Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraqi public seems to want strong central government, not “looser confederation.” / Suggestions for federalism poll

A recent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) said that "Iraqis appear to agree on having a strong central government rather than changing the present system in favor of a looser confederation. Asked whether 'the new Iraqi system of government grants the central government too much power, too little power, or about the right amount of power,' only 37 percent overall say that it grants too much power." [1]

I'm not sure what this says about the Iraqi public's attitude about federalism, however, especially as a possible solution to the sectarian violence. I hope that PIPA wasn’t connecting the term "confederation" with federalism.

PIPA also pointed out that 42% of Kurds in their poll said they thought that the central government had too little power. I believe this would mean that they would favor a stronger central government. However, to interpret this opinion as saying that Kurds are opposed to federalism would not seem to be correct given the existence of semi-autonomous Kurdistan, the Kurds' living embodiment of a type of federalism.

And if these 42% of Kurds do not oppose federalism, then it would seem that the non-Kurdish Iraqis in the poll who seemed to favor a strong central government would not necessarily oppose federalism either. They very well could, but that impression should not be taken from the data given in the PIPA poll.

The desire of Iraqis for a strong central government could also have been an indication of their desire for having a strong central government that dealt with the problem of militias. A question on whether a strong central government should "get rid of the militias" was included in the poll in, I believe, the same section as the question on whether too much power was being granted to the central government. I'm not sure which question came first.

I would have preferred that PIPA or someone else ask questions directly about federalism, especially as a possible solution to the sectarian violence. Questions might also include Iraqis' preferences for federalism or a strong central government in regards to different categories like the police or schools in their area.

Sample questions:
1) Do you support or oppose federalism?
2) For those who oppose federalism: Would you accept federalism if the goal was a reduction in the sectarian violence?
3) Kurdistan has relative peace and prosperity as well as respect for the rights of minorities living within its region, would you support or oppose similar regions being created for the rest of Iraq?
4) For those who oppose the creation of regions similar to Kurdistan: Would you accept similar regions being created, if the goal was a reduction in sectarian violence?
5) Would you prefer that the police in your area be governed by a central, regional or local government?
6) For those who prefer the police be governed by a central government: Would you accept the police in your area being governed by a regional or local government if the goal was a reduction of sectarian violence?
7) For those who prefer the police be governed by a central government: Would you accept the police in your area being governed by a regional or local government if there were a national police force as well?

[1] Program on International Policy Attitudes. The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq. September 27, 2006.

related posting
Iraqi parliament agrees to debate federalism bill; Peace on a silver platter. September 24, 2006.

posted: saturday, september 30, 2006, 10:32 AM ET
update: sunday, october 1, 2006, 12:54 PM ET

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Most Iraqis want America to leave; Many feel America is causing violence as excuse to stay

"A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.
. . . Interviews with two dozen Baghdad residents in recent weeks suggest one central cause for Iraqi distrust of the Americans: They believe the U.S. government has deliberately thrown the country into chaos.
The most common theory heard on the streets of Baghdad is that the American military is creating a civil war to create an excuse to keep its forces here." [1]

"I've spoken to many Iraqis who no doubt want the U.S. troops to leave. They usually give two main reasons: 1) they don't want to see their nation occupied, and 2) they blame the U.S. occupation for the ongoing sectarian chaos, the lack of social services like electricity and health care. . . . Yet when I speak with Sunnis and Shiites in extremely violent Baghdad neighborhoods they often tell me that they want American troops to secure their streets and not leave. They don't trust the Iraqi security forces to protect them.
. . . I constantly hear from Iraqis who are stunned by the sectarian violence unfolding in their lives. For centuries, Iraq was a place where Sunnis and Shiites, at least in their daily lives, rarely cared about their sects. Now Sunnis and Shiite are killing each other. That scares Iraqis." [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show: Leaders' Views Out of Step With Public. September 27, 2006.
[2] The Washington Post. Sectarian Violence Plagues Iraq Neighborhoods. (online question and answer session between Washington Post reporter Sudarsan Raghavan and Post readers). September 27, 2006.

