“A Dayton Process for Iraq?” Rahim

Sword2_lgAmbassador Rahim is on the lower left in happier days.

My article "Towards a Concert of the Middle East" covered much the same ground in "The National Interest on Line."  The article can be read here on SST.

Rahim’s formula is an outline of the only really promising idea for sufficiently lowering the "temperature" in the Middle East to avoid prolonged armed struggle, political instability and the real possibility of another war involving the United States.

It is increasingly obvious that the "nations" of Iraq are not going to resolve their competition, rivalries and mutual hostility through the medium of a parliament and elections.  VP Cheney can talk himself blue in the face trying to persuade Iraqi politicians that they should "play nice," but they are not going to do it.  The Shia Arabs now run the country and they are not going to negotiate that away.  The Kurds are happy in their mountains and do not want to give their Sunni Arab enemies anything of value.

Are the odds good for the success of the kind of sustained diplomatic effort that both she and I favor.  No.  The odds are terrible, but it is "the only game in town."  That will be obvious after Petraeus delivers his "non-report" in September.  pl


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24 Responses to “A Dayton Process for Iraq?” Rahim

  1. Matthew says:

    The outcome we want is an Iraq government that lets us–and our corporations– stay. And if you were a Shia or a Kurd, how could you possibly let the Sunnis anywhere near the Interior Ministry or the Ministry of Defense?

  2. FDChief says:

    Okay. My understanding of Dayton is that the ONLY thing that made Dayton possible was the success of the Croatian offensive (backed by NATO airpower) that threatened a straightforward battlefield defeat for the Serbs. To prevent the possibility of utter capitulation, they signed the Dayton agreement as the best of the worse options available.
    Is there any evidence that military pressure on the Sunni muj will produce a similar effect? And, more to the point, any evidence that the Shia government will be willing to compromise the way the Croats did?
    If so, this may be a way forward. Otherwise, I would suggest that the Iraqi factions have not given up their maximalist dreams.

  3. Charles says:

    Isn’t most of this moot, given Condi’s comments about the long haul this week. Plus, why would Shrub and Dicky Dick pull out before the presidential election if a) they’re true believers, and : b) vicious pols who play for keeps and thus would like nothing more than to leave this stinking pile of shite to destroy the next Democrat presidency?
    On the other hand, today Jaun Cole is reporting that a majority of Iraqi parliamentarians haves signed a petition calling for the U.S. to leave.
    Which government is supreme? Hint: they were installed by the Supremes

  4. Cold War Zoomie says:

    This article reminds me of an interview with David Trimble I heard yesterday on the radio. He was asked what lessons we can take from the last decade of the negotiations to end The Troubles in Northern Island. He responded, “none.” To paraphrase his point, the only reason the process worked is because all of the competing groups’ arguments were evaluated on each of their merits only within the current context in Northern Ireland. No other “models” were imposed on the process. He then changed his mind and said there was one lesson to be learned: “it’s possible.”
    When I lived in the UK, they wouldn’t even let the voices of IRA “terrorists” be broadcast on the TV or radio. Whenever Gerry Adams was on the tellie an Irish actor’s voice reading the transcript verbatim was dubbed almost perfectly in synch with Gerry’s mouth!
    Back then, no one saw a solution.
    Now they are sharing power.
    It’s possible.

  5. FB Ali says:

    The proposal deals with only part of the problem that is bedevilling Iraq, and hence will not produce the results hoped for. Unlike the Yugoslav situation, there are powerful external players whose own important interests are involved in the Iraq situation : Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US. A solution has to satisfy, to an acceptable degree, these interests.
    That is why a regional understanding and agreement, formal or informal, has to precede any such “Dayton”, or other similar, process for there to be any chance of it succeeding.

  6. This is one of the most creative suggestions I have seen for moving forward in Iraq. I agree the odds against it are very long, but it is worth a try.

