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February 19, 2007



Dear AA,

a few comments:

- "We invited some but they weren't able to come" is a shamefully weak excuse by the organizers for the fact that there was not even one Sunni Arab participant on that panel. (1) They should've tried harder. (2) If, indeed, despite their valiant attempts, for some technical reason the Sunni Arab participant(s) didn't make it, then the organizers should've announced it. That's basic public policy/relations.

- SCIRI's al-Saghir is absolutely right when he describes the violence in Iraq as "political action by self-interested parties". But what he fails to understand (or tries to obfuscate?) is that ALL of those self-interested parties are communalist ones of sectarian and/or ethnic and/or ethno-sectarian sub-categories. Al-Saghir is trying to make the situation look much less dramatic than it is. But in the age of mass communications that is, luckily, a futile attempt and just makes him look bad.

- I don't quite understand Kimmett's logic that the new Baghdad security plan was needed to & aiming for "to create a secure political space which would allow Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences and move to a new political consensus". The Iraqi politicians HAVE a secure political space - the Green Zone. Even if the new plan were to work out (which, as recent news show it isn't) how would that change anything in terms of the Iraqi government, parliament, and associated politicians? Would the various parties to the conflict come to a liveable agreement if Haifa Street is peaceful again? The inability of a national reconciliation on the level of the politicians has little to do with security in Baghdad but more with the development of Iraq's political space into a communalist one. Just look at Lebanon: Beirut's been peaceful for 18 years now, yet the political (communalist) parties have STILL not managed to overcome the basic problems.

- Satterfield is a good example for the argument that, unless there are fundamental changes in the way the US admin approaches the Middle East, nothing will change. With a "it's all the Sunni-AlQaeda resistance's fault" they won't get very far. He and Al Jazeera deserve each other.

And in the spirit of "EVERYONE reads AA" -- my latest 10 Cents:

From Iraqi society to societies in Iraq
"From Iraqi society to societies in Iraq" - Some further thoughts (It's on Aqoul -> it MUST be good!)



Abu Muqawama

It could just be that Satterfield is displaying a keen understanding of traditional counterinsurgency strategy by focusing so much on American public opinion. That, after all, is the focus of the insurgent. In a "classic" insurgency, the goal of the insurgent is to cause the counterinsurgent and his populace to question whether or not the continued occupation is "worth it." Think France in Algeria and Indochina or America in Vietnam. I have no doubt Gen. Petraeus understands this, and I bet Satterfield does as well. In that light, the need to focus on American popular support for the war is understandable.

The irony, though, is that America is not in the middle of an insurgency in Iraq -- not anymore. It's in the middle of a civil war. Accordingly, I echo Chandrasekaran's complaint that this is all too little, too late. Would have been a good strategy is fall of 2003, though...


It's interesting that you should mention the remarks about al-Jazeera, because I've been coming across these accusations from some Iraqi friends as well. One couple in particular, whose judgment I really trust, has told me on several occasions that they find Jazeera's Iraq coverage to be incendiary and blatantly pro-Sunni if not pro-Saddam.

One of the reasons why I trust their judgment is because they're an old, educated and mixed couple, and I usually find their assessments to be very balanced and objective. Unfortunately, my Fus-ha is not good enough for me to understand more than a bit of Arabic television, so I'm forced to take others' word for it.

What's your take on this?



AA: on the question of "what then", once Bush's "patience runs out", don't you agree the signs point to a national-security government run by Allawi and all that ilk? Anybody talking about that at Doha?

MSK: Excellent piece you linked to at Aqoul. On the whole question of the level of the discussion and so on, I have suggested to an institution that they should put together a serious daily Arabic news summary something like what I am trying to do only thorough, broad and deep, might be just the slot for you. Only one problem: They're just thinking about it.


Marc, many thanks for this account of the US-Islamic World Forum. It shows that there can be meaningful debate to be had, even if this is mainly had on one side (the Islamic). I say that the debate is being had on their side because one thing distinguished pretty much every single Arab / Islamic speaker that you mentioned: each addressed reality as it is and not as it should be.

Instead, what kind of comments do the man that represent America, an innovative and intelligent country, make?

"we don't believe that Americans want to see failure in Iraq, what they want is to see a plan for success."

