Monday, January 08, 2007

Is a Democratic Iraq Still Attainable?

Here are two interesting proposals on how to create a multiethnic Iraq.

  • "Our Only Hope" by  Eliot A. Cohen, Bing West: "We prefer an offensive strategy based on three ironclad principles: take the offense immediately against the death squads in Sadr City, who are now unsettled; arrest and imprison on a scale equal to the horrific situation (or at least equal to New York City!); and insist on a joint say in the appointment of army and police leaders. If the Iraqi government refuses, we should be willing to disengage completely, and soon."
  • The Consequences of Failure in Iraq -- failure can still be averted by Reuel Marc Gerecht  "Post-Saddam Iraq has become for us and the Iraqis an act of tenacity. It is overwhelmingly the story of one community, the Shia, endeavoring to adopt a democratic political arrangement while being bombarded by Sunni Arab insurgents and holy warriors, and dismissed as disloyal Arab Muslims by the Middle East's Sunni Arab intellectual and religious classes." Gerecht argues that a Shi'a based democracy is still possible, but only if the US crushes the Sunni insurgency instead of passively leaving the job to militias.

Bing West is his literate, clear thinking self. It is superfluous to add to his exposition and the reader is best served by Reading the Whole Thing. Gerecht's argument is less straightforward, expressed in a rich but somewhat academic manner, compounded in equal parts of history and policy analysis. But the key idea is that America's only hope lies in the Shia commitment to democracy, which is real for all of its defects. And therefore America must build on it and not allow Shi'a radical elements to hijack the process.

A Shiite dictatorship, the only other possible outcome in Iraq, is still a verboten subject among the Shia. By comparison, it's not hard to find Sunni Arabs pining for the return of a Sunni strongman; since its early love affair with Ayad Allawi, much of Washington would have gladly compromised democratic principle for dictatorial strength. ... The Iraqi Shia still seem to know that they cannot go down the dictatorial road without provoking internecine strife. As Sistani and his followers have tried to point out, democracy for the Shia is first a matter of communal survival. And as long as this conviction holds, the compromises necessary to keep the Shiites together offer Iraq's Sunni Arabs a way out of insurgency and holy war.

Recent experience is discouraging but Gerect thinks there is the still a possibility that the Sunnis will lay down their arms. But the key is Baghdad.

There are, fortunately, still many places in Iraq where Shiite and Sunni Arabs are not killing each other. In Baghdad, this is less the case precisely because Baghdad is the center of power. The Iraqi Sunni identity as it has developed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire is in many ways all about Baghdad. The centripetal eminence of the city for them is far greater than for the Shiites--even for the Shiites of the "Sadr City" ghetto, who have provided the manpower for the worst of the capital's Shiite militias. The Sunni insurgency and holy war have always been more about maintaining Sunni power than about repelling infidel invaders. They stand in sharp contrast to the great Shiite rebellion of 1920, which was a reaction against the religiously intolerable dominion of the British in Mesopotamia, not a Shiite assertion of power among the Arab denizens of what soon became Iraq.

Breaking the back of the Sunni insurgency has always meant denying the rejectionist Sunni Arab camp (possibly a pretty large slice of the city's Sunni population) any hope of dominating Baghdad and thus the country. If the Americans undertake this task, the Sunni Arab population, especially those who don't back the insurgents and the holy warriors, will sustain relatively little damage. We know how to clear Sunni neighborhoods in the capital--we've just never had the American manpower to hold what we've cleared. However, if the Shiites end up doing this (and it will be the Shiite militias that do it, not the Iraqi army, which would likely fall apart pretty quickly once U.S. military forces started withdrawing from the capital), the Sunni Arab population of Baghdad is going to get pulverized. The Sunni and Shiite migration we've so far seen from Baghdad is just a trickle compared with the exodus when these two communities battle en masse for the city and the country's new identity.

But the key is to take the lead away from the Shi'ite militias by establishing an American controlled process of crushing the Sunni insurgents in Baghdad the "right way"; that is to say, without resorting to wholesale massacre and outrage. In any event, Gerecht thinks America really has no choice. Retreating to Kurdistan is a foolish strategy: withdrawing North while letting the fires rage in the south is like a fire victim moving to the unit next door while his condo is burning.

If we leave Iraq any time soon, the battle for Baghdad will probably lead to a conflagration that consumes all of Arab Iraq, and quite possibly Kurdistan, too. Once the Shia become both badly bloodied and victorious, raw nationalist and religious passions will grow. A horrific fight with the Sunni Arabs will inevitably draw in support from the ferociously anti-Shiite Sunni religious establishments in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and on the Shiite side from Iran. It will probably destroy most of central Iraq and whet the appetite of Shiite Arab warlords, who will by then dominate their community, for a conflict with the Kurds. If the Americans stabilize Arab Iraq, which means occupying the Sunni triangle, this won't happen.

Commentary

In both West's and Gerecht's expositions the key missing ingredient in Iraq is not so much more force -- though that is needed -- but strategic clarity. The problem both these proposals face is that while the path they trace out may be right, perhaps neither has a political constituency which will adopt it. In Gerecht's view President Bush's key strength was that he never quit trying to win; though unfortunately he never figured out how to do it. And given that track record, his latest efforts may turn out to be similarly ineffectual. On the other side of the aisle the situation is bleaker. The Democrats are not only equally clueless about how to win, they have no interest in learning how to win at all. In the end all these wonderful strategic proposals based on experience America has gathered over the last three years of war may be thrown on the pile marked "unsold". Never was a nation so profligate with lessons so dearly learned.

Yet, however things turn out, it's encouraging to see the level of understanding about the threats facing the world rise steadily in quality since September 11. In those early days both the pro and antiwar positions were distinguished by their outlooks but united in their ignorance. Today the level of discourage not only about the Middle East but of radical Islam has risen dramatically. For example,  Deputy Assistant to the President Peter Wehner wrote primer on radical Islam which is remarkably level-headed and informative. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt) It would be hard to imagine any official writing such a document on September 12, let alone finding a public to read it. Yet despite its erudition, Wehner's precis still manages to convey the essential truth, also born of long experience: that the current world crisis is neither avoidable nor optional, whether in Iraq or the rest of the world.

It is the fate of the West, and in particular the United States, to have to deal with the combined threat of Shia and Sunni extremists.  ... The war against global jihadism will be long, and we will experience success and setbacks along the way. The temptation of the West will be to grow impatient and, in the face of this long struggle, to grow weary. Some will demand a quick victory and, absent that, they will want to withdraw from the battle. But this is a war from which we cannot withdraw. As we saw on September 11th, there are no safe harbors in which to hide. Our enemies have declared war on us, and their hatreds cannot be sated. We will either defeat them, or they will come after us with the unsheathed sword.

"We will either defeat them, or they will come after us with the unsheathed sword." That concisely expresses why the current debate over a "surge" or a withdrawal will never be the final word on the subject. The conflict is a condition of history, from which there is no escape.

50 Comments:

Blogger wretchard said...

Arnold Kling writes in Tech Central Station about "Iraq's Natural State".

1/08/2007 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

I think Bush may have a winning hand. This is because what he is proposing is the standard US Army counterinsurgency technique of protecting the population by clear / hold / build (C/H/B) History has shown, and the counterinsurgency manual documents, that the highest priority must be protecting the population, with killing insurgents the second priority. This is because the insurgents don't sit in one place with the uniforms on ready to fight, which makes it tough to kill all of them. Also, if the population is not protected, they are liable to take the side of the insurgency, and become insurgents as we kill other insurgents.

