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July 19, 2007



So when we leave, things might actually get better?

Holy Mackerel Batman! The winger are wrong again?

Who knew?

Gregory Gause

Abu A: I agree with everything you said, up to the point at the end when you imply that once the US leaves, these guys (I like the "LRF" designation) will be ready to sit down and talk about what a new Iraq will look like. You follow this much more closely than I, but I get the impression that most of these guys think that the current Iraqi government is nothing but a puppet of the US, and that once the US leaves, the government will fall. So why talk to it? Why not push for power on the battlefield rather than negotiate?

I think that, once we leave, the LRF will test its strength against the government and Shi'a militias. They think they can beat the Shi'a. They will have to take their lumps (which I think they will, just on the numbers) before they will be ready to bargain. Our being there just postpones that inevitable test of strength.

Eric Martin

FWIW: I agree with Gause. There's going to be a bloody period - a testing of relative strength - before the negotiations become the more attractive option.

Still, it is a positive development - essential really - that the Sunni armed resistance establishes a political wing. The more unified, and the more representative, the better. That way, possible negotiated settlements will have a better chance of sticking.

Whether or not there is an uptick in violence preceding a negotiated settlement (I hope there isn't, but think there will be), the creation of a political wing is a must if such a settlement is to come about.


Eric, that does assume that a unified Sunni group just doesn't become a better target for the US. That's what the US does better - analyze, identify and attack organized groups. It also assumes that the Shiite groups don't step up attacks against such a group, on the grounds that it's more dangerous in the civil war.

Eric Martin

Eric, that does assume that a unified Sunni group just doesn't become a better target for the US.

I'm not sure I follow you here. This unified political group would not be the armed wing, and would not require the armed groups to wear one identifiable uniform or come out and congregate in places that make them easy targets. Presumably, the armed groups would continue to go about the business of armed resistance in the same manner as today (hard target style), just with an attendant political group to pursue the political track. How does that make them better targets?

That's what the US does better - analyze, identify and attack organized groups.

But they're already organized groups. This political wing does not organize them more than they are now, it just gives them a political wing to voice and pursue their interests. A unified set of political goals does not make them any more organized for targeting purposes.

It also assumes that the Shiite groups don't step up attacks against such a group, on the grounds that it's more dangerous in the civil war.

I expect the Shiites and Sunnis to keep fighting - much as they are today. The attacks will likely step up when the US leaves regardless of whether or not the Sunni armed resistance gets a political corollary. I don't see, again, how a political wing of the Sunni resistance makes heightened conflict any more likely. Are we to assume that the Shiites wouldn't fight back hard if the Sunni armed resistance lacked such a political entity?

Unless I'm missing your point Barry, which I've been known to do.

Dan Collins

So, once the US leaves, the Sunni insurgents are going to lay down their arms and. . . agitate (?) for better Sunni representation?

Bwahahahahahahahaha! Tell me another one.


Is this a revamping of the shortlived Reform and Jihad Front? Will be interesting to see if it can stay the distance longer than its predecessor.

You say the groups have been articulating these positions clearly and consistently for months but this is the first time I have seen the policy "temporary technocratic government" and "free elections" spelled out.

Nobody wants to give the surge any credit, fair enough, but surely the role of the surge beating back AlQI and JAM is creating space for the emergence of a starting-to-get-coherent Sunni political voice?


You guys have no clue of what's going on,US will leave Iraq humiliated just like what happened in Vietnam ,when will the American government and the herds will learn from history ,just when, I want to know.
Maybe never.


I was a passionate activist in the Vietnam days and the Iraq situation is completely different. Vietnam was not in the middle of the region supplying most of the world's oil demand.

It's impossible to imagine any scenario where the US won't be forced to keep significant troops in Iraq even under a Dem administration. No US admin can possibly afford to "lose" the Middle East.

John Ballard

No matter who is the next president or how the domestic political winds blow in America, the US will have forces om Iraq and elsewhere in the region for years to come. Our grandchildren will be paying taxes to maintain their presence. Oil is part of the reason, but transnational business interests of all kinds combine to make a US military presence essential.

I'm not arguing that this is desireable, only that it is the most realistic scenario.

Both parties know at some level that whoever the next president is will get high marks for a de-escalation of the war. Dems mess around in the hope of getting that credit and the GOP does likewise in hopes of somehow retaining oontrol of the White House.

By the time another president is elected a status of forces agreement with whatever passes for government in Iraq will have been nailed down. Soon thereafter American casualties will decline--probably dramatically--as ground and air forces hunker down more safely in a strategically-placed network of little Green Zones. I think they called it the "Lily Pad" strategy.

