Monday, August 29, 2005

Shadow of the Past

Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit says argues that the key provision dividing ethnic groups over the Iraqi Constitution is federalism. Particularly contentious are the provisions which would preserve local militias at the expense of diminishing the national army.

There are two main issues regarding this. For one, the Iraqi government isn’t allowed to deploy the army to the region without express permission from the regional parliament ... the local militias affiliated with political parties in parliament that want to keep power by suppressing freedom and intimidating people. This happens to a large degree in the south, in places like Basra, where the religious Shiite and Iran-affiliated Badr militia has been known to harass people for doing things “unIslamic.”

The other problem is the distribution of resources, which is another reason why many people of different ethnic and sectarian backgrounds oppose the current federalism. ...  all undeveloped resources will remain the sole propriety of the regions ... concerns that the federal government won’t be able to stop the resource-rich north and south from seceding, leaving them high and dry.

Mayer doesn't say how these issues should be resolved or even whether they can be resolved. But he was convinced that US domestic political considerations required that the Iraqi Constitutional process be perceived as moving forward. He had hoped that Sunnis and Shi'ites could agree to defer the decision over federalism until a new election could be held to constitute an assembly undistorted by a Sunni boycott. It wouldn't solve the problem, but off the evil hour when the hard choices had to be made. He quotes a Guardian article showing this was precisely the 'compromise' urged on the disputants by President Bush. "Following Bush’s call, Shiite officials submitted compromise proposals to the Sunnis, agreeing to delay decisions on federalism and the status of members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party until a new parliament is elected in December."

But in the event, the Sunnis have rejected the compromise and turned their efforts to stopping the draft Constitution's ratification. According to the Boston Globe.

In recent days, Shi'ites and Kurds made what they said was a final compromise offer. It retained the principle of federalism and enshrined the Kurds' long-held autonomy in the north, but deferred decisions about how and when new federal states could be formed to the next legislature. It also removed the ban on the Ba'ath Party while prohibiting the party's ''Saddamist" branch and symbols. The Sunnis submitted additional demands Saturday, and negotiations ended. ...

''We will not stay on the sideline this time, and I think we can make the constitution fail in Anbar, Salahuddin, Nineveh, and Diyala," said Jabouri, referring to four provinces where Sunnis are believed to be a majority.

Ali al-Dabbagh, a Shi'ite member of the constitutional committee, expressed concern that violence could result if Sunni attempts to block the document fail. ...  If the Sunnis ''feel they are outside of Iraq and want to cause problems, that is up to them." Peter Galbraith, a former US diplomat and an adviser to the Kurds, said that if the referendum fails, the Kurds may push for full independence from Iraq. ''If this constitution is rejected, the next negotiations are going to be about the partition of the country," he said.

Each behind his Mason-Dixon Line. Of course it can hardly stop there. With a Shi'ite state in southern Iraq and an independent Kurdistan, fueled by vast oil reserves, the wrecker ball may keep on rolling. Syria and Turkey, with their large Kurdish minorities would soon have to reckon with the new Kurdish state. Iran may try to dominate southern Iraq, but a new Shi'ite state could just as easily become a rival as a client.

The referendum over the Iraqi constitution is, ironically enough, a long-delayed partial plebescite on the Sykes-Picot agreement, which created Iraq out of the shards of the Ottoman Empire, (follow this link to see historical maps of the region before Iraq was created in 1916 by a secret treaty between French and British diplomats.) and the subsequent partitions of the Middle East among European powers, which eventually involved Italy, Greece, France and Soviet Russia, leaving boundaries which remained unstable even beyond Yalta.

(Speculation alert) In this context it would be a mistake, I think, to judge success or failure of the Iraq constitution by the standard of whether that document prescribes some end condition preferred by the current State Department. The real test must be whether the peoples of Iraq can construct a polity of their choosing and whether it is one that leads to a stable and prosperous region. The fact, as Robert Mayer points out, that the principle issue dividing the proposed Constitution's proponents is federalism suggests that national identities have survived the Ottomans, the European Mandate System and the Ba'ath more strongly than many would care to admit. Although those who would have preferred to see the status quo ante preserved under Saddam and those who would have liked to see a unitary multiethnic successor state emerge may be disappointed in a devolution, the United States, alone among the great powers that have entered the region, has approached the problem of Mesopotamia by asking the people what they want. It may not be what we want. But that is beside the point.


Blogger Jack Wayne said...

I have never understood our insistence on keeping Iraq together. We tried that in Yugoslavia and it failed. Since that was a dozen years ago, how could we come back to this dry well? Africa is a more bitter reminder of how foolish we are to attempt to create countries out of separate tribes.

8/29/2005 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Ticker said...

jack wayne,

If Iraq can be kept intact things can go back to "before". Not exactly, but close enough to keep diplomats calm. Same store different management. But should Iraq break up, clearly the whole neighborhood will feel its effect.

It's by no means certain that the Sunnis will ultimately opt out. Deep down the Sunnis must fear an American withdrawal. But the way the insurgency has been set up resembles, in a perverse way, a zero sum game. The Ba'ath want it all back. That or nothing. But whatever America does they'll never get it all back now. The draft constitution above all implies 'Saddam will never return'. But the idea takes some getting used to. The rational thing would have been for the Sunnis to reconcile themselves to the situation and mend fences. Maybe they still will.

8/29/2005 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger BigLeeH said...