  7. whynot says:

    The one thing Petraeus won’t be doing in September is offering any sort of defintive judgement. He’ll simply say he needs more time to gage the effectiveness of the surge and he’ll report back in…whenever.
    I love your work Pat, but I don’t see how you ever put any faith in anybody inside this WH. Because if a critical judgement is on the horizon, a replacement will be put in place before it sees the light of day.
    November 2008 is the only thing that can change the script. Even then, the Dems will be no better. They’ll just execute better, they’ll tell us.
    Unfortunately for this country there is not courageous soul left in our political discourse who can make difference. Until there is a horrific large scale event or events killing many of our people in Iraq nothing will change. Cowards rule our capitol, and nobody cares.

  8. CletracSteve says:

    I have been following this and other moderate and thought provoking blogs for quite a while. I see constant discussion and arm-chair quarter backing regarding our situation in the M.E. I am not belittling this in anyway, however I have turned increasingly pessimistic with each month. I see absolutely no hope of any rational/political/logical/negotiable/… solution being applied to our M.E. problems for the following reasons:
    A: POTUS/the current administration has not yet told us why HE is in Iraq. Each sequential excuse was, quite simply, a lie, until the last one: “failure is not an option”. We are in Iraq because he decided to invade. Without a concise and moderately forthright answer we cannot determine our objective. Without an objective, there is no way to build a strategy and no way to know when we have succeeded.
    B: I believe there are four reasons we are in Iraq. 1: American business/oil interests (champion Dick Cheney). 2: AIPAC and constant chaos and killing of Muslims (champions Wolfowitz, Kagin, Perle, Feith …) 3: GWBush wanted glory and power and to show his father (champion GWBush, Rove) 4: Many right-leaning Americans and the Press wanted a war to show “we” are in the right and Iraq had been highly pushed as a justifiable target (champion Fox News, Wall Street Journal, much of MSM). With 1 through 3 still in effect and striving for results, neither will accept a solution until it gets its own way – their only intersection is absolute subjugation of Iraq to BushCo. With these separate and driving forces, the administration has to negotiate within itself first and, with noone’s life in D.C. on the line, no MacMansion in flames or SUV out of gas, but American Idol on TIVO, neither 1,2 nor 3 has any impetus to compromise and accept any less than complete subjugation.
    C: Given Secretary Rice’s comments about the Lebanon invasion being the “birth pangs of the New Middle East”, the entire region has been pushed further into conflict, and none of the local major players (Egypt, the 3 Iraqs, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and possibly Turkey) can afford to let down his guard, relinquish what he perceives he may have at this point. And the Iraq, Lebanon and Palestinian populations are truly desperate.
    The above (A,B and C) acting in consort prevent any solution. Logic, strategy, negotiation have no role yet until there is sufficient attrition. Supporting negotiation currently on our part would acknowldege capitulation. We are neither in a position of strength nor do we know what we want. I personally believe that either we have to, through an election, remove the forces of A, B1, B2 and B3 and then try to address C above or else simply withdraw lock-stock-and-barrel right now. The statements that the region will fall into chaos are comical. In engineering, one removes the forcing function first (The U.S.A. being the biggest right now) in order to achieve a steady state.
    An aside but to me a most disturbing anecdote frightens me even more. I have served in Viet Nam and saw how a war can kill the spirit and community of people as no government can. I also worked for years in the intelligence business. I was at a classified Gov. facility just before the Fallujah invasion. The TV news (CNN) was on in the background with reporters suggestion that the invasion was about to start in a day or two. There was a cheer from some with one saying “Now we are going to get them!” The war had become to many not about any objectives, just about showing that we had bigger and better guns and would blow their F** heads off. We were there to win, to smash them, not to achieve any strategic objectives. Has the Army manual not been rewritten to replace fighting for the U.S.A. and its principals to fighting for the team? We may truly have reached a point where we are so confused that logic and strategy cannot be applied.
    Facts, reasoned debate, analysis, strategy, evaluating consequences, historical analogies with this administration and its unleashed conflicting forces driving our foreign policy are simply for the entertainment of idle man. We have no leadership. The Middle East simply mirrors our own policy, constitutional, economic, environmental and moral chaos. However, I will still read this blog since there are so many admirable contributors, lucent ideas, historical perspectives, complete sentences and I have some idle time. Thanks to all contributors and I pray Pat Long can go back to discussing the Civil War in a few years. There, at least, each side knew its objective.

