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Tilting at Windmills

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December 23, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SUNNI AWAKENING UPDATE....I've mentioned a few times before that our "bottoms up" strategy of supporting Sunni tribes in the provinces surrounding Baghdad carries a number of risks. The biggest risk, I suppose, is that once the tribes finally feel safe from the threat of al-Qaeda in Iraq, they'll relaunch their insurgency and start shooting at American soldiers again. The second biggest risk is that the Shiite central government understands perfectly well that "competing armed interest groups" in the provinces are — well, competing armed interest groups.

That phrase comes from Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen (here), and a week ago I linked to a quote from a U.S. Army officer who was fairly candid about the effect that arming the tribes is likely to have on the balance of power in Iraq. "The grass-roots level will force change at the top," he suggested, "because if they do not act on it, they will get overrun."

Quite so. And does the Maliki government understand this threat? Via Cernig, AP reporter Diaa Hadid makes it clear that they do indeed:

Iraq's Shiite-led government declared Saturday that after restive areas are calmed it will disband Sunni groups battling Islamic extremists because it does not want them to become a separate military force.

....The statement from Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi was the government's most explicit declaration yet of its intent to eventually dismantle the groups backed and funded by the United States as a vital tool for reducing violence.

"We completely, absolutely reject the [Sunni] Awakening becoming a third military organization,'' al-Obaidi said at a news conference.

He added that the groups would also not be allowed to have any infrastructure, such as a headquarters building, that would give them long-term legitimacy. "We absolutely reject that,'' al-Obaidi said.

The Maliki government has made similar noises in the past, but this is by far the most unequivocal they've ever been about it. And needless to say, the Sunni leaders are having none of it. There's exactly zero chance that they will ever voluntarily disband their "Concerned Local Citizens" groups.

Who knows? Maybe this is posturing more than anything else. Maybe Petraeus and Crocker can work some magic that will defuse all this. But a year from now, if the Iraqi civil war is raging once again, this is where it will have started.

UPDATE: In the New York Times, Alissa Rubin and Damien Cave have a long overview piece on the current status of the Awakening. Money quote: "The Americans are haunted by the possibility that Iraq could go the way of Afghanistan, where Americans initially bought the loyalty of tribal leaders only to have some of them gravitate back to the Taliban when the money stopped."

And then there's this from the Iraqi side: "Many people believe this will end with tens of thousands of armed people, primarily Sunnis, and this will excite the Shiite militias to grow and in the end it will grow into a civil war," said Safa Hussein, the deputy national security adviser and a point man on the Awakening program for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

"Many people" indeed. The whole story is worth a read.

Kevin Drum 12:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Comments

The biggest risk, according to the lengthy NYT article, is that tens of thousands of armed Awakening guards will apply for admission to the regular police; it's likely the Iraqi government will publicly support admission of Awakeners into the police at the behest of Crocker and Petreaus. But in the execution, the Iraqi government will only accept a tiny fraction of them, leaving tens of thousands of armed Sunnis with expectations dashed and fears confirmed. That's a prescription for massive sectarian war. Considering the two-headed ways of the Iraqi government - publicly promise to do one thing for American consumption and privately do another - I see this scenario as very likely.

Posted by: Elrod on December 23, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

And what force is the Iraqi Defense Minister going to use to dismantle the Awakening groups? The Iraqi Army, perhaps? Ooops. They are incapable of even holding areas cleared by US forces.

"It's clear that pulling out too quickly before the Iraqis are truly able to take over these areas independently would be very risky and there are some areas in the city where at this point it would fail. They are simply not ready to stand entirely on their own."--US MajGen Joseph Fil, Dec 17, 2007

Posted by: Don Bacon on December 23, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK
The biggest risk, I suppose, is that once the tribes finally feel safe from the threat of al-Qaeda in Iraq, they'll relaunch their insurgency and start shooting at American soldiers again.

I have never, ever seen any credible evidence that al-Qaeda is a significant factor in Iraq. Every time somebody examines a specific case, it turns out to be nothing much or not al-Qaeda at all.