Actually, an outcome that does not suit the US (or at least is perceived as not suiting the US) has some advantages. One frequent criticism leveled against the new Iraqi government by the Arab world is that they are "puppets" of the US. A non-US-approved constitution would go a long way towards convincing the Arab world (and the Iraqis themselves) that Iraq really does have a measure of control over its own destiny.

I have a bit more on my blog entry: teleoscope: The Iraqi Constitution

8/29/2005 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The U.S. is following the "melting pot" approach in Iraq, the way our own country was formed - and the source of the Europeans long derision of Americans as a people lacking a "Sense of History."
But it seems very likely if the Euoropean powers of the early 20th Century had formed a Kurdistan, a Republic of Central Mesopetania, a Republic of Persia, and perhaps a Shia Republic of Basra, the result would have been no more viable than the currrent arrangement, probably even less so. As Wretchard has said, the content of the human heart is the important factor, secondary only to the attitudes in the human mind; lines on paper mean little unless they really do.

8/29/2005 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I posted this link on the 'time after time" thread but it is pertinent for this as well.

The Chalabi Comeback

"... "Chalabi has emerged as a central figure in the effort to improve infrastructure security," says Gen. David Petraeus, the overseer of Iraqi Security Force training and one of the few officials willing to risk offending the foreign policy mandarins in Washington by going on record about the matter. In particular, Mr. Chalabi is credited with obtaining additional Iraqi funding and focus on the effort, resulting in what one U.S. observer calls "the highest crude oil exports in anyone's memory." Northern exports through the Kirkuk pipeline have resumed, albeit quietly--lest it become an even more tempting target for sabotage. ..."

"... So, under the most trying conditions, the master coalition-builder crafted the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance that shocked our spooks and diplomats by dominating the January election. The other big winners--Shiite religious leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and Kurdish leaders Talabani and Massoud Barzani--turned out to be the very same group Mr. Chalabi had united under the banner of his Iraqi National Congress in the '90s, and which had widely been written off as "exiles." Mr. Chalabi had enough support to make a credible bid for the prime minister's post, only to drop out in the face of strong U.S.-Iranian lobbying (what's "strange bedfellows" in Farsi?) for the Islamist, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, who has proven to be an ineffectual leader at best.

A final irony is Mr. Chalabi's emergence as a corruption fighter. Unlike scores of journalists against whom he could probably win libel cases were he inclined to sue, I don't pretend to know much about Mr. Chalabi's 1992 bank fraud conviction by a military tribunal in Saddam-allied Jordan. What I do know is that the biggest alleged thieves in post-Saddam Iraq have turned out to be those associated with the CIA's preferred secular Shiite, Mr. Allawi.

The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit recently charged that Mr. Allawi's defense minister, Hazem Shalaan, presided over the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone towards better-equipped security forces. Virtually everyone I spoke to at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense confirmed this, including the new minister, Saddoun Dulaimi (an honest man by everyone's account, and a non-Baathist Sunni to boot). But corruption on the scale suggested by the Audit Board should be more difficult now that Mr. Chalabi is chairing a Contracts Committee, which reviews every government expenditure above a certain threshold.

The Chalabi treatment has confirmed that the CIA really can be as nasty and incompetent as its critics on the left used to claim. ..."

8/29/2005 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I wish we had a better parallel to offer Iraq than our own Articles of Confederation-to-Constitution evolution... We (not that my people were in the US yet) were by and large a single ethnic group - the voting population at any rate. If there'd been, say, a French or Spanish colony among the original 13, would federalism have had a chance? We didn't face that problem until after we'd already been operating under a federalist system for 15 years or so.

What was the external pressure that precipitated the formation of the Iroquois Five Nations? I assume there was one... What external pressure, real, perceived, future, or whatever, could be brought to bear on the tribalist factions in Iraq to convince them that they're better off in a federation than in separate ethnic states?

8/29/2005 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

A million NEW autos on the hiways in Iraq since the American anti-thug cleansing a couple years back... The Iraqis are tasting SOMETHING LIKE freedom and prosperity, and it seems they LIKE the FLAVOR.

For the most part.

Sunnis and cross-border zealoterrorists are fogging the view, but it becomes clearer with each passing day, that there's a LOT GOING WELL in Iraq.

"I have given power to the people," said the Glory of God, 145 years ago, and previously yoked and ideologically-enslaved peoples world-wide are flexing their collective muscle, even if they don't KNOW the Lord of Hosts did it.

8/29/2005 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tlear said...

In your previous post you drew some parallels with Malayan emergency.

The emergency began chinese minority did not have a vote. It was given one promptly, British also pushed the independence which further removed the cause for fighting. Sunnis both could vote and Iraq was never a colony to begin with.

Sunnis are in an interesting strategic position. They have no Oil, in a democracy they will never get any because they are the minority. If Iraq is broken up they will not get any by definition but most likeley be drawn into a war. I think thats what they really want, a war. They believe they can win.

What can US do in this situation? I see three different options.

One is to admit defeat and run. The place will blow up in war and results are hard to imagine. This is not as bad as it sounds since our enemies will be killing each other for a while fighting for the Iraq oil. But someone will win and then we gona have to pay..

Two is to try and replicate Malaya. Steady draw down of the troop strength, try and rely on Native troops more (already being tried) but this is very hard in Sunni areas. Definately establish a "special" relationship with Kurds. US can not maintain its current troop level for next 10-15 years, but thats exactly how long will take to win this way. Half the current strength could be maintained for much longer though.

