Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shiites helping Sunnis in some mixed neighborhoods; lack of trust causing some disconnects

"In the aftermath of one of the deadliest spasms of violence, a new level of fear and foreboding has gripped Baghdad, fueled in part by sectarian text messages and Internet sites, deepening tensions in an already divided capital.
. . . Yet amid the fear gripping this city of 7 million, there were also signs of Iraq's famous cohesiveness, even as the sectarian divide widened. In some mixed neighborhoods, Shiites provided shelter to Sunnis targeted by Shiite militiamen, even though they risked being branded as collaborators. Others took care of Sunni children or bought groceries for Sunni neighbors who feared walking to the local market.
. . . [And yet,] on Palestine Street, Fehad Galib heard the rumors. The Mahdi Army had rounded up 150 young Sunni men like him and taken them to Jamila Market, the area in Sadr City where two of Thursday's car bombs exploded. Then they executed them. There was another rumor -- that the Interior Ministry was handing out police uniforms to the Mahdi Army.
That is why Galib was reluctant to allow his kid brothers to stay with Shiite neighbors his family has known for decades. "We don't have complete trust in them," said Galib, 21, a college student who carries an AK-47."

The Washington Post. Baghdad Braces For More Reprisals: Cellphones and Web Spread Threats, Fear. November 26, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 3:35 PM ET
update: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 3:39 PM ET

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Former Baathists driving insurgency

"Many Iraqis and Americans who have tracked the insurgency say it has been strongly shaped by former Baath Party members who want to keep Shiites from taking power. Even the newer jihadist groups have articulated political goals on Web sites — most notably to establish a Sunni-ruled Islamic caliphate.
'There was a whole regime that ruled this country for 35 years,' said Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish legislator. 'Now they’ve gone underground. This is the main body of the resistance.' "

The New York Times. A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? November 26, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 3:03 PM ET

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Militia leaders with "political goals" causing sectarian violence

"In Iraq, sectarian purges and Sunni-Shiite revenge killings have become a hallmark of the fighting, but the cycles of violence are ignited by militia leaders who have political goals. The former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosovic, did this during the wars in the Balkans."

The New York Times. A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? November 26, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 2:43 PM ET
update: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 2:45 PM ET


Land swap federalism

"Brookings Institution fellow Michael E. O'Hanlon advocates the 'soft partition' of Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities with land swaps and help with housing and jobs, so people could relocate to places where they are less threatened."

The Washington Post. Iraq Group a Study In Secrecy, Centrism: Outside Participants Describe Process. November 26, 2006.

O'Hanlon, Michael E. & Joseph, Edward P. (The American Interest Online). A Bosnia Option for Iraq. January 1, 2007.

posted: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 2:25 PM ET
update: friday, january 26, 2007, 2:30 AM ET

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Iraq needs effective government, especially before too many professionals exit; current government may not be the answer

For whatever reason - sectarian differences, over 20 years of dictatorship, external meddling - Iraq's current government does not seem able to effectively govern Iraq at the national level.

Any country is going to have crises that come along, some more serious than others. The sectarian violence crisis was the first that the current Iraqi government had to face and it is failing to deal with it effectively. It has said that it needs more time. This is a valid concern, especially since the inherited insurgent-terrorist crisis also has to be resolved. But in the meantime, thousands of Iraqi civilians are dying and thousands more are fleeing the country, many of whom are the skilled professionals that Iraq will need in order to become successful. [1, 2] So the more time that passes, the less it seems Iraq will likely succeed since it will have less and less of the skilled professionals needed for success. And if the Iraqi government in its current form does not appear to be the solution, why give it more of this valuable time when other possible solutions are waiting to be tried?
news quotes
"Much of UNHCR's work in the first three years since the fall of the previous Iraqi regime was based on the assumption that the domestic situation would stabilise and hundreds of thousands of previously displaced Iraqis would soon be able to go home. In 2006, however, spiralling violence led to increasing displacement, necessitating a reassessment of UNHCR's work and its priorities throughout the region – from assisting returns and aiding some 50,000 non-Iraqi refugees in Iraq, to providing more help to the thousands who are fleeing every month.
Between 2003 and 2005, more than 253,000 Iraqis did return home, including from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries. Now, however, the returns have stopped and many more people are fleeing, including large numbers of skilled professionals crucial to Iraq's recovery." [1]

"Targeting of professionals, intellectuals, political, tribal and religious leaders, Government officials and members of the security forces continued unabated. The effect of violence is also affecting education, as many schools and universities have failed to open or have had their schedules disrupted and educators, professors and students were forced to leave the country. Increasing activity of extremist groups inside universities negatively affect access to education.
. . . Targeted assassination of professionals, such as journalists, teachers, professors, lawyers, doctors and other intellectuals, political, tribal and religious leaders, Government officials and members of the Iraqi security forces, police and military recruits continued to be recorded in an alarming number in the past two months." [2]

[1] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC). Iraq: Growing needs amid continuing displacement. November 2006.
[2] United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Human Rights Report. 1 September - 31 October 2006.

posted: sunday, november 26, 2006, 12:37 PM ET
update: monday, december 25, 2006, 9:43 AM ET

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Gemayel conspiracy theories

Gemayel's allies

"In the Shiite southern suburbs, Hezbollah's stronghold, shops stayed open Thursday despite a three-day period of mourning announced after Gemayel's death. As the funeral began, many watched scenes a few miles away unfold on television. Suspicion ran deep that Gemayel's allies, not Syria, were behind the killing, given the way his death has bolstered Hezbollah's opponents and put the organization on the defensive, forcing it to delay its own protests many had expected to begin this week." [1]

"The simmering struggle flared this month when Hezbollah and its Christian ally, Michel Aoun, demanded greater representation in the cabinet. Four rounds of talks failed, and two Hezbollah ministers, three other Shiites and an allied politician resigned on Nov. 11, depriving the cabinet of its Shiite representation and the symbolic sectarian consensus on which Lebanese politics depends.
Two days later, the depleted cabinet endorsed a U.N. proposal for an international tribunal to try suspects in Hariri's death, a step Syria has adamantly resisted. This weekend, in another escalation, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah insisted that the government resign or hold early parliamentary elections. Otherwise, he said, his followers would conduct days, even weeks of protests to bring the government down." [2]


"U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has diligently and courageously pursued another course in dealing with Syria's systematic use of violence to regain control over Lebanon and the fortunes in smuggling drugs and arms that Syrian politicians and generals generate from their neighbor.
Citing the conditions created by the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, in February 2005 as a threat to international peace, Annan creatively pushed for an international criminal investigation and an international tribunal to try the case. Syrian officials are prime suspects in that crime and are widely believed to be behind the assassinations of at least four other advocates of Lebanese independence that followed Hariri's murder.
The killing of Gemayel, a member of the anti-Syrian coalition headed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, bears the hallmarks of a Syrian "initiative" to block the U.N. effort. And the murder came as Syria was reestablishing diplomatic relations with Iraq after 24 years of estrangement. This translation of Syrian actions quickly made its way through the Middle East: "You want help in Iraq? It will cost you Lebanon. For starters." That is realpolitik and real communication, Assad-style." [3]

[1] The Washington Post. At Lebanese Funeral, a Show of Force Against Syria: Gemayel's Assassination Highlights Escalating Conflict Over Country's Direction. November 24, 2006.
[2] The Washington Post. Fears of Civil Strife Rise in Lebanon: Christian Cabinet Member Pierre Gemayel, Killed by Gunmen, Was Critic of Syria. November 22, 2006.
[3] The Washington Post. Realism, and Values, in Lebanon. November 26, 2006.

posted: friday, november 24, 2006, 9:53 PM ET
update: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 3:49 PM ET

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Lebanon and civil war

"Many at the rally [for assassinated Lebanese Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel] dismissed the notion of civil war. As far apart as they are, many said, they have learned their lesson.
'That's just forbidden,' said Haifa, one of those at the square. 'Me, my family, my relatives, we wouldn't take part unless the door was opened right in front of us. We're not going to fall into this trap.'
At the other end of the square, George Khouri, a 29-year-old former Christian militiaman, wasn't so sure.
Why not? he shrugged. 'It would end all these small wars. One would win and one would lose, and then we would divide the country.'
He grinned. 'It's already partitioned anyway.' " [1]

Why not split the country without a civil war, if that's what they want? If one side wants to split and the other doesn't, why would the side that doesn't want to keep the side that does in a forced relationship? It's like slavery or a bad marriage.