Meantime my guess is that those who claim Iraq as a fatherland, both Sunni and Shiite, will be even more difficult for their neighbors to manipulate than they have been for America. Kurds, desert Arabs and a few other groups will have a tough time, but in the end I predict Iraq will emerge much more viable than most people predict.

When? I give it eighteen months.

Just a gut feeling, you know. If people in high places can have them, so can I.


There isn't really much that's new here - other than the public political profile being adopted by groups that have, as Marc says, preferred to remain in the shadows - and really conforms to everything we learned from interviewing rank and file and middle management members of resistance groups in the process of making our film, Meeting Resistance.

The "leaders" here - like all people who stand out front to speak for the Iraqi's - are simply articulating the direction and desires of their "followers" and you're probably right to suppose that - after long discussion - the timing of this kind of move is related to a belief that the US is preparing for a withdrawal. However, the idea of entering into "negotiations" with the US is an idea that can easily be misconstrued and the only topic on the table that is negotiable with US or British representatives is that of the timetable and terms of withdrawal. This may be hard to take for many Americans - across the political divide - but is the only negotiating position that will fly with the fighters. Any "leader" foolish enough to overstep that authority will lose their following.

The "LRF" term is, indeed, quite funny considering these same people were being referred to not so long ago as "AIF" - or Anti Iraqi Forces - but are now seen in such a different light by the US military and media. Of course, the LRF (recently adopted US military acronym for Legitimate Resistance Forces)are the same people whose nationalist legitimacy the United States has refused to recognize for the past 4 years and, in the process of attacking them and their communities, have further brutalized the society with the result that many have been recruited by more extreme groups. Moreover, the nature of the groups has been known for almost all of those 4 years, having been the subject of a November 2003 NIC report submitted to the Pentagon and the White House. But that knowledge has not impacted either policy or the harshness of operations against them.

So, what does come afterwards? First of all, there are few among Iraq's Arab population - Sunni and Shia alike - who believe that the powerful SIIC and Dawa parties are the legitimate heirs to the mantle of leadership in Iraq. They are broadly seen as having sat out the dark years of Iraqi history in the comfort of foreign capitals and have little knowledge or understanding of the Iraqi people - facts only belatedly recognized by the SIIC hierarchy and probably too late to make a difference to their image among the Iraqi people. When the Americans leave they will have lost their protectors and will probably go back to where they came from.

That leaves the Sadrists (not just Moqtada's followers) whose nationalist credentials - despite all we know and believe we know - have remained pretty much intact. This is who the resistance groups will eventually sit with at the table and will probably use their Shia members as the primary negotiators.

Will there be bloodshed? For sure; the people who have gone to extremes will need to be dealt with if they refuse to fall into line and there will certainly be a good deal of jockeying for power among those seeking their share.

The main question, really, is not what will happen when the Americans leave but can the US leave at all. In that respect, Hootsbody is probably quite right.


These leaders also say that it is their belief that the US will soon withdraw its forces, and not the strength of the American 'surge', which has prompted their decision to step forward into the public political realm

You (and they) state the obvious, while at the same time pretending as if you've discovered a great secret that "Americans" have been denying :P

Yes. Iraqi Sunni Arabs are very much interested in staying alive, and staying in Iraq. If they can't come to some kind of settlement with the Shia in Iraq before the US withdraws, that won't happen. Iraqi Sunni Arabs will be gone from Iraq, one way or another.

You are right. That's the beginning and the end of their thought processes. They've just now realized how much trouble Al Qaida has bought for them. Where is the mystery?

Personally, I think it's 2 years too late. The Sunni are going to be driven from Iraq, and Al-Qaeda (when it loses Iran's support) will relocate to Syria. Al-Qaeda will have no way to function once they don't have Sunni areas to hide in.

Iraq is fucked. US is fucked. Al Qaeda is fucked. The only people who aren't fucked are the Iranians. And this makes you happy, right Marc? A great victory for Islam, eh?


Oops, having misread the end of H's post, actually believe he's not on target in his conclusion and the US will still be fighting a war in Iraq for many years to come.


"This doesn't mean that these insurgents are "good guys" -- they are the most effective forces fighting the American presence in Iraq, with much American blood on their hands, and their goal is to keep the insurgency's focus on fighting the American occupation. But their goals are not the same as al-Qaeda's."
What do you expect from any resistance movement whether in Iraq or elswhere,did you really believe Ahmed Chalabi when he told you,Iraqis will welcome you with sweet and flowers and maybe with some cucumber and tomatoes.
Off course,any Resistance movement would take arms to defend themselves and liberate their country,wouldn't ya Abu ardvak do the same thing,when your country become under the most brutal and criminal occupation in history??