Many people believe this will end with tens of thousands of armed people, primarily Sunnis, and this will excite the Shiite militias to grow and in the end it will grow into a civil war…

Well, all I know it that I have seen specific Sunni leaders quoted as saying they intend to retake Bagdad “when this is all over”, meaning when the American leave.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 23, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

jim: You're kidding, right? The threat of AQI has almost certainly been overstated by the Bush administration, but there's not much doubt that AQI exists, and that it's caused considerable mayhem.

But in any case, it doesn't really matter. The Sunni tribes are plainly afraid of AQI, and have plainly turned to the U.S. to help get rid of them. Their perception is really all that matters.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on December 23, 2007 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Are you still going on about that war? We won it years ago! You liberals just love to make up stuff so America looks bad.

And besides, if a civil war DOES break out, it will be the Democrats' fault because they didn't back Bush 100%.

And stop waging war on Christmas!

Posted by: Wingnut on December 23, 2007 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

Like George Washington, George W. Bush was father to a country, the modern nation of Kurdistan. He will follow up on that by giving his blessing to the extermination (sorry, "ethnic cleansing") of Sunnis and the creation of the major new world power, Greater Iran.

This is as it was destined for the Shia people.

All hail George W. Bush, seer!!, visionary!!

Posted by: Anon on December 23, 2007 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

Col. Kilcullen's name has an almost Dr. Strangelove-ian sound to it. But then again, those are the sorts of things you think of when you've got some really killer herb.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, with his Bong of Aloha on December 23, 2007 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

As usual, the US has backed the wrong side. Supporting minority hegemons is not a long term winning strategy.

Posted by: Brojo on December 23, 2007 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

OK, Kevin, this is the last time I'm going to warn you about this. "Bottoms up" is about finishing a round of drinks. "Bottom-up" is starting a project from the local, the micro, the grassroots, whatever. If you make this mistake again, you'll be very sorry, my friend. Very sorry.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on December 23, 2007 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

Why blame Bush as if he has autonomous decision-making powers? The Sunni governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE made it clear they wouldn't accept a sectarian genocide against Sunni Iraqis by its Shia majority and ordered the arming of the Sunnis.

The goal is a Sunni strongman government or a division of Iraw into three countries. Bush always curtsies after receiving his orders from his House of Saud overlords.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on December 23, 2007 at 7:01 AM | PERMALINK

Why think it is anything more than doing whatever it takes so that we don't get attacked so often?

We like to think our big policy debates here matter, as though we were really going to configure Iraq to our liking. That is a laugh, whether we're there for another six months or another six decades.

Here is what will happen: our intervention will neck down to cutting deals over oil and having enough soldiers to enforce the deals.

Posted by: searp on December 23, 2007 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

Napoleon invades Russia
Japan bombs Pearl Harbor
Hitler invades Russia
aWol invades Iraq

-- All-time military boehners.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 23, 2007 at 7:41 AM | PERMALINK

Then there're the couple-odd million Iraqiin who would like to come home now. I wonder how that will work out?

Posted by: jhm on December 23, 2007 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

This was, and always will be, about keeping the lid on until the next administration, which -- if it lifts the hammer even slightly -- will set off a massive civil war fueled by all the weaponry we're handing out like candy. And who will be blamed for that civil war? The next administration.

Posted by: Bill Camarda on December 23, 2007 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

I don't fully understand why this isn't the liberal position(?). The war - based entirely on Bush's original justification (not the 30 or so variations since) - is over. Saddam is no longer a nuclear threat towards the U.S. Let's go home.

And for those who still choose to believe the Iraq/9-11 connection, we've rid ourselves of any repeat possibility there too, at least from within Iraq. Let's go home.

If we should pull our soldiers off the streets, nobody seems to believe we'll abandon our bases, so we probably won't lose our oil interests either. Let's go home.

I can't say Mission accomplished, because I was never really sure what the mission was. But I do believe the "threat" Bush sold this war on is no longer. Let's go home.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on December 23, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Oy -- folks need to know when to take yes for an answer.

Bush is pulling troops out, cuz their enlistments are up. His political cover for doing that is the success of the surge.

I don't care, cuz it gets our guys out of harm's way. Why do you care -- cuz it does?