The Washington Post. At Lebanese Funeral, a Show of Force Against Syria: Gemayel's Assassination Highlights Escalating Conflict Over Country's Direction. November 24, 2006.

posted: friday, november 24, 2006, 9:42 PM ET
update: friday, november 24, 2006, 9:58 PM ET

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Gemayel assassination partly due to U.S. policy, some say

"The bullets that raked [Lebanon cabinet minister Pierre] Gemayel's car also fired on U.S. policy, analysts say.
'The bullets were meant for an outspoken critic of Syria. The Cedar Revolution is seen as an extension of American power, so the assassination of Gemayel was by extension a way of striking the U.S. as well,' said Augustus Richard Norton, a former U.N. peacekeeper in Lebanon and now a professor at Boston University.
Added Lebanese columnist Rami Khouri, currently on a speaking tour in the United States: 'This is the new Cold War.'
U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton said Gemayel's assassination brought new attention to the danger that Syria and Iran are attempting, through Lebanese allies such as Hezbollah, to conduct a coup d'etat against the pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora."

The Washington Post. Assassination Increases Tensions With Syria, Iran. November 22, 2006.

posted: friday, november 24, 2006, 9:25 PM ET

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Maliki solution

"Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is now saying that he wants the United States to stand back and let him use Iraqi forces to restore order. Within six months, he asserts, the bloodletting will cease.
. . . If we pull back our troops temporarily and let Mr. Maliki deal with Iraq’s problems using Iraqi forces, we will be able to determine more quickly whether he can save his country as [Vietnam's Ngo Dinh] Diem saved his in 1955. We will see whether he has the political skills to cut deals with local leaders, the support of enough security forces to suppress those who won’t cut deals, and the determination to prevent the obliteration of the Sunnis.
If he does not have these attributes, it is to be hoped that the Iraqi Parliament, the Council of Representatives, will exercise its constitutional right to remove the prime minister by a vote of no confidence. Perhaps there is a better prime minister out there. It is also possible that nationalists will try to stage a coup and install a more authoritarian, less sectarian government. We may decide to condone a coup if the situation becomes desperate enough. But we would be best advised to avoid orchestrating one as we did so disastrously in 1963 [in Vietnam]."

The New York Times. An Iraqi Solution, Vietnam Style. November 21, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:43 PM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:54 PM ET

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See how competent Iraqis are . . . in Syria

"Tens of thousands of Iraqis seeking to escape the violence that has consumed their country have fled into Syria, creating their own schools, neighborhoods and communities there." [1]

And hopefully, most of the competent Iraqis haven't left Iraq already. *

* Iraq and Syria have also restored diplomatic ties. Who needs America?

The New York Times. Syria and Iraq Restore Ties Severed in the Hussein Era. November 21, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:16 PM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:27 PM ET

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Sectarian balance causing weak government

"The sectarian balance on which the government was formed has made it impossible [to] make big decisions or ferret out corruption or incompetence.
'If Maliki discovered that one of his ministers in one of the political parties was involved in corruption or brutality, he could not fire him, because [the minister is] backed up by another political party,' said Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a spokesman for Iraq's main Sunni party, which is part of the ruling coalition. 'He'll be accused of going against [the] minister's party.'
. . . At the ministry level, a raft of corruption cases has struck fear in the hearts of administrators, who allow money to pile up rather than become entangled in a graft case. "There is an ambience where people are afraid of making decisions," an official said.
Even when decisions are made, there is no oversight to make sure follow-up action is taken, nor any coordination among ministries.
. . . Maliki appears to have recognized the problems. But many say it may be too late, that even the finest government officials can't enforce good policy with a weak government."

Los Angeles Times. Iraq's government hampered by suspicions: Elected officials acknowledge that they haven't accomplished much. November 22, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:07 PM ET


Why do Shiites target Sunnis if Al Qaeda is the provocateur?

"In a cycle that has been tracked by the American military since May and June, after months of apparently random sectarian violence the pattern has become one of attack and counterattack, with Sunni militants staging what commanders call 'spectacular' strikes and Shiite militias retaliating with abductions and murders of Sunnis.
. . . Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command in Iraq . . . said that a recent and intensive series of American raids against Al Qaeda cells, as well as against Shiite militias that have struck back at Sunnis, had seriously damaged some of their networks." [1]

So if Al Qaeda is the provocateur in this case, why don't the Shiite militias target Al Qaeda instead of innocent Sunnis? Why don't the Sunnis and Shiites band together against Al Qaeda if this is the case?

The New York Times. Cycle of Revenge Fuels a Pattern of Iraqi Killings. November 20, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 23, 2006, 2:27 PM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 2:30 PM ET

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

America-trained police station in Baghdad failing; getting little support from Iraqi government; American soldiers want to exit

"The government’s sclerotic supply chain — clogged by bureaucracy, corruption and lack of money — has failed to provide the stations with the necessary tools of policing, from office supplies to weapons, uniforms and police cruisers.
. . . Capt. Stephanie A. Bagley, commander of the 21st Military Police Company which is responsible for training the Baya Local Police Station in southern Baghdad, "decided to focus on developing the top officers, particularly the station commanders.
. . . But the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police force, has frequently changed commanders, often citing reasons of incompetence or death threats, sometimes offering no explanation at all.
. . . Over the course of the year, as sectarianism spread in the police force, Captain Bagley saw Shiite policemen balk at orders from Sunni shift commanders and Shiite station chiefs clash with their Sunni deputies.
She has also had to confront the creep of militia influence, as militia loyalists within the force used their leverage to avoid punishment or intimidate senior leadership.
. . . The company has done everything it could to help rebuild Iraq, she said, but now they want to go home."

The New York Times. A Captain’s Journey From Hope to Just Getting Her Unit Home. November 19, 2006.

posted: tuesday, november 21, 2006, 4:25 AM ET
update: tuesday, november 21, 2006, 4:34 AM ET

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Satterfield and Abizaid say partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / strongman-led Sunni region

On November 15, 2006, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton questioned David M. Satterfield, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and General John P. Abizaid, U.S. Army Commander, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the subject of partition in Iraq, among other matters.

David M. Satterfield

"MR. SATTERFIELD: Senator, with respect to partition, I'd like to be very clear on this. Partition in Iraq could only be achieved at an expense of human suffering and bloodshed and forced dislocation that would be both profound and wholly
unacceptable, I believe, to the American people. It is wholly unacceptable to this administration. The mixed communities of Iraq are found throughout the country. There is no easy map that can be drawn, no easy political decision that can be taken that would not involve death and suffering to achieve partition.
But more importantly than my views is that very, very few in Iraq wish to see partition as an outcome. Even the Kurdish leadership who enjoy a federal status within Iraq don't want to see partition. They view that as a threat to their interests because of the instability that it would produce on their borders. This is simply not an option. It's not a practical option. It's not a moral option." [1]

If partition would cause the high amount of death and suffering that Satterfield seems to be implying, then it should not be attempted. But I don't believe his assertions are necessarily true. Nor do I believe that dislocation and mixed communities are unresolvable issues. (see Saudi ambassador and Mixed cities.)