posted: thursday, september 28, 2006, 1:52 PM ET
update: thursday, september 28, 2006, 2:33 PM ET

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Iraqi parliament agrees to debate federalism bill; Peace on a silver platter

"Iraq's fractious ethnic and religious parliamentary groups agreed Sunday to open debate on a contentious Shiite-proposed draft legislation that will allow the creation of federal regions in Iraq, politicians said." [1]

Hopefully, this bill will be posted somewhere so interested parties can look it over. A transcript of the debate would be nice, too.

I also wonder if the possibility that federalism could help stop the sectarian violence will be part of the debate. The real-life, Iraqi example of a relatively peaceful semi-autonomous region would be Iraqi Kurdistan. And just Kurds don't live in Kurdistan either. They have non-Kurdish minorities like Yazidis and Turkmen as well as Arab workers from the rest of Iraq who live in Kurdistan [2] and they seem to do all right. At least I haven't heard anything to the contrary. So Kurdistan is possibly not just an example of a relatively peaceful and prosperous semi-autonomous Iraqi region, but an Iraqi region where different ethnic and religious groups can live in relative peace with one another, albeit with one group predominating.

Another positive aspect of federalism is that it would be an Iraqi solution, not an American one. It would be based on the hard won successes of their fellow Iraqis in Iraqi Kurdistan. And under federalism, Iraq would still have a national government which handled things like the Iraqi Constitution, the military, foreign policy and the equitable distribution of Iraq's vast oil wealth.* But each region would handle things like regional security (which should but something of great interest to the Sunnis who have been dying by the thousands and who don't seem to have much faith in the current national police force). They would also derive the other benefits that come from having a semi-autonomous government that have made Kurdistan so relatively secure and successful. The Kurds could say what these benefits are much better than I could.

It's peace on a silver platter, at least in terms of the problem of sectarian violence. And it's one that those who say that they care so much about Iraq and the Iraqi people should seriously consider.

* If each region is not guarenteed their fair share of oil revenue, this would be a legitimate reason for opposing federalism, in my view.

[1] The Houston Chronicle. (Associated Press). Iraqi parties agree to federalism bill. September 24, 2006.
[2] Iraqi Kurdistan. Wikipedia.

related posting
More Iraqi perspectives on federalism plan. September 14, 2006.

posted: sunday, september 24, 2006, 11:53 AM ET
update: sunday, october 1, 2006, 1:38 PM ET

My hit counter uses tracking cookies

In a previous posting, I had complained about the tracking cookies left on my computer. But when trying to look up a more exact definition of what a tracking cookie actually was than what was given by Norton, I found that the hit counter I use (StatCounter) also uses tracking cookies.

Apparently, tracking cookies are not spyware that track all your internet movements after you exit from their website as I had thought at the time of my previous posting.

The best information I found on tracking cookies (assuming it's true) was from a posting by Dunbar Puppy on Yahoo! Answers which said "tracking cookies can range from sweet and innocent, to the spawn of satan: if you visit seedy sites (porn, free music, free give aways, etc.) you are more likely to get the bad kind (those that 'phone home' to another site that starts sending you spam, pop-up garbage, etc.) one good idea for use in ALL browsers is to disable 3rd party cookies. BROWSER OPEN, ON THE TOP LINE GO TO 'TOOLS'>INTERNET OPTIONS>PRIVACY>ADVANCED: HERE YOU SHOULD CHECKMARK THE LINES 'ALLOW SESSION COOKIES' & 'ACCEPT FIRST PARTY COOKIES': UNDER 3RD PARTY COOKIES, CHECK 'BLOCK.' "

I have re-set my own browser according to Puppy's instructions even as I am typing this and I will report back as to its efficacy in a future posting. (maybe) I had found six more tracking cookies on my computer after tonight's scan.

