Monday, August 06, 2007

Thirty Days of Night

AP military writer Robert Burns looks at Iraq. "The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working. In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground and interviewing commanders, strategists and intelligence officers, it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year. It is a phase with fresh promise yet the same old worry: Iraq may be too fractured to make whole." Burns says that progress at the grassroots has not succeeded in bringing politicians together in Baghdad.

There is no magic formula for success. And magic is what it may take to turn military gains into the strategy's ultimate goal: a political process that moves Iraq's rival Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds from the brink of civil war to the threshold of peace—and to get there on a timetable that takes account of growing war fatigue in the United States.

Efforts at Iraqi reconciliation saw another blow Monday: Five Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein leader decided to boycott government meetings, further deepening a crisis that threatens Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The boycott would leave the Shiite-led government with no Sunni participants, at least temporarily.

Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

Iraq the Model has more details on the political infighting in Baghdad. In his apparent view the deadlock is driven by two political factions. One by a group of people who want to topple Maliki by embarassing him so that they might form a government themselves. The second is group of politicians who want to paralyze the government in order to embarass Washington and force an early withdrawal of US troops.



... two main factions can be identified as the cause of the deadlock: First there is the Accord Front. This bloc apparently trying through the withdrawal from the cabinet and preventing the passage of legislations by insisting on taking the recess to show that the government and particularly Maliki have failed. Their moving in this direction suggests that they are betting that by proving their point they will have a chance to oust Maliki and form a new government by joining forces with other opposition groups namely Allawi's bloc, the Dialogue Front since these two blocs supported the Accord's decision and Allawi's is even planning to follow the Accord's steps out of the cabinet. The Fadheela Party and some independent UIA members could be potential partners as well.

Second we have the pro-withdrawal anti-American factions in the parliament; mainly represented the Sadr bloc in addition to some radical elements from the UIA and a few from the two Sunni blocs who are not getting along well with the moderate wing in the bloc. These simply want to halt the legislative process at this point hoping that this would put more pressure on Washington to withdraw from Iraq.

Iraq the Model argues that this is setting up tension between the political class and the average man. In his apparent view the public mood is far more favorable to reconciliation than the politicians who are stonewalling for partisan gain and he is worried about how this tension will be resolved.

These developments show that a majority in our parliament care only about themselves and their blocs' interests much more than they do about the country's in such difficult time and their attitude tells that the blocs don't want to work together and don’t want to reconcile their differences. Like we always said, we don't need reconciliation among the people, we need reconciliation among the components of the political class and if they don't want to do this then I think the best solution to ensure a fresh political start would be to change the political class through early elections once the security situation allows for. And to do this Iraq will need the "surge" to continue for several months beyond September.

One thing makes me worried these days and I'm afraid that someone is planning a different bad solution. The rift between the minister of defense and the senior commanders including chief of staff of the army which led to a group resignation is an ominous sign that indicates a deep dispute between the two leaderships and this dispute seems to be over a political issue given their history in the military institution. It would be too early to speculate that someone is planning a coup-or preparing to crush one-at this point but the mere thought of it remains a little bit scary.

The one silver lining in this situation is that the tension is actually being caused by conflict between two parallel "realities". The reality in the field has been running in favor of the Coalition, at least if Robert Burns is to be believed. But the reality in the political halls has been running against. These two worlds are now in conflict. When one speaks of a "grassroots" rebellion in American or Western terms, it is easy to imagine a deluge of emails, letters to the editor, outraged phone calls and demonstrations before elected officials. But how is the tension between local organizations and central goverment officials in a country where there is very little previous tradition of local governance resolved? We are about to find out, or not find out, in the next 30 days.

17 Comments:

Blogger tony8489 said...

fine. let's just do what they were going to do in vietnam. declare victory and leave

8/06/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Asher Abrams said...

"apparently trying through the withdrawal from the cabinet and preventing the passage of legislations by insisting on taking the recess to show that the government and particularly [the President] have failed."

... geeez, that sounds eerily familiar ...

8/06/2007 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

In a Parliamentary system, if you want to bring the government down, do you leave the Government while Parliament is out a session? This may be political theater.

The Politicians must show they can control the violence before they can reach meaningful deals. You cut deals with people who have the power to deliver.

I think the political deal reached last year was to take care of the extremist on each side first ("the surge") and then when each side delivers a "military down payment" they get some of what they want: the oil law and a return of some Baath members to government for the Sunni and some sort of regional government for the Shia, for instance. A lot of this stuff has been hammered out already.

I think at this stage most members of parliament will do what their leaders tell them--but not until September, after the required number of scalps have been delivered to General Petraeus.

8/06/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

So I think we are up to 3 positive reports on Iraq. Since this is just a blog, not noticed by the American MSM, I can't tell if this indicates a trend.

I still think it is possible for the MSM to spin negativity through the elections, but it will be harder.

8/06/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

As a matter of fact, it is something of a trend. USA Today has this Gallup Poll report.

In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%.

About the same number said it was making things worse: 24% now, 25% a month ago.


So the objective situation is that while polls show that only a minority believe things are getting better, that minority has grown by fifty percent in the last month. The general public sometimes follows only the coarse narrative and the reality is rather more complex, in my view. Progress is probably uneven. Some things are far better than the public knows and some things are considerably worse. But the polls seem to suggest that a growing segment think that things are getting better 'on average'.

8/06/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Isn't the bottom line of a democracy the fact that if you don't like what the SOB's are doing, you can vote them out?

I don't understand why different groups of Iraqi's keep gathering up their football and leaving the game in a huff, refusing to play any more. If a majority of Iraqi politicians don't like what Maliki is doing, why don't they just vote the SOB out and start over again?

