Okay...Here's What We Covered Last Night...
A Bit More Recap on Iraq's Neighbors' Designs
- What the Iraq Study Group's Doing - Talking with hundreds and hundreds of People Who Matter, namely American decisionmaking elites and, in my opinion, more focused on manufacturing consensus to do what comes naturally to American decisionmaking elites, namely damage control vis a vis Iraq and save as much face as possible while doing so.
- What the Pentagon's Doing - In my opinion, a parallel of the civilian process above: distancing themselves from accountability for a badly-chosen mission. Being, officially, but an instrument of public policy, the top brass have more branch to hold the weight of their BS. That, and this is something the military's been through before; they're not about to take the blame for Iraq going pear-shaped.
- What Iraq's Neighbors are Doing - Positioning themselves as friends of Iraq, mostly. All told, Turkey, Iran and Syria appear to be going out of their way to establish strong, cordial and mutually-advantageous bilateral relations with the Iraqi central government. All three appear supportive of their being an Iraqi central government. The Turks in particular are most insistent on this point.
The Turks want trade (especially oil/gas) with the Iraqi Kurds, not war with Kurdish separatists, a war that the Turks could and would wage. Until the ink is dry on a final understanding, the Turks are going to keep 250,000 troops just across the border.
The Iranians get that much more influence in Iraq and prestige in the region if they can help do what the Americans could not: Stabilize and unify their neighbor to the west, and do so on the up-and-up. Until a final understanding, the Iranians are going to pick and choose allies within the Shia community, central government officials and militia commanders alike.
The Syrians are in no position to cause trouble in Iraq, even should the Americans depart. They've a full plate with Lebanon and Israel. Now add to Assad's worries a "Lebanized" Iraq, 7-8 times larger. Not good.
What on The Plate for Today - The Neocon Dream Scenario!
First, here's the whole shopping list:
- First Scenario: The Long Slog to Overcome Ethnic and Sectarian Politics
- Second: Ethnic-Sectarian Politics Derail the Political Process
- Third: Descent into Hell
- Fourth: Neighboring Helping Hands.
And now for our feature presentation....
The Long Slog to Overcome Ethnic and Sectarian Politics
I'm...going to hold back my initial reaction and work this problem through, step by step.
Basically, a whole lot of events have to both happen (and, as importantly, un-happen to make this scenario work (bold italics are direct citations from the Schwartz article).
1. Shia and Kurdish leaders make concessions to the Sunni for the sake of preserving a chance for a unity government. Neocon-esque Stratfor provides description of what sort of concessions -- territorial ones -- are involved:
Currently, the Kurds have authority over the provinces of Arbil, Dahuk and As Sulaymaniyah, as well as de facto control over portions of Diyala, Ninawa and At Tamim provinces. The Shia envision their own future autonomous zone as comprising the governorates south of Baghdad -- Karbala, An Najaf, Al Muthanna, Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysin, Wasit, Al Qadisiyah and Babil.
What this means, however, is that the Sunni zone in central Iraq will be left with just two provinces: Anbar and Salah ad Din (with Baghdad likely being shared by all three sides). Not surprisingly, the Sunnis remain in staunch opposition to these moves because of the fear that such an arrangement leaves them politically and economically emasculated. Such a bleak prospect goes a long way toward explaining the Sunni insurgency. It is unlikely that the Sunnis can reverse the tide, however -- so if there is an agreement, it will be some permutation of federalism, and will require concessions from the Shia and the Kurds.
A potential compromise could have the Kurds giving up the provinces of Ninawa, At Tamim and Diyala. Significantly, the northern oil fields are located in the Kirkuk region in At Tamim province; the Kurds have been trying to run their independent oil operations in this area. However, it is quite possible that an agreement can be reached regarding the distribution of oil revenues, with the responsibility falling on Baghdad to make sure each community is represented. This is one issue on which the Sunni and the Shiite positions are close to one another, because both want oil to be under the control of the central government.
If that happens, the northern parts of these three provinces could merge into the Kurdish zone, while the central and southern areas could become part of the Sunni zone. Such an arrangement might be acceptable not only to the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds, but also to Iraq's neighbors, because it could keep the state from descending into anarchy. The Sunni Arab states would be relieved to see a robust Sunni zone. Turkey's concerns regarding the Kurds in the north could also be assuaged. And Iran will see the formation of the Shiite zone it is seeking in the south. Notably, none of the regional players is actually interested in a complete partition of the country, because of the threat of regional instability. The Arab states have long seen Iraq as a buffer between them and Iran, and the Iranians also want Iraq as a buffer -- but one in which they have more control than the Arab states do.