A site I visited (PC Advisor) said that "StatCounter is a perfectly reputable organisation, and I certainly haven't heard of them using spyware. If they did, the word would soon get about, and they would have no business. They make their money from the advertisers."

I found out about StatCounter from Blogger which had a list of recommended hit counters. I found StatCounter to give the best information and to be the most reliable. You can see the information that Statcounter provides to me by clicking the "View My Stats" link on the bottom of this page or on any page of my other sites ( and pornovision).

Pornovision is a screenplay I wrote, not a seedy porn site.

posted: sunday, september 24, 2006, 1:53 AM ET

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bush complains about Hugo Chavez to Pope Benedict (cartoon)

keywords: cartoon, president george bush, united nations, venezuela, islam, evil, inhuman, muslim, apology.

posted: friday, september 22, 2006, 1:12 PM ET
update: saturday, september 23, 2006, 7:36 PM ET

Dhi Qar security transferred to Iraqi military

"In a September 21 ceremony, the responsibility for safeguarding the people of Dhi Qar was returned to the Iraqi government and its civilian-controlled security forces.
. . . Dhi Qar is the second southern Iraqi province in which Iraq forces have taken full control of security. Since July 13, local police and military forces in neighboring al Muthanna province also have had full responsibility for the province's security.
. . . Officials said several other Iraqi provinces . . . will be transferred in the near future.
. . . Coalition officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said they hope to transfer security responsibilities in all 18 of the country’s provinces to Iraqis by the end of 2008."

Washington File. Iraqi Military Takes Charge of Dhi Qar Province: Transfer of security to Iraqis another sign of progress, say U.S. officials. September 21, 2006.

Provinces of Iraq. Wikipedia.

post: friday, september 22, 2006, 12:51 PM ET
update: friday, september 22, 2006, 1:06 PM ET

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tracking cookies

I got the new 2007 Norton Internet Security. It has a new feature that tells you if you have tracking cookies on your computer. I had 50. (50!) Norton said they were "low-risk." But I don't want to be tracked, especially by 50 cookies. So I deleted them and felt clean.

I did a partial scan the next day and had 2 more tracking cookies. Not good, but not 50. I deleted those also.

I did another partial scan 2 days later and had 5 tracking cookies. So this is like ridiculous, right? Why do they want to track me? If I did this to their computers or to the computers of the companies that utilize their services, they'd call me a hacker and have me thrown in prison. But if they do it, it's ok.

There oughta be a law or somebody should invent something.

posted: monday, september 18, 2006, 4:14 AM ET

Thursday, September 14, 2006

America may stay for years, despite presence of Iraqi troops

"On overall security in Iraq, lawmakers pressed Edelman and Rear Adm. William D. Sullivan, vice director for strategic plans and policy on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on why the growth of Iraq's military and police forces has not yet permitted a reduction in the number of U.S. troops, which increased to 140,000 over the summer.
. . . [Sullivan] said the emergence of sectarian violence in addition to the Sunni insurgency has led U.S. commanders to decide 'that they cannot afford to draw down our own troop levels while the Iraqis are still building up theirs.'
Sullivan conceded that in the longer term, because Iraq's military has been trained and outfitted primarily to fight an insurgency, rather than to defend Iraq against foreign attack, U.S. forces could be required as backup for many years.
. . . He said the intent in developing Iraq's military was to create a force 'that would have a modicum of its own self-defense capability without being an army that could threaten its neighbors.' Iraqi leaders are still trying to 'figure out what kind of military ultimately they need,' he said."