Rice is signalling the Kurds to help us continue getting out (by accomodating the central government) with Turkey's raids. They're bitching, and dissing her -- but they clearly understand that we can hurt 'em if we want to, so they will accomodate Baghdad, especially since time is (finally!) on the side of Kurdistan in Iraq.

The Sunnis are armed against their enemies.

The Shi'ites have the control over the central government that their #s in the population would indicate.

So -- just WHY aren't progressives saluting Bush's brilliant success and accelerating our withdrawal before it all hits the fan on OUR watch?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 23, 2007 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Reduced violence, more services, order in the neighborhoods, all sounds like a victory to me, too. Time to get out and go home.
Sometimes you go home with the victory you have, not the victory you'd like to have.

Posted by: TJM on December 23, 2007 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

No one could have predicted that arming both sides of a conflict could lead to civil war....

Posted by: Disputo on December 23, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

But in any case, it doesn't really matter. The Sunni tribes are plainly afraid of AQI, and have plainly turned to the U.S. to help get rid of them. Their perception is really all that matters.

My perception is that the Sunnis are fully aware that the easiest way to get lawyers, guns, and money from the US is to be plainly afraid of AQI.

Posted by: Disputo on December 23, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: no, not kidding. I refer to an October 2007 article in your own magazine, which I think you linked to some time back.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2007/0710.tilghman.html

I don’t have time to track down other sources right now, but this article seems to be in sync with the few other sources I seen which make some effort to get to the bottom of AQI. They all find a confusing morass of uncertainty, but also that individual reports of AQI usually turn out to be disproven or very questionable.

So, how significant is AQI? To me it’s an open question with the evidence pointing towards not very significant at all.

A few extracts from the article:

In March 2007, a pair of truck bombs tore through the Shiite marketplace in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, killing more than 150 people... was among the most lethal attacks to date in the five-year-old Iraq War. Within hours, Iraqi officials in Baghdad had pinned the bombing on al-Qaeda, and news reports from Reuters, the BBC, MSNBC, and others carried those remarks around the world… Within a few days, U.S. Army General David Petraeus publicly blamed AQI for the carnage… in Washington, pundits latched on to the attack with special interest,.. For days, reporters and bloggers debated whether the attacks signaled a "resurgence" of al-Qaeda in the city … Yet there's reason to doubt that AQI had any role in the bombing …nearly six months later neither the U.S. military nor Iraqi police are certain of the source of the attacks. In recent public statements, the military has backed off its former allegations that al-Qaeda was responsible…
… This scenario has become common. After a strike, the military rushes to point the finger at al-Qaeda, even when the actual evidence remains hazy and an alternative explanation—raw hatred between local Sunnis and Shiites—might fit the circumstances just as well. The press blasts such dubious conclusions back to American citizens and policy makers in Washington, and the incidents get tallied and quantified in official reports, cited by the military in briefings in Baghdad. The White House then takes the reports and crafts sound bites depicting AQI as the number one threat to peace and stability in Iraq. (In July, for instance, at Charleston Air Force Base, the president gave a speech about Iraq that mentioned al-Qaeda ninety-five times.)
…But what if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.
…Yet those who have worked on estimates inside the system take a more circumspect view. Alex Rossmiller, who worked in Iraq as an intelligence officer for the Department of Defense, says that real uncertainties exist in assigning responsibility for attacks. "It was kind of a running joke in our office," he recalls. "We would sarcastically refer to everybody as al-Qaeda.
…It's notable that military intelligence reports have opted to cite a figure at the very top of that range. But even the low estimate of 8 percent may be an overstatement, if you consider some of the government's own statistics
… Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates.
… How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."
…The Defense Intelligence Agency tracks AQI through its Iraq office and its counterterrorism office. The result is more information culled, more PowerPoint slides created, and, ultimately, more attention drawn to AQI, which amplifies its significance in the minds of military and intelligence officers. "Once people look at everything through that lens, al-Qaeda is all they see," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who also worked at the U.S. State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. "It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
… while some analysts believe that AQI drafts Baathist insurgents to carry out its attacks, other intelligence experts think it is the other way around. In other words, they see evidence of native insurgent forces coopting the steady stream of delusional extremists seeking martyrdom that AQI brings into Iraq. "Al-Qaeda can't operate anywhere in Iraq without kissing the ring of the former regime," says Nance. "They can't move car bombs full of explosives and foreign suicide bombers through a city without everyone knowing who they are.

