What the hell is going on?

I don’t really know what’s going on either in Iraq or within the Bush administration, but nobody else seems to either, and as far as I can tell, very few seem to completely appreciate the weirdness and importance of the present situation. As far as I can tell, there are five or more factions fighting within the Bush administration, and more than that in Iraq, and new alliances and new double-crosses are happening every day.

I think that from an American point of view, we’re seeing a Bush attempt to find a face-saving solution in Iraq before the election, and an internal struggle within the administration to find a scapegoat for a policy which, ironically, they still have to insist was successful. Tenet, the CIA, and the FBI are pointing to Rumsfeld and the neocons, who richly deserve blame regardless of what you think about the CIA and FBI. Bush himself apparently is twirling around in circles trying to figure out what happened to the adults who were supposed to be taking care of him.

In Iran the various factions, including but not limited to Chalabi, realize that the U.S. is no longer capable of doing much of anything and are playing us for fools. If this war accomplishes anything, it should lay rest to the idea that Republicans are good on defense issues.

NEOCONS: Some are still defending Chalabi, even though it’s pretty clear that Bush was ultimately behind the raids on him (seemingly after getting information from Blair, from Jordan, and from the CIA). This apparently means that the neocons know that they’re not going to be able to distance themselves from Chalabi the way Bush has been doing. (Bush’s recent self-defense require people to forget completely things Bush said about Chalabi three months ago, but that’s par for Bush and it seems to work with his imbecile base).

ARAS KARIM HABIB: Chalabi’s “security chief” hasn’t been mentioned anywhere since May 23. Supposedly he’s taken refuge in Iran, which sounds pretty damning. His job description seems to indicate that he was in a position to do a lot of damage.

ALLAWI: The new prime minister is a nephew of Chalabi, but apparently a rival; it’s not certain that he’s a Chalabi stooge, though their supposed rivalry might be a smokescreen — their differences may be limited to the division of the spoils. In any case, both are expatriates, with little Iraqi support. Allawi apparently went from being a Ba’athist goon to being a CIA resource.

ALLAWI’S SELECTION: Apparently the U.S. originally intended for Brahimi of the U.N. to play a major role in setting up the new government, but the Interim Governing Council (a corrupt U.S.-appointed group which Brahimi was trying to freeze out) hijacked the process by naming Allawi as Prime Minister, and later also chose a President not wanted the U.N. or the U.S. By doing this they protected their own position while setting themselves up to pose as independent nationalists. (Some have speculated that this was all a U.S.-staged charade meant to give credibility to the new government).

Brahimi and the U.N. clearly were humiliated in this episode. Brahimi says Bremer was behind it (he seems to have been behind the Chalabi raids too), but a special envoy named Robert Blackwill who had recently been sent from Washington also played a role. Seemingly the winners were the I.G.C, where Chalabi is probably behind the scenes; U.S. support seems to have been after-the-fact.

TENET: He was under attack both because of 9/11 unpreparedness and because of his support for Bush WMD argument, and Chalabi claims that Tenet was behind the Chalabi raids. Perhaps he was asked to quit, and perhaps he did so voluntarily to separate himself from the Bush administration. Some say he quit because he couldn’t get Bush to fire Rumsfeld and the neocons. (Because of Tenet’s involvement with Bush, it seems likely to me that there are also other CIA factions acting independently, motivated by the neocons’ Chalabi connections.)

PS: Originally I was also going to cover the Plame affair too, which also part of the U.S. internal power struggle, but this is complicated enough already, right? But there definitely is a power struggle going on within the Bush administration, and all bets are off as far as I’m concerned.

John Micah Marshall on Tenet’s resignation, June 3

Josh Micah Marshall, June 3 but written earlier

Guardian: How Brahimi was sidelined, June 3 (print)

Kevin Drum, June 3

Allawi (Cockburn in Salon)

The LA Times lacks confidence, June 2

Time Magazine on Allawi, June 1

Highly unfriendly summary of Bush Iraq policy

Chalabi and Aras Karim Habib, New Yorker, May 31