If few Iraqis want partition, then they would have to be convinced that despite any legitimate concerns they might have, partition would be in their best interest. If they could not be persuaded, then partition should not be forced on them.

As for the Kurds, I'm not sure how partition would cause instability on their borders. Such a view might assume that partition would fail. I can only repeat that I don't believe that it would necessarily fail and refer you to the above links. Though I have heard that some of Iraq's neighbors, including Kurdistan's neighbor, Turkey, don't want partition for Iraq because they feel that it might cause various sects in their countries to want their own regions as well. If this is what's being referred to then I suppose that Iraq will have to use diplomacy to try and calm any fears their neighbors might have. Iraq might say that they will not do anything to encourage demands of independence by sects in those countries. Or that partition is being done to try to stabilize their country which should in turn help avoid destabilizing their neighbors in that sense. Given the intractability of Iraq's problems, asking for a little patience and understanding from their neighbors does not seem like an unreasonable request.

Also, the Kurds supported Iraq's recent federalism law, so there must be some aspects of or forms of partition that they support for all of Iraq. If this is true, then there must be room for negotiation with the Kurds regarding some form of partition as a potential solution for Iraq that they would support.

If America partitioned Iraq and believed that it would result in disaster, then I agree that partition would not be a moral act and should not be attempted. Though as I said above, I don't believe that it would necessarily be a disaster. I don't know for certain, of course. And in the end, it's Satterfield, with his superior knowledge and experience on the subject as well as his position of power, who will influence what path will be taken by Iraq.

General John P. Abizaid

"GEN. ABIZAID: Senator Clinton, I believe that partition is not viable for Iraq. I can't imagine in particular how a Sunni state could survive. I believe it would devolve into an area where al Qaeda would have safe haven, where they would export their terror to the surrounding countries. I believe that the Shi'a state would be decidedly subject to the domination of Iraq -- of Iran -- excuse me -- and that that would not be good for the region. It would start to move the region into Sunni-Shi'a tensions that the region hasn't seen for a long time." [1]

I feel that the Sunnis would have a good chance at success in ruling their own region. After all, they were the ruling sect for the entire country of Iraq for over 25 years during the Saddam Hussein years. There region may, however, be more problematic than the other potential regions since most of the insurgents are Sunni and al Qaeda seems to be stationed in their region as well. Hopefully, the Sunnis, if given their own region to rule, will turn away from the insurgents and al Qaeda and devote their energies to rebuilding their lives. If this doesn't occur, then the Sunni region may have to be contained until the Sunnis changed their minds, if ever. Not a pleasant thought, but not much different than now, I believe. And at least the Kurds and the Sunnis could have better lives for themselves. Though they'd have to be convinced to try partition first, since Satterfield says that most of them don't want it.

Also, if the Sunnis are the main problem, only their region might need to be partitioned. So good news for the Kurds and Shiites.

On the other hand, if the Sunni region were to be the sole recipient of containment or partition, then the Sunnis might not agree to partition as a solution for Iraq and the requirement of consent mentioned above may be lost. So special efforts of persuasion would have to be used with the Sunnis. Recently, it was reported that many Sunnis wanted a strongman for Iraq as a solution for Iraq's problems. The Shiites favored another solution. (see Strongman) Maybe if the Sunnis were told that if they agreed to partition, they could choose a strongman as leader of their region they would support partition. A strongman leading the Sunni region might also solve the insurgent and al Qaeda problems since those two groups seem to be based in that region. Though the Sunnis might not favor a strongman if he only ruled their region.

And concerning the potential Iranian problem, diplomacy will have to be tried again. If diplomacy doesn't seem feasible, then I would have to question whether Iran would truly dominate the Shi'a region. Though they're both Shiites, Iraq is Arab Shiite and Iran is Persian Shiite, so while there is commonality, there are also differences. And the Iraqi Shiites would be economically independent because of their oil revenue. They're not like Hezbollah in that sense. And the Iraqi Shiites would still be part of Iraq. So it's not a foregone conclusion that the Iraqi Shiites would choose loyalty to Iran over their own country.

But let's say that the Iraqi Shiites do come under Iran's dominion, why would Sunni-Shi'a tensions necessarily be increased in the region? Iran's two big enemies at the moment seem to be Israel and America, not the Sunnis. Iran apparently has dominion over Hezbollah and Hezbollah attacked Israel, not a Sunni nation. And if tensions did increase, should Iraq be denied an opportunity at stability because Sunni nations didn't like the idea of an Iraqi Shiastan?

If partition resulted in stability for Iraq and the Iraqi Shiites chose to align with Iran that would probably be bad for America. But Iraq is a sovereign nation and the Iraqi Shiites would be a semi-sovereign region, so they should be free to make their own choices. If America wants the Iraqi Shiites to chose them over Iran, then they would have to try and make themselves more attractive to the Iraqi Shiites. America shouldn't try to win that battle by denying Iraq the opportunity for stability through partition. But I'm getting in way over my head, as I have with other areas. I know next to nothing about Middle East relations other than what I've been reading in the papers for the past few months.

So try all your other ideas first, if none of them work, take another look at partition. Though it apparently failed 60 years ago with India-Pakistan, it had an apparent success with Bosnia more recently. So maybe they know how to do it better now.

And this posting deals with hard partition since that's what Satterfield and Abizaid seemed to be talking about. I also have ideas about soft partition (federalism) and five or six region federalism in my Saudi ambassador posting and about economic federalism in my Federalize Iraq's economy posting, if you feel the need.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Questions General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, and Ambassador David Satterfield, the State Department’s Coordinator for Iraq, at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Current Situation and U.S. Military Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. November 15, 2006. (video clip)

posted: sunday, november 19, 2006, 5:04 AM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 12:46 PM ET

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Sadr becoming better politician, but his militia splintering

"Few have ever described Moktada al-Sadr, the mercurial leader of Iraq’s mightiest Shiite militia [the Mahdi Army], as a statesman.
. . . Mr. Sadr is often described as fickle, image-obsessed and having a short attention span. But lately, he has cut a more sophisticated image.
. . . Perhaps most significant, Mr. Sadr has been paying visits to the son of Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and apparently learning the arts of negotiation and compromise.
“Nowadays he’s communicating better,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser. “Grand Ayatollah Sistani is trying to bring him within the fold.”
While all this is happening, however, the war has grown far deadlier for Iraqis on the street, and many of Mr. Sadr’s supporters are following a fresh crop of more militant Mahdi commanders."

The New York Times. Influence Rises but Base Frays for Iraqi Cleric. November 13, 2006.

posted: friday, november 17, 2006, 4:19 PM ET

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Kabila wins Congo's runoff election; New constitution provides for federalism

"Incumbent Joseph Kabila was on Wednesday declared the winner of Congo's first presidential elections in more than 40 years.
. . . The sort of violence that killed at least 23 people after the first round of voting on July 30, and that people endured during a decade of civil war, did not materialize.
. . . Many here say they hope a new constitution, adopted last year, will provide some framework for reforms. The document provides for the creation of provincial legislatures, for example, that in theory will decentralize state power, allowing provinces to retain 40 percent of revenue for local projects."