The article concludes with this sentence:

… Five years ago, the American public was asked to support the invasion of Iraq based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to al-Qaeda. Today, the erroneous belief that al-Qaeda's franchise in Iraq is a driving force behind the chaos in that country may be setting us up for a similar mistake.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 23, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Oy -- folks need to know when to take yes for an answer."

Unlike you, it seems, we know the difference between "yes" and "bullshit".

"Bush is pulling troops out, cuz their enlistments are up. His political cover for doing that is the success of the surge."

And your point is? That Bush is compelled to draw down the troops is irrelevant when compared to the damage that continues to be caused by his policies.

"I don't care, cuz it gets our guys out of harm's way. Why do you care -- cuz it does?"

ROFL... I do so love a clueless "concern troll", one who takes every opportunity to issue those silly ad hominem attacks that liberals hate the troops. In any case, moron, not only is your attack pathetic, it's off-topic to this thread.

"They're bitching, and dissing her -- but they clearly understand that we can hurt 'em if we want to"

Um, no, actually we can't, and they know it, which is why they're offering nothing but lip service.

"The Sunnis are armed against their enemies."

Dear heart, just who do you think those "enemies" are?

"So -- just WHY aren't progressives saluting Bush's brilliant success"

Probably because there is no "success" there, by any meaningful definition of that word.

Posted by: PaulB on December 23, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

"The Sunni tribes are plainly afraid of AQI, and have plainly turned to the U.S. to help get rid of them"

You are assuming facts not in evidence at this time. Based on what I've read, the Sunni tribal leaders were acting to remove a rival faction, a threat to their power, not acting in fear of a terrorist organization or a physical threat.

Posted by: PaulB on December 23, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

No one could have predicted that arming both sides of a conflict could lead to civil war....

Posted by: Disputo on December 23, 2007 at 10:23 AM |
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is f-ing insane.

This ain't slow bleed -- this will end up looking like a blown aorta in a couple months. The one thing guaranteed to put the insurgency into overdrive is for the US to take them on without even any token Iraqis along for the ride. And which insurgency are we targeting? Have we decide yet whose side we are on?

Let's just simplify things and put a big sign on the entrance to Iraq: "Abandon all hope all ye who enter here".

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:05 AM

Posted by: majarosh on December 23, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

No one knows what will happen next in Iraq. There are too many variables at work. We can hope that Iraq continues to move in the direction of decreasing violence, but the situation is so fragile that it could erupt at any moment. But even if the violence in Iraq continues to decrease, the question is, what has been achieved at the cost of the lives of 4000 American soldiers, tens of thousands of wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives? Do any of us who had to sacrifice nothing have the right to declare "it was worth it", no matter what the eventual outcome? What end state in Iraq would make it "worth it"?

Posted by: Del Capslock on December 23, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

No one knows what will happen in Iraq in 2007, the same way no one here knew in December 2006 what would happen in 2007. I would love to see what all you folks were saying was going to happen in 2007.

As far as Kevin's post, last year liberals were crowing about Iraq being in a civil war, and now that they were wrong about that, they are predicting that a future civil war will break out. In addition to the partisan lack of objectivity (which is not limited entirely to liberals, they are just worse), there is a disturbing wish for American failure at least implicit in the liberals' views and arguments about Iraq.

Posted by: brian on December 23, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

The whole point of the article is that $money$ is what is "managing" this situation:

“We have a lot of unemployment, and anyone, if he doesn’t have a job, takes even a job where he does bad things to provide for his family,” Mr. Saleh said. “They need to hurry about this.”