Another key point is that the local forces should do as much of the C/H/B work as possible, especially the hold part. The breakthrough is that the Iraqis are going to lead this operation, not just provide troops. (A similiar effort in Summer failed when the Iraqis didn't deliver the promised troops.)

This technique might be even more helpful in this specific case, because government-related forces, al-Sadr's group, are responsible for some of the violence, so if we make a deal with the government that violence may at least temporarily stop without firing a shot. We will still need to clear out the criminal and Sunni insurgents, but the Shiite terrorists might just cease fire.

Not only is this technique documented in the Army counterinsurgency manual, but so is the number of troops required to do this. All President Bush is asking for is that number, the amount of troops necessary to perform the mission.

If the Democrats try to cut funding off for this, Bush could say that if we can't follow the basic textbook approach to fighting terrorism, with the standard number of troops, then we would have given up on the war prematurely, purely for political purposes. The Democrats are afraid on the one hand that President Bush might be successful in Iraq, and on the other hand are afraid that if they try to stop him, he will accuse them of losing the war, for political purposes.

There are so many ways that having an Iraqi group (Sunnis) on our side helps. In fact it is absurd to fight any other way, with the US against everyone in Iraq. If, as one of the articles discussed here suggests, this leads us to be aligned with the Shiites instead of the Sunni resistance, we will gain much valuable intelligence, and likely will see a large reduction of attacks from IEDs and snipers from their side.

Also with the US and Shiites together, the Sunnis would be more likely to cut a deal instead of fighting on.

1/08/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

What I meant in the prior post was that President Bush is expected to recommend an operation to clear insurgents out of most of Baghdad. The Iraqi government would lead it and provide troops.

It is believed that the Bush plan is a lot like the AEI / Kegan plan which has been discussed in other threads here. This is a link to the plan:

AEI Plan

1/08/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

All your base are belong to us. No more fight allowed.

"We have a platform we didn't have before, Leader Pelosi and I" said Reid, D-Nevada. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested using Congress' power to restrain any troop buildup. (AP)

1/08/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

I think the Democrats are bluffing. Several of them have already said that they won't try to micro manage the war. Senator Biden said it was unconstitutional.

Bush isn't backing down. According to a Senator Bush told him today that he is asking for more troops.

1/08/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

US Special Forces just tried to take out the Somalia terrorists who bombed us in 1998. They don't know who was killed yet.

A U.S. Air Force gunship has conducted a strike against suspected members of al Qaeda in Somalia, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports exclusively.

The targets included the senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa and an al Qaeda operative wanted for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa, Martin reports. Those terror attacks killed more than 200 people.

The AC-130 gunship is capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, and sources say a lot of bodies were seen on the ground after the strike, but there is as yet, no confirmation of the identities.

1/08/2007 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard wrote:
But the key idea is that America's only hope lies in the Shia commitment to democracy, which is real for all of its defects. And therefore America must build on it and not allow Shi'a radical elements to hijack the process.

My God the cluelessness! Wretchard, who do you think won the elections of 2005? Do you have any conception whatsoever of what SCIRI and Dawa are all about? Their history, alliances, leaders and clearly stated goals? In your January 03 post, Parthian Shot, you critiqued Jimmy Carter for letting Iran fall to the Islamists, and yet when Bush gave Iraq over to Shiite Islamic Reolvutionaries, you blindly applauded this travesty as a great "victory"! This was part and parcel of your political analysis that has been woefully wrong.

Gerecht is out of touch, out of time and out of his skull to write such nonsense as: "A strong, aggressive American military presence in Iraq can probably halt the radicalization of the Shiite community." When the Iraqi state collapsed it was the precisely the radical Islamist parties and mosques that stepped in to provide social organization, just as they have done with Hamas and Hezbollah. You can verify this through much reporting and books such as Ricks' "Fiasco".
This isn't 2003 anymore and when you write: The problem both these proposals face is that while the path they trace out may be right, perhaps neither has a political constituency which will adopt it. you seem to be unaware of the irony that this is as true of Iraq as it is in America. Think not? Then name the specific Iraqi parties and political leaders than America can pin its hopes on.
I sure hope you're not thinking of Maliki:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1107AP_Iraq_Prime_Minister.html

1/08/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

As far as the Shiites go, why worry about a remote possibility which could happen in the future? There are many, many ways in which Iraq could end up without Sharia law. Or for that matter, if the Sunnis won, they and their ally Al Qaeda could institute Sharia law too.

Democracy is a good thing. If a bad group takes over, they might be knocked out of power through elections. Most citizens turn against Islamo-facism, like Somalia did, because it is so oppressive. Or if it becomes necessary to invade, then that's no worse than invading a dictatorship like Saddam's.

1/08/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger ricpic said...

Bush reminds me of Eli Manning. Neither one can pull the trigger.

1/08/2007 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

Wu Wei said...
I think Bush may have a winning hand.

1/08/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Wu Wei,

With respect, why do you think Iraq is not ruled under Sharia at this moment?

1/08/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

reocon,

The phrase was a summary of what Gerecht was arguing. This is what Gerecht thinks and I am sure many people have criticized him for being too sanguine about the Shi'a. But he's been around the block and whether one disgrees with him or not, its an informed point of view.

1/08/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard said...


This is what Gerecht thinks and I am sure many people have criticized him for being too sanguine about the Shi'a.

You're certainly right on that one, for Gerecht has been woefully wrong on the coalitional politics of the Iraqi Shi'a. He doesn't seem to realize that in anarchic situations of extreme violence its not the stodgy old moralists who win out but the armed Leninists. That's what happened in Iraq back in '05.

Wretchard said . .
But he's been around the block and whether one disgrees with him or not, its an informed point of view.

No, it is not an informed view. Gerecht is pinning all his hopes on Sistani:

We should have taken great hope in the recent refusal of Grand Ayatollah Sistani to bless a "unity" government that might well have led to violent strife among the Shia--a surefire recipe for destroying the country. Sistani's refusal to endorse this plan effectively killed it. The good and indispensable news: Sistani's power isn't dead.


Gerecht ignores the widely reported fact the Sistani did not endorse the "unity" plan because he has bowed out of politics earlier last year! Check it out here if you've already forgotten:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/09/03/wirq03.xml

I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader

By Gethin Chamberlain and Aqeel Hussein in Baghdad
Last Updated: 1:13am BST 04/09/2006



The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.


Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."


Wretchard, did you not know this?

1/08/2007 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wu Wei said...
As far as the Shiites go, why worry about a remote possibility which could happen in the future? There are many, many ways in which Iraq could end up without Sharia law.

I'll second Allen's question and urge Wu Wei to check out what's been going on in Basra, Najaf, Nasriyah, Sadr City and Karbala. Wu Wei can start here:

http://americanpundit.blog-city.com/basra_under_shariah_law.htm

1/08/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger SarahWeddington said...

exactly. google Sciri and Dawa. they are the Iraqi govt. they are who we're supporting. they are our Iraqi James Madisons.

sciri and dawa are full fledged outfits of iran. so is sadr.

1/08/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

The major question about the attainability of democracy has always been corruption, not whether Iraq's Sunni Arabs are around.

1/08/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reocon, agreed that Sistani's influence has already been compromised; his clerical-spiritual authority sapped away by the nationalistic rhetoric of the Sadrists on one hand, and his acquiescence with regards to al-Hakim's involvement with Iran via SCIRI; also, he has chosen not to speak out against Maliki for his protestations against the detaining of the Iranians, among other issues.