But it sounds so much simpler when you say 'some concessions'.
Caution: Neothink populates almost all Stratfor pieces; the organization has good data but reads everything through a thick neoconservative lens. (Check this rant out when you've got a spare 60-90 minutes, or this synopsis commentary if you do not.) What this confirms for me is the suspicion that we are definitely reading the neocon dream scenario, here, in which all intervention save that by Americans on behalf of a grateful and pro-American Iraqi people is bad. The American-ness of an activity or undertaking is, of course, all the validation one requires. (Iranians helping old ladies across the street? Gratuitous evil and it must stop now. Americans waterboarding old ladies? Necessary to spread freedom to all the world.)
2. Agreements not to form a large Shia region,
This is inconsistent with the Stratfor detail above. I would say that a large Shia region is fait accompli. It's done.
On October 11, 2006, the BBC informs us that Iraq passes regional autonomy law.
What's odd is that significant Shia players opposed the vote...
The vote went through unanimously, but only 138 of the chamber's 275 members were present.
There were many significant absentees. Two of the factions which make up the big Shia alliance - Moqtada Sadr's group and a smaller one called Al Fadhila - also boycotted the proceedings.
[The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq] and some of the other Shia groups have been pressing for the law.
That's the party with ties to the Badr Brigade; the Badr organization is allegedly very heavy into death squads.
They hope that the Shia-dominated south can set up a federal region something like that already being run by the Kurds in the north who also strongly back the new law. But Mr Hakim said that the Iraqi people would have the last word.
Any provinces wanting to join together into a federal region will have to seek popular approval though a referendum.
As for when they will have the last word? In eighteen months...and per the experts, it will be a Charlie Foxtrot [something bad] if breakup occurs:
...some foreign observers, despairing of the sectarian and ethnic violence gripping mixed areas of Iraq, see regionalism as a means to end the war.
Other experts, however, see only disaster ahead if the centrifugal forces tugging on Iraq's society and body politic are allowed to pull it apart.
"It's often forgotten that a lot of Iraq is incredibly mixed," said Dr Laleh Khalili, lecturer on Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
"Kirkuk is not only Kurdish, and has a large Sunni Arab population, Baghdad has got a huge Shia population," she noted, naming two key areas--an oil-rich city and the capital--which will not be easy to assign to any region.
Confession: I was for a long time a fatalist, who figured partition by default was inevitable. I think now it's something that only serves interests that want Iraq to be converted into bite-sized chunks, both domestic and foreign opportunists and adventurers.
Of course, one could go with Peter Galbraith's prescription from an interview by Jim Lehrer...
The country has already broken up. And actually, I'm opposed to using U.S. resources to try to put it back together again.
Kurdistan in the north is already a de facto independent state. It has its own elected government. It has its own army. It flies its own flag. The Iraqi army is not allowed to go to Kurdistan. The Iraqi flag is banned there.
The Shiite south is governed by the Shiite religious parties who enforce an Iranian-style Islamic law with militias. It's also not governed from Baghdad.
Baghdad itself is the front line of a civil war divided between a Shiite east and a Sunni west, and the Sunni center is a battleground between the coalition and Sunni insurgents.
So the country has already broken up, and this result is actually incorporated into the Iraqi constitution. The constitution creates a virtually powerless center -- it doesn't even have the power to tax -- and very strong regions that are allowed to have their own armies, where regional law is superior to central government law on almost all matters, and where the regions have substantial control of their own oil.
So if that's the result that has been endorsed by the Iraqi people, I don't see why the United States should try to put the country back together.
Per Galbraith, it's done. All that needs to happen is for the Iraqis to accept that they are now ex-Iraqis, and invite the foreign money to pour in and buy control of everything on their behalf. Naturally, they will need American bases to hang around for a while longer.
3. a more equitable distribution of oil revenues,
This is less a proposal, than a restatement of an American demand of the Maliki government that is already in play. The particulars, compliments of the International Herald Tribune:
A new oil law could help Iraq's oil sector and its crumbling infrastructure by resolving how Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions would share oil revenues and resources, and broker deals with international oil companies regarding desperately needed exploration and development.
Most of Iraq's known oil wealth is exported from the south, where majority Shiites predominate and where U.S. and Iraqi ground forces and ships work around the clock to protect Iraq's main offshore oil terminal near Basra from insurgent attacks.