The Washington Post. Pentagon Weighing Report On Anbar. September 12, 2006.

posted: thursday, september 14, 2006, 12:05 PM ET
update: thursday, september 14, 2006, 12:23 PM ET

"America exiting" scenarios

"Others argue that a U.S. pullout on a clear timetable announced in advance will bolster Iraq's chances of surviving and undermine the insurgency. A hurry-up timeline would force the new Iraqi government to take control. Instead of U.S. troops as targets, the burgeoning Iraqi army and police units — now numbering nearly 200,000 — would be compelled to quell the simmering sectarian strife, establish order and give the new Iraqi government some domestic legitimacy.
Doubters suggest Iraq's new army would crack along ethnic and religious lines, defecting to the outlawed but well armed and powerful militias that already serve as the power — and instruments of terror — in many towns and neighbourhoods.
For Mr. Murtha [U.S. Congressman John Murtha], getting U.S. troops out sooner rather than later cuts U.S. losses without affecting the likely outcome for Iraq. 'The British were in India for almost 90 years and they were finally forced out and when they were forced out, they had a civil war,' he says. 'We can't settle this for the Iraqis, we cannot win this militarily.'
A whole host of variations on the pullback and hurry-up timeline have been proposed, mostly by Democrat critics, but also by a fistful of retired generals. Mr. Murtha, among others, calls for getting U.S. troops out of the front lines, pulling back to bases outside cities where they will be far less visible. Eventually, troops would exit Iraq altogether but remain close enough to rapidly redeploy and support Iraqi security forces if needed.
It's not just disaffected Americans who argue for an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, exit strategy. 'The removal of foreign troops will legitimize Iraq's government in the eyes of its people,' Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 'The removal of coalition troops from Iraqi streets will help the Iraqis who now see [them] as occupiers rather than liberators. It will remove psychological barriers and the reasons that many Iraqis joined the so-called resistance in the first place.' [1]

"In a shabby but spotless living room in the holy city of Najaf, a top deputy of Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr quietly sketched out his vision of the Iraq to come, after the Americans withdraw.
First, 'there will be a civil war,' said the aide, Mustafa Yaqoubi, as his three young children wandered in and out of the room. The rising violence and rivalries under the American occupation make a shaking-out all but inevitable once foreign forces go, Yaqoubi said. 'I expect it.'
'No matter the number of people who would lose their lives, it is better than now,' he added. 'It would be better than the Americans staying.'
When the tumult ends, the Sadr aide said, Iraq's Shiite majority will finally be able to claim its due, long resisted by the Americans -- freedom to usher in a Shiite religious government that Yaqoubi said would be moderate and perhaps comparable in some ways to Iran's.
. . . Yaqoubi said the U.S. failure to meet even the simplest security needs of Iraq was to blame for much of the current instability. As a result, he said, 'when the Americans pull out, there will be a civil war. They are using that now, as an excuse for staying.' " [2]

[1] Globe and Mail. The long march home. September 9, 2006.
[2] The Washington Post. Top Aide to Sadr Outlines Vision of a U.S.-Free Iraq. September 12, 2006.

posted: thursday, september 14, 2006, 11:25 AM ET
update: thursday, september 14, 2006, 11:27 AM ET

More Iraqi perspectives on federalism plan

" 'If federalism is to be applied now, it will lead to the secession of the south and the establishment of an Islamist extremist state in the center of the country,' said [Mahmoud al-Mashhadani], an outspoken Sunni Arab who is the third-ranking official in the government. 'It is not possible to venture or to start the application of federalism now.'
. . . When asked to predict the likely outcome of Wednesday's meeting of political leaders, he said: 'We could agree on the principle and then postpone the topic for four years.'
. . . Mashhadani said the country is not prepared for federalism because its government is not strong enough to provide security and services, and because of troubled relationships with some neighboring countries." [1]

Mashhadani did not mention oil in the above Washington Post interview, though the Post said that "Sunnis have generally opposed the plan, on grounds that it would leave them only with vast swaths of desert in the country's middle, devoid of the oil reserves in the other regions." [1]