It is Sistani's stubborn refusal to risk the decimation of the Shiite bloc that is the factor radicalising Shiites in Iraq - allowing Maliki to get away with exploiting the Sadrists as political cover under the guise of nationalism, thereby keeping the Sadrists in play when he could have sidelined them with the proposed coalition; simultaneously, somehow missing the opportunity to recognise the degree of complicity of al-Hakim and his party in instigating Iranian interference and in the process, compromising Iraqi sovereignty.

Either way, it seems to me that Sistani intends to play the nationalists against the Iranian sympathisers to manifest a fragile balance of terror, while grudgingly accepting the status quo of the steady radicalisation of the Sunnis (which would conveniently provide casus belli for ethnic cleansing).

All this leads me to posit that reconciliation with the Shiites must entail not the maintenance of the Shiite alliance but the dissolution of it: by keeping Maliki, Sistani, al-Sadr and al-Hakim in this comfortable status quo, we are allowing them to manipulate us back and forth, portraying us as meddlers and enemies of the state.

1/08/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Whatever happened to the days when you could buy a guy and he would stay bought?

Oh, that's right, it required the occasional example of sleeping with the fishes.

1/08/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Iraq as a whole is not under Sharia and isn't likely to be. There are Sunni cities which were or are under Islamic law; for example Fallujah which was freed of Islamic dictatorship only by US force. No one who worries about the Shia responded to my comment that the alternative to the Shiites, the Sunnis, are closely linked with Al Qaeda, real Islamic fascists and the ones who attacked us on 9/11.

I shouldn't have equated Sharia with Islamic fascism any way, since many countries practice some form of Sharia without restricting freedom. Afghanistan being one example.

As for the links to Iran, those are meaningless and not necessarily a threat to the US. Iran is also a Shiite country, which is one harmless reason for the links. It is very logical that the Iraqi Shiites, who were slaughtered by the tens of thousands by the Iraqi Sunnis, would have links with the Iranian Shiites who live across the border from them. Some Iraqi Shiites fled across the border to avoid Saddam's rape rooms and poison gas.

A recent article discussed here revealed that the Iraqi Sunnis are also linked to Iran. Those Iraqi Sunnis are very closely linked with Syria, which itself is a close ally of Iran. Iraqi Sunnis are also closely linked with Islamic fascists in Saudi Arabia.

As far as actual behavior is concerned, Iraq Sunnis led Saddam's dictatorship and mourn at his funeral, hoping to return to it. The Sunnis have killed far more US personnel than the Shiites have; they are responsible not only for the daily IEDs, but the massive anti-US attacks like the mess hall bombing. Unlike the Shiites, the Iraqi Sunnis have violently opposed democracy since the first day the US liberated the country. Al Qaeda, which the Sunnis have tolerated and supported since Saddam fell, violently attacked civilians in order to prevent them from voting. The Iraqi Sunnis led a boycott of the first election, since they are opposed to democracy. Even now that some of their people voted in elections, most Iraqi Sunni leaders say that their government and constitution are puppets of the US, and are invalid. They say they want some "other" form of government, refusing to accept that they are a minority in a democracy. Al Qaeda has said many times they don't want democracy, and will violently oppose it.

Al Qaeda, the ally of the Iraqi Sunnis, supports a Hitler-like religious genocide of Shiites, killing them solely because of their religion. Yesterday's killing of a bus load of Shiite civilians by the Sunnis / Al Qaeda was just one more example of something which they have done nearly every day since Saddam's government fell. Iraqi Sunnis laugh at, and support, suicide bombings of civilians like the wedding attacks.

Actions speak louder than words, so it isn't even close. The Iraqi Sunnis have never shown any respect for democracy, freedom of religion, rights of minorities, or any aspect of democracy and freedom. The US should continue to judge Iraqi groups by their actions, and so support the Shiites. Compared to the actual facts about the Sunnis, the concerns about the Shiites seem like wild paranoia.

1/08/2007 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/09/2007 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> It is Sistani's stubborn refusal to risk the decimation of the Shiite bloc that is the factor radicalising Shiites in Iraq -

Just yesterday Sistani called al-Sadr to his office and told al-Sadr to support Iraq's democratically elected government, as the quote in bold below from the Washington Post shows. Sistani's support for the Shiite alliance was recent, and could be a tactic rather than being a "stubborn refusal". For the Shiite alliance to stick together means that al-Sadr's group must support the Democratically elected government, which would force al-Sadr's group to behave.

Also, given the persecution the Shiites suffered under the Sunni dictatorship, it is not surprising that Sistani and others are cautious about giving that up.

It is also worth pointing out that the Iraqi government is already a coalition of Shiites & Kurds, because a 2/3 vote is required to establish a government. Also, one so-called "moderate" who was expected to replace al-Sadr in the moderate government, the alternative to the Shiite block, recently was found by a US raid to have several Iranian terrorist leaders in his compound, along with papers showing they had transferred powerful IEDs capable of blowing up tanks along with highly powerful sniper rifles to both Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis.


from the washington post:

Also Sunday, the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads a powerful militia, and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an influential Shiite religious leader, met briefly in the holy city of Najaf, according to a Sadr spokesman. During the meeting, Sistani asked Sadr to support the Iraqi government and its security forces, according to the spokesman, Aysam al-Musawi.

1/09/2007 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

It is somewhat ironic that some people here who are worried about fascism seem to be saying that the US can't allow the Iraqis to have a democratic government, and that we in the West must micro-manage the relationship amongst the Iraqi Shiite groups! What is your alternative system of government, that Iraq becomes a colony of the United States and we appoint a governor who runs it, regardless of what the Iraqi population wants?

One also has to wonder that if the Iraqi Shiites are considered to be too dangerous to lead a government, and we all know the Sunnis are far, far worse, as I documented above, then what is the alternative? Kill all the Iraqi Shiites & Sunnis, or drive them into exile, then give Iraq to the Kurds, hoping they will be better? Or do we eliminate every man, woman, and child in Iraq and replace them with Christians from the United States?

This whole argument seems to be based on the technique liberals often use, "arguing the negative". Show that there is a risk or drawback to Plan A, then assume without saying so, that therefore Plan A must be rejected. It is then silent assumed that we must adopt some other plan, Plan B or Plan C, without ever stating those plans or considering their risks and drawbacks. Arguing the negative is based on the incorrect assumption that there is always some perfect course of action, Plan X, which has no risks, no drawbacks, and does exactly what we want with no problems at all. But in the real world there is no Plan X. Nothing is perfect.

President Kennedy said it exactly right: our democracy is the worst form of government in the world -- except for all the rest! The Soviets used to rave on and on about the problems with our democracy -- and yet their Communist system was far worse.

1/09/2007 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

If someone thinks they have a better way to run Iraq than democracy, well then as President Bush said,

bring it on

Lay out your alterative to democracy and the Shiites in detail. We can then list all the flaws and risks in that plan, compare it to Iraq's current government, and then decide.