Three is to break Iraq up. Huge flows of refugees, as Yugoslavia its gona get nasty. Offer each fo the sides military cooperation, Sunnis and Shia will delcine and start settling old scores. But Kurds will probably agree. Yes we will not get Iraq as a staging base in ME but Kurdistan will have to suffice. In 10-15 years strong Kurd republic with US trained military booming oil fueled economy sounds not too bad of an example for the rest of ME.

8/29/2005 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

The rational thing would have been for the Sunnis to reconcile themselves to the situation and mend fences. Maybe they still will.


Surely there must be Sunnis who realize just how compromised their position will be in a trifurcated Iraq without America's moderating influence. But just as surely there are as many or more who don't realize it or just don't care. It seems to me everyone but the Sunnis are going to exceptional lengths to protect Sunni interests, while the Sunnis seemingly just want to piss off their would-be compatriots and have the Americans out. Well, be careful what you wish for...

8/29/2005 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Paine said...

I think it’s a mistake to refer to the Sunni’s as THE Sunni’s – they are not a monolith.

This group of Sunni negotiators was appointed in a backroom political process—and in an atmosphere of violence. They may or may not represent many Sunni subgroups or individual voters. So the coming election will be as much a referendum on them as on the stated constitutional issues.

I hope the Iraqi government, U.S., & U.N. make strenuous efforts to keep this election honest, secret, and to assure individual Sunni voters that it will be both.

8/29/2005 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...


I agree, a U.S.-friendly Kurdistan is our probable ace in the hole. (Not to mention maybe Iran's and Syria's worst nightmare.)

8/29/2005 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated...

8/29/2005 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

if the Palestinians deserve a state, then the kurds certainaly deserve one...

if the countries of iraq, turkey, iran and syria dont like it, they should be reminded on what basis they have a modern state......

and while we are at it...maybe the berbers should get a chance at national independence and throw the AOF (arab occupation forces) out of northern africa...

8/29/2005 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger German guy said...

I'm currently reading "Empires of the Sand" by Efraim Karsh, which in its second half tells the story of the demise of the Ottoman empire and the creation of the contemporary state system of the Middle East. I find the book very instructive and readable and would like to recommend it to the Belmont clubbers.

A main thrust of Karsh's narrative is his thesis that the Middle Eastern states were not, contrary to conventional (read: Sunni Arab nationalist) wisdom, created by imperial, mostly British, fiat, with conscious disregard to the wishes of people on the ground. Rather, Karsh argues, the existing boundaries largely result from the British being duped by the Hashemite dynasty of Mecca/the Hijaz into accepting their claim as being the legitimate representative of all the eastern Arabs' national aspirations. In Iraq, this resulted in the implantation of a foreign Sunni Hashemite monarch -- a member of the same dynasty that still today rules Jordan -- to rule this highly diverse country.

Sunni imperialism in Iraq didn't begin with Saddam, it appears.

8/29/2005 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

wretchard / jack wayne,

Regarding keeping things intact so the situation can go back to like it was "before", the problem I see is exactly as jack wayne described with Yogoslavia.

Both countries were ruled by an iron fist, keeping all factions in line. The inherent problem with democracy (as the Right likes to criticize against the Left) is that dissent is possible, and even allowed.

How that dissent is played out determines whether a country can be kept together or not. Even the U.S. faced fractioning during the Civil War, and only an iron fist by way of Union military might brought the nation back together.

However, the situation is Iraq is different due to the economics presented by a federalist society. The Sunnis would obviously lose out on revenues from the oil fields in Kurdish and Shia controlled areas if a more lenient federalist breakup is allowed.

Yugoslavia had no economic incentive for the previous ruling party to maintain a cohesiveness of the country.

8/29/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

I've wondered if we had organized an army division from Iraqi exiles, so that we would have had an Iraqi face it might have made some difference. In WWII we let the "free French" division enter Paris first.

Chalibi keeps sounding more and more interesting. He seems to be another one of those guys who you think you know, but don't.

One major problem. The standard the Bush Admin is being judged by is that if it isn't perfect they fail. So all it takes is one error. We need to keep focusing on the successes. We have come a long way.

It is in the Sunni's best interest to get an agreement. They can't win a civil war, yet they keep trying. Perhaps now is the time to move the Kurds in to keep order, and bluntly point out to the Sunni, this is what you face if you don't agree.

The Kurds do deserve Kurdistan, the problem is Turkey. They are fighting a major civil war in Turkey. In a fair world, most of the east half of Turkey would be Kurdish. That is one of the nasty truths we have to deal with. We need both the Kurds and Turks, how do we satisfy both?

8/29/2005 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

The Kurds do deserve Kurdistan, the problem is Turkey. They are fighting a major civil war in Turkey. In a fair world, most of the east half of Turkey would be Kurdish. That is one of the nasty truths we have to deal with. We need both the Kurds and Turks, how do we satisfy both?

if the palestinians deserve a "viable" contigous state and have a national history no longer than my old jeans, then a "viable" contigous state for the Kurds would seem to be a no brainer... (let's not forget tibet)

but let's face it facts, noone (except the death cult palestinians) get's a "viable" promise to a successful state...

so in the end, the kurds will have to start blowing up europeans to get anywhere...

8/29/2005 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The U.S. administration needs to quickly re-write its Iraq strategy. The most likely outcome now is Shi'ite and Kurdish quasi-states, both likely at war for some period of time against the Sunni rump.

