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January 21, 2008


LT Nixon

So they allied with us to battle Iran?!? The fun never stops in this place.


What if any reaction to this interview has there been from Iraqi Shiite sources?

Iranian influence must certainly be a factor within Shiite political factions and elements of the Iraqi government. However, one might expect many Shiites to view fears of Iran expressed by Sunni Arabs as -- at a minimum -- disingenuous, statements of men who equate Iraqi patriotism with Sunni Arab suppression of Shiites. The narrative suggested here about insurgent violence against Iraqi civilians (again, primarily Shiite) is also one Iraqi Shiite might not believe.

But those are merely inferences, and I'd really be interested to know if the al-Arabiya interview has generated any response from a Shiite source.


It seems to me that the Awakenings were a low and mid-level movement, which the Islamic Army leadership being a decentralized organization like the rest of the insurgency could not control. Or perhaps the leadership aproves of the awakenings, but does not direct it anyway.

Proof of this would be in that the Islamic Army is still reportedly fighting in some places, its Mosul branch split from it and pledged to continue fighting. Mosul still is wracked by an insurgency even though Iraqi army and police presence there is very heavy. An awakening movement was announced back in september but it hasn´t had much of an effect. In fact i just read in Iraqslogger that the Islamic Army commander for Mosul was killed with silenced pistols in the center of the city, and (some iraqi paper provided the info) he was killed because now the Islamic State is committing the same errors and forcing everybody to join it. I´m sorry i cannot access the full info in iraqslogger.

There´s also evidence from a blogger in Adhamiya, that the Awakening thing wasn´t coordinated from the top, and much less by the insurgents! In Adhamiya all insurgent factions pledged to get rid of their "bad" members, change their behavior, re-allow shiites in the neighborhood and reconstruct the place in general. This wasn´t reported in the western press, but actually the Awakening arrived a week or so later!And if they almost didn´t have to fight for the place it was because the insurgents withdrew or simply laid low, they didn´t "wrest from the hands of al-Qaida" anything.

It seems to me that insurgents may be saying the truth when they say that they would like to continue attacks on US forces, but they cannot continue doing so because they would clash with awakenings. The awakenings and insurgents may have a "friendly" relationship and co-exist peacefully, but they are not the same (the sheer number of CLCs is much larger than the insurgency), and for the moment the insurgents are out of job.

This happened, in my opinion, simply because people had had enough. Kamal Abu Risha was somewhat candid when he said that "there came a moment when we couldn´t distinguish between resistance and terrorism", the level of mayhem and constant bombings and fighting, with some self-proclaimed mujahideen subjugating everybody else, simply broke the people. Anbaris jumped on the opportunity they had to rise against the extremists (earlier attempts to form neighborhood militias by sheiks had been disarmed by americans) - and, once they´d kicked out takfiris, they found out they liked the calm that followed and could tolerate US presence.

And of course, many awakening or CLC leaders may now find out that carving a fiefdom is a better future than fighting the US - that, in fact, fighting the US will put them in the spotlight. Better to lower their heads and quietly steal whatever their can and kill the occasional dissenter, like many militias have done in Congo and countless other conflicts. Occasionally violence will flare up, and of course these groups will employ Mahdi Army-style rethoric about the occupation, how they kicked out americans and now mujahideen are in charge. But they´ll just become the thugs running the neighborhood.

The various factions will never allow a strong central government to come in with an army and disarm everybody - much less in a place with so much mistrust and recent mass killing. So "power-sharing" will indeed take place, and rather naturally and informally - except that not among the iraqi people, but between the various warlords nominally represent a sect or a neighborhood, and a weak, factionalized central government. They will more or less agree, Basra-style, in that SMUGGLING OIL IS A BETTER IDEA THAN BLOWING UP PIPELINES.

If you have time and interest, read about democracy and nation-building in violent societies (James L. Payne) and specially "criminal warfare" by John Mueller (this guy is a genius).

It is worthy of mention that many in the awakening itself, when interviewed, speak badly of the US military and praise "the national honest resistance", which in their opinion is the cause why the US is now planning to withdraw, some even claim the awakenings are the resistance itself which has just morphed.

In other places the uprising may have been precipitated by the Islamic State´s disastrous attempt to impose itself by force. In late 2006 and specially early 2007 there were a lot of reported things that hadn´t happened in earlier years - killing people for not shaving their beards, attacking other insurgent factions and the like. But the past cause will be of matter mostly to historians and we cannot know with certainty, anyway. What matters is the future. (I don´t think that formal political reconcilation, in the form of passing some famous laws and accepting some militias into the security forces, matters much either)

Bottom line is: Awakenings aren´t a sign that "iraqi people" (or specifically sunnis) have "turned away from violence" but exactly the opposite. They are signs that violence has become, or perhaps has always been, acceptable to get to power. Warlord power-sharing is inherently an unstable, violent, undemocratic way of government, just look at Basra. Still, i don´t think we´re going to see the kind of massive bloodshed seen in 2006 and 2007. War will just quietly fade away.

(this is funny because it´s also pretty much the same situation as in Darfur now - and George Clooney is crying that we send troops there in order to "stop the genocide")

Still, now that internal fighting is receding, i think the US presence will be put on the spotlight. I think that eventually the insurgents will reassert themselves (probably attacking the US out of the populated and urban areas where the Awakenings are), and that will be the main cause of conflict. The US could still make yet another catastrophic blunder and give iraqis more and more fighting instead of quietly and quicly pulling out - the guys at the top seem determined to stay in Iraq forever!

Two other things. This could be already happening, perhaps in Arab Jabour/Salman Pak which has been for several months a focus for Awakenings (there are about 30,000 of them in the Triangle of Death area), and the place hasn´t seen much violence, sectarian or of any kind recently, but still regularly sees attacks on US forces. It seems that the Awakenings just stay in an area and allow insurgents to operate, as long as they don´t give trouble and don´t threaten to take over.

And, the Mahdi Army is smarter than the Islamic State guys. They didn´t go crazy when awakenings started to appear in their areas in and around Baghdad and, instead, they´re "selectively killing" a few of them but allowing the movement to go on. (Mahdi Army militiamen have also stopped roaming the city ni search of sunnis, alcohol vendors and the like. In my opinion this is due to the ceasefire and self-restraint rather than US-iraqi security, there were pretty nasty clashes in Washash, right in the face of everybody when a Mahdi leader was killed and the rest sought revenge).

So unless US soldiers begin to be killed in significant numbers again, the coming months will probably be very boring for us.

saeed uri

We need feed back on Egypt and the its future after the bringing down of the wall! Check out my blog, would like to hear your thoughts.

Mike Honcho

I met Abu Azzam and his deputies. They are who they say they are!

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