The Washington Post. Incumbent Declared Winner in Congo Vote. November 16, 2006.

posted: tuesday, november 21, 2006, 3:52 AM ET

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Let there be a strongman," say some Iraqis

"It is something ordinary Iraqis say with growing intensity, even as they agree on little else. Let there be a strongman, they say, not a relentless killer like Saddam Hussein but somebody who will take the hammer to the insurgents and the death squads and the kidnappers and the criminal gangs who have banished all pretense of civility from their lives.
. . . The leading candidate for strongman, among secular Iraqis, at least, would be Ayad Allawi, whom the Americans named prime minister in the first post-Hussein government, in 2004. Mr. Allawi, though Shiite, has strong ties with Sunnis, and a reputation as a hard man that goes back to his time as a young Baathist enforcer.
. . . But even if President Bush were convinced that [current Iraqi prime minister] Mr. [Nuri Kamal al-] Maliki should go, it is far from clear that the Americans would have the means to get rid of him." [1]

"While Americans in a faraway land debate their fate, Iraqis have already decided on the cure. The only problem is that there is more than one set of Iraqis. Shiites want their country back. Sunni Arabs want a strongman. They cannot agree." [2]

"Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is now saying that he wants the United States to stand back and let him use Iraqi forces to restore order. Within six months, he asserts, the bloodletting will cease." [3]

[1] The New York Times. Could a New Strongman Help? November 12, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. The ‘Stay or Leave’ Debate in the U.S. Finds a Mirror in Baghdad. November 16, 2006.
[3] The New York Times. An Iraqi Solution, Vietnam Style. November 21, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 16, 2006, 1:44 PM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 3:58 PM ET

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

America to "emphasize effectiveness over sectarian balance."

"Some officials say, though, that the problems among Iraqi leaders run far deeper than a rearrangement [of cabinet ministers], even a sweeping one, can fix. Shiites and Sunnis are barely able to tolerate one another, and the tense relations make progress on improvements all but impossible.
. . . 'No matter how many new ministers, they are still going to have the same institutional problems,' said one American official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to discuss the subject publicly. American policy is about to change, and the shift will emphasize effectiveness over sectarian balance, the official said. 'Instead of having a rainbow coalition, they will have people who can get stuff done,' the official said. 'I think the U.S. will take a more hands-off approach.' "

The New York Times. Iraqi Premier and U.S. General Discuss Syria and Iran. November 14, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 15, 2006, 2:29 PM ET


Monday, November 13, 2006

Do you have shame of sex?

The reason I'm asking is because I keep getting these e-mails from this person, Todd, who keeps asking me this question. Day after day. Week after week. 5, 10, 20 times a day.

As you can imagine, I was quite disturbed by this because . . . I do have shame of sex. But I didn't think it was any of his business. It was a personal matter.

So I called Todd and I said Todd, Todd, please stop sending me these e-mails. Yes, yes, I do have shame of sex, but I don't think it's any of your business, so please, please, stop sending me these e-mails.

Todd said he could send me these pills. I said I didn't want his pills. I haven't heard from him since.

But then I started getting e-mails from someone named Ollie who kept asking me if I wanted more girth.

More girth! What is the matter with these people? Don't they realize that that is the worst question you could ask someone?

No, I do not want more girth, Ollie. My god.

Terrible. Shocking.


posted: monday, november 13, 2006, 4:09 AM ET
update: sunday, december 31, 2006, 11:28 AM ET


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Some Iraqi troops targeting Sunnis, perhaps partly due to new federalism law

"In July, the United States turned over “lead responsibility” for security in Diyala to the Iraqi Fifth Army Division. But within months, facing heavy violence and evidence of sectarian activities by the Iraqi Army, American commanders shelved plans to turn over full operational control of the Fifth Division to the Iraqi government on Oct. 1. 'Recent operations conducted by the Fifth Iraqi Army seem to be focused strictly on the Sunnis,' said Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, division commander for northern Iraq.
. . . American commanders also say the security forces are intimidating and arresting Sunnis who could be contenders for high political office — perhaps with an eye to welding Diyala eventually into a Shiite-dominated autonomous region under Iraq’s new federalism law. That law would allow provinces to form into semi-independent states with wide powers over internal security. *
'It just seems to be a deliberate attempt to make sure that the Sunnis are unable to organize politically here and represent themselves well in the next round of elections,' Colonel Jones said, 'because there is an awful lot at stake in this province.' "

* The federalism law will take effect in about 17 months and will allow provinces to vote on whether they want to form into a semi-autonomous region with other provinces.

The New York Times. Sectarian Rifts Foretell Pitfalls of Iraqi Troops’ Taking Control. November 12, 2006.

posted: monday, november 13, 2006, 3:11 AM ET
update: monday, november 13, 2006, 3:15 AM ET

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Maliki to make major changes to cabinet

"Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Sunday for a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, responding apparently to his six-month-old government's failure to rein in sectarian violence and reverse economic collapse.
. . . The spokesman for the main minority Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, said there was broad agreement that change is needed.
. . . A member of parliament for the radical Shi'ite movement of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Nasser al-Saadi, said: 'Parliament has given him a free hand to make any reshuffle he wants.' "

The Washington Post. (Reuters). Iraqi Premier Calls for Sweeping Changes: Maliki Plans to Reshuffle Cabinet to Rein in Violence, Reverse Economic Collapse. November 12, 2006.

posted: monday, november 13, 2006, 2:53 AM ET

Rice and Baker will probably work together on Iraq

"Over the past two months Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quietly steered the White House toward replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld with Mr. [Robert] Gates, who had worked closely with Ms. Rice under the first President Bush.
. . . Ms. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld never managed to resolve their differences, especially after their arguments over the handling of the occupation came into public view in late summer 2003.
. . . Together with Ms. Rice, Mr. Gates is expected to have to put into action recommendations by the [James Baker] study group that are likely to call for initiatives involving European allies and Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East. The new plans are expected to mix diplomacy, the training of Iraqi troops and the use of American force to quell the violence in Baghdad, and to require close coordination between the Departments of State and Defense."

The New York Times. In Gates Selection, White House Hopes to Close Rift Between State and Defense. November 12, 2006.

posted: monday, november 13, 2006, 2:37 AM ET

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Federalize Iraq's economy: The Tall Afar example

"A year ago, U.S. officials championed the military's success in pushing insurgents out of this city in Iraq's northwestern desert, reclaiming it for the roughly 250,000 residents and eliminating an insurgent safe haven. President Bush publicly praised the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's effort.
In the months since, soldiers say, Tall Afar has proved a model for the rest of Iraq, an insurgent stronghold turned relatively peaceful.
. . . Hundreds of millions of dollars was promised to help rebuild and restore Tall Afar, but the money has just started to trickle in through the Iraqi central government's staggeringly slow bureaucracy.
. . . Sectarian violence has been stemmed by cooperation among Sunni and Shiite Muslim sheiks.
. . . 'We had high hopes the Iraqi government would be able to produce more visible, tangible results quicker,' said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander for operations with Multinational Division -- North, based in Tikrit. 'How long will a civilized people that are very much in need of basic fundamental services wait before they are frustrated and look somewhere else?'
Jibouri, the mayor, said: 'You can't separate what happens in Tall Afar and what happens in the rest of Iraq. If Iraq recovers, Tall Afar will recover. If Iraq doesn't succeed, Tall Afar will again fall.' " [1]

So wouldn't it be better if places like Tall Afar could receive their funds directly instead of having to rely on the much-troubled central government? Does Iraq's future have to depend on the successful creation of a viable government on the largest, most complex, national level? Couldn't it also have the chance to succeed on the less complex, more manageable, local level where their efforts would be tied to the practical concerns of their daily lives rather than the grand, so-far-intractable, political concerns that are plaguing the politicians in Baghdad?