This outcome will be a highly embarrassing public relations outcome for the Bush administration, but it could result in a more effective campaign against Al Qaeda locations in western Iraq and beyond. U.S.-supported Shi'ite and Kurdish proxies could range farther and with less restrictive rules of engagement, than U.S. forces.

We, Desert Rat, and others support this sort of strategy. However, we have to admit to some limitations. Iraqi Kurdistan is not likely a viable entity in the long run. It is landlocked, surrounded by hostile powers, and depends on the generosity of these hostiles to get its oil to market. Iraqi Shia-land is more viable, but a believable long-term U.S. commitment to it is vital to make it work. Otherwise, it will fall to the Iranian, and Kurdistan would then be completely cut off.

But the U.S. committing to Iraqi Shia-land means giving up for good on a unified Iraq; otherwise the Shi'ites will fear a U.S. sell-out, just like in 1991. Can the U.S. administration be this bold?


8/29/2005 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Buffy said...

Yes, the Kurds deserve their own country, including large sections of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Much of Turkey legitimately belongs to the Armenians. Much of the rest legitimately belongs to the Kurds. Much of western Turkey should go to the Greeks. That leaves the Turks with a 1 square mile section of desert in the middle of present day Turkey.

8/29/2005 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Rick Ballard said...

Jack Kelly has a piece up on this subject.

8/29/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

Much of Turkey legitimately belongs to the Armenians. Much of the rest legitimately belongs to the Kurds. Much of western Turkey should go to the Greeks. That leaves the Turks with a 1 square mile section of desert in the middle of present day Turkey.

well heck there folks, those dam jews withdrew from lands that are mentioned in the bible (never heard of samson eh?) I guess all nations must start carving it's selves up in the name of peace...

let's see...

France of out the Pacific
Dutch out of Central America
Brits out of Faulklands (among others)
Americans out of Hawaii & South Western America

and of course,

Arabs out of Northern Africa

Arabs out of Europe

Turks out of Germany

Iraqi, Iran, Syria & Turkey out of Kurdistan

let's not forget tibet....

8/29/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Suggesting that the Sunnis will certainly lose in a civil war is not necessarily correct. As in all the conflicts in the ME there are others than the principles who have an interest in the outcome. If the Shiites were to start slaughtering Sunnis I would expect to see support in the form of political statements and troops and materiel from other Sunni states.

I would not be surprised to see troops from Saudi, Jordan and Egypt going to Sunni Iraq to fight the Shiites and Kurds. I would also not be surprised to see retaliations in the form of rocket fire from Iran in support of Shiite Iraq.

Needless to say these kinds of developments would not be in the US interest. It seems clear that the Sunnis and the Baathists can never rule a united Iraq again but it is possible that they could rule a truncated Sunni Iraq, and could dream of expanding their rule to parts of neighboring countries like a new Kurdistan, and Syria. Zarqawi doesn't care about all of this; he just wants to see the place burn anyway.

8/29/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger david bennett said...

The standarsds the Bush administration is being judged by are it's own. When Kerry and others proposed less stringent measures of success they were decried by the same individuals here who are willing to accept southern theocracies run by terror with defacto alliances with Iran and no rights for women as "success" and the "will of the Iraqi people."

However this is not what we were told to expect. There is a tendency here to twist history and rewrite everything from WWII and undoubtedly before as distortion of the one true correct rightwing philosophy by leftists who merge into liberals and then into conservatives and all who don't buy the politically correct doctrine. This is exactly the behavior of Stalinism satirized by Orwell. Internal enemies: imperialists, trotskyists, deviationists in their vocabulary are blamed for all failures. History is rewritten so whatever is accomplished exceeds what was predicted.

It is very comfortable if you can live in an imaginery reality, but dangerous in places where the real wotld can hurt you.

We undertook a highly risky venture and underestimated the risk. Our policy leaders ignored warnings and advice from the military and others, now it appears that there was some gist of truth to that advice. On a hundred fronts we have neglected essential details. For example we have roughly 2 translators per company of those who interact with Iraqis. Insuffiient effort was trained to train the necessary number, to recruit Arab Americans and we refuse to let local commanders recruit their own because that is the economic niche of a contractor who has been able to provide enough.

By the logic of this group this is a great success because you really don't want troops interacting with civilians in a guerilla war to understand what the population is saying while naturally the MSM ignores this and has the blatant misunderstanding that this would be somehow useful.

Though of course like many of the structural problems, problems which could be solved relatively few papers actually focus on these things, though they are the essential isues for those who want the effort to succeed. When the press does mention them they are reminded by the right of the 3,000 painted schools.

This constitution will not deliver what was hoped and predicted. In that sense it has been a failure. It *may* also *not* serve as a trigger point for further conflict, it may be something that can be adjusted to and in an ideal world a functioning system will evolve.

But you can't say that this was what supporters of the war were predicting all along. They were wrong and in the real world the way to correct a pattern of error is not to blame the insidious enemy within but to lay out the facts and analyze.

Comparisons with our own constitutional process are as silly as comparisons with the rebuilding of Japan and Germany.

8/29/2005 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger cjr said...

Desert Rat:
"resulting in what one U.S. observer calls "the highest crude oil exports in anyone's memory."

This is may be true in terms of dollars because the price of oil has gone up. However it is not true for of the number of barrels exported. This is easily verifiable since oil export is reported weekly. Number of barrels export has been fairly constant for the last 1.5 years. Since Chalabi has little control the world price for oil, the appropriate conclusion is that Chalabi as had little impact on oil exports.