  9. taters says:

    Dear Colonel Lang,
    To date your “Concert” is the best I’ve read regarding possible solutions for Iraq and the region.
    Re the Concert – The idea that France would join forces with Russia and England to defeat the Ottoman and Egyptian fleet at Navarino so soon after the Napoleonic Wars is pretty amazing to me. What commonality(ies) can be found with countries in the ME today for something similar? Certainly a disdain and hatred of al Qaeda is shared by many,including Iran and the Shi’a.
    And as far as the Dayton Accord goes – I like what Ambassador Rahimstated –
    The differences between Iraq and Bosnia should not deter us from using the Dayton process as a model.
    Thank you for an excellent read, sir.
    Robert Murray

  10. Richard Whitman says:

    Let us remember that the person who puts the conference together and makes it work gets a Nobel Peace Prize. This brings the big egos out. My guess is that if the next administration is Democratic, Bill Clinton will be designated “ambassador extraordinary for the Middle East”.He would love to stick a Nobel Prize Medal in the eye of the guys who impeached him.

  11. Duncan Kinder says:

    There was a cheer from some with one saying “Now we are going to get them!” The war had become to many not about any objectives, just about showing that we had bigger and better guns and would blow their F** heads off.

    Ralph Sawyer, in Unorthodox Strategies for the Everyday Warrior, his translation of the Chinese Ming Dynasty military text, One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies, includes Item 47, “Profit”:

    Whenever engaging an enemy in battle, if their commander is stupid and does not understand change, you can entice him with apparent profits. If he covets profit without perceiving potential harm, ou can establish ambushes and have your forces suddenly strike him. Then his army can be defeated….

    It also includes item 21, “Arrogance”:

    Whenever the enemy’s forces are exceedingly strong and you cannot be certain of defeating them, you must speak humbly and cultivate obsequious behavior to make them arrogant….

    and item 45, “Recklessness,”:

    Whenever engaging in battle, you must first analyze the enemy, investigating them carefully, and only then send the army forth. If you advance without estimations and engage in battle without plans, you will inevitably be defeated by the enemy….

    The index lists the following principles for manipulating the enemy, which are discussed throughout this book:

    • confusing them
    • deceiving them
    • disordering them
    • enticing them with apparent profit
    • feigning defeat and chaotic retreat
    • feigning weakness
    • harassing and psychologically weakening them
    • playing upon their character and emotions
    • provoking them into action
    • seizing or threatening what they value or require
    • temporizing (refusing battle)
    • threatening them
    • tiring and debilitating them

    The Bush administration, out of arrogance and greed, recklessly invaded Iraq without adequate planning.
    Once in Iraq, the military has been subjected to the various listed manipulations.
    If onlly Bush had read Sawyer’s book, which was published in 1996.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A Dayton like process with a clear concuion is no longer feasible within the time left for the current US Administration. The problems and issues are too intertwined and intricate to be resolved or managed before 2008.
    However, the President of the United States can initiate such a process, to be completed by his successor. In this manner, he could signal US intentions.

  13. searp says:

    I read CletraSteve’s comment with interest and largely agree.
    It has little bearing on the original post, except to point out that a Dayton process is almost completely out of the question for this Administration – nobody would come if we were still fighting, and we aren’t going to stop fighting.
    The Dayton-like process will occur after we have substantially withdrawn and the Iraqi factions have fought to near exhaustion. The only real question now is how long we have to wait.

  14. Larry Mitchell says:

    “POTUS/the current administration has not yet told us why HE is in Iraq.”
    I think a major reason was the desire for a permanent American base in Iraq, and that could not be stated publicly. I think there was a belief the democracy could be installed there and begin to save the world. No one will mention that now for fear they will be held to it and get their nose rubbed in it.
    The real reason for staying now is that GWB is a loser if he leaves and perhaps something better if we wait for his successor to leave. Remember how quickly Nixon became the bad guy with Johnson’s war?
    Your thoughts make a lot of sense to me. The parallels with Vietnam are many, and unlike many whose comments appear in this blog, very few in the current administration were able to learn from Vietnam in an up close and personal way.
    The hard part is not figuring out what happened to get us here but what needs to happen now. The sad thing is that I believe we are in a holding pattern until 2009. As our host here has mentioned, we could at least be using our presence there as a negotiating wedge to try to move forward, but I don’t think negotiation is seriously considered at this time. That will probably insure that the loss of lives and money is truly wasted.

