POSTCARDS FROM MARS. I was going to call the scenario for Iraq outlined in today's column by David Ignatius a fairy-tale fantasy, but the column does specifically assure me that the bargains he has in mind "are not a fairy-tale fantasy, as some critics argue." So who's right? Well, I am. As my mid-March Iraq column pointed out, one part of the plan is to check the power of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq by taking the Interior Ministry out of its hands. The other part of the plan is to . . . put a SCIRI man in as prime minister.

That reporters with enough clout to get Zalmay Khalilzad to return their calls find this credible is a testament to our ambassador's apparently considerable powers of persuasion, but it still doesn't make any sense. For a person to quote a loyal servant of the Saudi Arabian despotism as an authority on (simultaneously!) abstract political morality, how to build a democratic Iraq, and how to advance the American national interest is somewhat mind-boggling. That the Saudi government thinks it will serve their interests for America to engage in an open-ended military occupation of Iraq is certainly interesting, but the relevance of this insight to what we should actually do escapes me.

Needless to say, TAP relies on the financial support of readers like you. But barring that, we may need to turn to other sources of financing and you'll be deprived of these piercing insights into the geopolitics of the Gulf.

--Matthew Yglesias

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