There was a very good story linked here months ago that showed a breakdown of the folks that were killing us in Iraq. The overwhelming majority of the people responsible for attacking us were Sunni Arabs who were paid to plant a roadside bomb. Not AQI. However, now we are paying them not to kill us and it (surprise!) works. The reduction in general lawlessness (and the cover that provided) resulted in a diminished ability of AQI to carry out suicide bombings against the Shia, IMO. The problem will come obviously when the payola stops.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 23, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

No Brian!Liberals are not worse at being objective just because they don't agree with you. The examples are too numerous ti mention but let's start with the war in Iraq. Do you have the audacity to say it was started on an objective basis. You know Saddam has nukes and all that. Yea that was an objective appraisal of the situation. OH let's see. The war will only cost 50 billion dollars and most of that will be paid for with Iraqi oil money. Need I go further? Is it relly needed that aanother bootlicker gets a lashing with pesky facts.

Posted by: Gandalf on December 23, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

And who will be blamed for that civil war? The next administration.

and we all thought Bush was stupid!

Posted by: thersites on December 23, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist: "So -- just WHY aren't progressives saluting Bush's brilliant success and accelerating our withdrawal before it all hits the fan on OUR watch?"

Ummm, 'cuz politics is a zero-sum game in which my opponent must lose in order for me to win? As a practical matter, I can't see that our side has done much to prevent troop withdrawl. Still I take your point that pragmatism is frequently lost on ideologues.

Posted by: AK Liberal on December 23, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The article I cited above indicates that it appears that sometimes Sunni tribal guys may hire or direct foreign nationals who may or may not call themselves AQI on that particular day to perform this or that mission. This, as opposed to the reverse: AQI directing missions that they organize and execute on their own, or by directing Sunnis.

Can somebody direct me to a source that has investigated a specific instance where it has been found, to some degree of confidence, that the reverse has taken place?

In other words, prove the long time intelligence expert quoted (Nance) wrong when he says:

"Al-Qaeda can't operate anywhere in Iraq without kissing the ring of the former regime," says Nance. "They can't move car bombs full of explosives and foreign suicide bombers through a city without everyone knowing who they are."
Posted by: little ole jim on December 23, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Could it be that the Bush administration had finally figured that it will not be able to secure the Iraqi oil for its backers?

And rather than allowing another party (China, Russia, EU) access, Bush will arm all sides to deny the oil to all outside parties?

It would make sense from a geopolitical strategic angle. A little too much deep thinking for Bush probably.

Posted by: Wapiti on December 23, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it looks like Roger Whidden (aka majarosh), in addition to being a racist thug, has become my own personal cyber stalker. How cute.

In any case, I have no idea what his point is, though it's no doubt a non sequitur, but if anyone is interested in the, well, context of my remarks, which were judiciously elided, see here.

Posted by: Disputo on December 23, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

No one really knows what is "likely" to happen.

Practically all of the police in the Kurdish region will be Kurdish; practically all of the police in the Shi'ite regions will be Shi'ite; practically all of the police in the Sunni regions will be Sunni. Almost all of the regions of mixed ethnic groups will have been cleansed, though others have ethnically mixed police patrols. Towns and provinces will have mostly local, mostly elected governments (at least as long as the American military presence is reasonably strong.) Most of the Sunni representatives in the parliament will be replaced in the next election because they were elected last time by a tiny minority of Sunnis who deigned to vote. Kurdish and Shi'ite representation will be more stable (or maybe not!) As long as the Americans are there in sufficient force, no faction can seriously threaten to conquer the other regions, so the economy can continue to grow , including in the Sunni areas where it's barely nascent. As long as the Americans are there, the electricity, oil, transportation, sewer (and the new sewer in Ramadi can be completed, reportedly the first ever for Ramadi), and water infrastructures will continue their ongoing upgrading.

No one knows what Iraqis will decide to do after a few more years (should it continue) of relatively peaceful reconstruction. On recent evidence, it looks like the civil war will have to wait until Bush leaves office, and Clinton and Obama have both promised to continue the American presence according to some indefinite criteria. Or, Iraq could explode tomorrow, as it did in early 2006.

The complexities and uncertainties are aggravating. No doubt about that.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on December 23, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: As usual, the US has backed the wrong side. Supporting minority hegemons is not a long term winning strategy.