I think you misunderstand Abu Aardvark. He's not on the American side. He's a "critic" of the US and that put him by default on your side.

But for what it's worth, you are wrong. What is happening in Iraq doesn't happen "everywhere" - it's never happened anywhere except a Muslim country. Who else but Muslims is stupid enough to think that the best way to win a war is to slaughter their own people until the invader gives up in disgust? Nobody I ever heard of.

And Marc is dead wrong when he talks about "attrition" - the US casualty rates are negligible compared to every other war we've ever fought. It doesn't matter how much the media tries to spin it as a horror story, this war has painless for America.

Marc should know that the reason Americans want US forces out of Iraq is they are disgusted with the way things have been moving in the wrong direction for the last 4 years. Every year is worse than the last. What's the point? Why not just get out now and let whatever is going to happen, happen? US can't fix Iraq, that's clear to everyone by now.

Wait 6 months and Mark will acknowledge this truth, and claim he's been saying it all along :)

Sorry Marc, but that's your pattern.

Non-Arab Arab

> What is happening in Iraq doesn't happen "everywhere" - it's never happened
> anywhere except a Muslim country. Who else but Muslims is stupid enough to
> think that the best way to win a war is to slaughter their own people until
> the invader gives up in disgust? Nobody I ever heard of.

Well, there's the two biggest countries in the world to start with, China and India. The Vietnamese turned on each other, the war against the Americans and French being a civil war as well. Algeria saw plenty of Algerians fighting Algerians, Quisling Norwegians fought anti-Quisling Norwegians, native American tribes fought each other just as much as they did invading Europeans. Pre-state Zionists fought each other on more than one occasion. The list could go on and on, this is not a historically unique situation.

> It doesn't matter how much the media tries to spin it as a horror story, this
> war has painless for America.

Please go tell that to the veterans, amputees, and loved ones of the dead. To say nothing of the orders of magnitudes greater number of dead and injured Iraqis of all political and sectarian backgrounds.


Previous commenter, your "Iraq-like" examples were far fetched and unworthy of a response.

Please go tell that to the veterans, amputees, and loved ones of the dead. To say nothing of the orders of magnitudes greater number of dead and injured Iraqis of all political and sectarian backgrounds.

And could you possible have come up with a more effective emotional red herring to confuse the issue? That's almost as good as "think about the children!".

I actually know a number of people who've served in Iraq. Do you? Oh, I know, your best friend is an Iraq war vet, I'm sure. So sure. You don't even need to tell me the tale.

Non-Arab Arab

All were examples of foreign occupations coupled with severe internal strife and power struggles. Many (China for the 1st half or so of the 20th century in particular) were far bloodier. Seems quite comparable, on what grounds are you arguing they are not comparable? Each unique of course, but the variations represent reasonable dispersions around the mean, not a totally different central tendency to put it in statistical terms.

We can look to many other examples throughout history as well - Roman occupations often met with violent resistance even as the societies resisting were torn apart by internal bloodshed. Think the Jewish Zealots versus the Herodian aristocracy for example. The Visigothic Christians of Spain despite what appeared to be a solid cultural and economic hold on the Iberian Peninsula melted away virtually instantaneously before the Berber and Arab armies because of internal divisions. Centuries later the Nasrids of Granada and the Moors in general fell victim to the same internecine struggles (granted these Spanish examples are different in that the occupiers ultimately succeeded, but the same in that foreign encroachment was accompanied by internal fighting). Looking further north, the Irish fight for independence (with its lingering correlary in Northern Ireland) is full of Irish-on-Irish bloodshed. Looking south, the South African fight against Apartheid rule saw severe fighting such as the Inkatha vs ANC bloodshed in the final years leading up to the demise of white rule. To go back to China, Communist vs Nationalist violence and the violence of both sides against the civilian population eve under Japanese occupation was almost to horrendous to comprehend.

If I had time to do anything but off-the-top-of-my-head responses the list could balloon and include examples from every continent (ok, maybenot Antarctica) and every era in history. Societies fighting internally and even ripping themselves apart even as they face foreign occupiers is nothing unique in the world and absolutely not unique to Iraq or the Muslim world. Introduce similar problems into societies, and the negative results are remarkably similar throughout time, geography and "culture".

Eric Martin

Craig should engage the argument. It is made in good faith, is cogent, based on sound historical analysis and ultimately persuasive.

Actually, due to that, I can understand his reluctance.


The comments are interesting, and "Non-Arab Arab" is really very good, but all the same, poor POIR, this sudden mushroom of a "Political Organisation of the Iraqi Resistance," rather gets lost sight of in the shuffle.