Well, sir, the issue in Iraq is NOT about what Americans "want to see" or "perceive." What all this kind of empty daydreaming amounts to is nothing more than blind support for Bush's authoritarian project both at home and abroad, and we cannot simply shape his warmongering into some acceptable form that we perceive. I'm sorry if I'm being vague: my point is a simple one, and it's that facts on the ground, reality, have to determine policy. It is not the other way around, and many intelligent Americans are not led by this delusion that we are "creating democracy" even as dozens of people die every single day as a result of our invasion and occupation. It's a causal connection, sir, and you can't deny it.

I'm glad that we have reasonable people on the other (Islamic) side who can explain such things to Mr. Satterfield.

I also found the discussion about Al-Jazeera to be very interesting.

"Satterfield, radiating barely contained fury, bit out that any al-Jazeera viewer would find these questions familiar since they were staples of its coverage and suggesting that the station should concentrate on the future of a democratic Iraq rather than on provocations (provoking another round of laughter)."

So let's just be quite clear here. "These questions" are ones relating specifically to the American responsibility for launching a pre-emptive and unnecessary war of aggression. It is a legitimate question, and the fact that Al-Jazeera can ask it and the Washington Post can't is a sign of the lack of press freedom to some extent. Self-censorship and all.

See, people like Bush and his diplomats will always focus on the "future," but never on the "present". We could fix the Iran issue within weeks if we just engaged in dialog and made concessions like we did with North Korea. This would also be an important step in provoking a regional cooperation pact to solve Iraq, that would involve Iran and Syria. It wouldn't be perfect, but as soon as the neighbors (and the Gulf Emirates and Saudi too) agree to a regional pact, that will begin to relieve the tensions on Iraq. This regional pact would necessarily give much more self-determination to the Iraqi people themselves, which means that the U.S. would have to fully withdraw and remove all bases as Arab (and non-Arab Iran) come together to help stabilize Iraqi tensions.

It has a much bigger chance of success than constant U.S. occupation and the resulting resentment and resistance that provokes. And there definitely are people in the Middle East, as this very conference demonstrates, who are both capable of and willing to take the steps to stabilize much of the current tensions in the Middle East. The question is whether America will loose the reins and allow more self-determination.


The reality is that life for the average Iraqi is today much worse than it was under Saddam. So, is this merely a situation of "it needs to get worse before it can get better" or is this a situation which has spiraled down into total chaos that can either get worse if left to local actors, or perhaps get better with major external involvement?

Unfortunately, I believe that even these may be academic questions at this point. Political realities in the US are such that the US has no option but to claim success by redefining its parameters. At the present trajectory, Iraq is likely to result into a failed state of 3 regions: northern Kurdistan, southern and eastern Shia state aligned with Iran to include Baghdad, and western Iraq (Anbar). Sunni Iraqis will suffer in the mix and most will become the new Middle East Diaspora causing strain on both Jordan and Syria.

The US will define success as a functioning north and south/east with US forces fighting "Al Qaeda" in Anbar. Thus, the US will be able to have its cake and eat it too. A partially functioning Iraq and a continued "war on terror" in Anbar. Of course, the fact that the only real winner from the US invasion of Iraq is Iran will be ignored.

Another possible outcome is that fracture lines between Syria and Iran may emerge as a result of the fact that Iran appears to have gained from all this while Syria will be faced with a humanitarian and political crisis.

What is interesting, however, is from a larger regional perspective, does this imply that the US will have to make its bed with the Iranians? And, if so, with all the mixed signaling coming out of DC with regards to Iran, does that mean that the debate is brewing there too, or is this a situation of deliberate disinformation to obfuscate US military designs on Iran?

Nur al-Cubicle

This looks to me to be a "World Forum" in the sense that the US baseball championship is the "World" series. If those fellows from France's CNRS and IFRI (they speak English) would have there, Satterfield would have melted down.


Our presence in Iraq only has to endure until bush leaves office, then, it is someone else's problem and the bushistas can pretend that the wargasm was a success all along - until it was stabbed in the back by the liberals.


I'm new to this forum so forgive me if my points have been previously covered.

It is typical of the U.S. administration to bury the obvious in a pile of minutia. The points previously made are consequences of The Project for a New American Century not from problems originated by the Iraqis. The U.S. invaded a sovereign nation based on lies, occupies that nation by military force, poisoned its' land with over 3000 tons of depleted uranium, and now blames the nation it occupies for the chaos. Three cheers for newspeak.

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