Since these facts are easily verifiable by anyone interested in accurate reporting, I can only conclude that the author is either completely incompetent or is deliberately trying to misslead. Either way, this casts serious doubt on the entire article and hence, I dismiss it in its entirety.

8/29/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Bennett writes: When the press does mention them (the structural problems the neocon illusionists never addressed) they are reminded by the right of the 3,000 painted schools.This constitution will not deliver what was hoped and predicted. In that sense it has been a failure. It *may* also *not* serve as a trigger point for further conflict, it may be something that can be adjusted to and in an ideal world a functioning system will evolve. But you can't say that this was what supporters of the war were predicting all along. They were wrong and in the real world the way to correct a pattern of error is not to blame the insidious enemy within but to lay out the facts and analyze.

Afraid Bennett is right, and we have a real problem when we have a President who believes and has been told over and over by his political advisors never to admit error because it saps strength.

Where are the programs to bring the 100's of thousands of Americans fluent in Arabic into contributing to this or other matters???? (like radical Islamic plots, monitoring media & websites, trouble in other Arabic speaking nations)

Where are the efforts to get America strategically positioned better - given it's crippling dependence on ME oil??? Conservation measures? Beginning energy independence programs? Nothing. It's let the market rise, and trust the big oil companies to seek to reduce their profits by investing in alternatives?

Remember, "Stay The Course"!

Bennett further writes: Comparisons with our own constitutional process are as silly as comparisons with the rebuilding of Japan and Germany.

Indeed. Getting this Constitution to look at all American is like if we had had to draft our Constitution that included Catholic French Canada and Catholic Spanish Cuba and Mexico as equal parties. As for Occupation, sadly, the best WWII analogy may be those European contries occupied by the Nazis after Blitzkrieg ---not the totally defeated Germans and Japs of 1945. Resistance continued in those Nazi occupied countries despite the Nazis having recourse to bloody tactics to quell insurrection that the USA would never dream of using. Even the French fought back. In Yugoslavia, Tito tied down more enemy soldiers with partisan resistance than the US currently has in it's entire Army......and the Nazis were the high tech whizzes of their day...using the latest electronic and surveillance technology (along with reprisals beyond belief) to seek and destrot the Yugo "evildoers". It didn't work. Tito had more partisans at the end of WWII than he had in 1942.

8/29/2005 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Chalabi had enough support to make a credible bid for the prime minister's post, only to drop out in the face of strong U.S.-Iranian lobbying (what's "strange bedfellows" in Farsi?) for the Islamist, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, who has proven to be an ineffectual leader at best ".
So, in all likelihood, had the CIA and State Dept been kept OUT, and the proposals of the evil Neocons been followed by Gen. Garner, we almost without a doubt would be in a much better position.
Se est La Viva and La Raza, and etc.

8/29/2005 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Good to know Kerry would have saved the day, Bennet.

8/29/2005 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Most of your complaints would have been better addressed w/o State/CIA interference, see my post above.
With 20-20 hindsight we can see that the Neocons were for the most part right, and CIA and State almost ALWAYS WRONG.
per usual.
Both should be politically cleansed or abandoned.

8/29/2005 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Might remind you, C4, Chalabi's group had plenty of native speakers.

8/29/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

We undertook a highly risky venture and underestimated the risk.

Mr. Bennet,

It might also fairly be said we underestimated the rewards. To date, as Hitchens reminds us, there are more than a few happy results of our having undertaken this "highly risky venture":

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction--a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.

(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.

(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)

(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.

(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy.

(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.

(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

But you will likely counter any such accounting with the same sneering dismissiveness you gave to the "3,000 painted schools." Any positive development is not to be taken seriously by a person so eager to point to, and to derive satisfaction from, ongoing difficulties.

Not to say one should focus on only the pleasant and ignore the rest, but you advance neither yourself nor your argument when you tell those of us who wanted--and still want--a good outcome in Iraq that we are now willing to accept southern theocracies run by terror with defacto alliances with Iran and no rights for women as "success" and the "will of the Iraqi people."

No rights for women? Theocracies run by terror? Please.

Or rather, please try again.

8/29/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Hitchens' column is excellent! Here is the link for those who haven't read it yet:

8/29/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

I have been consistently outspoken in my opposition to a Shariah-based Constitution, so I feel obligated to come forward with my thoughts on what in fact has been recently codified (thought not ratified).

To be quite honest, I am pleased with the result. I can only imagine the excellent, informative debates in the Iraqi parliament over whether this or that Shariah law also upholds Constitutionally protected human rights and freedom of religion, or whether this or that democratic principal can be reconciled with Islamic teachings on the role of women, etc. That this debate is actually guaranteed, because of the Constitution's protection of competing and sometimes contradictory interests, is surely a great bonus for our cause, in Iraq and elsewhere.

It will not all be green pastures. Those who claim to be surprised by this are either being intellectually dishonest or they are partisan hacks, or both. But we have come a long way from Saddam and No-Fly Zones.

The Iraqi constitution has codified the friction of Western and Near Eastern philosophies and pegged the selective criterion to the will of the people, which means the determinative metrics will be the efficacy of governance and the prosperity of the people. Three regions under different laws means that people can and will vote with their feet, and with three regions of different religious strictures, comparisons of success are inevitable. This codified competition is very good for us.

If the Constitution is ratified (a big if), grab a front row seat. Iraq's parliament is going to be one of the primary arenas of the war and, most likely, one of the arbiters of our final victory.