In the other main area -- the Kurdish north -- the regional government already has signed agreements with small international oil companies, in defiance of the central government. Minority Sunnis, who mostly live in barren, war-torn central and western Iraq, worry they will be left with little or no control over the country's oil industry.
"The Kurds have submitted a draft Petroleum Act to be adopted that gives them the right to control oil, regardless of the government in Baghdad. The Oil Ministry has submitted another completely different draft that gives the authority to the ministry, not regions. It's the main issue of the conflict: oil and Kurds," said al-Chalabi.
Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser at the Gulf Research Center in the United Arab Emirates, also said he doubted that Iraq's deeply divided parliament will be able to pass legislation that resolves the regional dispute over Iraq's oil wealth.
That was a month ago. How about now? Iraq leaders still wrangling over oil law. The chief hangup? Signing authority:
The issue of who has the power to sign contracts -- the provinces or the national government -- is critical because a major regional say will devolve more power over resources to Iraq's majority Shi'ites and the Kurds than the national government.
Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has said his office must have ultimate control over Iraq's oil reserves and has criticized deals already signed with Norwegian and Turkish firms by the autonomous Kurdish regional government in Arbil.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has hit back, defending his constitutional rights in the sector.
Some of Shahristani's fellow Shi'ites also oppose his desire to centralize control and would like to see more power for regions.
The gist of the article: Until these particulars are sorted out, badly-needed investment in Iraq's degraded infrastructure -- degraded in large measure by round-the-clock sabotage and pilferage -- won't happen until foreign investors know who can sign binding contracts.
Then there's the minor detail of who (via either central security forces or provincial/regional militias) can enforce them.
It's easier to say 'Iraqis should share the oil', than deal describe the details of complex and conflict rights under extant Iraqi law and de facto precedent.
4. maximization of production from current oil fields for the benefit of all
I can see why that just might be important, given that since the 2003 Invasion, the American disruption of Iraq has cost the Iraqi people $24.7 billion in lost oil export revenues.
Well, that's just not cool at all!
Iraq lost $24.7 billion of potential oil revenues in the past three years because violence and political instability have damaged existing operations and blocked new projects, Iraq's oil watchdog said on Thursday.
Iraq had managed to develop only 17 oil fields out of 80, and only 1,600 of its 2,300 wells were actually productive.
The report said sabotage of pipelines from the northern fields cost Iraq $8.7 billion from 2004 to mid-2006.
"All indications confirm that the oil sector in Iraq can't stand up on its own without the participation of international companies to develop oil fields and increase export rates," the report said.
As to that last, well, here's the kicker. In 1987, Iraq oil exports stood at 3.2 million barrels per day. For some reason, these days 2.3 million bpd is par...and the developers want to raise that to 6 million bpd by 2010.
Which raises the question why Iraq, which never had international oil consortia backing before, needs it so badly now.
5. relaxation of strict de-Baathification.
Someone might want to tell the Shia Badr Brigade about this plan first, because I do not think they are signed onto it just yet:
Across the south, in late 2003, CPA officials began to notice a worrisome trend. Badr and other militiamen would perform what was euphemistically called "spontaneous de-Baathification"--assassinating those suspected of being members of the former regime. In one particularly controversial episode, Shia militiamen opened fire on a woman believed to have been a high-ranking Baathist, killing her and her baby. Then, in February 2004, Badr sought political "insurance" by swarming a Najaf "caucus" station with chanting abaya-clad women, outfitted to look like potential suicide bombers, in the hopes of swinging the selection of an interim government toward SCIRI loyalists. Pro-democracy clerics told their CPA contacts that they feared for their safety .
Badr forces have been involved in recent (2006) sectarian and Shiite-on-Shiite violence, exchanging revenge killings with members of the rival Mahdi Army.
Why infighting with the Mehdi Army? The Financial Times published Rivalry between Badr and Sadr militias worries UK forces in December 2005:
The differences between the groups are less ideological than political and personality driven. Sadrists accuse Badr militia of ties to Iran, where SCIRI worked in exile during Mr Hussein's regime, even as Mr Sadr and his father remained inside Iraq struggling against the Ba'athists.
And while Badr has been increasingly integrated to the local government - the widely respected police force in Amarah, for example, is made up mostly of current or former Badr militiamen - the Mehdi Army draws from disaffected youth in urban centres and is believed to be behind most of the anti-coalition attacks in the region.
The divisions between Badr and Sadr have also raised questions about how easy it will be for British and other European troops to withdraw from southern Iraq over the next year, as many political leaders have hoped. British officers said one of their main missions has become to serve as a buffer and a balance between the factions.