1/09/2007 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

What drives Doug, 2164th, me, and several others nuts:

Our troops in Iraq complain, with justice, that they often capture insurgents, only to find them on the street a few months later. As a result of the abuses of Abu Ghraib, the U.S. military instituted four layers of review for each Iraqi detained. The result is that most detainees are released. As for the Iraqi system, it is simply absurd, insisting on habeas corpus rules of evidence in a corrupt and overwhelmed judicial system that incarcerates a few dozen each week, compared to over a thousand a week in New York City alone. Eight of 10 detainees are set free. Releasing killers undercuts troop morale, while the residents lose trust. Texas has 170,000 in jail; Iraq, with a larger population and 50 times the violence rate, has 28,000 in jail. This "catch and release system," as the troops call it, is the single weakest link in the U.S. strategy.

Disgusting when you realize we had a far better, intelligent program for dealing with insurgents in Vietnam. If I was a grunt looking at someone I took into custody for IED-ing 4 of my pals and I see him on the street 3 months later - it would take the 60,000 dollar tax-free reenlistment bonus to keep a portion of such guys in uniform.
************************

Wu Wei - I think Bush may have a winning hand. This is because what he is proposing is the standard US Army counterinsurgency technique of protecting the population by clear / hold / build

I think folks like Lee, Rommel, and Hannibal had winning hands. They just lacked the troops. And that is Bush's problem. After 9/11 he went with a strategy of tax cuts for the wealthy, growing government by 40%, extolling the virtues of hero cops and elite soldiers - but did nothing significant to build up the Army and Marine Corps in 5 years or adjust Naval construction to match China and resurgent Russia's challenge.

Reagan built a 600-ship Navy and a dominant land military with 1/3rd of the funds Bush has pissed away in the last 5 years.

Bush doesn't have a winning hand. He has burned out Reservist eligibility and lacks the active duty strength to effectively implement counterinsurgency strategy that works...

He fucked himself the last 5 years.
And us.

1/09/2007 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

When I said

> I think Bush may have a winning hand.

all I meant was that President Bush may have a plan which is able to survive the first hurdle, the attempt the far left is going to make to stop the war immediately. They are pushing very hard now, and it is possible that the Republican Senators and Representatives will cave, or enough of them.

If Bush refuses to sound humble, and if he focuses on the need for "sacrifice", we might lose quickly. He has let the liberal media control the discussion for two years+, and can't turn the media war around overnight. There needs to be a continuous, massive effort.

1/09/2007 06:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To bolster Gerecht's argument that everything hinges on the Shia, here is Michael Rubin saying the same thing.

Against their very informed commentary we have what exactly? Wu Wei is correct that working with the Shia is the only viable option we have. We can't simply create the facts on the ground we want, we have to work with the facts on the ground we've been given. And the facts on the ground are that the Shia groups that make up the government are (gasp!) religious, angry that their people are being slaughtered, and (and this seems to be the deal breaker for a lot of people) unembarrassed about acquiring money, arms, and support from Iran.

The only other course of action that is actually coherent, and one I see here often, is to simply remove Iraq from the list of our national interests.

Of course, one doesn't need another plan to argue against the present one, and after all, aren't Rubin and Gerecht discredited neo-cons?

Look, the neoconservatives were convincing because in their ranks they could claim the most educated and well-informed people, men and women who have made studying the Middle East and Islam their life's work. Their policy prescriptions were perhaps too optimistic, and their faith in American power too unquestioning, but nobody has refuted their data and analysis, which is still the most accurate you can read (and if you bring up weapons of mass destruction, you're a puerile dick: that wasn't a neo-con mistake, that was a global intelligence mistake).

The question in Iraq has always been over tactics and execution, not overall strategy. Our strategy is sound, if only because there are no acceptable alternatives.

1/09/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

All this doom and gloom about Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites is silly. I predicted precisely this situation in October 2003, more than three years ago, on Daniel Drezner's blog:

http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/000849.html#003954

"The one absolutely crucial objective in reconstructing Iraq seems to have already been achieved - securing a firm alliance with the Shiite Arab majority (we had one with Iraq's Kurds prior to the invasion). The media/press are clueless about this. They have no idea what the important stories are. Our relations with the various Shiite Arab tribes are the most important story in the occupation. I've paid close attention to the details emerging here. It looks like we've won.

... The differences between us pacifying Iraq's Sunni Arab tribes, and not doing so, will chiefly be these:

(1) how many Sunni Arabs remain in Iraq once we leave. Note that the Iraqi armed forces are being rebuilt with an all-new, i.e., non-Sunni, cadre. Unreconciled Sunni Arabs in Iraq will have the following choices once our occupation ends - (a) becoming reconciled, (b) becoming gone or (c) becoming dead.

(2) whether there is a significant prosperous and peaceful Sunni minority in Iraq to serve as a model for reconstructing the Sunni majorities in other Arab countries. It will be much more difficult for us to succeed with the latter if we don't."

Back to 2006: The doomies here all assume that the Shia are supposed to just stand there doing defense only while the Sunnis slaughter them. That's not how things work in the Middle East.

It doesn't matter WHY Iraq's Sunni Arabs refuse to provide the necessary intelligence information to permit careful targeting of their worst elements, whether it is because the worst elements dominate them, or because they have fantasies about winning, or because they expect to lose anyway and propose to go down fighting.

What matters only is that the Sunni and Al Qaeda terrorists are able to hide among the general Sunni Arab population and sally from those hideouts to slaughter Shiites.

It is unreasonable to the point of ludicrousness to expect the Shia to just sit there when they can fully protect themselves from this by ethnically cleansing Iraq of Sunni Arabs.

Which they are doing.

So how are we supposed to stop them? Why should we even try at this point?

The Sunnis had their chance to make deals with the Shiite majority AND REFUSED. Sure there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. We might even be able to protect some of the exceptions, such as identifiable tribes in Anbar province with identifiable geographic holdings.

But it is absolutely clear that a majority of Iraq's remaining Sunni Arabs won't stop supporting their worst elements in terrorist attacks on Shiites.

So let the Shiites butcher them in self-defense. We can't stop it. If the Sunnis are determined to die fighting, we can't stop them from doing so. We can only make certain they lose.

If we can protect those Sunni Arab tribes that help us, fine. But we can't stop the Shiites from ethnically cleansing Iraq of most Sunni Arabs, and shouldn't try.

WE ARE WINNING! Shiite and Kurdish death squads are winning the war for us, by ethnically cleansing Iraq of its Sunni Arabs - the latter are at this point the sole local cause of the war, by the support and cover they give for their own and Al Qaeda terrorists. The war in Iraq will be over when most of its Sunni Arabs have fled (the fleeing outnumber the dead by at least 50/1 - more likely 100/1).

It's the Shia and Kurdish war too. We aren't the only actors here. The Shia were doing most of the dying until after the Samarra mosque bombing. Now it is the Sunni Arabs who are doing most of the dying. The ethnic composition of the victims of violence in Iraq has totally turned around in the past nine months.

And the Sunnis are running away fast. A third of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq before the invasion had left by October 2006, and the rest are leaving at a rate of at least 100,000 a month.

The only way we can stop Iraq's Shia from protecting themselves from slaughter by Sunni Arabs would be for us to help the Sunni kill the Shia.

Iraq's Shia have always been the strategic center of gravity of the occupation campaign. The only question about the outcome has been whether the Sunni Arab minority would live in peace with the Shia majority once the latter hold all effective power.

The answer to that is no. So it is time for the Sunni Arabs to pay the price for their refusal, and they are. They are running.

So we are winning. Winning ugly, but winning. Our allies are doing it for us. We can't stop them, and only fools are trying.

1/09/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Aristides said...


Look, the neoconservatives were convincing because in their ranks they could claim the most educated and well-informed people, men and women who have made studying the Middle East and Islam their life's work.

