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PINR report: the US has "lost" the Iraq War

by Ben P Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 03:08:24 AM EST

PINR, the acronym for Power and Interest News Report, an international intellegince/strategic forecasting agency that provides priceless analysis of all parts of the world, has just released its first report on Iraq in since late December and its first since last week's mosque bombing. (for early analysis of the Iraqi elections, see here) I have been waiting for PINR to weigh in, and this report puts the dots together for in a way I had not been able to do on my own. The upshot of the report is that the US's goals main goals are now largely unachievable and that the political/military conflicts in the country are now, for all intents and purposes, outside the United States's hands.

So what, you ask. Why should I care what this PINR thinks? Well, this isn't just some newspaper columnist or academic pontificating, even a good one. This is a serious organization with a long list of important and powerful global clients. They aren't paid to make idle guesses. According to their website,

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader.


PINR releases, free to the public, three types of analysis. The primary type of analysis is our in-depth reports, usually released on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The goal of this type of analysis is to provide readers an understanding of a conflict using the methods of power and interest political science; these analyses flesh out the historical basis and current state of a conflict and offer long-term guidance on the issues involved.

The second type of analysis is the Intelligence Brief, released on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These analyses are brief in length and do not provide as many details as the in-depth reports. They do, however, often contain links to past in-depth reports in case the reader needs more information on a particular point. The purpose of the Intelligence Brief is to provide the latest information on a particular conflict and to provide "actionable intelligence" to readers who are affected by that conflict.

The third type of analysis is the Economic Brief. This new service offers brief analyses on conflicts over strategic markets and products, the power relationships behind multilateral deals and agreements, instances of economic nationalism and its effects on corporate competition and geopolitics, and competition among currencies and its geopolitical significance. Other economic subjects that relate to these subject areas may also be covered in the Economic Brief.

Organizations that have utilized PINR's analyses include, but are not limited to:

United States Army

United States Air Force

United States Defense Intelligence Agency

United States Agency for International Development

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Voice of America

Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center

Australian Department of Defense

Government Information Office, Republic of China on Taiwan

Taiwan Institute of Economic Research

Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Eurasia Foundation

WGN Radio 720 Chicago

Southwest Florida Public Radio

Chicago Public Radio

Boston Public Radio

Monterey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council

American Enterprise Institute

Asia Times

Times of Central Asia

Tufts University

Australian National University

Global Policy Forum

World Security Network

So in other words, as you can see, these folks are serious. Now on to the meat of their latest report. The whole thing is quite long, and I encourage you to read it all, as it goes into a great deal of depth about recent political, social, and economic developments within the country.

Rather than extensively summarize this background, the upshot is that each of the three major groups within the states borders of Iraq have "red lines" upon which they are unwilling to compromise. Zalmay Khalizad's recent public "pressure," is, in this context not so much a bargaining device as it is a sign of frustration and, perhaps, resignation at the intractability of this process.

Beyond this, however, the report highlighted several major developments that have completely flown under the radar of the western media which I'd like to highlight:

According to a study conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs which was released in January

  • poverty in Iraq has increased 30% since 2003

  • 2 million Iraqi families live under the "international povery line," which is determined at one dollar per day per person

  • thus, by the extremely low "international standards," 20% of Iraqis now live in poverty. Mind you, "poverty" by "international standards" means living on $1 or less or day.

  • this poverty is attributed by the report to "the rise in unemployment, violence, and the decline in public sector and civil service jobs," all of which disproportionately effect the Sunni population

As to the Sunni population, a survery conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and reported in the Washington Times in February 1 found that:

  • only 5% of Sunni Arabs "approved of" the December 15 elections

  • 92% of Sunni Arabs think the government elected on the 15th is illegitimate

  • and 88% approved of attacks of US forces

A final interesting tidbit is some of the stuff the report provides about the Kurds, who have been largely silent in the recent Sunni-Shi'ite standoff. Indeed, a telling interview given  by Massoud Barzani (leader of the PDK, one of the two major Kurdish Parties) to Al-Arabiya television on February 10:

Barzani said that Kurdistan would secede from Iraq if a Sunni-Shi'a civil war broke out and forthrightly declared that the Kurds had a right to their own independent state, although "we are aware of the international and internal circumstances" standing in the way of one.

