Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 05:56:52 PM EST
Cross-posted in Garish DKOS Orange
Given how suddenly events are changing in Iraq, it's time to wrap this short series up.
Part One raised the point that the very premise of the Baker Commission -- that Americans retain some control over events in Iraq -- was rapidly going out of date.
By the time I published Part Two the preferred scenario from work in support of the Baker Commission was egregiously unsuitable; this was demonstrated.
Today, we'll cover the less palatable possibilities.
The ones that are happening right now.
From Part One:
Alan Schwartz's "Scenarios for the Insurgency in Iraq" provides a discussion of five likely scenarios for Iraq. The work is likely to be part of what the Iraq Study Group is using to formulate its advisements to the Bush Administration.
Takeaways from Part One:
- Britain, Turkey, Iran, and Syria top the list of actors who are not waiting on James Baker III for marching orders.
- Britain is bailing out this spring, and...
- ...all the usual suspects (Turkey, Iran, Syria) are pushing for closer ties to the Iraqi central government.
- These efforts are far along.
refutes the neocon dream scenario with a little thing called reality.
You might want to sit down before reading this section
What We're Doing Today
- Neither Kurds nor Shia have any intention of subsidizing the formation of a 'robust' Sunni autonomous region; they are in it for themselves.
- The new autonomy referendum law, passed in October, will in eighteen months legitimize the partition of Iraq; all talk by American elites against it is simply posturing for the inevitable at this point. The largest region will be the Shia in southern Iraq. The per-capita wealthiest with be the Kurdish Region.
- The Shia in the middle, Mehdi Army supporters, mostly, will be largely written off, as the Iranian-supported Badr prevail both in the fictional central government and in the upcoming Shiastan. They will not go down without taking a lot of Baghdad with them. This is currently happening right before our eyes.
- The Badr versus Sadr contest is the other civil war that is taking place. American forces are the recalcitrant allies of the Badr death squads in this, which basically means that Shia Baghdadis and pretty much all Sunnis are very much displeased with the American presence in Iraq.
- Foreign observers advocating partition are pretty much lending cover to their paymasters; the notion that it will 'end the unrest' is fatuous.
- The Sunni are in zero danger of getting oil revenue subsidies; the US-insisted-upon revenue-sharing law is frozen up in the Iraqi parliament. It will, in my opinion, stay frozen.
- Possession (and ability to disrupt oil production) is 99% of the situation. The Kurds have contracts -- and sufficient security -- in place to keep their fait accompli control of the northern oilfields in place. Ditto the Shia in the south.
- The central government can pass all the laws it wants, but it cannot even enforce a curfew in Baghdad. This does not bode well for central government authority in Iraq.
- Oil production is down over 30% from 1980s production levels. In three years, the Iraqis have lost an estimated $24.7 billion of export revenues due to violence and instability blocking new projects and sabotaging existing ones. Revenues that are supposed to self-finance the Iraqi reconstruction.
- Perhaps that's why the Kurds and Shia are not in a sharing mood.
- Talk of balking off of de-Baathification (read: payback againt the once-dominant Sunni Iraqis), is going nowhere except to the morgue. (Mostly) Badr Brigade death squads, operating from within the (nominally) US-sanctioned Iraqi security forces, are not giving the Sunni insurgents any excuse to stop blowing Shia up, which in turn gives the Shia no cause to stop forming militias and looking the other way while thugs in policeman clothing conduct "spontaneous de-Baathification" in broad daylight.
- Kurdistan already exists; the Turks, while posturing loudly about it, are gradually resigned to its de facto existence...for the time being. The plan is to go from one major border crossing to three, all through Kurdistan and to expand natural gas and oil transport via pipelines...from Kurdish-controlled oilfields. Shrug. Amazing, what trade can accomplish.
- There is next to zero Arab solidarity within Iraq -- the potential for a Shia-Sunni reconciliation as of this week are negligible. For some reason, people get really pissed when you kill off all the wedding guests, then follow that up by blowing up mosques.
- The American rant is still about foreign fighters -- especially some guy named Al Caydo -- but at the same time the Americans are bearing down on the (Badr-infiltrated) Iraqi central government to bear down on the (Badr rival) Mehdi Army in Baghdad. This annoys many Shia, even Shia within the aforementioned Iraqi central government, as the Badr would prefer to be killing Sunni ...and homosexuals.
- There is zero danger at the moment of the United Nations assuming the mission of peacekeeping and reconstruction in Iraq...not without American forces doing the brunt of cleaning up after themselves. The UN is highly focused on Lebanon presently, with an eye toward Darfur as the next likely mission of any consequence.