" 'We ask the leaders who proposed the draft not to hurry and postpone it until the review of the constitution,' said secularist MP Sayed Ayad Jamaluddin, whose Iraqi National List has 25 seats in parliament.
Even one faction within the Shia bloc called for the proposals to be put off until the political climate cools.
The Fadhila party, which has 15 MPs among the bloc’s 128, said that adopting a federal structure would be dangerous while US forces and unofficial militias remain deployed in Iraq.
'We have to prepare the political and popular climate to dispel all misunderstandings about federalism,' Fadhila spokesman Hassan Shammari said.
'Federalism will fail with the intervention of foreign powers and presence of militias,' he said, adding that for the moment Iraq should adopt a more flexible 'decentralised administration' across the country.
But in a prayer sermon yesterday, SCIRI leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim insisted that a fully federal Iraq was the best way of preventing Iraq’s divisions from leading to partition." [2]

"Al-Hakim, also demanded that the Shiite region include districts with a Shiite-dominated population, such as Basra, near the borders with Kuwait and Iran.
This 'will ensure that the dictatorship will not return,' Al-Hakim said.
The demand was received with criticism from other members of the Iraqi parliament." [3]

"Mr. Hakim’s move has spurred the legislators who answer to Moktada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric, to unite with Parliament’s main Sunni Arab and secular blocs to try to sink Mr. Hakim’s plan.
Mr. Sadr, a longtime foe of Mr. Hakim, fears that if the plan goes into effect, Mr. Hakim will emerge as the ruler of the oil-rich southern region, Iraqi political experts say." [4]

A top aide to al-Sadr said recently that after America exited from Iraq, he foresaw civil war followed by the creation of a moderate "religious Shiite government" in Iraq. [5]

"Shia deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiya told reporters that the debate on the bill proposed by the Shia United Iraqi Alliance would now begin on September 19.
He said there would be a second reading on September 21 to be followed by a 'vote four days after that'." [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Federalism Plan Dead, Says Iraqi Speaker: Sunni Legislators, Others Had Balked. September 13, 2006.
[2] Gulf Times. Iraq puts off debate over divisive bill. September 11, 2006.
[3] Asharq Alawsat. Iraq: Shiite Leader Calls for Federal State. September 11, 2006.
[4] The New York Times. In Iran, Iraqi Is Offered Aid in Trying to Quell Violence. September 13, 2006.
[5] The Washington Post. Top Aide to Sadr Outlines Vision of a U.S.-Free Iraq. September 12, 2006.

The Washington Post. Partition Debate Splits Iraq. September 13, 2006. (Good background article with links and reader comments)

related posting
Al-Sadr opposes al-Hakim's federalism plan (September 12, 2006)

posted: thursday, september 14, 2006, 10:27 AM ET
update: thursday, september 14, 2006, 10:56 AM ET

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Al-Sadr opposes al-Hakim's federalism plan

"Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Shiite Muslim cleric, remains adamantly opposed to a controversial plan to partition Iraq into a federation of three largely independent regions, a top Sadr aide said Monday.
'Iraq must not be divided,' said Riyadh Nouri, the aide to Sadr, who has opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Sadr's objection to the plan remains steadfast despite a meeting Sunday night in Najaf between Sadr and his intermittent rival Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the prominent Shiite political party that is leading the push for federalism.
. . . The Sunnis fear the creation of a predominantly Shiite region in the south of Iraq that would resemble the largely independent zone controlled by the Kurds in the north. The Sunnis would be left with swaths of the country devoid of the oil reserves in the other regions." [1]

"Baha al-Araji, a Shiite member of Parliament from Mr. Sadr’s political movement, which controls about 30 seats in Parliament, said the movement would not support the bill or its reading next week.
'We believe that this draft does not serve the interest of Iraq now,' he said in an interview on Monday afternoon.
'It is better to discuss it after the withdrawal of the occupation,' he added, referring to the 138,000 American troops in Iraq. 'Discussing this subject will increase disharmony with our Sunni brothers, so we should have more time so that Iraqi people can understand the real meaning of federalism.'
But other Shiite members of Parliament, mostly from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful party with close ties to Iran, said they would press a reading of the bill next week regardless of whether other Shiite political parties supported it." [2]

So is it the lack of oil for the Sunnis or federalism itself that al-Sadr and the Sunnis oppose? If it's lack of oil, then that seems like something that could be negotiated. If it's federalism itself, then that could be more complicated.

