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February 04, 2008



Also today an iraqi army vehicle was blown up in Adhamiya killing 3 soldiers. Clashes with de CLCs ensued.

With everyday that passes, it becomes increasingly clear that the new militias are not going to become demobilized. As for integration into the security forces, that was pretty much what was done with other militias, most notably the Mahdi Army and you see the results. The Mahdi Army is also coming back by the way. Violence has been light in the last several weeks, about 20-30 dead per day reported in western agencies, but many or most of these come from attacks that simply don´t fit in the "al-Qaida" boogeyman tale. There is a low-level turf war throughout the country going on and it´s happening between formal, "legal" factions.

I don´t know if you have read Rory Stewart. He´s an incredible, a really exceptional guy who served as deputy governor for Maysan and Dhi Qar. He says that while nobody can predict the future, the locals know their country infinitely better than foreigners and are much, much better poised to run it than a foreign army.

Iraqi leaders and militants may be corrupt, sectarian, violent and fragmented. But they also now each other, now their country and don´t their country in flames. They are far more flexible than we acknowledge. They are capable of making concessions and they are not interested in returning to the days of neighborhood massacres and market car bombs, so whenever a crisis arises, the usual response from most of everybody is to try to calm it down. In fact, this guy is now in Afghanistan and he says that if that country went right it was, in part, because there was so little US intereference and presence. Afghans were left to run their country and that involved countless things that would have been unacceptable for us.

In comparison, the US is a dinosaur in a tar pit.

Does someone really think that the US knows what the heck it´s doing?That it can know where the Awakenings are insurgent factions planting IEDs at night and where they are cooperative sheikhs?How do you tell the civilian Sadr supporter from the car stealer from the Islamist militia killing unveiled women?Often, not even Iraqis themselves know. But the US clearly believes it does, for it regularly arrests both Iraqi Security forces and Awakenings!

History has shown that the ability of an occuppier to change local politics is zero. They may be capable of defeating an open insurgency through massive violence and/or massive concessions, but in the end (unless there is formal anexation), the locals rule the place. This has held true for many "successful" wars both conventional and un-, like that of British Iraq, Philippines, and South Korea (where citizens had to demostrate in the streets and got killed by the thousands in order to topple a military dictatorship that wasn´t affected by the "freedomizing" effect of US troop presence, 30 years after they won). The Iraq adventure has been a disaster even when speaking in purely military terms, of course.

And Iran may also have an interest in blowing up the place - it´s easy to imagine a plot involving, say, some shiite militias well infiltrated who start killing Awakenings. The Awakenings retaliate, the shiites insist they are innocent, Awakenings escalate and the whole country takes up arms. But still i think it´s very unlikely a return to the days of heavy violence.


Ha! That's funny. The article that you lend credence to is the same article that you deride, and both on the same day: "inflammatory article in al-Malaf Press based on one guy".

Can't argue with expertise...


With all due respect, it is not clear to me how a (very) weak state without a central authority is to evolve into a strong state with a central authority . . . one with a "monopoly over the legitimate means of violence" characteristic of a sovereign state.

This is a chicken and egg situation for which pundits, academics, and the US political elite have continually failed to comprehend. From whence does this sovereign state evolve? Any notion that elections and parties - with legitimate leadership and loyal opposition - would spring from a condition of war and occupation is virtually inconceivable. A sovereign political state materializing out of process of elections that are supposedly the bedrock for a democracy from which competing sectors will ultimately cooperate seems naive. Instead, this obviously would and has lead to the very factionalism and sectarian strife that it was intended to prevent. This was apparent from the very beginning, and all efforts to manifest said situation made it all the more apparent over time.

So, again, who is it that has the strength to make a central authority, one that is itself strong enough to enforce law and order? Implicitly, of course, it is the US . . . the occupier who is supposedly powerful enough to play such a role. But even more obvious has been its failure in doing so, a failure for which it could never have the military capacity to do, and for which it also has not had the political capacity to orchestrate. Consequently, over time, it's efforts have utterly failed to conceal the futility in designing political solutions to problems that have there origination in the violent collapse of the previously existing political order (however corrupt and guilty of human rights abuses as it surely was). And out of this violent collapse we should expect to evolve a legitimate monopoly over violence? This is utterly nothing short of make believe thinking.

Now we are lead to believe that this Catch 22 - a dilemma that has continued to frustrate the US, demonstrating again and again that pursuit of a solution through political means is fraught with self contradictions - will now move forward based on what you term "tactical successes," successes for which supposedly should lead to "strategic progress." And that progress is the development of a sovereign state with a form, even if shallow, of a democratic central authority. Yet, what you term tactical successes only demonstrate the continuation of said failures, for which a new set of conditions is now becoming more apparent and for which one should have anticipated: conditions in which the sectarian strife will all the more intensify.