Also on the Kurdish front, US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad recently published an opinion piece (the report doesn't say where, I found this link to the article in question at Kurd Media stressing the need for a national unity government, which to Iraqi Shi'ite and Kurdish eyes, appears (as does much of Khalilzad's rhetoric) as arguing the Sunni position foursquare. Indeed, as the PINR report argues, Khalilzad, usually lauded in the western press as a diplomatic miracle worker (certainly an exaggeration, although he is a very good and experienced diplomat) is see as having "incorporated the entire Sunni position into his list of demands," and thus is no longer seen as a credible broker by either the Kurds or Shi'ites.

In this vein, in a response article by Kurdish political advisor Rebwah Fatah, also appearing in Kurdish media sources (which I have also traced to the same Kurdish Media website, argued the following, which actually kind of shocked me:

Khalilzad's blueprint for Iraqi national unity will be as successful as the British Iraq. The difference is that in the early 20th century, imposing superficial nation-states over ethnic and religious groups was possible by bloodshed, but in the 21st century, the mission of Iraqi national unity shall remain a myth.

To sum up the importance of this, an advisor/political scientist to the US's principal ally within the Iraqi state is comparing the US's role presently to that of the British in the aftermath of WWI , . .

To conclude, the report puts the dots together:

The moment of reckoning has arrived in post-Ba'athist Iraq and none of the major players shows a trace of the will to compromise that would be necessary to construct a genuine nation-state, in which diverse social groups have an overriding commitment to live together.

Even if civil war is averted in the short term and a government is formed, that government will not be a genuine national-unity administration, but an arena of conflict between contending power groups. In one of the most astute observations on the situation by an Iraqi politician, Abdul-Mahdi -- the S.C.I.R.I.-backed candidate in the U.I.A.'s election for the prospective prime minister -- shrugged off his loss, saying that any new government would not be popular and would not be likely to serve out a four-year term.

A weak central government, which seems to be inevitable, will be starved for funds and will have trouble enforcing security given the preponderant slide toward confederal regionalism. Ministerial portfolios will be allocated according to ethnic-religious groups, and ministries will tend to coalesce into self-enclosed fiefdoms -- as they already have in the transitional government -- that effectively resist coordinated direction from high political officials. With each major bloc demanding positions with real power, there will not be enough to go around and dissatisfaction will build among those who feel they have been slighted.

Most importantly, the red lines that the contending players have drawn are not preliminary negotiating positions, but reflect deeply embedded perceptions of vital interests that are resistant to reconciliation.

Washington has neither the trust nor the credibility nor the resources to impose its blueprint and will have to watch its efforts unravel. Fatah, the Kurdish analyst, perceptively observed that "the frustration that Khalilzad demonstrates in his article could be interpreted as some degree of a resignation." Increasingly resigned to the collapse of all its plans for Iraq, Washington has been placed in a no-win situation. It has no prospect of a graceful exit and seems fated to preside helplessly over Iraq's disintegration.

To sum up the importance of this, an advisor/political scientist to the US's principal ally within the Iraqi state is comparing the US's role presently to that of the British in the aftermath of WWI , . .
This has one of the main themes in Robet Fisk's writing about the Iraq disaster. For instance:
Iraq is littered with graves of Britons killed in another colonial war (01 April 2003)
Iraq, 1917 (17 June 2004)
Lessons for Bush from the grandson of a rebel against British rule in the 1920s (12 July 2004)
A Mire of Death, Lies and Atrocities (30 December 2004)
I am really looking forward to reading his latest book,  The Great War for Civilisation.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 03:58:40 AM EST
I'm actually not a big fan of Fisk's. He's definetly a guy who knows the region and has developed lots of good contacts over the years, but much of his opining in recent years strikes me as always looking to hit the US, no matter what the story is. Not that US policy doesn't deserve to be hit, but Fisk is almost pathological in this regard.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 04:06:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, with the US as hegemon, why is such a pattern unnatural?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 06:38:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to defend Fisk, as I have read "Pity the Nation" and am now working through "The Great War for Civilization". I think Fisk is antagonistic to wars led by zealous political leaders. He is equally antagonistic towards military and political responses that are myopic and show a lack of knowledge of history, as per the links provided by Migeru.