I support federalism, based largely as a potential solution to the ongoing sectarian violence between Sunnis and reportedly renegade forces of al-Sadr's militia. The Kurds with their semi-autonomous region in the north have relative peace and prosperity and the rest of the country could possibly follow a similar path if given the opportunity.

[1] The Washington Post. Sadr Holds Out Against Plan to Divide Iraq: Cleric's Bloc Breaks With Other Shiite Groups to Back Sunnis in Parliamentary Boycott. September 12, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. Hussein Trial Resumes; Sectarian Attacks Continue in Streets. September 12, 2006.

related postings
[1] Lebanese Christians support decentralization . . . for Lebanon. (September 11, 2006)
[2] Al-Sadr party member does not object to federalism, but not for awhile. (September 09, 2006)

posted: tuesday, september 12, 2006, 6:01 AM ET

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lebanese Christians support decentralization . . . for Lebanon.

Iraq is not the only Middle Eastern country thinking about decentralization.

Lebanon, like Iraq, was the creation of a European power. But in Lebanon's case, the power was France, not Britain. It was originally carved from Syria to serve as a home for Maronite Christians. But over the years, Shiites became the plurality with an estimated 32% to 45% of the population. Maronites came to comprise less than 25% with the remainder being Sunnis and others.

But with the rise of Hezbollah and its acting as a state within a state, most dramatically illustrated by the recent war with Israel, a number of Maronite Christian leaders have expressed the desire for decentralization.

" 'I don't see Lebanon surviving as it is today,' said Dori Chamoun, leader of the Maronite-based National Liberal party and son of a former president and longtime political figure, the late Camille Chamoun. 'It is inevitable that the Christians will have a smaller share of the country. I only see one solution, cantonization. Everybody wants it. Nobody says it out loud.' "

"In a recent book, [former Maronite Christian president of Lebanon, Amin al-Gemayel] proposed abandoning Lebanon's current system and replacing it with election of the president by popular vote and decentralization along the geographical lines that largely define where Muslims and Christians live in any case. 'The institutions of Lebanon are tired,' he said. 'They are drained of their blood.' "

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has said recently that " 'Lebanon is a pluralistic country . . . It is not an Islamic country. It is not a Maronite country. It is not an Orthodox country. It is not a Shiite country. It is a country of consensus. You have nothing to fear from anybody from Hezbollah.' "

The Washington Post. Lebanon Left to Face Most Basic of Issues: War Exposes Deep Conflicts About the Nation's Identity and Its Future. September 10, 2006.

related posting
Al-Sadr party member does not object to federalism, but not for awhile. September 09, 2006.

posted: monday, september 11, 2006, 8:07 PM ET
update: monday, september 11, 2006, 8:23 PM ET

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Al-Sadr party member does not object to federalism, but not for awhile

"Nasir al-Saadi, a member of the bloc loyal to the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, said he did not object to a mechanism for carving the country into regions. But he said that it would be a long time before the country was ready to do that and that it should not happen until the 'occupation' had ended."

Another Shiite party, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was currently "pushing . . . legislation that would provide a mechanism to carve Iraq into largely autonomous regions," but which "would not set that process in motion." This legislation, however, angered "some Sunni Arab lawmakers who say Shiites should first follow through on a promise to allow Parliament to re-examine the issue of federalism."