Now that's a laugh. If the neocons were so knowledgeable about the Middle East where were they in the reconstruction effort? Why did Paul Bremer's team deploy with such a risible lack of language and cultural expertise? Why did the noeocons discount the power of the Shiite Islamist parties and claim that Iraqi democracy would be led by secular, pro-Israel liberals like their boy Chalabi? Go back and read the neocons claims about Iraqi society, like that of Paul Wolfowtiz who said to the New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg that Iraqis would never vote for a theocracy:

Look, 50 percent of the Arab world are women. Most of those women do not want to live in a theocratic state. The other 50 percent are men. I know a lot of them. I don't think they want to live in a theocratic state.

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030921-depsecdef0724.html

Well then Paul, why did the Iraqi Shiite votes overwhelmingly for blatantly theocratic parties like SCIRI and Dawa? Fool, and the bigger fools are those who admire their intellectual prowess and alleged expertise. Time for some new heroes Aristides.

Wu Wei said...
Just yesterday Sistani called al-Sadr to his office and told al-Sadr to support Iraq's democratically elected government, as the quote in bold below from the Washington Post shows.

Oh please. Sistani did not denounce Sadr or issue a fatwa against him but invited him to his office to ask him to work with the Iraqi secuirty forces that Sadr has already deeply infiltrated. Watch the video of Saddam's hanging if you need to get the proper context on this.

Lastly, who here who supports the surge is willing to see Afghanistan abandoned? No? Wll then, just where did you think the troops would come from for the surge?

http://www.tulsaworld.com/NewsStory.asp?ID=070108_Ne_A4_UScom20184

As a last-ditch effort, President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure, an order that Pentagon officials say would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they struggle to man both wars.

Already, a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq.

1/09/2007 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

Aristides wrote:

"The question in Iraq has always been over tactics and execution, not overall strategy. Our strategy is sound, if only because there are no acceptable alternatives."

You've got it completely wrong there Aristides. The strategy is wrong, mis-conceived, and, only incidently, poorly executed. The US simply CANNOT solve the problems in Iraq and produce an outcome in our national interest by using military force. It is not within our ability to acheive 'victory' by using a 'smaller footprint' 'surging' 'clear, hold, and build' ect.

1/09/2007 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> Sistani did not denounce Sadr or issue a fatwa against him

Using these methods to get rid of Sadr would be a disaster, especially since Sadr has the biggest militia. Sistani will wait until the right moment, then quietly pass Sadr's current location along with approval to kill to the US.

With the Sunnis continuing to butcher Shiites, Sistani cannot afford to split the Shiite block now. That is yet another reason why we need to provide security.

> just where did you think the troops would come from for the surge?

The AEI / Kegan plan just extends tours of duty, without pulling troops from any other location such as Afghanistan. It lists the specific brigades by number.

Here's part of the plan:

this plan proposes to extend the tours of most Army BCTs now in Iraq from twelve months to fifteen months, and of the Marine RCTs from seven months to twelve months. This plan also proposes to accelerate the deployment of the four BCTs scheduled to enter Iraq in the second quarter so that they arrive instead in March. These changes in the deployment schedule would produce a surge of two Marine RCTs and five Army BCTs in the first quarter and sustain it throughout 2007, using only active-duty forces already scheduled to deploy to Iraq in that year.

1/09/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

It is clear that most Iraqi Sunnis believe they can win a civil war after the US leaves, and are doing everything in their power to force that civil war. They will pay any price, including being the only province of Iraq which still blocks payments of its police. Better for the people to suffer than for anyone to accept the current government. The Sunnis seem to believe that their allies such as Saudi Arabia will not allow harm to come to them, and as a failsafe Sunnis are leaving the country with the intent to regroup and return after the US leaves.

The Sunnis refuse to negotiate even on ways to reduce the tension. The largest Sunni groups and most of the Insurgency refuses to participate in the government. They insist on unreasonable conditions like the US setting a timetable to leave before even beginning discussions.

The Sunnis generally refuse to protect their people from ethnic cleansing, because they would rather have the cycle escalate into a civil war, one which they think they could win. Protecting their people would partially counteract their use of Al Qaeda to foment a civil war.

In fact one of the most valid criticisms of the war would be that we should have come down on the Sunnis harder and sooner. "Watch what we do, not what we day." It is a standard technique for an insurgent group to double talk and have a political wing in order lessen retaliation. When we are asked about being fair, the answer should be: we treat everyone who acts a certain way exactly the same. Fairness does not not mean treating two groups the same if they behave different.

1/09/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger patrick neid said...

i'll leave for these two fine writers the same question i left for mr hewitt yesterday after reading wehner's article.

"another fine article, hugh, that gets put in my critical essay file. the file is bulging now. there's seems to be a common theme running through all of them. the ultimate solution is always bottom up--long years of struggle changing hearts and minds etc while leaving the purveyors in position to continue spreading this cancer. is there really any difference between radical islam and malignant cancer cells?

is there any argument about who the principal leaders are these days? are they not the leaders of iran, syria, hamas, hezzbollah, al sadr brigades and saudi arabia to name a few? are they not the monsters that spew genocide at their podiums and sanction it at their mosques there and throughout europe and the US?

my question to all these esteemed writers and thinkers is: if radical islam is such a threat why are its political/spiritual leaders allowed to live? we know where they are. why do we have to contemplate bombing entire countries when we could start with the leaders first? would we not have attempted to kill hitler and his generals if we knew where they were?

1/09/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Re: Assassination

One reason leaders aren't assassinated is because they are too well hidden, like Saddam Hussein, the current leader of Hizbollah, etc.

Another reason is because in many cases terrorist groups continue even though their leaders are killed. Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to function after the death of Zarqawi. When Saddam Hussein killed al-Sadr the parent and most of his family, the movement continued and became even strong under his son, the current al-Sadr. Likewise the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein and his sons did not stop the Baathists.

1/09/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>wu wei

re: Sistani

Asking and demanding are two entirely different actions, with two very different levels of expectations. Sistani might have asked al-Sadr to capitulate to Maliki's de jure authority, but that would entail dismantling the militias, disbanding the Mahdi Army and dissolving the nationalistic impetus that has provided the Sadrists with the power of monopoly of internal sovereignty.

I still stand by my opinion that Sistani's influence has been waning and will continue to do so; in fact, as I've reiterated before, it all depends on Maliki and the Iraqi government.

With the trickle of troops disguised as the final "surge", Maliki will finally believe that we have no other choice but to accord him sovereignty over security, though it would only be partial due to the involvement of our trainers, logistical and auxillary support.

Devolve responsibility to Iraqi commanders on the ground, give Maliki considerable authority to direct the newly reinforced brigades while our QRF squads will seek to accomplish the elimination of Shiite and Sunni militias in their respective sectarian neighbourhoods.

This preservation of contacts, alliances, rapport between the QRF squads and the respective neighbourhoods of Iraq is integral to the success of this objective: a cursory glance at Anbar would provide us with the promise of collaboration against the true chaosmongers: the militias, death squads and insurgents.

The trick in this is to make Maliki think that this surge is our last ace. If at any juncture during the execution of this strategy, Maliki betrays his unwillingness to crack down on the militias, that is where we would be tying up loose ends: we starve the patrons of Iranian funding by targeting the source itself. Without the safety net of depending on either the Sadrists or the Badrists for political cover, Maliki will surely be more willing to cooperate, and that is to the best of his interests as well.