8/29/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

German Guy,

Thank you for pointing out how local potentates used the imperial powers to extend their own domains in 1916. The danger must still potentially exist today and is one reason why the US should let the chips fall where they may, consistent with its own vital interests. One thing I think we are all agreed on, Mr. Bennett included, is that this moment is foundational for Iraq.

Curiously, the Sunni Arabs themselves admit by their actions that the proposed Constitution and what follows, matters. Of the course the public line is that the actuations of the Iraqi provisional government don't matter because the insurgents will win, drive the Americans into the sea and bring everything back to where it was. But it is now evident that no one, except perhaps a few in the press, actually believe that. For good or ill, Saddam will not rise again and what is created, at this moment, will shape the future of the region into the next decades.

Which means that the US must not allow itself to become the tool of one or the other factions to impose its vision upon the rest. Otherwise in fifty years people will be talking about "Bush-Blair" as the new Sykes-Picot. The populations on the ground must choose their fate fairly and no recriminations after.

8/29/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I haven't read the comments yet but Jack wonders what the point is of keeping the ethnic regions together in the entity soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Iraq. The point is the well-known strategic problem that "weakness is provocative." "Not allowing" them to break into their little states, however harmonious that may sound in more abstract State Department considerations, will actually ensure that we are there for a long, long time: imagine creating a state the size of Ohio that more oil than almost everywhere on the face of the earth, and it was right next door to your own state, as big as Germany and facing threat from America. Now, wouldn't you consider maybe "annexing" that little statelette? Or its smaller cousin to the north? Or would you stand by while they perhaps embroiled themselves in a regional war, or...

See? Much easier to deal with a large incorporated entity than several small ones that require outside sponsorship, essentially, to prevent them from becoming lunch. Then they really exist as diplomacy pawns and...

I say we try to keep these people together. Otherwise we might as well declare a true Empire because there's too much oil there powering too large a percent of the global economy affecting too many individuals and families that we can just wash our hands of it.

8/29/2005 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Thanks, Sirius. You beat me to it.

David Bennett writes, "But you can't say that this was what supporters of the war were predicting all along."

And David, you can't say that this was what detractors of the war were predicting all along, either.

We've been listening to routine declarations of failure and rear-view mirror analyses since operations began in Afghanistan. This continues despite a pair of growing economies, successful voting and the emergence of democratic institutions where none existed before.

I thought the Middle East was supposed to be in flames. Instead, the erstwhile perpetually-enraged Arab street is discussing democracy.

Indeed, aside from the virulence of the insurgency and mis-steps of the occupation, which few on either side predicted, detractors have been consistently wrong about this war from the get-go.

We could start with the 'brutal Afghan winter' and make quite a list of chicken little hysteria and wolf-crying, ending with the certain failure predicted for the Iraqi elections.

So, simply declaring a monopoly on reality doesn't give you one.

And good luck finding a consistent critique -- other than reflex oppositionalism -- from that mascot of not one, but two "low, dishonest decade(s)" (70's and 90's) -- John Kerry.

8/29/2005 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

OT: Here's a FreeRepublic post of a special OPS LTC returning from afghanistan who gives a more detailed description of what happened to the SOAR CH-47 Loss- Seal teams who died there back in June.

8/29/2005 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Glad you like the idea of sharia law tested vs. human rights.

Debated in the public forum, televised on al jazerra TV.

Could be better than good

8/29/2005 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Sirius sir and Cosmo neglect the accomplishments they allude to largely happened in Afghanistan and the 1st 6 months of Iraq.

After that, Dave Bennett's allusion, we sacrificed another 150 billion and took 9,000 more casualties, but have 3,000 schools freshly painted for the "noble, freedom-loving, domocracy-hungry" Iraqi people becomes more operative.

On Meet the Press, 3 retired Army Generals - like as detailed in Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.'s How To Win In Iraq - said we had an unaccountable and inexcusible lack of a post war plan that lead us into a wasted year while we stood around with our thumbs up our asses watching the enemy regroup and the insurgency matter how many playgrounds we build in Fallujah - or schools painted by our guys while watching Sunni trucks full of unguarded weapons depot stuff like C-4 and artillery shells looted roll by while they had authority to slap a painbrush around but no authority to "make trouble" by stopping looters laden with explosives and weaponry.

Most of the rest of Sirius sirs of "good things" and Comsmos seconding are fatuous.

Like - "By getting our troops in a prolonged insurgency war, they get the benefit of more battle-hardening."

Right. A real benefit that is!

And, according to Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.'s How To Win In Iraq, an insurgency we will have another 7 years of, barring a fundamental change in the Sunnis.

8/29/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

P.S. David Bennet, this is precisely what I mean:

You write, "This constitution will not deliver what was hoped and predicted. In that sense it has been a failure."

I'll add this to my list, right after the prediction that voter turnout would be low, which was preceded by the 173rd prediction that Iraq was "on the brink of descending into civil war."

However, you go on to state:

". . . it may be something that can be adjusted to and in an ideal world a functioning system will evolve."

You mean (except for the "ideal world" part), kind of like the way we've done it, over a span of nearly two and a half centuries?

I'm afraid that despite your fussy standards, this war*, like all those in history before it, won't be choreographed like a ballet or a dinner party.

* Much, much bigger than Iraq, and I listened when the guy with his hand on the trigger told me it would be long and hard and may not end on his watch.

