The Hadley memo
Where to begin? The secret memo from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to President Bush and his Cabinet – and leaked today to the New York Times – doesn’t exactly inspire confidence about the future. In fact, it makes you feel that we’re in a much bigger mess in Iraq than anyone fully acknowledges – ...
Where to begin? The secret memo from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to President Bush and his Cabinet - and leaked today to the New York Times - doesn't exactly inspire confidence about the future. In fact, it makes you feel that we're in a much bigger mess in Iraq than anyone fully acknowledges - and that this fact is at once both just dawning on the White House and completely escaping their understanding. Be sure to read the memo in full. A few points:
The memo is largely about PM Maliki’s performance, intentions, and willingness to work with the Americans. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Maliki’s government is sectarian. Still:
[R]epeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.
And we’re apparently unclear on whether Maliki wittingly approves such sectarian tactics, or whether he’s just living in a bubble:
The information [Maliki] receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality….But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.
There are more than a few “yeah, right” moments, especially when it comes to the memo’s suggestions for future strategies:
- The memo suggests a few steps Maliki could take, including: “Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure”. And risk losing the support of Sadr’s bloc in parliament and his vast militia? Maliki can say goodbye to the title of PM if he does that.
- It also suggests Maliki could “shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats”. This whopper feeds into the larger pipe dream later in the memo that…
- Maliki could “form a new political base among [nonsectarian] moderates,” which would include getting Ayatollah Sistani to agree to a splitting of the Shia bloc. Maybe they could also move all the Iraqis to the moon and start anew. How about that?
- Then there’s the “press on Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq”. Because that would go over well with the Shia.
Already the effects of the memo’s leaking are being felt: The scheduled meeting between Maliki and Bush in Jordan has been postponed. This morning, Sadr’s bloc in parliament suspended their involvement in the government because the meeting between the two leaders was going ahead. Whether the postponement brings them back into the fold is still unclear right now. What is clear: Maliki is on incredibly shaky ground. And prospects for U.S. success in Iraq are even shakier if the judgments and proposals seen in this memo are so at odds with reality.
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