The POIRites seem to have a particular historical analogy in mind. They hope to stand to the GOP invaders as the FLN once stood to De Gaulle and say something like "Just come talk to US, Mr. Colonialiser, ignoring all other offers, and then we'll help you get yourself out of this impossible corner that you've painted yourself into!"

However the circumstances are so different that it is very unlikely anything will come of it.


There was also a very perverse (as I'd call it) expert response, also in yesterday's Guardian .


I think you will be interested in reading this transcript from AC360 on CNN last night..

And this one released today by the "islamic army in Iraq"

In all we can say that IRAN won the war..


NAA - The sheer magnitude of the systematic slaughter of (mainly) shiite civilians conducted by AlQI as a deliberate campaign from '04 onwards is rather telling? Am not sure there is any precedent in post medieval times, except maybe Khymer Rouge and and German Nat Socs? From my reading of the chronology the insurgency started splintering after AlQI began slaughtering Sunnis as well as Shiites in late 2006 after some insurgent groups resisted joining the ISI?

You're right to say it's not a Muslim thing, but it sure does appear to be a Salafi/Wahabbi Sunni thing?

Non-Arab Arab

bb: I think this thread is getting quite broad, but may as well keep going with it now. I'm afraid that in post-medieval times, slaughter on this scale and worse is also not at all unique. I mentioned China pre-1950s, but if we're expanding beyond just instances of foreign occupation, China in the first decades of communism needs to be added to the list too. All in all, tens of millions likely perished in China over the course of the 20th century. Stalin's purges, also likely tens of millions. Of course the Nazis and Khmer Rouge as you mention. But the list is much longer: the US in Vietnam - somewhere between 1 and 3 million Vietnamese killed. In the Congo over the past decade, I think the numbers are an estimated 2-4 million killed in incredibly brutal circumstances (far worse than the admittedly awful situation in Darfur). And of course Rwanda of which the Congo is in many ways an extension and the 800,000 dead there in the 90s. The Algerian war of independence - they claim a million dead, but even if exaggerated likely in the hundreds of thousands with another 100,000 or so in the civil war of the 90s. Who knows how many in Afghanistan over the past 3 decades. Former Yugoslavia in the 90s. Numerous Japanese occupations throughout Asia prior to and during WWII - hundreds of thousands if not millions killed and horrendous ways that in many instances were very much on par with the Nazis (the biological warfare experiments and Rape of Nanking in China coming most obviously to mind, but many other attrocities as well). The native Americans virtually from the north pole to the south pole over the course of a period stretching from the end of the middle ages to in some people's view the present day (read this book for a fascinating discussion of the topic: http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Columbus/dp/1400032059/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-2533287-1927212?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184977218&sr=8-1 ). The partition of India with it's I think million or so dead. And countless conflicts where "merely" tens of thousands or thousands have been killed around the world (Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Spanish Civil War in the 30s, US occupation of the Philippines, Colombia, Nepal, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Turkey vs Kurds, Iraqi Kurds, Lebanese civil war, northern Ireland). The list could go on and on.

Sadly, killing on a massive scale is commonplace throughout most of the world today. And while in the west we may not often live with it in our own cities and neighborhoods, we are very often in the thick of it as we send our armies abroad where they too engage in mass killing. This is an evil which seems to know no ethnic, cultural, or geographic bounds over the course of time.

That said, in the specific instance of Iraq, is it a Salafi Jihadist "thing". Clearly that's a piece of it in this instance, Abu A documents it quite well. My point is simply that it is by no means limited to that ideology or corner of the world. Man's inhumanity to man sadly stretches across the world and one needs to look to socio-economic structures, resource dislocations/competition, elite power structures and struggles, etc. to get at the real causes. It's a lot more complex and doesn't give the easy but false answers which so many gravitate towards in their desire to have a simple means to understand our complicated world.

Andrew R.

I came into this conversation rather late, but the Ba'ath insurgents seem to have already budged a bit from their initial negotiating position. Most of the Ba'ath groups initial demands were, IIRC, that the Ba'ath party be recognized as the only legitimate government of Iraq. That they're talking about holding elections seems to indicate that they've already moved a bit.

OTOH, they could just be saying what they think Guardian readers want to hear.

nur al-cubicle

Now there's this...

07/22/07 Reuters: Blast near Baghdad kills 5 Sunni leaders - police
Five Sunni tribal leaders opposed to al Qaeda were killed when a suicide bomber drove a minivan packed with about half a tonne of explosives into a house in Tadji, north of Baghdad on Sunday, police said.

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