- World Bank assistance to Iraqi reconstruction is oblique, at best -- securitizing loans to Islamic banking institutions to open up branches throughout the region which may include building a branch in Iraq...eventually...once the fighting stops.
In the interest of urgency, and the fact that we appear to be stepping directly into the worst-case scenario for Iraq, I'm going to expedite the delivery of
What's Going Wrong -- All Of It.
- A summary of what's going wrong
- Some thoughts on what to focus on, to get the ball rolling.
Never mind oil; any sort of equitable and stable transition to federal authority would require significant territorial concessions to the Sunni, which would be nice except for one thing: The Shia and the Kurds aren't with that.
Further, that flies in the face of a just-passed autonomy referendum law that gives each province the right to declare for autonomy (and association with other provinces) starting in eighteen months, and the expectation is that (a) this will occur and (b) this will be very bad.
Some experts, among them a certain Peter Galbraith, are openly writing off the existence of Iraq, which has come to be something of an American conventional wisdom (and in my opinion, once "everybody knows" becomes part of the discussion, skepticism should be applied in large doses.)
As for distribution of oil revenues, Contractual signing authority (and enforcement of same) is utterly ambiguous in Iraq and likely to remain that way, so the default condition is that those who can secure possession, possess. This contributes not only political instability but the rise of corruption and crime syndicates. Imagine that.
The cost to Iraq has been an estimated $24.7 billion in lost oil revenues in the past three years. That just happens to be the entire GDP of Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. War's hell...ishly expensive. What this means is that a great deal of the resources that could have gone toward reconstituting a central Iraq government are just...gone. Not extracted in the form of profits for corporations, simply destroyed.
Furthermore, oil production is greatly reduced from the 1980s peak, and this long-term secular decline may be more properly attributable to peak-oily issues, which short-term disruption of production and degradation of infrastructure. Translation: Perhaps Iraq could produce 6 million bpd as the daydreamers are hoping...then run out inside of 15 years. And, given that the war will have cost $3 trillion by running its course, if that oil were to sell at an average, oh, $190/barrel profit over production and all the revenues would go to the American treasury, I'm sure this would break even. Barely. Maybe.
If territorial and economic disputes weren't even, Iraq has to contend with Death squads on the make, which has turned what was once the most prosperous city in all Islam into a charnel house, pitting Sunni and Shia against once another. For more particulars on the infiltration of the Interior Ministry, Check this out.
If ethnic cleansing's not enough, internecine strife is already afoot between the Badr organization, paradoxically backed by both Iran and the United States, and the Mehdi Army. This other civil war, which has the bad form to call out the Americans as the real enemy, and therefore is now the flavor of the day for worst enemy America's ever faced, ever (no, really. They're that bad today. I mean it! Well, today I do. I wonder who will be the worst ever tomorroww...)
Far to the north, the nation-statization of Kurdistan proceeds apace, to the point that the Kurdish Regional Government outlines its relations with Iraq on its website.
Bombings to the south, as noted by Grannydoc's diary from a few days ago, do not encourage closer affiliation of Kurds --- or anyone for that matter -- with the rest of Iraq. It would be nice if such slaughters were the exception, but as the BBC points out, they're not nearly rare enough, disproportionately inconvenience and appall Shia (so far).
The notion that the Americans will come to the rescue is challenged in Shia eyes, when The Americans busy themselves raiding Shia targets and insist that the Mehdi Army be disbanded even as hundreds of Shia are slain in marketplace bombings.
Every so often, a call is made that the United Nations should get involved. The UN has not one but two newer projects on its plate precisely because the Americans have chosen to bring war to Iraq rather than peace to Lebanon or Darfur.
As for alternative sources of money pit money, for some reason Paul Wolfowitz's World Bank isn't very engaged, save to secure credit for banks to build branches in the Middle East region, a region that just happens to include Iraq.
Paradoxically, as we covered in Part One, all of Iraq's neighbors are anxious to keep Iraq from flying apart. The question being: If Iran, if Turkey, if Syria want Iraq to remain in one piece, if presumably the Iraqi people would prefer being one country alive than three countries (or more!) and watch their children die to make it so, then who, but who, is so interested in partititioning Iraq, or stepping back and watching Iraq cut itself to ribbons?
Much of this could be inertia, some of it could be self-interest, and more still could be out-and-out malice.
But let's assume good intentions at this point, and get a "Plan" going, shall we?
And, yes, it will be hard work.
Solving the Impossible Problem
- Cut off American protection and funds for any community or region declaring itself autonomous of the Iraq central government. You want to go solo, so be it.