Maybe the role of Iraq's central government in the economy could be that of oversight. They could assert their power only in the most egregious instances of local corruption or incompetence, otherwise leaving them alone to find their own paths to success. *

* The Iraqi government is "working on the creation of their reconstruction board which would be able to disburse money more quickly for projects because the Ministry of Finance is having trouble disbursing money," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a December 14 interview. [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Tall Afar's Long Road Back: City Seen as Model in Curbing Violence Is Struggling to Rebuild. November 11, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of State. Interview With The Washington Post Editorial Board. Condoleezza Rice. December 14, 2006.

posted: sunday, november 12, 2006, 4:27 PM ET
update: sunday, december 24, 2006, 3:21 PM ET

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Iraq solutions from Democrats: Conditioned withdrawal, redeployment, Dayton-like conference

"Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who is in line to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Congress must be the agent “to make it clear to the Iraqis that we cannot save them from themselves.”
“They need to make the political compromises that only they can make,” Mr. Levin added. “We’ve got to let the Iraqis know there is no open-ended commitment.”
Mr. Levin has for several months advocated linking the presence of American troops to political progress in Iraq, a stance that Pentagon officials had dismissed as reckless but that is now gaining wider, even bipartisan, support.
. . . In calling for a timeline for American troop reductions, some Democrats have advocated a parallel increase in the number of American military trainers to improve the quality of Iraqi security forces. Some have called for maintaining substantial numbers of American ground forces in nearby Kuwait — or perhaps at major bases in parts of Iraq, such as northern Kurdistan, with lower levels of violence. Under this plan, the American troops would generally be pulled out of harm’s way in Iraq, but could act as a “quick-reaction force” to reinforce Iraqi security personnel if overwhelmed by insurgent attacks.
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democrat who is to be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would press for an international conference on Iraq, inspired by the Dayton sessions that brokered an end to the bloodshed in Bosnia by summoning Serbs, Croats and Bosnians to an American military base in Ohio for talks."

The New York Times. Democrats, Engaging Bush, Vow Early Action on Iraq. November 11, 2006.

posted: sunday, november 12, 2006, 4:01 PM ET
update: sunday, november 12, 2006, 4:30 PM ET

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Blogger in beta

I preferred the Previous Posts section in the old Blogger that listed your complete title instead of cutting it off like beta Blogger does. My long titles have been created so that a visitor can scan a title and see all the information that I want them to see in a condensed form. If the titles are cut off, then that function is cut off, too.

I would also prefer that the new label links would link to all similar title links rather than the entire post. If you had just the title links, a visitor could scan for titles of interest rather than read through a lengthy first or second posting or slog through the complete postings looking for a posting title of interest. It should be more like an index or table of contents.

You can also no longer call up old individual posts for linking purposes. You can call them up by entering its exact title into Blogger search, but you get a long string of search terms at the end of your URL It's not as authentic.

And maybe a list of label categories in the sidebar would be convenient.

Why have so many positive features of the old Blogger been dropped?

posted: saturday, november 11, 2006, 3:56 PM ET
update: sunday, november 12, 2006, 5:15 PM ET


More American dialogue with Iran and Syria may be coming

"The Democratic takeover of Congress will raise the profile of lawmakers who have repeatedly urged the Bush administration to talk to key adversaries such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, increasing pressure on the White House to stop placing restrictions or conditions on such discussions.
. . . Iran and Syria are problematic neighbors of Iraq, and critics have charged that not talking to Damascus and Tehran has hurt efforts to end the violence in Iraq.
. . . Since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took office nearly two years ago, some restrictions on dealing with Iran and North Korea have been loosened.
. . . Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is a fierce foe of engaging with enemies, but [Robert] Gates two years ago co-wrote a Council on Foreign Relations report that called for a "direct dialogue" with Iran."

The Washington Post. Democrats May Urge More Contact With U.S. Adversaries. November 10, 2006.

posted: saturday, november 11, 2006, 3:25 PM ET
update: saturday, november 11, 2006, 3:27 PM ET

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Iraqi insurgency

"The insurgency is mainly Sunni, but draws its membership from diverse backgrounds.
Fighters range from former figures in Saddam Hussein's Baath party to Sunni nationalists fearing Shia domination and foreign Islamist fighters who see Iraq as an arena for a global struggle against the West.
The incentives driving individual insurgents are equally disparate - from religious zeal to economic gain, nationalist feeling and anger at the loss of loved ones to the conflict.
Virtually all insurgent groups share the goal of attacking US forces, but other goals vary - with some elements apparently aiming to foment civil war.
. . . By 2006, US military estimates ranged from 8,000 to 20,000, although Iraqi intelligence officials have issued figures as high as 40,000 fighters plus another 160,000 supporters."

BBC News. Guide: Armed groups in Iraq. August 15, 2006.

posted: saturday, november 11, 2006, 4:25 AM ET
update: wednesday, november 29, 2006, 2:55 PM ET

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Sunni politicians charge America, Iran and Shiites with plots or unfairness, but most say need America for protection

"Sadoon al-Zubaidi, who was Mr. Hussein’s chief English-speaking interpreter and now acts as an adviser to the Sunni bloc in Parliament, said the setback for Republicans in the elections was a moment for Americans to realize what 'a total failure' the invasion of Iraq had been.
'The Americans came to Iraq three and a half years ago to do something good for Iraqis, to free them from dictatorship,' he said. 'That has failed. The Americans helped, encouraged and planted civil disorder and sectarianism.' " [1]

"Sunni members of parliament over the past two days have threatened to walk out of the legislature and take up arms. They charge the Shiite-dominated government with refusing to meet their demands for a fair division of power and natural resources.
The dean of the Sunni politicians in parliament [Adnan al-Dulaimi] said Thursday there were attempts by Iran to run Sunnis out of the country." [2]

"Sunni politicians, many of them harsh critics of American troops at earlier stages of the war, have said they consider the American troops as their only reliable protection against the Shiite militias that have struck back at Sunni insurgents’ attacks on Shiite civilians by dispatching death squads that have killed thousands of Sunnis." [1]

[1] The New York Times. In Iraq, New Calculations of the U.S. Role. November 9, 2006.
[2] The Washington Post. Iraqi Official: 150,000 Civilians Dead. November 10, 2006.

posted: saturday, november 11, 2006, 3:56 AM ET
update: saturday, november 11, 2006, 4:07 AM ET

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld resigns after Democrats win House; nominee Gates has CIA and Rice connections

"President Bush emerged from an election in which his party took what he described as a 'thumping' and ousted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday, saying that a 'fresh perspective' is needed to guide the military through the difficult war in Iraq.
Speaking at a White House news conference the day after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, an apparently chastened and conciliatory Bush said he was nominating former CIA director Robert M. Gates to replace the long-embattled Rumsfeld." [1] *

"According to General Franks, Mr. Rumsfeld was the impetus behind one of the most contentious decisions of the war: canceling the deployment of the First Cavalry Division, which was to reinforce the initial invasion force. That left the American military with fewer troops as the insurgency was beginning to develop.
It was also Mr. Rumsfeld who insisted that the Pentagon take the lead in overseeing postwar planning and the administration of Iraq in the first critical months of the occupation after the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power." [2]

"But Bush turned to him [Rumsfeld] at Cheney's suggestion, made in part as a way of providing a counterweight to Colin L. Powell, who had already been chosen as secretary of state. Conservatives were nervous about the power that the moderate, multilateralist Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, might wield over defense as well as foreign policy.
. . . Although Rumsfeld was considered less an ideologue than an unyielding iconoclast, he brought with him to the Pentagon's executive suites and advisory councils a collection of neoconservatives with strong views on the Middle East, Russia, China and other foreign policy issues. They clashed at nearly every turn with officials of Powell's State Department, setting up an internal conflict that would run through Bush's entire first term." [3]