8/29/2005 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


No, I'd say the accomplishments and failed predictions are spread across the entire timeline we've been at war. And remember, we've left out the shadow war underway in dozens of countries, the unreported successes and failures of intelligence work, both domestically and abroad, and a diplomatic effort which encompasses much more than the events listed by Sirius.

The fact is we're way ahead on benefits at this point, second-guessing of retired and keyboard generals, notwithstanding.

If set backs, sacrifices and surprises determined the legitimacy (or the eventual success) of an endeavor, I'm certainly glad you and David weren't put in charge of coming up with the light bulb or designing the plane I'm taking to Singapore next week.

8/29/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...



You mean as in suggesting 'our guys' (nice that you so unambivalently choose sides) were only authorized to "slap a paintbrush around" but otherwise do no real, useful work?

How then, do you explain "9,000 more casualties"?

Surely, painting can not be all that hazardous. Can it?

8/29/2005 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...


Thanks for the FreeRepublic post link.

As the man says, Heart Moving.

8/29/2005 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Cosmo - The fact is we're way ahead on benefits at this point, second-guessing of retired and keyboard generals, notwithstanding.
If set backs, sacrifices and surprises determined the legitimacy (or the eventual success) of an endeavor, I'm certainly glad you and David weren't put in charge of coming up with the light bulb or designing the plane I'm taking to Singapore next week.

Ah, we have a "stay the course" and less negativity and more happy talk sort -- in Cosmo.

Better the retired and keyboard generals free to speak out than the Stepford Generals that saluted smartly when the neocons told them to shut up about a postwar plan because none was needed for a "liberation". The word was fairly well known in 2002. Cross the Administration, Rumsfeld or the neos under him on Iraq and lose your place on the Flag Officer promotion list.

History will not treat those "my career first" uniformed toady boys well ....but what the heck, they get a better pension and first shot at cushy revolving door jobs.

And even if it does nail them badly, that's at least 10 years down the road, huge bucks and fine golf will take away the downside to that vs. losing all the money and perks with a resignation for prinviple regarding Iraq. And the uniforms that became the "Stepford Generals" will be comforted to know the neocons will be bashed worse over Iraq.

8/29/2005 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Harrywr2 said...

Sistani quashed the Shiite idea of having a separate state. SCIRI might want one, but without Sistani's blessing, they won't get one.

IMHO too much emphasis is being placed on political posturing. The only Sunni protestors are chanting for Saddams return...even then, the size of the protests is being bolstered by Moqtada's group, which isn't interested in Saddam's return.

8/29/2005 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What would happen if they just put a check-off laundry list of proposed constitution items out there, and let people vote on them? Instead of the Sunni's fighting to keep their oil money, and the Shiates looking at Shariah law, and the Kurds looking to set up their own country -- and the politicians for all three of those groups ready to fight to the death to get what their group wants.

Put a list of 100 options out there, and the top 60 get adopted. Or the top 20.

It seems to me that the voice of "the people" is NOT being heard, at all. The voice of Saddam is being heard, and the voice of Tehran, and the voice of Turkey ... but what do the individual Iraqi men and women want to have happen?

8/29/2005 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Charles, great read from the LTC. Thanks.

8/29/2005 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...


The intelligence is based in part on the US interrogation of suspected al-Qaeda deputy Abu Faraj al-Libbi, captured in Pakistan.

Al-Zarqawi is believed to have written to him about setting up camps in Jordan, Turkey or Syria and teaching recruits European languages.

8/29/2005 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger tzanhan said...

wrt jack wayne's comments:

One reason that nationalism did not take a stronger hold in the Arab world is that nationalism - allegiance to a political entity - is largely a secular, Western concept. Islam does not allow any distinction between religion and politics. Thus, the reforms in the Arab world were usually based on differences in the interpretation of Islam, which in turn influenced the political system. This was the case, for example, when Shiites or Ismailis became prominent in a particluar region.

As Wretchard said " The rational thing would have been for the Sunnis to reconcile thenselves to the situation and mend fences. Maybe they still will."

As my bubby said...that would be nice....

8/29/2005 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger janet in venice said...

Since the essence of this discussion post is about the unity or division of Iraq, by force or laissez-faire, i followed the link given to the maps of europe, century by century from the 'year 1'. i viewed all of them, from year 1 to 2000.
I was struck by the visible swelling, friction and subsidence of various dominators over various areas, especialy to growth and failing of empires in such a short time. Rome, Islam and communism stood out in this regard. I am impressed by how quickly something regarded as monolithic and all pervasive can lose so much in such a short time.
I was also struck by the vast empty spaces which for centuries or millennia had no visible or known significance on the map--notably vast swaths of russa and africa and the deserts of forth africa and the arabian peninsula. and then how influence appears and grows-and wanes-with the ages, and suddenly, in the last century [ the 20th] suddenly every square inch on earth is claimed, dominated and spoken for by Somebody.
and i remarked to myself at the missing shifts not shown on the final map that took place repeatedly between 1900 and 2000, thus omitting tremendous changes just in that century alone. a studen far in the future who had only these maps to study would wonder how did it go from so much empty land to every swuare inch clamed, between 1900 and 2000?
the major lesson i come away with, is that people will never [ ok, maybe not ' never', but it's ages off in the future] stop angling and jockeying for more land and more domination. the boundaries are never going to stop moving. former fatcats are always going to want their old power back. good systems and bad are going to rise and fall. people want what they want, and strength and weakness cycle.
It is pretty clear that history can only grant one empire to a customer. I can't find any that got their moment in the sun more than once. anything at its zenith has only one way to go and that's down again.

