There is something extremely fishy about the consistent comments from ‘senior officials’ in Iraq about how ‘surprised’ they all are at recent developments. Plenty of on-the-record statements repeat the trope that Maliki’s failed attack on the Sadrists in Basra was a free-lance operation with the Americans as innocent bystanders. This makes no sense.
Politicians never like to say they’re surprised by anything because it makes them look, well, taken by surprise and lacking in foresight. They’re supposed to either know what’s going to happen or have a plan for unexpected contingencies.
So when everyone scrambles to say, Gee, we didn’t have any idea this was coming, one can fairly assume that the opposite is in fact true. In addition, the idea that the Iraqi Green Zone regime would undertake a major military operation without the knowledge of its principal protectors, the U.S. military, is frankly incredible.
Furthermore, both Cheney and McCain were just in Baghdad. Are we to believe that neither of them discussed this imminent scheme? McCain was one of those who claimed to be utterly taken aback by Maliki’s attempt to crush his Shi’ite rivals. Not very presidential—unless the alternative is worse, that is, to be found out encouraging a military operation that backfired badly, which it did.
Some commentators believe that the U.S. occupiers in fact were not surprised by the attempt to crush al-Sadr, whom they don’t like at all, but not for the reason officially trumpeted, that he’s a tool of the Iranians. Maliki’s main allies, the rival Shi’ite militia, are just as cozy with Iran if not moreso, so that’s a bogus smokescreen that only works because the American public doesn’t follow the players closely enough to know they’re being fed bald-faced lies.
Al-Sadr, however, wants the Americans to leave, so pounding his guys into submission would have been attractive to the McCain campaign tour and a neat selling point for the fall elections.
So let’s summarize: to score some political points and try to stay in power in Washington through the next election cycle, the U.S. military encourages Maliki to open up a Shi’ite civil war, to add to the intra-Sunni civil war between with the Awakening forces and the jihadist sectarians up north. This just as the Sunni-Shi’ite bloodbath is in recess, but has hardly disappeared. The idea is that the favored side will triumph, giving the occupation more time to try to put together a country and limp home with something that can be called ‘victory.’
Instead, they make matters worse, which is almost impossible to imagine. So all they can do is say, We were so surprised!