"A longtime Soviet analyst who spent two decades at the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Gates served as deputy to Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, during the administration of George H. W. Bush. There, he worked closely with Mr. Baker and Condoleezza Rice. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, now the C.I.A. director, also served on the staff of the National Security Council at the time. **
Mr. Gates was confirmed in 1991 as director of central intelligence after a bruising confirmation fight in which subordinates alleged that he had politicized reporting on the Soviet Union.
. . . Since March, as a member of Mr. Baker’s Iraq Study Group, Mr. Gates has been pondering the central defense policy quandary facing the administration.
. . . First picked by President Reagan in 1987 to succeed Mr. Casey [CIA director William Casey], Mr. Gates withdrew in the face of senators’ concern that he had not been candid about his knowledge of the Iran-contra affair. " [4]

"Gates began his career in Air Force intelligence and then worked as a CIA analyst. While climbing the ranks at the CIA, he took detours to serve on the National Security Council for Presidents Carter, Reagan and the elder Bush." [5]

* Soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that "Democrats want to move us in a new direction – ensuring that 2006 is a year of significant transition with Iraqis assuming responsibility for their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces" [6] and "I hope the departure of Mr. Rumsfeld will mark a fresh start toward a new policy in Iraq, signaling a willingness on the part of the President to work with the Congress to devise a better way forward." [7]
** "When Gen. Michael Hayden became CIA director six months ago, his mission was to calm a troubled agency, get it out of the headlines and restore its professionalism.
. . . Hayden is now firmly ensconced at the CIA, and he's putting a military man's imprint on the place. He still wears his blue Air Force uniform to work." [8] So if Gates is confirmed as the new Defense Secretary, then the former director of the CIA will now be heading the Defense Department while a current Air Force General is heading the CIA. And Gates also worked in Air Force intelligence.

[1] The Washington Post. Bush Ousts Embattled Rumsfeld; Democrats Near Control of Senate. November 9, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. Rumsfeld, a Force for Change, Did Not Change With the Times Amid Iraq Tumult. November 9, 2006.
[3] The Washington Post. A Meek Departure From the War Cabinet. Rumsfeld Ends His Stormy Tenure at Defense Dept. November 9, 2006.
[4] The New York Times. Robert Gates, a Cautious Player From a Past Bush Team. November 9, 2006.
[5] The Washington Post. Associated Press. Gates' Views Have Differed From Bush. November 10, 2006.
[6] Nancy Pelosi: House Democratic Leader. On the Issues: Iraq. (No date).
[7] Nancy Pelosi: House Democratic Leader. Pelosi: ‘I Hope the Departure of Mr. Rumsfeld Will Mark A Fresh Start Toward a New Policy in Iraq.’ November 08, 2006.
[8] The Washington Post. For Hayden, Repair Work At the CIA. November 8, 2006.

related posting
Why wasn't Condoleezza Rice at the recent White House meeting on Iraq? October 23, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 9, 2006, 3:00 PM ET
update: saturday, november 11, 2006, 3:23 AM ET

Shiite proposal would rehire Sunni government workers

"A high-ranking commission of Iraq's Shiite-led government said Monday it had prepared a draft law that could return tens of thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to their government jobs.
After toppling Hussein in the spring of 2003, the interim U.S. authority that ran Iraq enacted a plan that purged Baath Party members from their government jobs, whether or not they had been accused of wrongdoing. The move threw thousands of Baathists out of work and is blamed by many for creating a vast pool of unemployed, disenfranchised Sunnis who later became eligible recruits for insurgent groups."

The Washington Post. Proposal Would Rehire Members of Hussein's Party. November 7, 2006.

posted: thursday, november 9, 2006, 1:17 PM ET

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Major parts of Northern Iraq scheduled to be handed over to Iraqi forces within five months

"In northern Iraq, officials said they expect to hand over major parts of the country to Iraqi forces within the next five months, but most agree that Baghdad will be far behind." *

* The article didn't say whether Kirkuk was part of the expected hand over. Also, I assume that "officials" means American officials since the article is about the American military in Iraq.

The Washington Post. Soldiers in Iraq Say Pullout Would Have Devastating Results. November 6, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 8, 2006, 9:53 PM ET
update: thursday, november 9, 2006, 3:27 PM ET

Many U.S. soldiers reject exiting Iraq before job completed

"Many soldiers said the United States should not abandon its effort here. Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.
. . . Soldiers criticized the idea of a precipitate withdrawal, largely because they believe their hard work would go for naught."

The Washington Post. Soldiers in Iraq Say Pullout Would Have Devastating Results. November 6, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 8, 2006, 9:40 PM ET
update: wednesday, november 8, 2006, 9:48 PM ET

Shiites and Sunnis split over Hussein death sentence / Shiite-American split could benefit Sunni insurgents

"Shiites praised Mr. Maliki for taking a tough stand against Mr. Hussein, but said they feared what might come next. Sunnis were angry, they said, and attacks seemed imminent.
'They had good lives before,' said Ali Rashid, a police officer leaning against his truck with other officers and drinking a soft drink in Karada, a middle-class neighborhood in central Baghdad. 'He treated them well. They’ll take their revenge.'
. . . Iraqis are dying at a tremendous rate these days, Sunnis noted. One pointed out that Mr. Hussein was convicted for 148 deaths -- a number that is not all that far from the daily death toll in today’s Iraq, which hovers around 100.
'It is the right of Iraqis to ask whether the new regime gives them a pattern better than the old one,' said a statement from the largest Sunni political party. 'The crimes that were committed by the former regime are not committed today?' " [1]

"The differences between the new Shiite rulers and the Americans are real and growing. And the paradox of their animosity is that the primary beneficiary of the rift is likely to be their common enemy, the Sunni insurgents. Their aim has been to recapture the power the Sunnis lost with Mr. Hussein’s overthrow — and to repeat the experience of the 1920s, when Shiites squandered their last opportunity to wrest power and handed the Sunnis an opening to another 80 years of domination.
. . . The failure of American troops to stop these bombings [of Shiites by the Sunnis] is a source of anger among Shiites, who have woven conspiracy theories that depict the Americans as silent partners for the Sunnis. And the rancor finds a favorite target in Mr. Khalilzad, who has become a figure of contempt among some senior Shiites in the government for his efforts to draw the Sunnis into the circle of power in Baghdad. It has become common among Shiite officials to say that the envoy harbors an unease toward Shiites engendered by growing up in a Sunni family in Afghanistan that distrusted Hazaras, Shiite descendants of Genghis Khan." [2]

[1] The New York Times. In Iraq, Shiite Joy and a Boost for Prime Minister. November 6, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. For U.S. and Top Iraqi, Animosity Is Mutual. November 4, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 8, 2006, 8:52 PM ET

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

America didn't track Iraqi weapons

"The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
. . . The American military did not . . . take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.
. . . There were also significant discrepancies in the numbers of weapons purchased and those in Iraqi warehouses. While 176,866 semiautomatic pistols were purchased with American money, just 163,386 showed up in warehouses — meaning that more than 13,000 were unaccounted for. All 751 of the M1-F assault rifles sent to Iraq were missing, and nearly 100 MP-5 machine guns."

The New York Times. U.S. Is Said to Fail in Tracking Arms Shipped to Iraqis. October 30, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 1, 2006, 3:48 PM ET
update: wednesday, november 1, 2006, 3:51 PM ET

Shiite crescent / takfir

"A nuclear Iran means, at the very least, a realignment of power dynamics in the Persian Gulf. It could potentially mean much more: a historic shift in the position of the long-subordinated Shiite minority relative to the power and prestige of the Sunni majority, which traditionally dominated the Muslim world. Many Arab Sunnis fear that the moment is ripe for a Shiite rise. Iraq’s Shiite majority has been asserting the right to govern, and the lesson has not been lost on the Shiite majority in Bahrain and the large minorities in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned of a “Shiite crescent” of power stretching from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and (by proxy) Syria."

