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August 07, 2008

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Zathras

I fear this analysis may be correct. The surge has bought us time, but not unlimited time, and neither the Shiite factions dominant in Baghdad nor the Sunni Arabs have chosen to moderate their ambitions.

In the long term, the issues that need to be dealt with are those both sects have among themselves and with each other. Right now each is dealing primarily with Americans instead. Without the American army there, intra-Iraqi differences would very likely be settled by a renewal of sectarian strife, but if the political wheelspinning among Iraqis continues there will eventually come a point at which this strife will resume anyway, with the Americans in the middle.

We have led the Iraqi horse to water. That is as much as we can do.

Eric Martin

We have led the Iraqi horse to water. That is as much as we can do.

Well, we did a few things to the horse (and its barn) before we decided to lead it to water.

motown67

Not passing the election law is a major setback, but I don't think violence is going to be the answer. Hayes and Sulaiman out in Anbar have been notorious for their outlandish statements (it was not long ago that they threatened the Islamic Party with violence if they didn't vacate Anbar immediately) so you need to take what they say with a bottle, not a grain, of salt. Also a lot of the SOIs are closely monitored by the US which also has a lot of intelligence and data on them through their cooperation. If they decided to go back to the fight, most of them would end up dead unless they moved to another area, and a lot of them are very local in nature and wouldn't want to leave their towns/neighborhoods. That doesn't mean there couldn't be some fighting in the future, but if it does, I would think it would be very local.

What I think the delay in the law will mean is more social and political discontent with the government and the system, and people simply not listening to Baghdad, which I don't think they do much of right now anyway, and forging their own kind of autonomous fiefs/communities.

smintheus

"Not passing the election law is a major setback, but I don't think violence is going to be the answer."

But as Marc commented, toning down the violence has not been an answer either. The Awakenings groups have gotten essentially nothing of what they want. Instead, they've been offered false hopes and a retreating horizon, and told in the last few months basically to get over themselves and get a job. I think there is a real danger that they could be pushed back over by being stymied so completely. And I suspect that many Iraqis realize that a presidential election year is the best time to use any leverage they've got.

Eric Martin

Also a lot of the SOIs are closely monitored by the US which also has a lot of intelligence and data on them through their cooperation. If they decided to go back to the fight, most of them would end up dead unless they moved to another area, and a lot of them are very local in nature and wouldn't want to leave their towns/neighborhoods.

True to a large extent, but then, IEDs are a pretty good way to fight and still maintain anonymity. So there would be ways to strike without declaring open war.

Some Soldier's Mom

this is a very frightening prospect and the thought of the significant progress unraveling to any degree is disheartening. we need to be reminded that negotiations, agreements, bickering and bartering in the ME is on a different scale and timetable than what we typically analyze here in the West, but still... There is still room and time for progress (although agreed not much) so there is still a chance... and if the Maliki government knows what's good for it (and that's suspect), they'll get this done.

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