Tuesday, February 01, 2005

After the sun has set in Iraq...

The Artist over at TAotB is throwing his paint brushes again as a result of another of my comments. A simple, no sorry - an extensive expression of opinion has once again drawn a testy "...what rubbish, where is your sources..." retort. Well, regrettably, the last time I replied to such a challenge, his response was a biting little e-mail suggesting that I had provided "too much" whether volume or proof was not clear. So, in response to this "where is the proof...", here it is.

First the exchange...
My comment, his reply

Best Lines from Mark Steyn...

But look beyond the numbers. When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they've been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don't want to blow their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of stable despotism.

Yes, "shrewd, restrained and responsible". You are not dealing with monkeys here, Mr Bush.

they've (the US media) failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been -- which in the end is far more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from their co-religionist mullahs over the border.

They are definitely not monkeys, Mr Bush.

Even on the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it's time to cut themselves into the picture.

...and again!

Let us be clear. There is a very strange silence in Iraq. It comes not from the Iraqis themselves or their interim "leaders".

The silence is in the world of the candidates, the parties and those likely to have been elected.

All of these, I believe have a common purpose.

That common purpose is not what George Bush would dream it to be. It is not what he has been telling the world it will be.

Saddam was said to be one of the world's best in playing the "shells and peas" game. Remember that many of those elected yesterday will likely have been playing the same game. They will likely have been learning from Saddam as well - "know your enemy" is a fundamental truth.

"Shrewd, restrained and responsible" also means "concealed hands", "subtle dealings", and perhaps even a common cause in one particular instance.

This election was not about democracy, it was not about fairness, it was about a united Iraq.

The one thing that unites Iraq at present is?


[Ed. Note: Nice rant. Want to back that up or just make yet another unsupported claim that reflects how you wish reality was?]
And just how did "Mr. Bush" (what a sly and devastating insult, probligo) become responsible for Pres Mr. Steyn's words?

Let's look to the Independant for a first hitch...

The Independant

What about the effects of the low Sunni turnout?

It is hoped that the Shia and the Kurds will agree to reach out to bring Sunnis in to parliamentary and government bodies, but this is where it could get tricky if the Kurds and the Shias decide that it's tough luck for the Sunnis because they didn't vote in large numbers.

Does that mean civil war?

At the very least it's a difficult balancing act that will require political maturity, in a country which has had no experience of democracy, to prevent everything going pear-shaped. So far, the signs are that civil war can be averted, as the Shia have resisted the Sunni insurgents' attempts to provoke sectarian conflict.

Will the insurgents' attacks continue?

There is no reason why they should stop for as long as the coalition forces remain in the country. The Sunni insurgents were bent on disrupting the election and could keep going until the next general election.

Will the coalition troops leave now?

The Iraqis would like to see the back of the Americans. But President George Bush said last week that he expected the new authorities to want the coalition troops to stay "at least until the Iraqis are able to fight". That means about 120,000 US soldiers staying in Iraq for the next two years. The Blair government agrees that the 9,000 British troops will remain in Iraq until the national security force is up and running.

There is a good part of the idea I tried promoting to the Artist.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A. - that terrible, absolutely scandalous left wing rag the Boston Globe propounds...

There is only one way in which the grand claims made by Washington for the weekend voting will be true -- and that is if the elections empower an Iraqi government that moves quickly to repudiate Washington. The only meaning "freedom" can have in Iraq right now is freedom from the US occupation, which is the ground of disorder. But such an outcome of the elections is not likely. The chaos of a destroyed society leaves every new instrument of governance dependent on the American force, even as the American force shows itself incapable of defending against, much less defeating, the suicide legions. The irony is exquisite. The worse the violence gets, the longer the Americans will claim the right to stay. In that way, the ever more emboldened -- and brutal -- "insurgents" do Bush's work for him by making it extremely difficult for an authentic Iraqi source of order to emerge. Likewise the elections, which, as universally predicted, have now ratified the country's deadly factionalism.

The Scotsman

Iraq's election was a step in the right direction for peace and stability in the Middle East but it was only a first step, the head of the Arab League has said.

"It brought the Iraqi people to the ballot box," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said yesterday in a speech at Rice University in the US.

"But the election is but one component of larger problems: the lack of security, the presence of the US military, the vagueness of purpose in Iraq. So many negative things loom in the horizon. One step will not solve it all."

Finally, from the Financial Times -

The Shia communities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain expressed hope on Monday that the Iraqi vote, which is expected to bring a Shia majority to power, would stimulate democratic reforms at home and end discrimination.

Several Arab governments have repeatedly emphasised to Baghdad the importance of integrating the Arab Sunni minority into the political process.

Reiterating this call, Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, on Monday said it was now "important to organise a comprehensive national dialogue [in Iraq] to calm the current fears and tensions."

I know, I know. Every American that ever lived could produce a whole world of comment and quotation from the past three days "proving" my position wrong.

Well, I most certainly hope that I am. I most certainly hope that "democracy" does stick in Iraq, and that the idea catches on in the rest of the Middle East.

That should go without saying.


Dave Justus said...

Yes of course Iraqis want the occupation to end. They want to have full control of their own government and they want to be able to handle their own security.

Americans, including President Bush, want these things too.

That doesn't mean though that Iraqis, or the newly elected leadership of Iraq wants us to leave right now. If they do want that, we will, but I expect that they understand that their security forces are not quite ready to do the job on their own.

