President Bush told us how he wasn't going to allow the world's most destructive weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and along with freeing the Iraqi people these were justifications for us to remove Saddam Hussein from power by any means necessary.  Over the past few weeks the world has witnessed a steady increase in clashes reported in Iraq.  The decision to close a Baghdad weekly affiliated with Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sparked a new round of protests from thousands of Shiite Iraqis.  We were told we'd be welcomed with open arms.

As for keeping Iraqi weapons of mass destruction from being passed to terrorists, well they apparently didn't exist to the surprise of some.  And while removing Saddam Hussein from power to free the Iraqi people was an admirable goal, that job is now complete.  Continuing the US-led occupation now has less to do with removing Saddam Hussein or destroying the 'one-man' Baath Party system he headed, locating WMD, or keeping Americans safe and more to do with guiding the formation of a new Iraq more amicable to our interests.  And by narrowing the acceptable choices for the Iraqis, we are essentially denying them complete self-determination to choose their own government as International law guarantees them.

As we have not succeeded in cowering the former regime loyalists, nationalists, religious fighters responding to 'Bush's crusade', or clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr; we have now found ourselves in a precariously dangerous situation.  Some of the king's subjects are now calling his bluff, we have pinned ourselves into a political corner that requires us to show fangs, wisdom or a little bit of both.  Military might, without the correct political solution, cannot deliver a successful and democratic Iraq, a result not in our best interest.

We need to recognize that the June 30th handoff date is a political mirage to put the quagmire on the backburner for now.  A successful transition can only come about when the government we hand off to has local legitimacy, and that requires it to not be hand picked by the occupying power like the current Iraqi Governing Council was.  The insurgents in al-Falluja, al-Rumadi, al-Najaf and everywhere else wouldn't feel as emboldened to carry out daylight attacks risking dozens of fighters at a time if they didn't believe in the illegitimacy of the Iraqi Governing Council.  We are essentially attempting to put a box into a circle.

Arguments about how the insurgents only represent a small portion of the population are misleading and show our complete ignorance of history. During the American revolution, only one-third of Americans were for fighting the British and creating a free America yet that didn't stop the founding fathers from succeeding.

The Middle East is a land soaked with the history of many previous occupation forces, but the one true constant has been that all occupiers went home with their goals largely unachieved, demoralized and changed forever.  America is in a quagmire that military force alone cannot fix.  We have now spent over $150 Billion on this adventure in the sand, and unless we close the political deal soon all may be lost.  Having lost over 600 American lives and thousands injured along with thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, how long before we read the writings on the wall and adjust failed policy.

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds the key currently keeping a face-saving political solution even possible, but if he chooses to side with al-Sadr in order to maintain Shiite unity we will eventually withdraw as publicly ridiculed political losers in the Islamic world's view with much bigger consequences then Somalia ever had.  We must recognize that our attempt to put an Iraqi face on our occupation has failed, and our refusal to accommodate Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani's request to hold free and open elections was a mistake in a long line starting with the disbanding of the Iraqi National Army.

If our intentions were clear going in to just free them, then the time has come to give them true self-determination?  President Bush the time has come to reach out humbly and honestly to all the allies previously snubbed. Primarily neighboring Arab nations in the region, 'Old Europe', and the United Nations which must be given overall political control.  Ambassador Paul Bremer, thank you for your service to our nation but you're fired!

Mohamed Elibiary is President of the Freedom and Justice Foundation