"Even as Iran’s defiance of the United States and Israel wins support among some Sunnis, extremist Sunnis have been engaging in the act of takfir, condemning all Shiites as infidels. On the ground in Iraq, Sunni takfiris are putting this theory into practice, aiming at Shiite civilians and killing them indiscriminately. Shiite militias have been responding in kind, and massacres of Sunni civilians are no longer isolated events."

The New York Times. Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age. October 29, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 1, 2006, 3:21 PM ET

Saudi ambassador says partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / five or more region federalism / Iraqi Constitutional federalism

"Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington . . . Prince Turki al-Faisal cautioned against the notion of splitting the war-scarred nation into three sectors for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.
. . . 'To envision that you can divide Iraq into three parts is to envision ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, sectarian killing on a massive scale and the uprooting of families,' he said.
'Those who call for a partition of Iraq are calling for a three-fold increase in the problems,' Prince Turki said.
'It is practically impossible for Iraq to be divided on sectarian lines or even on ethnic lines; there is just too much intermingling of Iraqis with each other in every part of Iraq.' " [1]

There seems to be the suggestion lately that Iraq is a largely mixed population country and not the nation that outside of mixed cities is divided into largely Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south as I had read before. Was I misinformed? Does this mean I'll stop coming across descriptions such as "Shiite-south" or "Kurdish-north?" But if this is true, then the degree to which Iraq's populations are mixed will have an effect on any possible partition solutions. The more mixed, the harder it will be. Though the Shiites and Sunnis seem to be driving each other out of their respective neighborhoods, so maybe there won't be any mixed cities after awhile. That would seem to make partition easier. At least the physical aspect of it. I don't think it would bode well for future relations between the two violently formed halves of these formerly mixed cities. (see "Five or more region federalism" below and also "Federalism and mixed cities" and Land swap federalism postings.)

As to the idea that partition would lead to massive ethnic cleansing, this didn't happen in Bosnia. Though partition has apparently failed in other countries, I imagine that if it were decided to partition Iraq, either in the hard or soft version, it would be done based on the model of the successful partitions and not the unsuccessful ones. *

On the uprooting of families, from what I gather, many families have already left on their own and many others would leave if they had the means to leave or had willing countries that would accept them. The issue of uprooted families - if I'm understanding it correctly - could also be addressed by making the moving of families voluntary. If, for some reason, a family chose to remain in a dangerous area when transport to an area of safety and support was offered, they would be free to do so.

The way I see it is that given the present situation, if Iraq was divided into three or more regions of largely alike people, they could turn their attention from the killing of non-alike people and concentrate on building a relatively peaceful and prosperous region for themselves and their fellow region dwellers. They could also concentrate on building an effective security force comprised of people they could trust since having an effective security force seems to be an important factor in maintaining a relatively peaceful region. And since they would be secure in their region, they might not feel threatened by the presence of minority groups in their regions and would allow them the rights and privileges that the majority enjoyed as long as they did not threaten the majority status quo. Each region would also have minority members of the other regions' majority groups living in their region, so there could be a kind of reciprocity of good treatment of each others' minority members within each region. And also, the national government or a committee organized by the regions could serve as an independent arbitrator of any particularly contentious issues that may arise.

I believe that one of the main reason Iraq seems to be failing is because so many things seem to be tied to the efforts of a largely ineffective national government. And the ineffectiveness of the national government (though they have had some successes) seems to be tied to the unwillingness or inability of the national leaders of the different sects to work together to make the so-called hard decisions. Partition or federalism, in theory, should remove this obstacle of sectarian gridlock since each region would consist of largely one sect, so that each ruling sect should be able to make the so-called hard decisions without having to deal with the intractable opposition of the rival sect members. And when they make these so-called hard decisions, each region should be able to build the necessary political, economic and security structures necessary for the well-being and contentment of their respective constituent population.

Minority rights will be an important part of this type of majority-ruled region. The existence of minorities within a majority-ruled region should not preclude the successful existence of this type of region. Kurdistan would be an example of a relatively successful majority-ruled region that respects the rights of its minority members, more or less.

Good relations and well-defined borders between the regions would also be important. Support of insurgencies into one another's territories or fighting over land would not make for a model of stability. Just because the national sect leaders couldn't get together in making decisions does not mean that regional sect leaders couldn't get along with one another on the diplomatic level. The vital and potentially exacerbating issues of money and power that had to be grappled with on the national level would largely be absent from the inter-regional level. Each region would already have these things, so the relations between the regional leaders should be much less complex and antagonistic than they apparently were for the purely national sect leaders.

There are probably other possible ways besides federalism of overcoming the sectarian divisions and creating an effective government. These may work as well, as badly or better than federalism, but I've been following federalism, so am concentrating on the possibilities of that potential solution.

I am also not advocating sectarianism for its own sake, but only as a possible solution for the present conditions that seem to exist in Iraq.
soft partition
I would probably prefer a softer form of partition, like Kurdistan, because it appears less drastic than hard partition and would seem less objectionable to the people in Iraq. Though many apparently oppose soft partition as well and federalism should not be attempted without at least a majority consent.

80% violence area partition
On November 15, 2006, General John Abizaid said that "around 80% of the sectarian violence in Iraq happens within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad." [4] So maybe only that area needs to be partitioned. They seemed to have already tried blocking off Baghdad without much success, however, if that's the same as partition. There might also be benefits to federalizing (i.e., soft-partitioning) the area outside a partitioned 80% violence area. Their trusted regional security forces could help protect them against any violent influences that slipped through the 80% area's partition. These defensive actions could also help contain the violence within the 80% area as well as allow the Iraqi national and Coalition forces to concentrate their efforts on the 80% area since the federalized areas would largely be handling their own security. Self-defending federalized outer regions might also serve as a de facto partition of the 80% area if a formal partition of that area was not constructed.
Five or more region federalism
A US Government map of religious and ethnic locations in Iraq seems to indicate five clearly defined regions that consist largely of the following five groups: Kurd, Sunni, Shia, Kurd-Sunni and Shia-Sunni [3]. So if partition were chosen as the solution, then maybe instead of three regions (Sunni, Shia, Kurd), they could have the above five regions instead, with a possible sixth region consisting of the 80% violence region.

Much of the tension in the mixed Kurd-Sunni or Shia-Sunni regions may be coming from the more homogenous regions. Moktada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army militia, is headquartered in Najaf in the southern Shia region and most of the insurgents and terrorists seem to be based in the Sunni region. It could also be coming from outside countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia or America. The point is that they're coming from the outside. Even if local people are being recruited to take part in the sectarian violence, it seems like it is the outside forces that are doing the recruiting. Or the locally organized violence is a reaction to the violent actions of these outside forces.

From what I read in the papers, many of the people from these different sects seem to say that they got along before the rise of the sectarian violence. And they apparently still get along, even risking their own safety to help one another. Though this seems to be changing. But hopefully they aren't too far gone to revert to their old generally harmonious ways if given the opportunity. So if it is true that most of the people in these mixed areas get along or recently got along, then why could a mixed area not be viable? Isn't it the outside, provoking forces - the militias, insurgents and others - that are causing the problems and are giving the mistaken impression that most members of these different sects have a deep-seated desire to harm one another? And if the majority of people in these mixed areas could be protected from these outside forces, couldn't their areas be as viable now as they were before the rise in sectarian violence?

If these mixed regions became federalized, they might be able to protect themselves from these outside forces better than the current national government is able to do. They could focus on the building of their mixed region and not be tied to or influenced by these outside forces like some factions within the national government seem to be. The mixed regions would need to know the complete truth of their situation and have a strong belief in their ability, as a large and powerful group of like-minded people, to take control of their lives. They must also get organized, formulate a viable plan and find the best way to implement their plan.