The U.S. has backed local authorities in every region since expanding the strategy of "clear, hold, and build." This includes the forays into the lands of Moqtada al Sadr where his forces are unpopular, as well as the Sunni towns. The only "hegemon" that the U.S. has backed is the elected government.

The situation really defies simple description. No place is completely governed by either local or central authority. It is almost like a federal system, but with even less regularity and definition of power/authority.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on December 23, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. Remove a secular dictator and get a Iranian friendly quasi Sharia country in return. Now Bush is trying to get back on the Sunni(Saudi)team. Too late.

This is not going to be pretty.

Posted by: Daryl on December 23, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it looks like Roger Whidden (aka majarosh), in addition to being a racist thug, has become my own personal cyber stalker. How cute.
Posted by: Disputo

Ah yes, the pet stalker. Know of that. Consider it a badge of pride, or maybe a pelt on your belt. At least someone cares enough to write, eh?

Posted by: SJRSM on December 23, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin said: "There's exactly zero chance that they will ever voluntarily disband their "Concerned Local Citizens" groups."

Agreed. That would be the same as Bush saying he will disband all state & local police organizations in the US. It ain't gonna happen. Nor should it.

Adding to MatthewRmarler's comments: Seems to me the original US goal was to establish a relatively weak central government with semi-autonomous Sunni, Shia, & Kurdish regions. This is now the reality. The Kurds have a functioning government, including self supporting army & police, plus a robust re-building program in progress. Most of the Sunni triangle have made considerable progress in the same direction as the Kurds. Maliki, meanwhile, does not even have control of the remaining Shia areas, nor Baghdad & the surrounding area. If Maliki seriously tries to exert total govt control, he (& his central government) may suddenly find himself irrelevant, both in Iraq & the rest of the world.

Posted by: bob in fla on December 23, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the original US goal was to establish a relatively weak central government with semi-autonomous Sunni, Shia, & Kurdish regions.

I disagree with this. I don't give the Bush administration any credit whatsoever given the amount of foresight that revelation would require. They fucked up consistently over and over and over and it wasn't until time (the eternal teacher) and Petraeus (as time's imperfect mouthpiece) started to get the banana. IOW, we are just now beginning to understand what the hell is really going on over there. Ooops, just a couple of trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives too late... that things are unfortunately just now starting to make sense to our strategic establishment.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 23, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

A new book shows Saddam did support al Qaeda and the Taliban:

'Both In One Trench: Saddam's Secret Terror Documents'

www.bothinonetrench.com

Posted by: Ray Robison on December 23, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Doc, I agree completely regarding the Bush team's lack of planning & foresight. I referred to the stated aim; somehow I doubt Dubya meant what he said when he said it. But thanks to Petreaus & Odierno, this is where we are - a quite weak central govt with ethnic regions growing stronger & more stable, both in reality & by comparison to Baghdad.

Obviously Bush was not trying to create the climate where the regions would be negotiating their own oil or rebuilding contracts, either. I am sure that he isn't pleased that the locals in the Shia & Sunni regions have no use for a permanent US military occupation, or that the biggest obstacle to reconciliation, as the locals see it, is the central govt in Baghdad.

Posted by: bob in fla on December 23, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Both In One Trench

Once again wingnuts derive their inspiration from 70s porn movies.

Posted by: Disputo on December 23, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

A conversation about the outcomes of the fiasco in Iraq cannot exclude the question --is Dubya the worst ever?
Excerpts From The Nation Magazine:
"A question that seems to be on everybody's mind these days turns out to be: Is he the worst President in American history?
But how do you judge? Is he the most morally disgusting? The worst mangler of the English language? Ever since the atom bomb was dropped, we've had a whole string of bozos who cannot pronounce the word "nuclear." How much should that count against them?
(the article discusses other bad presidents)

"... It's also too early to tell, but if first signs mean anything, he has got a lot to answer for. We know he is responsible for the death of a lot of people who never hurt him or us. We wonder if he has so disturbed the entire Middle East quadrant of the globe that years and years may pass while the people there and the people here suffer for what he has done. Will we get habeas corpus back? Will the thumb screw become standard operating procedure, or will it be returned to the Middle Ages whence he found it?
One of the criteria for being worst is how much lasting damage the President did... With Bush II the reckoning is yet to be made."