I find that Fisk has a very keen ability to juxtapose the rhetoric of politicians against the more complex, and at times absolute opposite, reality taking place in the field. He often applies this skill against a biased and lazy media -he equally offers immense praise towards a collection of other journalist who he feels pursue the truth in various situations.

He has seen a lot of killing in the last 30 years. He has met with a large number of victims of torture, as well as many who have lost friends and family to war and political imprisonment.

In "The Great War for Civilization" he talks about how he is now being referred to as anti-US because he writes so critically of the US war in Iraq. However, he notes, he was also considered anti-US, anti-Britain, anti-Europe, etc... when he wrote 20 plus years ago so critically of the Saddam regime and its regular use of torture, rape, and mass killing.

He gives an example of when British government officials wrote into the paper to complain about his inaccurate and biased reporting on Saddam's use of rape against political prisoners... At that time Saddam, now on trial for his crimes against humanity, was offering access to potentially one of the largest markets for British/ Irish farming interest, not to mention the world's military sales folks.

by aden on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 10:00:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading The Great War for Civilisation I was constantly struck by how hard he worked to credit the U.S. and even Israel for occasional good deeds, especially on the part of American and Israeli individuals. I have no doubt that he's now very conscious of criticism like yours, so he bends over backwards to sound "fair." The problem, however, is that there really is very little good one can say about the actions of the U.S. in the Middle East over the past few decades.

I'm happy that, despite the occasional bone tossed to diehard American romantics, he's resisted the whitewashed, "fair and balanced" self-censorship that has become the dominant voice of English-language coverage of the region.

by Matt in NYC on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 12:04:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fisk just gave fantastic interview tonight on Lateline (ABC Australia).I have heard just say half of it but after that I just thought "Finally someone is talking...and aiming right to the centre". There is no link tonight but I'll put it here tomorrow...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 08:42:17 AM EST
Here it is:

and transcript:




...But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don't hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration. Mr Bush says, "Oh, yes, sure, I talk to the Shiites and I talk to the Sunnis." He's talking to a small bunch of people living behind American machine guns inside the so-called Green Zone, the former Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, which is surrounded by massive concrete walls like a crusader castle. These people do not and cannot even leave this crusader castle. If they want to leave to the airport, they're helicoptered to the airport. They can't even travel on the airport road. What we've got at the moment is a little nexus of people all of whom live under American protection and talk on the telephone to George W Bush who says, "I've been talking to them and they have to choose between chaos and unity." These people can't even control the roads 50 metres from the Green Zone in which they work.
There's total chaos now in Iraq.

TONY JONES: Let's go back, if we can, to start answering that question about who wants civil war. Back one week to the bombing of the golden shrine in Samarra. Now, most people do think the only people with reasons for doing that would be the Al Qaeda in Iraq group led by al-Zarqawi. You don't agree?

ROBERT FISK: Well, I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there's an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we've recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi's mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn't even send commiserations or say "I'm sorry to hear that". His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don't know if he isn't a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak. What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious. I go to Iraq and I can't crack this story at the moment.

Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians, Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis - suddenly all want to kill each other? Why because that's something wrong with Iraqis? I don't think so. They are intelligent, educated people. Something is going seriously wrong in Baghdad.
The Sunnis are not fighting the Americans because they don't have power and they're not fighting the Americans just to get them out - and they will get them out eventually. They are fighting the Americans so that they will say, "We have a right to power because we fought the occupying forces and you, the Shiites, did not," which is why it's very important to discover now that Moqtada al-Sadr, who has an ever-increasing power base among the Shiite community, is himself threatening to fight the British and Americans. Now, if the Shiites and Sunnies come together, as they did in the 1920s in the insurgency against the British, then we are finished in Iraq. And that will mean that Iraq actually will be united.
ROBERT FISK: Yeah, look, in August, I went into the same mortuary and found out that 1,000 people had died in one month in July. And most of those people who had died were split 50/50 between the Sunnies and the Shiites, but most of them, including women who'd been blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs - I saw the corpses - were both Sunnies and Shiites. Now, I'm not complaining that the Washington Post got it wrong - I'm sure there are massacres going on by Shiites - but I think they are going on by militias on both sides. What I'd like to know is who is running the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the gunmen who work for the Interior Ministry? I go into the Interior Ministry in Baghdad and I see lots and lots of armed men wearing black leather. Who is paying these guys? Well, we are, of course. The money isn't falling out of the sky. It's coming from the occupation powers and Iraqi's Government, which we effectively run because, as we know, they can't even create a constitution without the American and British ambassadors being present. We need to look at this story in a different light. That narrative that we're getting - that there are death squads and that the Iraqis are all going to kill each other, the idea that the whole society is going to commit mass suicide - is not possible, it's not logical. There is something else going on in Iraq. Don't ask me to...
TONY JONES: No, it does seem to be impossible to explain, but, of course, this is exactly what people were saying in Bosnia before that war started up - that people were too intermarried, that you couldn't separate the community.