With the Eisenhower patrolling the waters near Iran, the C-130s flying over Somalia, Maliki might be getting the subtle hint that perhaps Iran's position is not as secure as once thought, and thus by extension, endangering the longevity and resilience of its patrons (Sadr and Hakim). This may explain his new willingness to cooperate, and that may make all the difference (despite Sistani's exclusion):

We should have done this long ago

As the United States prepares to 'surge' more troops in Iraq, about 20,000 to 30,000 American soldiers and Marines according to most press accounts, the Iraqi government announced over the weekend it was conducting its own operation to secure the city. The targets of the Iraqi led operation are said to be both Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. "Military commanders said operations against the al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in its Sadr City stronghold would be left largely to a joint force made up of U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Special Operations Command division under Brig. Gen. Fadhil Birwari, a Kurd," the Associated Press reported. "Soldiers in the division are a mixture of Kurds and Arabs from both the Sunni and Shiite sects." Over 20,000 Iraqi Army soldiers are said to be participating in the operation.

The Iraqi Army then immediately launched a major operation in the Sunni-dominated Haifa neighborhood, where Sunni insurgents have a safe haven. Thirty insurgents were killed in the operation, including five Sudanese. These were very likely al-Qaeda. Iraqi police have begun to operate in Haifa just recently and are conducting operations with the Iraqi Army.

1/09/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger patrick neid said...

"One reason leaders aren't assassinated is because they are too well hidden, like Saddam Hussein, the current leader of Hizbollah, etc."

begging your pardon but they only get hidden when we make threats months ahead of time so they can go find a good place to hide. the folks i mentioned are living in plain site. secondarily even if the terror brigades continue to function, grow stronger, so what. in war you keep killing the generals at every opportunity until there are none left. in the case of these creatures/political leaders they might get some religion if they start dying instead of sipping their lattes planning how to kill people by the one's and two's hoping to do it by the ten's of thousands in the future.

the bottom line is--we are afraid to kill these guys. this conflict is some kind of made for tv/political cat fight as opposed to a WAR, that we are fighting to lose. sooner or later we will rue the day.

so again:

"why do we have to contemplate bombing entire countries when we could start with the leaders first? would we not have attempted to kill hitler and his generals if we knew where they were?"

1/09/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> they only get hidden when we make threats months ahead of time

That is simply not true. Saddam, like most dictators, was afraid being assassinated by people inside Iraq, so he remained hidden at all times. Even before we invaded Iraq, Saddam often went for weeks at a time when no one in his government knew where he was. In some cases Saddam would leave written messages at a certain place in Iraq, with instructions for his aides to look there from time to time. Saddam also had doubles who were surgically altered to look like him in order to avoid assassination attempts. Sometimes those doubles gave speeches.

The first bombs which were dropped in Iraq were an attempt to kill Saddam. We bombed where we thought he was, and even said that publicly. But he wasn't there -- he was hidden. We also tried at another time during the war to bomb him, but he wasn't where we thought he was.

And again, Saddam is dead now, and his sons are dead but that hasn't stopped the war.

1/10/2007 02:01:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> Maliki betrays his unwillingness to crack down on the militias

Maliki doesn't have the power to crack down on al-Sadr's militia. Sadr has troops and Maliki doesn't. Maliki is a paper tiger, "President of the Green Zone", as some mockingly call him. Without Sadr's votes in parliament, Maliki could lose a vote of confidence and be forced from power.

Sadr will absolutely refuse to disarm, so the only way to do it would be by force. The Iraqi army is too divided to accomplish the task. Many units are like militias in the early US sense, citizen-soldiers who will only defend their region of Iraq, and won't move far from it. Most of the rest are divided into units by their religious group, and are more loyal to it and closely related to its leadership and militias than to the central government & Maliki. If Maliki ordered his army to disarm Sadr now, all the Shiite soldiers would refuse, and the rest, mostly all Kurds, would refuse to do it. If they tried, then Kurdistan would come under terrorist attack from Sadr's group.

If Sistani ordered al-Sadr to disarm now, Sadr would refuse, and most Shiites would agree with al-Sadr. The argument would be that the Shiites don't dare disarm their largest militia when they are under continous attack from the Sunnis. Sistani would lose influence. Indeed, that has been the problem, that the Sunnis keep shooting and esacalting the war, and Sistani can do nothing more than ask his people not to shoot back.

The short term plan is that in exchange for government action to stop Sunnis from killing/ethnic cleansing Shiites in Baghdad, al-Sadr will order his forces to stop ethnic cleansing of Sunnis. Sadr will then give permission for Maliki and the US to kill any "rogue" elements of his group which disobey his ceasefire order. That is why a Sistani aide said that the action against al-Sadr would be "limited".

1/10/2007 02:53:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Speaking of Islamic law, here is an example of what the Sunnis are doing. This is from a report about yesterday's fighting in the Haifa road area of Baghdad, a Sunni area.

American military officials said that by then they already had solid evidence to suggest that Sunni insurgent leaders were using the neighborhood as a base of operations. They said that the fighters were organized and sophisticated, and included trained snipers and insurgents from foreign countries.

One Sunni resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, confirmed as much, saying that insurgents had taken over to such a degree that a top-ranking official of Al Qaeda had even seized control of the Rafadin bank, set up an Islamic court and began handing out death sentences.
Battle Insurgents

1/10/2007 03:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maliki does have the power to crack down, or at least that power is in the process of being transferred as we are speaking. If you would take a closer look at Bill Roggio's article and its links (which I provided earlier), it does provide rather promising signs that US and Iraqi troops are working in tandem - and succeeding at it as well.

If al-Sadr tries to provoke the Kurds, the latter's peshmerga would be more than ready to take on the militias, and trust me, they are not to be trifled with.

The short term plan is that in exchange for government action to stop Sunnis from killing/ethnic cleansing Shiites in Baghdad, al-Sadr will order his forces to stop ethnic cleansing of Sunnis. Sadr will then give permission for Maliki and the US to kill any "rogue" elements of his group which disobey his ceasefire order. That is why a Sistani aide said that the action against al-Sadr would be "limited".

Thing is, al-Sadr doesn't need any sort of "exchange" - he knows that the militias will prevail in the long-term, and the Sunnis - dispersed and disoriented - aren't capable of "ethnic cleansing" (as you suggested) on any scale close to that of what the Sadrists are doing now. The Sistani aide's comment seems to indicate Sistani's own willingness to appease al-Sadr and assure him that he still has a place in the government - which is the same as saying that he will tolerate al-Sadr's militias (because he believes he can't do anything about it, when he actually could - by siding with Maliki).

al-Sadr's control over the Shiite militias is doubtful to a certain extent. As such, he would not readily agree to such a strategy that would very likely eliminate his source of power. People driven by blind sectarian hatred aren't exactly receptive to reason or logic, and there is absolutely no way al-Sadr would risk it, however much faith he has in his fellow Shiites. He has no contingency plan - without the physical means of coercion and intimidation, he knows his authority and reputation will not stand up for long against the backdrop of Maliki's government.

Maliki now has at his disposal the military means to deal with al-Sadr. Let's hope he chooses the right path.

wu wei, let me say that I'm grateful to be able to engage in such discourse with someone as informed as you.

1/10/2007 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Al-Sadr wants to avoid a fight right now with the US, other Shiites, Kurds, or anyone else, as one of his aides mentioned recently. He said something like "The US is trying to provoke us, but it won't work." Short of that provocation, no one wants to fight al-Sadr right now. The Kurds live in their own world, and live and let live. The US and Iraqi government forces are busy with the Baghdad operation. The US doesn't have enough troops to clear / hold / build Sadr City along with the rest of Baghdad.

