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January 8, 2007

The Phrases Change, But The Game Remains The Same

Zal-Baghdad

A “New Way Forward?”

No, just another phrase forward.  The latest Bush plan is essentially a replay of the sham that occurred in drafting the Iraqi constitution.  Besides the troop escalation, it’s one more creative writing exercise authored by omniscient narrator and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Following the Iraqi election, the parties slogged on for months, unable to agree on anything.  Suddenly, after the Bush Administration became, first desperate, then angry, everyone appeared to get with the program.  That exercise, like the current protracted one, hinged on an agreement by the central players to execute an equitable sharing of oil revenues.  If it didn’t happen before, however, when commanded by law, why should anyone expect it to happen this time?

By now, Bush, Rice and Khalilzad’s dumbfounded parlor game is terribly predictable: Agree to agree, then declare victory. substantial progress has been made. effective benchmarks have been established.

There is one overt difference between this plan and all the previous, however.  This iteration enthusiastically embraces a key aspect of Rummy’s parting memo.  If you recall, Rumsfeld recommended we just pay them off.  (Well actually, I get there by collapsing Rummy’s 8th, 12th and 13th points, including a) the use of reconstruction assistance as a behavior modification tool, b) the provision of “… money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did)….” and c) the initiation of a massive, U.S. run youth training program.)  Hewing to form, however, its hard to believe this “investment” talk is anything by thinly-disguised code for funneling cash to key players to back off the insurgency civil war.

If you want to cut to the chase on this latest exercise, however, just read the picture.  This shot accompanied the story, published in the NYT last week, relating Khalilzad’s nomination to clean up after John Bolton at the U.N.  (Besides his stellar record in Baghdad, Uncle Zal is also the brilliant architect of that government we left behind in Afghanistan Kabul.)

With his game growing familiar now, the Khalilzad/U.N. article pulled few punches.  Consider this excerpt:

Mr. Khalilzad, a Sunni Muslim, is known at the State Department for his staunch — some say, swaggering — belief that he is a deal broker who can solve any problem. State Department staffers sometimes joked that Mr. Khalilzad, who has advocated talking to Iran, might one day go off script, personally meet with Iran’s ruling mullahs and return to inform his bosses that he had worked everything out in American-Iranian relations.

From now on, if you see Khalilzad in any significant political photograph, silently add the caption: “Have I got a plan for you!” In this case, Khalilzad is, once again, the default focus for the otherwise fuzzy participation and engagement of Iraqi President What’s His Name.

>>More BAG on Zal: The Steward of Pottery Barn – 11/27/05 (link). The Don Of A New Iraq – 1/23/06 (link). All Hail Breaks Loose – 2/2/06 (link).



(image:  Ali Haider.  published January 6, 2007. Iraq. nyt.com)

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