The New York Times. Shiites Push Laws to Define How to Divide Iraqi Regions. September 7, 2006.

related postings
[1] Pentagon and the Coalition support "decentralized control" of Iraq.
[2] Decentralizing Iraq: More perspectives.
[3] Crack Iraq (If it works for the Kurds . . .).

posted: saturday, september 9, 2006, 8:09 AM ET
update: saturday, september 9, 2006, 8:41 AM ET

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Iraq and U.S. not supporting an Iraqi free press

"In the last year, however, as successive short-term governments have taken power in Baghdad, American support for the Iraqi news media has waned. In May the United States ambassador announced the transfer of the International Media Center, which has served as a headquarters for the international and local news media, into the hands of the new Iraqi government, which is dominated by militias and regards the news media as akin to the insurgency, something that it must defeat and suppress. In mid-July, the Iraqi prime minister threatened to close any news media outlet that insufficiently supports the Iraqi government in its fight against sectarian violence.
. . . "The American soldiers who were so helpful to us in the early days of the occupation now have a different attitude. By 2005, if an Iraqi journalist aimed a camera at a United States Army convoy, the soldiers’ rules of engagement allowed them to shoot. American soldiers have been responsible for the deaths of about 14 journalists in Iraq, the majority of them Iraqis."

The New York Times. Iraq’s Endangered Journalists. September 6, 2006.

posted: thursday, september 7, 2006, 12:33 PM ET

Monday, September 04, 2006

Time is the solution says Iraq's Vice-President

Iraq's Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi, Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani "and other Shiite leaders in the government don't share Washington's perception of a downward spiral. They also don't buy the American sense of urgency -- the oft-expressed idea that the new government has only a few months to succeed. Consequently, the many ideas for silver bullets tossed around in the U.S. debate mostly don't interest them.
You could see this in the conversation I joined at Mahdi's suite at the Ritz Carlton hotel. We journalists peppered him with questions about why the formation of a unity government had failed to reduce the violence. We asked about all the options usually talked about in Washington -- from a rewrite of the constitution to a partition of the country; from an international conference to the dispatch of more U.S. troops.
For the most part, our queries were politely and somewhat laconically dismissed. Iraq is not in a civil war, Mahdi said, and doesn't need more U.S. troops. It has a constitution and elected government, and thus there is no need for an international conference. As for constitutional reform, the Shiite and Kurd parties that wrote the charter last year are waiting for proposals from Sunni dissidents. Mahdi added: 'So far we have heard nothing.'
So what is the solution? 'Time -- that is it,' Mahdi replied. 'A nation like Iraq needs time. The elections for a permanent government happened eight months ago. We have been in office a few weeks. The people who we have in office have never governed. These people come from oppression and a bad political system. We can't import ministers to Iraq. There will be many mistakes. The Americans made many mistakes, and Iraqis had to support that.' " [1]

The Pentagon's recently released report to Congress said something similar when it spoke of the new Iraqi government's "inexperience."

"Some Iraqi ministers tend to focus on near-term performance, rather than on long-term capacity building. A lack of effective procedures within the ministries, such as policy development, procurement, and budgeting, was endemic to the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein, and three years is not enough time to reverse decades of organizational incapacity. This situation should improve with time.
Lack of proper 'tools,' such as information technology, finance systems, and planning capabilities, inhibit the governing of complex issues. The result is that Iraqi planning, budgeting, and execution processes are less than fully effective. IRMO [Iraq Reconstruction Management Office] is currently procuring and developing these tools, but it will take time—years rather than months—before Government of Iraq staff is able to use these tools fully and to manage the ministries to full effectiveness." [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Not Wanted: An Exit Strategy. September 4, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of Defense. Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. p. 13. August 29, 2006.

posted: monday, september 4, 2006, 6:40 PM ET
update: monday, september 4, 2006, 6:46 PM ET