- All services to such regions will be cut off. All of them. Hey, you want to be your own country, go for it.
- Lobby for and obtain the repeal of the autonomy law; this is nothing less than a pink slip from the Iraqi nation-state to the Iraqi people. Sorry, we're letting you go. Good luck with your next sovereignty.
- Work out some understanding with the Mehdi faction, as part of the American drawdown. Carrot and stick has worked before with Sadr, and will work again. As Riverbend herself once noted, Sadr was simply pushing for a place at the big table with his earlier stunt at Najaf; he's ambitious and detestable in his politics but he's no more a terrorist or a pro-Iranian than any of the ones that the Americans have loved in the past and love now.
- Cut out the intermediaries; direct dealings with Iran to (a) reduce the totalitarian aspirations of the Badr, (b)curtail their violence and (c) obtain commitments from both the Americans and the Iranians to expose and isolate the death squads.
- Shy of that, raise via international agencies and nonstate actors the upside of dropping dimes on persons and governments that think death squads are righteous. Light of day, people. The light of day makes a lot of bad things go away.
- Equal-opportunity reprisals by the Americans against humanitarian atrocities...or leave. Presently, the Americans are seen as the worst mix of conspicuously uninvolved and gratuitously unjust in operations in central Iraq. Find factions willing to drop dimes on rivals to get the Americans to do the work on their behalf. There's risk to this (vetting the tips is hard work, so do some hard work) but also reward. Hell, it's not like they like us. Or...leave. Completely. Stop being resented for being big and powerful and doing nothing productive.
- Best of all, turn out the Badr death squads, be seen doing this, where complicity has taken place, turn out some American accomplices as well. We cannot expect to be rewarded for supporting a central government that is in large measure dedicated to eliminating a part of its own citizenry, or at most favorable one that cannot even police itself, never mind secure its authority over a single city block of Baghdad. This might not be enough to 'save' the American presence in Iraq, but it would be the right thing to do.
- Cease and desist legitimizing the partition narrative. It's not pro-Iraq, or pro-security, or pro-peace, or even pro-oil production. It's just plain lazy and evil and wrong. The only thing a chopped-up Iraq favors is any set of interests that wins if the Middle East -- all of it -- remains perpetually insecure and therefore dependent on military assistance from world powers, say, the United States, for example.
- While Iraq may be the most obvious loser, ever country --friend or foe--- in the Middle East becomes that much more vulnerable to military pressure from, for example, the United States. That is, if the United States were into that sort of thing, were especially interested in maintaining its advantageous dominance of the Middle East, and for whom a completely disrupted Iraq was a net positive gain to a stable, resentful and possibly hostile Iraq.
- Which means that, with or without American participation (perhaps best without) the region's powers should hold a meeting to discuss what they, not the Americans, and not on the Americans' timetable, should do to support the continued existence of Iraq as a nation-state. And this will be done on December 5, I've just learned. And now you've just learned it, too.
- While the most-demonized of Iraq's factions both without and within Iraq, the Sunni are the ones who need the most support under the present situation, support that the cannot expect to get from the Shia-dominated and death squad-infiltrated Iraq central government, or from the (see: Fallujah) Americans, or the Kurds, and certainly not the Shia. If partition goes through, the Sunni will be the ones who take the brunt of it and past a certain point, the Sunni countries of Islam will not abide it without either (a) becoming directly involved or (b) bringing great pressure to bear on the Americans to make a solution happen.
- In other words, sorry. We're not going to be able to leave. It might be nice, but so's getting gasoline from Saudi Arabia, which might stop if a Shia-on-Sunni genocide starts up in earnest in central Iraq.
- So, brace yourselves. God help me...we're, ah, we're gonna keep a few bases in central Iraq, at least for a while, they will be expensive, they will be unpopular, even to the people who need us there the most, but this is just the way it is. This isn't a neocon dream, this is a humanitarian (and geopolitical) necessity. We bail out completely, there will be a regionwide war, and will be enemies with just about everyone in the region. And no more cheap gas. Not a drop of it.
- Refuse to recognize oil contracts not signed and enforced by the Iraqi central government...or enforced on its behalf by the United States for the duration. Enforce by targeting oilfields and infrastructure if necessary. You heard me: If necessary, blow things up. Smuggler truck lots, pipelines running out of unsanctioned oil and gas fields, raids and capture of refineries, the works. Either we are for the Iraqi central government (the one we are going to help clean itself up) or we are for oil production. We can't be for both on this point in the short run. In the long run, both oil production and the generation of civic authority in Iraq will be fine. But looking the other way while smugglers and death squads do their thing and blaming 'terrah' the whole time is absurd, and makes us look absurd.
