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February 06, 2008



The Awakenings may be flexing their muscles, but these things are normal. Whoever has guns and is willing to use them rules now. Hatem´s very comments make it clear that Iraq cannot be a democracy with such a political class.

The powder keg is not that there are going to be new elections sooner or later, but that a political leader can make such threats and still get away. I cannot read arabic but if such comments are true it speaks bemols about "liberated" Iraq.

BTW i don´t understand your obsession with the "reconciliation" thing. It´s obvious that none or very few civil wars end with the opponents hugging each other and acknowledging past mistakes. Wars do not end when someone passes a law, but when the killing ends (or shortly thereafter). If reconociliation eventually comes at all, it is after the war. Take this as a constructive critic - i love this blog and debating about Iraq.

There isn´t anything alarming on political fragmentation either. Fragmentation is a fact, there are several major militias and literally hundreds of factions, but very few real conflicts among them producing serious bloodshed. So it actually isn´t troubling that there are 30 Anbar tribes, 300 Awakenings or 144 "militias" in Basra (such a count must include small criminal gangs) and that they are all armed to the teeth: if everybody more or less agrees on common issues, keeps its turf and doesn´t meddle in other guys´ areas, it´s OK.

Now, if tomorrow the Iraqi Army began deploying heavily in Awakening areas and Iraqi government inflamed its rethoric against "criminal militias who thing of themselves as above the law" and saying that now areas can be outside state control, THAT would be an example of something troubling.

But it isn´t happening. There are signs everywhere that Iraqi leaders and combatants want to avoid a major confrontation. Iraqslogger just published that the Mahdi Army is giving back some houses in Baghdad so sunnis.

So yes - there are tensions and there is even a low-level turf war pitting many factions, as evidenced by many security incidents. But they don´t seem willing to escalate the violence.

I think the greatest threat comes from the Mahdi Army whose freeze is crumbling, and more generally, American actions against armed groups. With the end of the freeze approaching, Americans should be trying to appease Sadr rather than raiding whole neighborhoods as they did in Hurriya today. And if sunni insurgent attacks on US forces make a comeback, which seems to be beginning, the US may still find a way of blundering into the abyss again.

BTW you recently had a link "looking inside the islamic army", i cannot read it but you could comment on it?


It's always good news when rare and unpopular opinions like "elections are a crock, let's have negotiation processes instead!" get themselves expounded competently. Even if one is not the least bit tempted by the nifty new heresy, rehearsing the stodgey arguments for orthodoxy keeps one's mental muscles in trim.

Happy days.

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