M. al-Qaysí, former Ba‘thí and current Salvific Awakener, is one very striking data point, no doubt about it:

We are an independent state; no police or army is allowed to come in," proclaims Khalid Jamal al-Qaisi, deputy leader of the US military-backed and predominantly Sunni Arab militia in charge of security in the old Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Fadhil. The Monitor accompanied Mr. Qaisi, a mid-level member of the former Baath Party, on a walk. (...) Qaisi says his men could have prevented Friday's bombings. He says the attacks only bolster his conviction that Iraq's security forces, both Army and police, are infiltrated by militias and insurgents and riddled with sectarian biases. He says his men do not recognize the authority of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and won't join the security forces under such conditions. (...) Back at Al-Fadhil, Qaisi is saluted with great deference by residents and shopkeepers. Graffiti praises Saddam Hussein and calls the guards "heroes and lions." Qaisi, in leather jacket and cargo pants, grips a crackling walkie-talkie. Two bodyguards tail him. (...) Qaisi proudly recounts how his men repelled government and US forces over the years. He blames the brutality toward Shiites in Al-Fadhil as well as their forced displacement on three Al Qaeda linked militants who, he said, have since been killed or arrested.

And then the punch line:

"The Americans asked to be our friends because we were the winners," he says...

(( Dear Max, Is there any reason why the al-Fádil neighborhood of New Baghdád can't be a properly accredited Staat? Respectfully, JHM ))


These are just two small data points in a very complex and fluid environment. But they fit with a lot of other trends and accounts

Is your current analysis any better than the rest of the analysis you've done in the past? It was less than a year ago that you were discounting "claims" that Anbar province was largely peaceful. I could come up with other gems, but really... why bother? Bottom line is, whatever happens in Iraq, you will be proving to everyone with expert analysis that it's uniformly bad, and getting worse every day.

Eric Martin

Bottom line is, whatever happens in Iraq, you will be proving to everyone with expert analysis that it's uniformly bad, and getting worse every day.

Well, you have to admit, he's got a pretty high batting average. You see, optimistic prognostications in Iraq don't have a very good track record.

Martin K

Well, the obvious macro-grip from a COIN perspective would be to build financial ties across the regions, creating an interdependence that benefitted the locals economically. Say, a factory in Basra who required parts from shops in Fallujah and Mosul. Subsidised factories and shops linked together so that the bazaar classes realise its in their best interest to work together.

But its going to be gangland in great parts of the country for a long time.


The previous story about Hashimi vetoing the de Baathification Bill proved to be a beat up within 24 hours of being posted and hasn't been updated. This one has the same feel to it. Seems that western journos and the sunni-centric commentariat are really scratching around to find bad news Iraq stories these days.

Eric Martin

Seems that western journos and the sunni-centric commentariat are really scratching around to find bad news Iraq stories these days.

Yeah, next thing you know, they'll be making a big deal about Turkish airstrikes in Northern Iraq or large scale terror bombings in Baghdad. Maybe even try to harp on the Shiite-on-Shiite violence in the south, the possible end of the cease fire of the Mahdi Army and the splintering within the Sunni ranks between ASC, CLCs and others.

Some people are just glass half full I guess!

nur al-cubicle

Bazaar classes of the world, rise up!



Am waiting for the day when Aardvark, Coles et al start commenting on the doings of Parliaments and elected officials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Gulf and the regular public media conferences held by politicians in those countries?

Eric Martin


That conversation will probably increase in volume when roughly 500 Iraqi civilians aren't dying each month as a result of roiling conflicts, when over 100,000 US troops aren't garrisoned there to keep the peace with warring factions (themselves dying at a rate of over 1 a day) and when this country isn't spending a few billion a week to maintain the presence.

Then, the inaction of the Iraqi government will be less newsworthy. I mean, there is a context that makes the machinations more pertinent. Even Bush and Petraeus say there is no military solution, only a political solution. Unless you think they're just wrong about that.


Not so sure that the parliaments and political discourse in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the Gulf are conducted publicly and vigorously as they seem to be in post Baath Iraq? I've never even read one report of Parliament or parliamentary commissions holding up cabinet decisions in those countries. In fact I've never read about cabinet decisions at all in any of those countries, let alone legislation being put to a parliament for ratification. Parliamentary opposition, in so far as it exists at all, seems be be conducted from prison?

No Preference

Seems that western journos and the sunni-centric commentariat are really scratching around to find bad news Iraq stories these days

They don't have to look far. How's the employment, public services, and civil rights scene in Iraq these days?


and they say we making progress, the surge is not working and the Sunni Awakening Councils are on strike LOL, an still being paid by US

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