The Badr are better integrated into the ruling coalition than the Mehdi, which means higher levels of infiltration in the various ministries, police, armed and security forces.
In other words: Death Squads.
...In June 2004 an American soldier, Kevin Maries, was looking through his sights of his sniper rifle from his usual position on the top floor of the Ministry of the Interior building when he saw Iraqi police commandos bring hundreds of prisoners into a Ministry compound directly below him.
He took a series of astonishing photographs through his rifle sight showing what happened. 'They were forced onto their knees, beaten with rubber hoses,' he remembers, 'The beatings got more severe, a metal bar was used and they were beating the soles of their feet'. When he thought some of the prisoners might die, Kevin alerted his unit and American troops turned up to stop the torture. But an hour later US Headquarters ordered them to withdraw and leave the prisoners to the mercy of their captors. As far as Kevin knows, most of the prisoners were later moved to an official prison but only after they were beaten again.
From the start the US authorities have been reluctant to interfere and that became even more marked when a controversial appointment was made to the Iraqi government. In May 2005, a man named Bayan Jabr was made Minister of the Interior - and thus the man in charge of the police. He was one of SCIRI's most senior figures.
Suddenly huge numbers of his own exclusively Shia militiamen from the Badr Brigade were recruited into the police. Gerry Burke witnessed that first hand. A senior Massachusetts policeman, seconded as a police adviser to Baghdad, Burke saw a memo from the new Minister authorising the recruitment of one group of 1,300 men into the Commandos without any obvious qualifications for the job. 'These were men without any police training, without any background checks', Gerry Burke told us, 'It was just changing uniforms from the Badr Brigade to the police'.
It's easier just to say 'stop de-baathification', than to say "purge Iraqi security forces of terrorists."
6. Other major elements of the concessions are acceptance of an autonomous Kurdistan
The Kurds have been virtually autonomous since 1991, and will not give this special status up without a fight, or a better offer than they've been given so far.
They even have their own Kurdish Regional Government website. As for relations with Federal Iraq...
The KRG will make every effort to put in place a democratic federal system in Iraq, based on agreement and respect for all nationalities and religions. It therefore supports democratic consensus in the political process.
- Recover Kirkuk and other areas peacefully through the democratic process and rule of law
- Support the establishment of other federal regions in Iraq
- Implement constitutional articles that make Kurdish the second official language in Iraq
- Implement provisions within the constitution regarding the Iraqi budget
- Organize KRG offices abroad within the framework of the Iraqi constitution
- Fight terrorism and violence in any form
- Work shoulder-to-shoulder to bring peace and stability
- Work to rebuild and develop Iraq
The Kurdish region has a 15-year head start on the rest of Iraq. From that, all else follows.
The Kurds have little incentive to sacrifice their advantage.
7. recognition that Sunnis and Shia need each other to create any semblance of a united Iraq (or even Iraqi Arabistan).
After today, this might well be the single most challenging task..
Perhaps you noticed the news today, because our very own Grannydoc sure as heck did, and so did CNN..
A savage string of apparently coordinated bombings erupted Thursday in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of Baghdad, killing more than 140 people.
Police called it the deadliest single strike in Iraq since the war began more than three years ago.
Bombs and mortar shells struck Sadr City at 15-minute intervals, beginning about 3 p.m., according to The Associated Press, with the first bombing hitting a vegetable market. (Watch flames, chaos in Sadr City )
Shiites responded almost immediately, the AP reported, firing 10 mortar rounds at the holiest Sunni shrine in Baghdad, the Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque in Azamiya. The attack killed one person and wounded 14 others, the AP said.
The BBC does their typical bang-up job, providing an overview of the worst attacks to date..
BLOODIEST DAYS OF VIOLENCE
23 Nov 2006 - 138 dead
Wave of car bomb and mortar blasts strike Sadr City in Baghdad
7 April 2006 - 85 dead
Triple suicide bombing at Shia Buratha mosque in Baghdad
5 Jan 2006 - 110 dead
Suicide bombers hit Karbala shrine and police recruiting station in Ramadi
14 Sept 2005 - 182 dead
Suicide car bomber targets Baghdad labourers in worst of a series of bombs
28 Feb 2005 - 114 dead
Suicide car bomb hits government jobseekers in Hilla
2 March 2004 - 140 dead
Suicide bombers attack Shia festival-goers in Karbala and Baghdad
1 Feb 2004 - 105 dead
Twin attacks on Kurdish parties' offices in Irbil
Shia are conspicuously prominent targets in the largest attacks. This latest attack is unlikely to mitigate support both from the street and from high offices for the creation of Shia militias, American demands be damned, especially as Shia increasingly see American raids on Shia targets instead of stopping the presumptive Sunni-instigated attacks.