- Sometimes, peacekeeping is very ugly business. If there are two more heavily armed and highly motivated factions looking to kill each other, and your mission to to discourage that on account noncombatants in large numbers will be killed, then target all combatants, their HQ's, their supply depots, their concentrations without compunction or restraint. Or, let them run amok, and the very people you are trying to protect will die in large numbers, and the survivors will adhere to one or more of the factions you should have been restraining, and come after you directly.
- Or...just try to leave, in which case the survivors will still hate you and as likely take out their wrath on anyone against whom the accusation of being a Yankee collaborator will stick, and kill them in your stead. Basically, it's coerce (by deadly force if one must) all the badness, or leave. As stated elsewhere, I think complete withdrawal is both immoral and results in a far higher body count. Still, quitting Iraq would be far superior to staying in Iraq, and conspicuously doing nothing to fix the situation and getting our troops killed, regardless.
- Eff oil production, for now. It's the least of Iraq's problems at the moment. If necessary, destroy the entire industry and deny any miliitias or separatist movements resources to fight over. In extremis, do the same with waterworks. Protect possession and control of same on behalf of the Iraqi central government. Either one is part of one Iraq, with energy and water, or walking and doing so while very thirsty.
- Again, helping clean out the Iraqi central government of very deadly, very corrupt and very bad elements is mission #1.
- We've been advocating some harsh stances vis a vis separatists. Fine; throw in the carrots. If, and if, the central government thinks revenue and power-sharing with the provinces is a good idea, have the US and international investors pour in the aid...but only if recognition of the central government is both given, and substantiated. Levies of well-behaved and loyal troops from the provincial guards.
- Which brings us to a big point: Integration of militias into the Iraqi forces under the auspices of a provincial guard structure. Disciplining of same for atrocities, (no ex post facto and blanket amnesty, but vetting of membership to keep out the worst apples). Partial rotation of militias for site-specific work (say, reconstruction or guarding of projects in other areas of the country), but no patrols or raids.
- Make it a sweet deal to serve (extra pay, less danger, compensatory privileges afterward as this will tend to be isolated duty), and the troops will love being sent away for a while. Not having Sunnis on patrol in Kurdish areas, and vice-versa, will do well to mollify tensions. Guarding strategic projects, or working on clearly beneficial public works duties will be good PR and limit things going pear-shaped.
- Give a choice cut of oil revenues to the producing provinces, to ease the acceptance (or tolerance) of nationalizing control of the oil industry. Some of a lot for no risk will buy off a lot of violence. Also, agree to production ceilings by field, those ceilings set by the provinces who understandably will want to have some say in how much of their oil wealth is siphoned away. Or, for ornery provinces, deny them this say. Carrot and stick.
- Did I mention that the death squads have to go? That's the sine qua non.
- Present the Badr (and SCIRI) with an ultimatum: End the death squads, give the Iraq central government some bodies to through over the wall to the howling Sunni mob, confess and repudiate past atrocities in return for amnesty and (for the worst) retirement from, ah, civil service. Else, be ended the old-fashioned way.
- Pressure the Iraqi central government to purge its ruling coalition of MPs and ministerial officials who are closely affiliated with the death squads. If they refuse, well, that would make the next step very simple for the Americans: Withdraw protection of the Iraqi central government and its ministers, and take care of the aiders and abettors of terrorism per the (God, can't believe I am invoking this) Bush doctrine. I'm sure that will sell well.
- The Kurds have just about everything they want already, except for assurances that the 250,000 Turkish troops just to their north aren't going to swoop down the moment they openly declare their independence or, if the Iraqi central government folds, that the Turks won't do so pre-emptively. The Americans are the only thing hold the Turks back, and it is uncertain if the Americans are willing to risk a war with their NATO ally over this. So play on that uncertainty over American resolve and capabilities. Well, Kurds, we just don't know what we'll do, what with this new Congress coming in and the American people wanting out of Iraq...
- Compel some letter of understanding between Ankara and Kirkuk, and truly robust and heartfelt support by the Kurds for an Iraqi central government. In return the Turks will stand down most (not all) of their troops from the northern border of Iraq and even proceed with expanding trade ties and opening up additional border crossings into Kurdish areas of Iraq. Else...sorry, out of time, Kurds. Looks like we need to be relocating to Kuwait and the UAE now. Hey, you might want to ask that Turkish army over the border there to help you out with security...
- A similar commitment -- to trade with, not threats against the Kurds -- needs to be obtained from the Turks by the Americans. Keeping a base or two, perhaps, oh, two divisions and deployment of significant air assets to fields in Kurdish regions of Iraq, would work were as insurance.