ROBERT FISK: Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. We discovered here in Lebanon - and this city I'm talking to you from - that, during the civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and killed 150,000 people, that there were many outside powers involved in promoting death squads and militias here, and paying militias, not just Arab powers, but European powers were involved in stirring the pot in Lebanon. I think we're being very naive. Just because I can't give you the detail, like, of who ordered this death squad, doesn't prevent us saying that something is wrong with the narrative we're being given the press, from the West, from the Americans, from the Iraqi Government. There is something going wrong. Iraqis are not suicidal people. They don't go around blowing up mosques every day. It's not a natural thing for them to do. It's never happened before. I can't say to you, "Well, ok, here is the person who killed this person, or here's the person who left this explosive truck." All I am saying to you is that it is time we said, "Hang on a minute, this is not how it looks."
TONY JONES: What if you put Iran into this equation, because, as we all know, Iran is under tremendous pressure from the West and particularly from the United States at the moment. It has links to these Shia militias and, possibly, links too, to these people you are talking about in the Interior Ministry.

ROBERT FISK: No, no, no, that's wrong. The Iranians link is with the Iraqi Government. The main parties in the government of Iraq which have been elected, who are there now dealing with the Americans, these are the representatives of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr is irrelevant to Iran. Iranians are already effectively controlling Iraq because the two major power blocks, the two major parties who were elected and who Bush has just been talking to, these are effectively the representatives of Tehran. That's the point. Iran doesn't need to get involved in violence in Iraq.
ROBERT FISK: Well, you could say the same about Syria, too, couldn't you? And, of course the Americans are also accusing Syria of supporting the insurgents or letting them cross the border. But I think it it's much more complicated than that. For example, my sources in this area, who are pretty good, tell me that the Americans have already talked to the Syrians and are trying to do a deal with them to try and get the Syrians to help them over the insurgency and the price of Syria's help, I'm told, is that the Americans will ease off on the UN committee of inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, here in Beirut, only a few hundred metres from here, on the 14th February last year. You know, if the Americans are going to get out of Iraq - and they must get out, they will - they need the help of Iran and Syria. And I think you'll find that certain elements within the State Department are already trying to work on that. Now, we hear the rhetoric coming from Bush. I mean, he's got an absolute black-hole chaos in Iraq, he's got Afghanistan - not an inspiration to the world, it's been taken over effectively by narco warlords, many who work for Karzai, the man who's just been making jokes about the Afghan welcome for Bush - and Bush wants another conflict with Iran? I don't think the Americans are in any footing or any ability, military or otherwise, to have another war or to have another crisis in that region. They're in the deepest hole politically, militarily and economically in Iraq. The fact that the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department seem to be in a state of denial doesn't change that. We had Condoleezza Rice here - literally in that building behind me - a few days ago saying that there are great changes taking place in the Middle East - optimistically. Well, sure, there is a mosque war going on in Iraq with the Americans up to their feet in the sand, there's an Iranian crisis, or so we're told, the Saudis are frightened the Iraq war will spill over into Saudi Arabia, the Egyptians don't know how to reconcile Syria and Lebanon, there are increasing sectarian tensions here in Lebanon. You would think that someone is building what used to be called Potemkin villages,

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Wed Mar 1st, 2006 at 11:21:43 PM EST

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