The latest version of the AEI / Kegan plan is generally believed to be the Bush plan, so it gives insight into what we are thinking. Some quotes below are in bold:

The military’s counterinsurgency manual concludes that a ratio of one soldier for every forty or fifty inhabitants provides a good rule of thumb [of the number of soliders required for a clear / hold / build operation]...

The population of Baghdad is around 6 million, which would require, in theory, around 150,000 counterinsurgents to maintain security. It is neither necessary nor wise to try to clear and hold the entire city all at once, however. The Jaysh al Mahdi based in Sadr City has demonstrated its reluctance to engage in a full-scale conflict with American forces, ever since coalition forces defeated Moqtada al-Sadr and his army in Najaf in the summer of 2004. Rather, the Jaysh al Mahdi now needs to preserve its fighters in order to maintain its strength against the Badr Corps in the struggle for control of postcoalition Iraq. Attempting to clear Sadr City at this moment would almost certainly force the Jaysh al Mahdi into precisely such a confrontation with American troops, however. It would also do enormous damage to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki’s political base and would probably lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government. Clearing Sadr City is both unwise and unnecessary at this time.

Many attacks against Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad emanate from Sadr City. There are two ways to resolve that problem. The first is to attack Sadr City by targeting known militia bases and concentrations with discrete strikes. This option initially requires the fewest number of forces. But such operations would almost certainly provoke a massive political and military conflagration. They ultimately will demand high force concentrations and generate instability in the current Iraqi government, as described above. This option is therefore extremely risky. It would be better, instead, to secure the Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods by deploying American and Iraqi forces into them and protecting their inhabitants from all violent attacks coming from any area. This second approach also accords with sound counterinsurgency practice, which favors defensive strategies aimed at protecting the population over offensive strategies aimed at killing insurgents.

The first phase of this plan, therefore, excludes military operations within Sadr City...


AEI / Kegan Plan

1/10/2007 04:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

Jim Dunnigan at Strategy Page refers to Iraq's Sunni Arabs today as "dead men walking". Their end is clear.

http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/iraq/articles/20070110.aspx

"Dead Men Walking

January 10, 2007: Sunni Arab countries (everyone in the region but Iraq and Iran) are in an uproar over what is seen as an Iranian takeover of Iraq. The takeover actually occurred centuries ago, when the population became majority Shia Arab. But the Turkish empire delayed the inevitable, by submerging the Shia Arab majority in Basra province, in a Sunni sea called the Ottoman Empire. That empire disappeared in 1918, replaced by many new countries, or at least ones that had not been independent for hundreds of years.

Britain created Iraq out of the majority Shia (and former Ottoman) province of Basra, the mixed, but largely Sunni, province of Baghdad, and the largely Kurd province of Mosul in the north. Sunni Arabs were only about twenty percent of the whole, but they were the wealthiest and best educated. The Sunni Arabs had run things for the Turks, had connections, and an attitude of superiority. The Sunni Arabs took over. The Sunni Arabs still have the education, connections and attitude. What they don't have is power, and some of them are desperate to get that back.

Media throughout the Sunni Arab world is getting more strident about the Iranian threat. Ancient terms for the Iranians are being revived, and past defeats at the hands of the Iranians are recounted in gory detail. The message is clear, the Shia Arab majority in Iraq cannot be allowed to control the country. For then, the Shia would control nearly 40 percent of the oil and gas in the Persian Gulf (which contains half the oil and gas in the world).

The Sunni Arab nightmare has always been that the Iranians would come and take their oil. With Shia Arabs controlling Iraq, and allied with Shia Iran, that nightmare gets too close for comfort. For decades, the Sunni Arab states of the region tolerated Saddam Husseins bad behavior because Saddam had proved (during his 1980s war with Iran) that he could fight the Iranians and not lose (the war ended with a ceasefire, the Iranians are still demanding reparations.) The usual outcome of a war between Iranians and Arabs, is an Iranian victory. So Saddam was The Man, but now Saddam is gone, and the Sunni Arabs are not sure the United States can control this Shia monster it has created in Iraq.

The new security plan, backed up by an additional 20,000 U.S. troops, aims to take down the Sunni and Shia militias. These organizations were left in place for the last three years, because they provided some security. But in the last year, the militias have become the source of most insecurity, as Shia death squads killed Sunnis in a bloody vendetta for decades of oppression. The Sunni Arab terrorists killed Shia to try and scare them into allowing Sunni Arabs to run the country again.

Over the past two years, U.S. and Iraqi government intelligence agencies have compiled extensive data on the militias, and where they hang out. The crackdown would not expect to destroy armed Sunni and Shia partisans, but their organizations would be smashed, and their numbers greatly diminished. This sort of thing happens in the U.S. when police go after organized crime, or in the Middle East when the secret police smash a rebel movement. The new plan involves members of the 300,000 strong Iraqi security forces operating by "American rules." Iraqi commanders would be given areas to pacify, and then left to do it, and be responsible for it.

Civilians wandering the streets openly carrying gun would no longer be tolerated. Those who refused to give up their weapons would be arrested, those who resisted would be killed. A lot of the "usual suspects" will be rounded up. Criminal gangs will have a chance to switch sides. Most of the gangsters have partnered with terrorists or militias. If they are willing to flip on their political buddies, the government will cut them some slack, otherwise, business-as-usual will be interrupted for a while, perhaps a long while. The gangsters tend to vote their wallets, so the police are expecting to see the political militias and terrorists quickly lose valuable allies.

The Sunni Arabs are not waiting, with radio and print calls to arms circulating in Sunni neighborhoods recently. Armed Sunni Arabs are urged to go to Baghdad, to fight the decisive battle to keep Baghdad Sunni. That battle has already been lost, but the noise level on the Sunni side has reached epic levels because the Shia death squads are now invading solidly Sunni neighborhoods. There are no more safe havens for Sunnis in Baghdad.

The men of Anbar (the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad) are being called in to save Baghdad. That has led to some spectacular street battles in the last few days. But all of these have ended with a lot of dead Sunnis. The Battle of Baghdad has been lost, but the fighting will go on for a while. The Sunni Arabs are dead-men-walking, and more of them will have to be put in the ground before the majority admit they are beat.

What the United States is trying to avoid is a massacre of the Sunni Arabs. The new military operation will disarm many of the Sunni Arabs who guard Sunni Arab neighborhoods. Unless the Shia militias, and their death squads are also crippled, the Shia will kill and terrorize Sunni Arabs on a large scale. The mass media loves that sort of thing, but Western politicians back home don't. No one wants another Bosnia or Rwanda.

About half the Sunni Arabs of Iraq have been driven from their homes so far. Some 60 percent of those have left the country, while the others have taken refuge in areas where Sunni Arabs are the majority. There are far fewer "mixed" (Sunni and Shia) neighborhoods in Iraq today, and there will be a lot fewer in the future. In 2006 alone, about ten percent of the Sunni Arab population was driven from their homes, and either left the country or settled elsewhere in Iraq.


Each month, 50-100,000 Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, leave the country. There are nearly a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, about 700,000 in Jordan, nearly 100,000 in Egypt, about 40,000 in Lebanon, and about 20,000 in Turkey. Over a hundred thousand have fled further still, to Europe and the Americas. The U.S. is trying to keep Sunni Arab refugees out, as it is believed many of them would be inclined to support Sunni Arab terrorist groups like al Qaeda, and seek revenge against the United States."