I can see why neither the iraqi kurds not souther iraqi shiites would want to share their oil wealth with the Sunni Baath who opressed them for so many decades. i can see why the kurds canot afford to secede and become a statelet now. they can prepare for a distant day when syria, turkey and iran weaken, and THEN go for a complete and self declared Kurdistan, but not yet. I can see Iran eventually crumbling to the strain of the people's disgust with the mullocracy, but that's also in the distabce. if and when it comes, letting the Shiites of the iraqi south break off and blend with Iran in a pan-shiite swath would be allright, if its what the people want. With the Mullocracy failed and trampled, you might now see the rise of the Sharia you hate so much. The ways of the global west will have permeated still farther into global culture by then, and the hold of medieval religious reactionism will have faded still more. I was struck by how fast Islam spread over the maps in one century, and how quickly it faded by the next. And how weak it is on today's global map. One empire to a customer. it's had its day. no empire comes back twice.
I was also struck by the surprise extent to which Sykes Picot expanded the boundaries of Iraq into territory never considered included before, namely, the jutting into syria and jordanian desert to the west, artificially forcing that zone into association with mesopotamia when the map history shows no such feeling in the past.
this region holds Anbar province and the ratlines from Syria, by which the jihadis enter Iraq. what would happen if all the land artificially added to Iraq to the west and northwest were ceded and let go? the problem areas would have the choice to join themselves to jordan or syria, but no longer be Iraq. the Sunni section of Iraq would shrink concomitantly, and put the abandoned secotr in the odd position of having to either cry to rejoin Iraq, form its own country, or join itself to Jordan, syria or saudi arabia. Crying to rejoin Iraq would force humility, gratitude and concessions. Not that I'd urge letting them rejoin.
Seceding that zone makes them some other guy's problem, no longer one under Iraq's protection or need to support, anymore. If the Sunni sector can be reduced this way, and the borders redrawn to bring the boundaries of Iraq back in closer to what the people considered to be 'their' mesopotamia before Sykes-Picot, the Kurds and Shia south have that much more oil wealth between them to distribute. the Sunni who remain in Iraq have reason to behave and get along in order to remain and enjoy the benefits of that oil wealth, not to mention the job of the border patrol is made a bit smaller by retracting that absurd projection to the west, by which the ratlines enter.
People can indeed vote with their feet. IF they crave to continue to be IRaqi, they have to move east and integrate inside the smaller boundaries, and appreciate what they got for making the choice.
well, anyway, it's just another idea to consdier as a possible way to reduce the sunni unhappiness, reduce the exposure of the border to the west, increase the kurd and shia proportions and ability to be magnanimous with their respective regions' oil wealth to a further reduced sunni population. And further discourages sunni dreams of ever recovering their former dominance of Iraq. but rewards them if they want to stay and blend in gracefully.
Perhaps such a deal could be brokered with Jordan before the boundary was changed,eclipsing saudi and syria from eating up the ceded territory.

yeah! see how easy it is from an armchair across the ocean? And the majority of the iraqi population would have enough voting power to agree to rid itself of the problematic anbar province and the long western border with syria and saudi. there wouldn't be enough population in the empty quarters to counter it and stay included.

8/30/2005 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger Minh-Duc said...

["We will not stay on the sideline this time, and I think we can make the constitution fail in Anbar, Salahuddin, Nineveh, and Diyala," said Jabouri, referring to four provinces where Sunnis are believed to be a majority.]

Too bad Diyala has substantial Kurdish and Shiites population, in total outnumber the Sunni (at least 50 percent). In Salah-Adin, there is also subtantial Kurdish and Shiites (less than fity percent, but enough to stop the Sunni).

8/30/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

I really don't know the out come of this huge undertaking. Given the huge stakes and the type of people we are dealing with anything can happen. Dividing up Iraq in various ways may or may not make sense. So, I will wait until the Iraqi Constitution is passed before projecting the future.

For what it is worth, here is a translated text of the Iraqi constitution from the AP via the NY Times. I would look at all pages expecially page 1, 2, and 15 (one must realize the actual translation may vary). One must remember if the Iraqi Constitution fail to get approved then its back to the TAL.

[NY Times]:

Article (1): The Republic of Iraq is an independent, sovereign nation, and the system of rule in it is a democratic, federal, representative (parliamentary) republic.

Article (2):
1st -- Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:
(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.
(b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.
(c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution.
2nd -- This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and the full religious rights for all individuals and the freedom of creed and religious practices like (Christians, Yazidis, Sabaean Mandeans.)

Article (3): Iraq is a multiethnic, multi-religious and multi-sect country. It is part of the Islamic world and its Arab people are part of the Arab nation...

Text of the Draft Iraqi Constitution

If this link fails you will just have to google for AP version of the text.

8/31/2005 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

I think that the parties to the iraqi constitution need each other.

The Kurds are landlocked and surrounded by enimies. The sunnis have little or no oil. The Shia would loose Baghdad. they are better off together.

8/31/2005 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

Let's all keep in mind this is year one of negotiations on the first constitution...I'm guessing anything quick and dirty will do and they can re-negotiate a new constitution later...maybe after some roughing up of the Sunnis.

Keep in mind France is on its 5th Republic.

9/02/2005 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Red A said...

Oh, yes, and imagine if we had entered Yugoslavia with an explicit mandate to keep it together as a nation.

In this way Clinton was lucky that procrastination made the situation easier.

9/02/2005 12:12:00 AM  

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