Your quoted articles claim, without support, that the American Occupation is what is primarily fueling the insurgency and thus imply that if their were no Americans in Iraq right now it would be a peaceful place. I find that supposition unlikely.

For support, I will present the words of Abu Zarqawi: "We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it."

I will grant you, that if Americans left quickly (or had left months ago) Iraq would probably become 'peaceful.' more quickly as the terrorists and Baathists seized power and brutally enforced their version of peace.

The probligo said...

Dave, where we differ totally is in your last para.

Sure the terrorists and the Baathists might have a part to play. I think that factor is of little consequence compared with the analysis presented in the articles I have quoted.

What you have to ask yourself is this question -

"Who are the 'insurgents'?"

Yes they may include remnants of the old Iraqi Army. Yes they may include small numbers of outside terrorists.

But, a very large number are Shi'a. They are the ones that ElShamani (is that the right spelling?) and alSadr in particular are unable (or do not want) to control. They are the Mahdi. They are the people who Saddam oppressed. They had not the freedom to fight against Saddam. Now they have been given the freedom to fight against the US.

Now, take one step further.

Who, until he was reigned in by the more senior Islam hierachy to allow the US forces to "conquer" Fallujeh, was causing the US the most difficulty? Not the Sunnis, not the Kurds, not even Saddam.

Al Sadr.

So, there is far more likelihood that the course will be one of -

Increasing Shi'a pressure for full independence and total withdrawal of occupying troops.
Increasing "insurgent" attacks on occupying troops and external contractors.
Increasing prominence of Al Sadr as leader of the political Shi'a community.

Followed by -

Exclusion of Sunni representatives from government.
Revenge attacks and killings of prominent Sunni leaders.
Increasing pressure for the separate Kurdish nation - with its potential to draw Turkey into the conflict.

Now I know that the likes of yourself and other Americans think that this as a course of history is impossible, will never happen, will never be allowed to happen by the present US administration.

But think on this. Remember how effective Al Sadr's army was in Fallujeh. Think on how much of US's resources will be soaked into trying to maintain peace between warring factions in Iraq when all of them are prepared to unite against the occupying forces.

How much of Fallujeh was destroyed in "getting rid of" the "insurgents"? From the reports I hear a far proportion, so much so that in fact most of the city's population have still not returned.

How much of a "scorched earth policy" will the US carry in order to achieve the objectives that President Bush espouses? If Fallujeh is an indication the victory by the US will be pretty much Pyrrhic.

The probligo said...

Afterthought -

If Abu Zarqawi has a part to play in all of that, then it will be similar to that of Chalabhai.

"Useful man to have around, but really quite a simple chap. Easily led. Good diversion."

He is a "tool" of the Shi'a. He is useful because he identifies directly with alQaeda and that has the effect of diverting attention FROM Iraqi Shi'a to Afghanistan and ultimately the Taliban. I do not believe that any of the Iraqi Shi'a ever talk directly to Abu Zarqawi. They just let him do the dirty stuff rather - as I said, a tool.

The link to alQaeda is usefull too because that will keep the US administration on the boil, fulminating about terrorism and the "war against evil".

You know, in mediaeval times one of the many effective "weapons" to lob into an enemy's camp was wasp nests. That is Abu Zarqawi. Difference is that the US brought this one with them. Not directly or intentionally. This nest just turned up looking for food.

Dave Justus said...

I have never denied the possiblitity of the scenario you talk of. It is possible that the Iraqi Shia will disenfranchise the Sunnis and the Kurds and cause Iraq to erupt into civil war and might require partitioning, ala Yugoslavia.

This seems less likely than it did several months ago, and all the indications are that the prominent parties in the Iraqi election mostly agree that care has to be taken to include the Sunni. Kurdish desire of seperation is certainly alive and well, but for the most part they seem willing to try for a federalist solution.

While the Sadrist isurgency was indeed a Shia insurgency it has been pretty firmly quashed, partially by intervention of Al Sistani, but also (and I believe more importantly) by military action. From my research it is clear that this insurgency was only supported by a minority of Shia even at its height and that Sadr, although not totally without followers, is pretty much discredited. Further, it is quite apparent that the Sadrist uprising was largely funded by Iran (one reason many Shia Iraqis were against him.)

I have not seen any evidence at all the the current Insurgency, led by ex-Baathists and Zarqawi are largely Shia. Indeed everything I have seen is that this Insurgency is Sunni with a leavening of foreigners.

You seem a little confused about Iraqi geography. Sadr was never in Fallujah, that was the stronghold of the Zarqawi-Baathist insurgency. The Sadrist uprising was in the southern part of Iraq, pretty much from Baghdad to Basra. Najaf was probably the most severe area of military struggle in this uprising.

Yes, Fallujah was badly damaged. A good portion of this damage was the direct result of U.S. military action. Some of it however, was a result of several months of occupation and de-facto rule by the insurgents. Certainly they showed us there the style of government they want to enact.

I suppose though that the allied victory in WWII was pyrrhic in your estimation since the damage on Germany and Japan was far greater.

It is also important to recognize that the majority of Iraqis (especially Shiite, I'll grant you that) were very much in favor of strong military action against the insurgents of Fallujah.

Aleksu said...

Two things to monitor in the months to come:

The House of Saud, those guys are really pissed off right about now, imagine what "democracy" would do to them if it ever takes hold in the ME.

The Kurds, man, what a juicy opportunity to get a portion of the Kurdistan as an independent state.