Do they understand they can *do* that????

8/06/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

It might be time for new elections in Iraq - the old ones worked well, but the situation is so fluid that they represent a country of December 2005, which looks markedly different than the country in August 2007.


apex

8/06/2007 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

I saw the comment below during a dennis prager article about raising kids to be content in reference to what the founders meant by happiness as in the "pursuit of happiness" as a right of man.

The Founders’ definition of “happiness” came from Sir William Blackstone’s 1765 biblically based definition: “[God] has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it can not but induce the latter.”

8/06/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

zcvmkwhen each side delivers a "military down payment" they get some of what they want: the oil law and a return of some Baath members to government for the Sunni and some sort of regional government for the Shia, for instance. A lot of this stuff has been hammered out already.

I think you are dreaming.

The Shia want it all, democracy is imploding.

NahnCee said...
Isn't the bottom line of a democracy the fact that if you don't like what the SOB's are doing, you can vote them out?


Not in a divided country where there is tyranny of the majority.

8/07/2007 05:17:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Immediately following the Tyranny of the minority.

8/07/2007 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Shameless plug
Online petition - A letter to the Citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iraq

Certainly, if the situation politically is not up to speed, then forming a new government as well as holding elections are viable options. I think the amount of Shi'ah disgust with al Sadr is a major factor, as will be the Shi'ah disgust with Iranian interventions.

Getting the bad people out of government positions is/has been another issue entwined.

8/07/2007 05:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Brits do well in Afghanistan. What about the Afghans?

But Afghanistan’s national government will have neither the manpower nor the favors necessary to control Afghanistan’s provinces. Kabul never has controlled the country and never will.

Thus, what should be of interest is what the Americans, the British, NATO, and indeed Mr. Karzai are doing to empower local Afghan towns and villages to defend themselves against Taliban and al Qaeda re-infiltration. In the long run, no one else in Afghanistan will be able to do this job.

Afghans in the provinces have two choices. They can develop a culture of local self-defense against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Or they can allow Taliban and al Qaeda re-infiltration and then suffer the devastating consequences of sporadic punitive raids as the Afghan national government, the Americans, and NATO strike back.

A culture of local self-defense is clearly the better option. But what is anyone doing to help bring this about?

8/07/2007 05:28:00 AM  
Blogger R said...

Let me see here: Did the American "big brains of all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-thinking" spend much time in educating the American public of what to expect if we toppled the established government of Iraq? Or did they place their bets on "selling" this first stage?

Does the crumbling of some of our domestic loan companies (home mortgage) portend a reality where we can't spend billions over "there" while thinking everything "here" will be hunky dory?

Am I to assume that Tony Snow comes to work every day filled with terrific energies while his body accepts the most recent introductions of chemicals to fight his colon cancer and strives to limit his cancer from spreading? He can do two things at once? He can fight two wars at one time? He is "miracle man" perhaps?

Con games is short for confidence games, right? Here; you just go about your business and we'll just arrange this war...for some kind of victory, at some point in time...please give me some more money (and troops)!

Am I to expect a country, ruled by an iron fist (who doesn't see this in Iraq now?) for decades, is to turn around and become a grass roots democracy in less than 10 years? Am I to believe a religion that demands its adherents prostrate themselves at least four time daily will give up "political
power" easily? What kind of democracy exists within this religion of peace?

Could it be that in order for democracy (as we westerners have come to define it) to arrive in Iraq, two major wars must be fought? Have we won the religious war, yet? When will we?

Will we go broke trying to do this, or will our patience run out first?

Who forgot about this notion of "separation of church and state" in our government prior to the planning of this Iraqi strategy?

Some con game, no? I've lost my confidence by being conned once too often by these clowns.

What really scares me is when I get to take off some of their clown makeup and see who these people really are!

I don't like playing the fool; the
broke fool at that!

8/07/2007 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/07/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

8/07/2007 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Iraq needs to go to the Executive Model of the US.

They would probably end up with a Sunni or Kurd President, Mixed Judgeship, and a Shia dominated legislature.

8/07/2007 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger demosophist said...

"These developments show that a majority in our parliament care only about themselves and their blocs' interests much more than they do about the country's in such difficult time and their attitude tells that the blocs don't want to work together and don’t want to reconcile their differences. Like we always said, we don't need reconciliation among the people, we need reconciliation among the components of the political class and if they don't want to do this then I think the best solution to ensure a fresh political start would be to change the political class through early elections once the security situation allows for. And to do this Iraq will need the "surge" to continue for several months beyond September."

The underlying problem (as I've stated elsewhere) is that the election system adopted by the Iraqi constitution is, essentially, a "national faction slate" proportional system, which is just about the worst system possible for maintaining national unity. (See Larry Diamond on this topic.)

That said, about the only way the election system can be changed is by virtue of a new set of legislators who recognize the "faction problem" and are willing to adopt some means of creating "cross-cutting alliances" that undermine factions. A very good start on that would be to do away with the national slate concept, and create constituency-based elections (preferably non-PR), for constituencies on the scale of several hundred thousand, at most.

The reason why there's this rift between the "political class" and the local constituencies isn't mysterious. It's a built-in "feature" originally suggested by the UN advisors who had an interest in scuttling the idea of a liberal or quasi-liberal Iraqi republic.

8/07/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

They haven't got the numbers to vote Maliki out. If they had, they might have done it by now although some Shia groups like Fadhila are probably just posturing.

What I don't understand is who has been running the ministries after the resignations as Maliki hasn't announced a cabinet reshuffle.

8/07/2007 12:59:00 PM  

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