-Turkomen (and so the Turks) tensions and increasing intra-secretarian Shi'a difficulties to the "Sunni Triangle" guerrilla war--we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by not putting more boots on the ground on a more expedited basis.

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