Posted by: cwa on December 23, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

You are not likely stop a civil war by handing out weapons to both sides. On the other hand, isn't a civil war just great for arms sales?

Posted by: roksob on December 24, 2007 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

General(Ret) Barry McCaffrey just returned from a trip to Iraq. The highlights:

Iraq Army
The ISF still lacks credibility as a coherent counter-insurgency and deterrent force. It has no national logistics and maintenance system.

Iraq government
There is no functional central Iraqi Government. Incompetence, corruption, factional paranoia, and political gridlock have paralyzed the state.

local government
The US company and battalion commanders now operate as the de facto low-level government of the Iraqi state…schools, health, roads, police, education, governance.

sunni
The Sunnis Arabs have stopped seeing the US as the enemy and are now cooperating to eliminate AQI -- and to position themselves for the next phase of the Civil War when the US Forces withdraw.

shia
There is no clear emerging nation-wide Shia leadership for their 60% of the Iraqi population. It is difficult to separate either Shia or Sunni political factions from Mafia criminal elements-- with a primary focus on looting the government financial system and oil wealth of the nation.

kurds
The Kurds are a successful separate autonomous state---with a functioning and rapidly growing economy, a strong military (Both existing Pesh Merga Forces and nominally Iraqi-Kurdish Army divisions), a free press, relative security, significant foreign investment, and a growing tourist industry which serves as a neutral and safe meeting place for separated and terrified Sunni and Shia Arab families from the south.
http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/iraqaardec2007.pdf

Posted by: Don Bacon on December 24, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

O, mire me not in quag.

Posted by: Luther on December 24, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

roksob: On the other hand, isn't a civil war just great for arms sales?


"Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers." - Gen. David Petraeus' 9/11/07

Posted by: mr. irony on December 24, 2007 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

"Supporting Sunnis" presumably means massive, unaccounted for cash payments.

Posted by: bob h on December 24, 2007 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, check out Andrew Sullivan on all that, and regarding the latest NYT piece:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/12/mission-accom-2.html

(Hey Kevin, why don't you get that system where pasted links are at least made into real links, even if you have to look at all the mess?)

Posted by: Neil B. on December 24, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

from Captain's Journal:
Since June, Mr. Hassani, who claims to be one of the princes of the legendary Shammar tribe, which numbers nearly 7 million across the Arab world, says he has received at least $100,000 in cash and numerous perks from the US military and the Iraqi government.

With his help, at least $1 million has also been distributed to other tribal sheikhs who have joined his Salahaddin Province “support council,” according to US officers. Together, they have assembled an armed force of about 3,000 tribesmen dubbed the “sahwa [awakening] folks.”

But the strategy is fraught with risks, including the serious potential for wars among the tribes themselves and the creation of militias in die-hard Sunni Arab lands where many continue to question the legitimacy and authority of the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad.

“[The US military] threw money at [the sheiks],” says Col. David Hsu, who heads a team advising Iraq’s armed forces in Salahaddin, Saddam’s home province. He shows recent digital photographs he captured of smiling sheikhs holding bundles of cash as they posed with US military officers. “You are basically paying civilians to turn in terrorists. Money was an expedient way to try to get results.”
http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/11/12/are-we-bribing-the-sheikhs/

Posted by: Don Bacon on December 24, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Don Bacon, interesting article that you linked to. The more I read about the money and the sheiks, the more I wonder about where the Sunni Arabs were getting their money before we started using this tactic. I can't help but believe that the money was coming from Saudi Arabia and that AQ? was taking up collections in SA and funneling the cash to Iraq where it was used to pay people to set roadside bombs, etc. The tactical shift happened more or less about the time that Cheney went to Riyadh at the end of 2006.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 24, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

And rather than allowing another party (China, Russia, EU) access, Bush will arm all sides to deny the oil to all outside parties?

Maybe this is Bush's plan to control Global Warming.

Posted by: AJ on December 24, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hi webmaster! pge

Posted by: Kazelxbr on February 26, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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