It's not a pleasant working environment.
8. The parties find common ground in opposing the foreign fighters, who are on a mission of disruption.
This might be well and good...except the current American focus, even on the day of a massive attack in a Shia area of Baghdad, is on disbanding Shia militia groups, the Mehdi Army in particular. Not foreign fighters, not Sunni extremists, but Shia militias. For some reason, the Shia are displeased and uncooperative, including the Shia-led central Iraqi government.
US insists Iraq disband Mehdi Army militia might suggest...
Under US pressure, Mr Maliki has repeatedly pledged to disband all militias, a step US officials say is key to reducing violence that is killing more than 100 people a day.
[Chances of that idea going over well? Hmmm...]
Just last week the US arrested a senior Sadr aide suspected of involvement in violence, only to release him the following day on Mr Maliki's request.
Mr Maliki has held US forces back from conducting security sweeps in Baghdad's Sadr City, a Mehdi Army stronghold, saying he favours a political rather than a military solution.
Dominant factions from the Shiite majority community have shown no haste in disbanding their armed wings, which they say are needed to provide protection against Sunni militant groups such as Al Qaeda.
This impasse invites a lot of questions about exactly who we are aiding, when we aid the central Iraqi government, why our soldiers are dying and our treasuries bled try,when we aid the central Iraqi government.
And as for the Iraqi factions? See: Death Squads, Wedding Car Bombing.
9. A positive feedback loop is created when the UN mission returns in force
'Returns in force' is a vague term. Also, the United Nations are more focused on peacekeeping in Lebanon at the moment; and next up is the prospect of sending a mission to Darfur.
Iraq's not likely to be on the docket anytime soon unless, surprise, the United States sends the troops back in under a blue flag, in blue helmets.
As for what the UN mission sees in Iraq of late, well, somebody should have given them the memo before they shared this with the world:
The scale of Iraq's catastrophe was highlighted when the UN's mission in Iraq announced its latest bimonthly survey of human rights today. Some 7,054 civilians died in September and October from bombings and assassinations, around 450 more than in July and August. The death toll for October made it the worst single month since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Baghdad was the centre of the violence. It suffered over two-thirds of Iraq's deaths, mainly from gunshot wounds. The UN blamed a combination of terrorist, militia, and insurgent activity for the violence, which was also exploited by criminal gangs.
"Freedom of expression continued to be undermined, minorities continued to be adversely affected, women's conditions continued to deteriorate, the targeting of professionals, such as journalists, teachers, professors, lawyers, doctors and other intellectuals, political, tribal and religious leaders, Governments officials and members of the security forces continued unabated. Violence is impacting education, preventing many schools and universities from opening," the UN report said.
10. the World Bank offers substantive assistance.
The extent of recent World Bank assistance, leastwise what I can find, is putting up $200 million in loan guarantees to the Ahli United Bank of Bahrain, so it can expand its branches in the region:
Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank yesterday said it has signed a $200 million loan agreement with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.
Under the terms of the agreements, the IFC will provide a $200 million tier II eligible subordinated term loan to AUB, and will also acquire a ten per cent equity (up to $40 million) in Egypt's Delta International Bank (DIB), primarily through a planned capital increase. Last August a consortium of GCC institutional investors led by AUB acquired a 89.3 per cent stake in Delta International Bank, marking the bank's entry into North Africa.
This is IFC's largest investment in the region to date. IFC's loan will help Ahli United Bank expand its network of banks and financial institutions in the region's developing countries including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen. Hamad Al Marzouq, AUB's deputy chairman, said, "Our agreement with the IFC will support our expansion initiatives in the Middle East region and North Africa. We intend to establish our presence in new markets through our strategy of acquiring and re-structuring financial institutions."
So, some of that money will go into a branch bank in Iraq...somewhere...someday.
11. As conditions improve, the interest of investors increases.
See above discussion on expanding oil production. Nobody, but nobody, is putting up any sort of stake in Iraq unless they are guaranteed a return on, say, the U.S. taxpayer's dime. And I think that free ride is about to end.
Wrap: So, What Have We Learned Today
That it's one thing to envision sweepng programs of geopolitical transformation, and another thing entirely to implement them, especially as there are quite a few moving parts in the Iraqi political regime (try 25 million of them)