These mixed regions might also turn out to be more secular than the homogenous regions since one religious group would not predominate. This would be especially good for those who would prefer to live their lives in a largely secular manner. They could be like Iraq in the 1970s before Saddam started attacking everyone. Those who would like to live in an area governed by one religion could live in the Sunni or Shiite region. And the people in those regions who don't like that way of life could move to one of the more secular regions.

(The Sunnis might not be overly religious. I don't want to confuse them with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The Sunni-dominated Saddam era was secular. But still, they seem to want to dominate, so the mixed region could provide a place for those who don't want one sect to dominate.)

And the mixed regions, being located between the more homogenous regions, might also serve as buffer zones between those regions. After they established their independent natures, they might even be able to serve as mediators between those regions - assuming tensions still existed - since the mixed region between the Sunni and Shiite regions has both Sunnis and Shiites and the mixed region between the Sunni and Kurdish regions has both Sunnis and Kurds. (The Shiites and the Kurds seem to largely get along with one another already.)

With over 2 million Shiites, Sadr City could probably be part of the Shiite region even though it's in a mixed region. The Shiites could also form two or more regions if their various subgroups could not work something out. And I also read that the some of the persecuted Iraqi Christians would also like to form their own small region, so this would be something else to consider. [6]

Iraqi Constitutional federalism
The Iraqi Constitution contains a fairly detailed plan for federalism. Since they've seemed to have already thought it through, this is probably the plan that should be followed, more or less, if federalism ever occurs in their country. It doesn't specify a set number of regions either. Each governate (or province) votes on whether it wants to form a region by itself, with others or not at all. So secular or Christian, as well as any type of Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish regions, are all possibilities under the Iraqi plan. [7]
Iraq could still be one nation under all the above partition-federalism systems, if that's what they wanted. Iraq's political system could be similar to the United States which has 50 federalized states. It's already covered in their Constitution. [7]

There are some other issues to consider such as the apparent objection of many or most Iraqis to federalism and the problematic nature of the Sunni region. These issues are discussed in another posting. (see Satterfield and Abizaid say partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / strongman-led Sunni region.)

footnote (Bosnia counterargument)
* "There are so many people killing so many other people for so many different reasons -- religion, crime, politics -- that all the proposals for how to settle this problem seem laughable. It was possible to settle Bosnia's civil war by turning the country into a loose federation, because the main parties to that conflict were reasonably coherent, with leaders who could cut a deal and deliver their faction.
But Iraq is in so many little pieces now, divided among warlords, foreign terrorists, gangs, militias, parties, the police and the army, that nobody seems able to deliver anybody. Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war -- it's gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It's Hobbes's jungle." [8]

Maybe Iraq is too splintered now for federalism-partition to work. But if they were to try, they might try the following: Militias, parties, police and the army seem to be sect-based. So if they were grouped into their respective sect-based regions, the previously warring subgroups might possibly be able to come to an understanding. Working together with subgroups of their own sect would seem more likely to succeed than with subgroups of other sects. Many say that the Shiites are splintered now, but that they are attempting to form a united front. (Though if the Shiites or other sects weren't able to work together for some reason, the formation of two or more subregions is always a possibility.) To take another example, Kurdistan had a number of warring factions in its early stages, but they were able to come to an understanding for the common good. So there's always hope.

Warlords, foreign terrorists and gangs would be a police-security matter that could be handled by the hopefully effective police-security forces of each sect-based region with assistance from coalition forces. And the improved economic and political structures that were built by these regions could reduce the number of recruits for and support for many of these violent splinter groups.

So it would be a two-step solution. The subordination of sect-based splinter groups under a common sectarian power base would come first, then the coalition forces could battle the police-security-based splinter groups until a region's police-security forces was ready to take over. And since the sectarian splinter groups of the first step seem to presently constitute the majority of violence, the number of coalition forces needed for the second step should be much less than is needed now.

And though Bosnia has provided a proven, time-tested model for a possible ending to the war in Iraq, it seems to be experiencing difficulties when it comes to building a workable government. So a new model for this important government-building aspect of Bosnia may be needed. (see Bosnia posting, 1/20/07.)

[1] The News - International. Saudi warns of mass ethnic cleansing if Iraq splits. November 1, 2006.
[2] Embassy of the United States. Baghdad, Iraq. Transcript Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey during Joint Press Conference. October 24, 2006.
[3] BBC News. Living in Iraq: People. No date.

[4] U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony. GEN Abizaid. November 15, 2006. (prepared statement).
[5] The New York Times. A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? November 26, 2006.
[6] The Associated Press. U.S. Iraqi Christians Seek Help. December 15, 2006.
[7] Iraqi Constitution. ( Accessed January 26, 2007.
[8] The New York Times. Ten Months or Ten Years. November 29, 2006 [TIMES SELECT].

[1] Biden, Joseph & Gelb, Leslie. ( Biden-Gelb Plan for Iraq. Accessed January 7, 2007.
[2] O'Hanlon, Michael E. & Joseph, Edward P. (The American Interest Online). A Bosnia Option for Iraq. January 1, 2007.

posted: wednesday, november 1, 2006, 1:56 PM ET
update: sunday, march 18, 2007, 9:24 AM ET

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Sunnis seemingly unhappy with offer of proportionate share of oil revenue, despite having little oil in their region

"Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, seemed to set out a Shiite vision when he said that while Shiites “have the numbers” in Baghdad, Sunnis who joined in building the new Iraq could look forward to “sharing the wealth” in oil.
But he implied that Sunnis were having difficulty reconciling to the new political realities. “Some of these politicians are not prepared, mentally or psychologically, to make the compromises necessary for us to live cohabitively,” he said.
. . . Nearly a year after national elections, the Sunnis, and not just the insurgents, remain unreconciled to the loss of primacy they enjoyed for generations — and to the loss of revenue they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein. 'The problem is that in 2003 the Sunnis got 70 percent of the oil, and now they are being asked to take 20 percent,' Mr. Galbraith said. *
. . . The Iraqi Constitution, narrowly adopted last year, envisages a formula for dividing the revenues among provinces or regions proportional to the populations in each area, with some adjustments." [1]

A US Government map says that Iraq is 20% Sunni Arabs. [2] says that "Sunni Arabs are approximately 15 percent" [3] and the Times of India says "roughly" 12 percent. [4]

"Iraq has for centuries been ruled by Sunnis. Democracy has now empowered the Shia majority, and Sunnis fear the consequences.
The biggest oilfields in the country are in the Shia south, and the rest are in the northern Kurdish region. There is no oil in the Sunni triangle in the middle of the country." [4]

"Sunni Arab leaders [also] fear that any plan to divide Iraq into regions would eventually shift control of its oil wealth to the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, leaving them with the relatively barren central and western regions." [5] **

"Meanwhile, the Shiites, or at least the leaders of the religious parties that control the government, have become increasingly strident in insisting that after generations of Sunni domination, it is now their turn to rule." [1]

Mr. Galbraith is Peter W. Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq. [1]
** I'm not sure if the 20% oil revenue being offered the Sunnis is guaranteed and not vulnerable to eventual loss to the Shiites and Kurds.

[1] The New York Times. U.S. Envoy Arrives in Iraq as Tough Options Loom. October 31, 2006.
[2] BBC News. Living in Iraq: People. No date.
[3] Sunni Islam In Iraq. No date.
[4] The Times of India. The Shia-Sunni battle for oil. October 1, 2006.
[5] The New York Times. In Victory for Shiite Leader, Iraqi Parliament Approves Creating Autonomous Regions. October 12, 2006.

posted: wednesday, november 1, 2006, 10:37 AM ET
update: saturday, november 11, 2006, 5:37 AM ET

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