- Get regional Sunni players involved in securing Sunni regions of Iraq and, they have to be willing to do this, knocking heads when it comes to dealing with armed groups that refuse to disband or integrate into the proposed provincial guards. As likely, this means Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait (whoda thunk it? Kuwaiti troops in Baghdad!) and Egypt. Heck, the Turks will have 250,000 troops free from threatening Kurds with nothing better to do. Send some of 'em south to central Iraq. This may well be a welcome proposal...but it has to come from the Arabs at the invitation of the Iraqis.
- Securing that invitation will be another tough diplomatic task of the Americans, as the current Iraqi central government is Shia-dominated.
- Did I mention clearing out the death squads was important?
- Forget foreign fighters; they are so not the problem at the moment it's not even funny. Fix relations among the Iraqi factions, the interlopers will be isolated, frustrated, and as likely turn in agitation on their erstwhile Iraqi friends who will, ah, correct that situation on their own dime, in their own good time.
- The Americans need to stop addressing specific factions or ethnic groups as threats. The threat is factionalism, period. That is what the policy needs to be, and doctrine needs to address. Either fight out-of-control vigilantism -- all of it -- or get the hell out. There is no in-between. Scare the scary people effectively, or leave. And, as I've risked saying already, I think complete departure is very bad. I know few people are for that, yet it's imperative to stress that we are talking a long, hard slog just getting out of Iraq, here, even with every intention of doing so.
- Transitioning to United Nations command of the peacekeeping operations in Iraq requires that there be a credible peacekeeping operation in place in Iraq. That means identifying (a) who's fighting (b) who benefits from there being peace, (c) protecting them, not oilfields, (d) stopping the fighting factions, with their destruction if necessary, and (e) doing so in conjunction with a legitimate (not death squad-infiltrated) central government, that (f) agrees that a UN mission is a good thing, as opposed to say a Islamic peacekeeper coalition.
- Which brings up another thing. Hey, if the Iranians want to get involved, they can start by taking up security ops in the Shia regions and shutting down militia groups there, helping integrate militias into the Iraqi provincial guards, and doing so in concert with American forces.
- Which raises one of the toughest challenges of all - as only Nixon could go to China, guess who needs to go to Teheran. We have more cordial relations with North Korea than with Iran, and that Kim Jong-il dude's just plain crazy! I think it's time to get something out of this mess, and it's the resumption of (cold, resentful, contentious) diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This current tell-that-person-I'm-not-speaking-to-them attitude is childish and sets a bad example for the other nation-states. It's time for both Teheran and Washington to grow up.
So, there you have it. A lot at one sitting, a lot that will please neither Dems nor Pubs, Kurds, Shia, or Sunni, Americans or Turks or Iranians or Iraqis.
Sorry, though. You want grown-up solutions, though, you're gonna have to work through a lot of hangups and with a lot of people and concepts and choices you'd as soon would just go away.
But Iraq's not going away, neither is the very real danger of what is currently happening in Baghdad escalating into a regional if not world war, and quite frankly it remains the responsibility of the Americans -- not the Bushies, but the Americans -- to fix as much as possible on the way out, and I wish I could tell you that we are going to be gone next week and that would be the best course but it's just not so, and over-the-horizon redeployment is not quite acceptable either.
We will have to fight or threaten to do so, in very obvious and dangerous and threatening ways, some of them counter-intuitive, in order to protect from worse loss of life, worse threats than large bombs going off in crowded marketplaces. Try very large bombs going off, one after the other, all across the region, and possibly all across the planet.
We don't get to leave, because it would truly set off a genocide. We don't get to leave, because the Yugoslavification of Iraq would create a war zone that could last for two decades, just like the one in the Balkans, only far more unstable, far more dangerous to global security and the world economy, and far deadlier to those who made the bad choice of being born in raised in their own country, one that no longer served the interests of people who are starting to think that, perhaps, one less Iraq means a tighter leash on all the other oil-producing countries, and that might be worth the risk of letting Iraq fall into chaos.
So, I think, at the end of the day, we're going to have to stay involved, actively involved as opposed to being a neverending Republican talking point, and that means risk. That means death, and violence and making demands -- demands that will resisted by everybody in the region, in all or in part.
If we even pretend to have a moral high ground, we should take some effort to step back onto it. If we are fighting for oil production, that's not it. If we are fighting to stop a genocide, to make in part right what we have so far made so terribly wrong, then we might well be on the path to atonement.
Not forgiveness, not yet. We need to get our souls back first.
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