Pentagon and the Coalition support "decentralized control" of Iraq

The Pentagon's August 2006 Report to Congress said: "To achieve unity, security, and prosperity, Iraq must develop the capacity to deliver government services to its citizens at the national, provincial, and municipal levels. The Government of Iraq must transform the country from a centralized state, with delivery of essential services traditionally controlled by powerful bureaucrats, to a responsive federal government with decentralized control. This change will take time, consistent mentorship, and an emphasis on both promoting transparency and reducing corruption. The Coalition is supporting these efforts at all levels of the Government of Iraq." [1]

The term "Coalition" usually "refers to the nations whose governments have military personnel in Iraq," including the United States. [2]

[1] U.S. Department of Defense. Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. pp. 11-12. August 29, 2006.
[2] Wikipedia. Multinational force in Iraq. Retrieved September 4, 2006.

related posting
Decentraling Iraq: More perspectives

posted: monday, september 4, 2006, 11:00 AM ET
update: monday, september 4, 2006, 12:19 AM ET

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Winning the peace

"This is a crucial moment for the new Iraqi government; its leaders understand the challenge. They believe that now is the time to hammer out compromises on Iraq's most contentious issues.
I've been clear with each Iraqi leader I meet: America is a patient nation, and Iraq can count on our partnership, as long as the new government continues to make the hard decisions necessary to advance a unified, democratic and peaceful Iraq." [1]

It would be interesting to know what these issues are. Why are they contentious? Who are the key players? What would happen if compromises can or cannot be achieved?

[1] The White House. President Bush Addresses American Legion National Convention. August 31, 2006.

posted: september 2, 2006, 4:01 AM ET

Friday, September 01, 2006

Flags of the Middle East (cartoon)

keywords: cartoon, iraq, israel, lebanon, help.

posted: september 1, 2006, 1:41 PM, ET
update: september 1, 2006, 2:38 PM, ET

Iraqi troops scheduled to take over security in Dhi Qar / Violence persists in Baghdad

"Dhi Qar will be the second province to come under the full control of Iraqi troops. British troops handed over control of southern Muthana province in July. 'This year will witness the handing over of other provinces and we hope that by the end of the year, our security forces will take over most of the Iraqi provinces,' al-Maliki said [on Thursday, August 31].
'This makes us optimistic and proud because we managed to fulfilled our promise. We were able ... to develop the abilities of our forces,' he said. 'This gives us the feeling that we are close to taking over the whole security file of the country, God's willing.'
. . . Earlier this month, al-Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraqi government forces would take over security responsibilities in September from Italian troops stationed in Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province." [1]

"A series of explosions ripped through predominantly Shiite neighborhoods in eastern Baghdad on Thursday evening, killing at least 43 people and pushing the death toll for the day to 53, Iraqi police officials reported. Nearly 200 people were wounded, adding to a week of bloody attacks throughout the country. . . . The recent attacks have . . . brought into question whether Iraqi forces can take control of security in the country’s most troubled areas anytime soon.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, said Wednesday [August 30] that Iraqi forces might be ready to take responsibility for security in 12 to 18 months." [2]

"Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has a problem. His power depends on two armies. One is Iraq’s national army, trained and supported by the United States. The other is the Mahdi Army, a radical Shiite militia loyal to Mr. Maliki’s most powerful political backer, Moktada al-Sadr.
This week, open warfare broke out between these two armies. Mr. Maliki can no longer put off making an essential choice. He can choose to be the leader of a unified Iraqi government, or he can choose to be the captive of a radical Shiite warlord. He can no longer pretend to be both." [3]

[1] WTOP. Iraqi Security Taking Over 2nd Province. August 31, 2006.

[2] The New York Times. Car Bomb and Rockets Kill 43 in Baghdad’s Shiite Strongholds. September 1, 2006.
[3] The New York Times. Which Iraqi Army? September 1, 2006.

[1] Map of Iraqi provinces. Wikipedia.

posted: september 1, 2006, 12:00 PM ET
update: september 2, 2006, 3:17 AM ET

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