1/10/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two bones of contention are to be raised here: firstly, many observers had taken for granted that Bush was going with Keane's and Kagan's AEI plan - the revised version - in that the emphasis of the mission this time was to execute a scorched-earth, control-and-hold operation - basically channelling the entire surge towards the objective of wiping out the militias, Shiite and Sunni alike. Problem was, if the surge was temporary, it would run the risk of collapsing back into the quagmire that is Groundhog Day (as wretchard so eloquently put it), as the militias would simply retreat and wait out till the momentum dissipated along with the political will to actually continue searching for a viable solution in Iraq and simultaneously absorbing heavy shocks, both viscerally and psychologically on the battlefront and the home front.

With the steady downward revision of troops, some observers have been inclined to suggest that Bush may not be seriously contemplating a conventional approach towards Iraq, but using the Keane-Kagan plan as a diversion from the actual intention of devolving Iraqi sovereignty to Maliki's government.

The plan calls for a defensive manoeuvre - securing mixed Shia-Sunni neighbourhoods, clear-and-hold protocol; al-Sadr is obviously waiting for the impetus of the surge to fade, since he has the luxury of time. Without the substantial increase in troops (which doesn't seem to be guaranteed despite Bush's quiet endorsement of Kagan's plan), a defensive operation may only result in success that will last as long as al-Sadr desires to remain dormant.

If Bush is disguising his true intentions by openly advocating the surge, then perhaps he could be planning something far more offensive. I sincerely doubt that encirclement of Sadr City will work - as Kagan and Keane seem to advocate - without a necessary promise made by Maliki to the US that collaboration between the US and Iraqi troops is contingent on the eventuality of the disarmament of the militias. I hope Bush realises that too, otherwise ethnic cleansing is going to be an inevitability.

al-Sadr's presence - regardless of whether he is dormant or active - emboldens Maliki to defy the US when it comes to dealing with the real problem of the militias. Remove al-Sadr and Maliki's government may very well collapse. True, but the Iraqi Army will remain intact: the political cost is painful but ultimately necessary, because we don't need a quiescent puppet of al-Sadr to run the country; as long as al-Sadr stays, pretty soon, the entire strategy of clear-and-hold will crumble as Sadrist infiltration starts permeating from the nexus of Sadr City - all with the clandestine aid of Maliki. Remember: al-Sadr is Maliki's safety net. If the former lives, the latter will always have an option not to cooperate with us.

Sometimes we have to take a good look at who our "allies" are in Iraq - identify who will work with us and who will not. Look at their actions, not their rhetoric.

1/10/2007 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Iraqi Army

I foresee that some will object to my assertion that the Iraqi Army will remain intact despite the dissolution of the Maliki government. Bill Roggio's in-depth coverage of the collaborative efforts between US and Iraqi soldiers have convinced me that there is more than just false hope that a national army of the Iraqis is now believing in the necessity of protecting its citizens, Shiite or Sunni. Insurgent attacks, death squad reprisals and the like are only going to strengthen the resolve of these troops, and our "surge" will convince the Iraqi commanders and soldiers on the ground that we too, are committed to helping them ride out the storm. Note that I emphasise on convincing the Army and not "the government". If Maliki truly is deadset on backing al-Sadr right to the hilt, then no amount of forces or surges will change the current situation in Iraq.

The majority of soldiers in the Iraqi Army is going to be Shiite, so Shiites in Iraq may not interpret al-Sadr's fall as tantamount to the dissipation of Shiite power; Sunnis are still reluctant to cooperate (as you and tom have helpfully pointed out) and so the Shiites themselves might be encouraged by that to support the Army; as for the Kurds, the Shiites will retain their if-you-don't-bother-us-we-won't-bother-you approach.

1/10/2007 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Troop Surge

This article goes back and forth about Bush's plan and al-Sadr, including new discussions with Sistani. Some of the rhetoric sounds tougher, including Bush aides saying that restrictions had been removed.

However, there are a lot of different levels of dealing with Sadr, and this doesn't necessarily mean disarming him. They could just be referring to responding to attacks on Sunni civilians, arresting al-Sadr's people who do that.

I would like to see al-Sadr's militia disarmed, but don't think it will happen soon. Only the US could do it, and no one in Iraq will want to be disarmed in the middle of a civil conflict with everyone shooting at everyone.

1/10/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

The worst news is that all the signals are that the President has failed to convince the Republicans in Congress, and they have started caving. Democrats are gleeful and planning for the future, while Republicans are starting to announce as being against the President's plan.

Even the president's aide talking today seemed to be speaking from a position of weakness:

“President Bush would not commit one additional troop to Baghdad if it weren’t based upon a new strategy,” Mr. Bartlett said on Fox News this morning...

“A vast majority of the American people are not satisfied with the progress in Iraq,” Mr. Bartlett said on CBS. “President Bush is in their camp. He’s not satisfied, he’s going to say the strategy was not working, he’s going to tell them specifically how we’re going to fix the strategy.”
...

He also described a limited role for American forces. Iraqi soldiers are “the ones who are going to be knocking on doors,” he said. “We’re going to be there in a support role.”

1/10/2007 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Sistani backs crackdown

Quotes from article:

Iraq's national security adviser said on Wednesday the country's most senior Shi'ite cleric had given his blessing to government efforts to disarm militants as it prepares to implement a major new security plan for Baghdad...

His eminence Sistani recommended an emphasis on the implementation of the law without any discrimination based on identity or background," Rubaie told reporters.

"He also asserted the need for weapons to be in the hands only of the state, and to disarm those holding weapons illegally," said Rubaie, who is himself a Shi'ite...

Asked if Sistani had given a green light to the Baghdad security plan, Rubaie said: "His eminence is not interfering in the details but we can say that he stressed that weapons should be only in the hands of the state."

Asked whether he had discussed disarming the Mehdi Army with Sistani, Rubaie declined to comment.

1/10/2007 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger BigLeeH said...

Today the level of discourage not only about the Middle East but of radical Islam has risen dramatically.

I love it when spelling checkers make jokes. This one is rather funny, I think.

1/10/2007 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

There's no doubt about it, that the Sunnis want the civil war, they want fighting.

Quote from an article:

Reacting to the plan, an influential group of Sunni Muslim scholars in Iraq said additional U.S. troops will result in the deaths of "many, many more innocent Iraqis."

"The inability of 140,000 soldiers to achieve their goals in battle makes it unlikely that another 20,000 will be able to do that," said the Association of Muslim Scholars.

1/10/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

I recommend reading James Wasserman's "The Templars and the Assassins". It gives some very interesting history on the methods and ideologies of both Sunnis and Shia going way back to the beginning. It is very much worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/Templars-Assassins-Militia-Heaven/dp/089281859X/sr=1-2/qid=1168466570/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/103-9955113-7732600?ie=UTF8&s=books

In particular I would read the appendix on the Nine Degrees of Wisdom. It's an eye opener.

1/10/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Below is an interesting quote from the retired General who wrote Bush's new strategy, mentioning the Sunnis.

Architect of Plan

Keane believes the facts on the ground have to be changed. He says members of the Sunni minority believe they are winning the war and they see the erosion of public support in America for the war.

"We have underestimated this enemy. This political culture is not ready for representative government," Keane says.

1/10/2007 03:33:00 PM  

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