  15. JfM says:

    When the three parties to the Bosnian Conflict came together in the early winter of 1995 in Dayton, the issue was framed in terms of how to divide Bosnia rather than how to unite them. Then the concept of a three-party divorce sponsored by the US was accepted; the task was division of property. Today the United States insists on maintaining the union of the non-state Iraq. Today the principal obstacle to employing a Dayton-like modality is the United States continued resistance to the idea of division. Another inducement to resolution in Dayton was the quick realization that delay would prolong the three parties having to linger in the presence of Richard Holbrooke, an insufferable horse’s ass. Izetbegović says he was willing to sign anything to resolve the matter of dividing Bosnia just to get on a plane home and away from Holbrooke.

  16. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    A serious and sustained diplomatic effort is certainly needed particularly as Bush43 has made the greatest strategic mistake in our history with the Iraq War and the bizarre “transformation” policy.
    But the US Establishment policy elite has no coherent and serious National Strategy as a point of departure for dealing with the Middle East mess, which is regional but has global implications and effects.
    Brzezinski’s neo-Mackinder fantasy as laid out in his book “The Grand Chessboard” appears to have been the core of the US Establishment’s geopolitics during Clinton Admin and then to have been modified some (but not dropped) under Bush43. Wolfie endorsed the book, for example.
    As we live in an emerging multipolar world, and not in the unipolar fantasy of Establishment pundits, we ourselves are going to have to adjust to new power realities including diplomatic factors, economic factors, psychological factors, and military factors.
    It is not within our power alone to solve the Iraq-Middle East mess that we have created even if we depart militarily from Iraq tomorrow morning. FB Ali’s point about external forces is well taken and I would include the interests of other major powers: China, Russia, India, Japan, EU (or individual EU countries). The UN is the appropriate forum for a conference as Rahim proposes. But ALL the major powers have to endorse the process as the major powers impact on regional players and have substantial regional interests.
    Our Republic has shot its bolt with this war, and will, no doubt, inevitably pay a high price for some decades to come. As I have suggested to my college students, they will face the consequences of Bush43 for the rest of their lives on this earth.

  17. Cold War Zoomie says:

    CletracSteve brought up the dreaded “oil interests” as a major reason we’re in Iraq. I don’t see why oil would not be considered an extremely important factor in our national security. And national security is why we go to war.
    Industrialized nation’s economies are based on oil, not gold. Oil is used to build roads, transport goods, grow and preserve food, make rubber and plastic, as well as fuel cars. It’s in every industrialized country’s national interest that oil flows as freely and inexpensively as possible.
    The “blood for oil” crowd seems to think we’re there just to boost the profits of Exxon-Mobil. I think it’s pretty obvious that the Cheney Administration invaded on a belief they could stabilize the region after 100 years of foreign tinkering. And a stable ME means industrialized nations keep stable economies, and we can smoothly transition to other energy sources while the oil runs out.
    Personally, I don’t see the goal of stabilizing the ME to keep the oil flowing as wrong in any way. It is definitely in our national interest. But I do disagree with the Cheney Administration choosing brute force. There is an ugly logic to it, though. It makes sense as long as you are willing to accept a “small” amount of casualties for a stable ME. And I think they truly believed it would be a cakewalk with immensely positive outcomes for the USA. The cost/benefit ratio must have looked pretty darn good on paper. Hell, we lose 10 times more people in car crashes every year on our roads than we’ve lost in Iraq! Oil company profits would be a positive by-product, but not the driving force. It’s cold, hard business analysis taken to its extreme. An analysis I totally reject as immoral.
    But the “blood for oil” crowd’s view is way too simplistic. It drives me crazy. What would we and the rest of the industrialized world do if oil ran up to $200 a barrel? Most likely, we would enter the pre-FDR days of every man for himself. All those social programs liberal progressives have fought hard to build would be in serious jeopardy.
    Here endeth the rant.

  18. Montag says:

    On the irrelevence of Iraq’s Parliament and their willingness to fiddle as Baghdad burns:
    “As soon as the moral power of national representation was destroyed, a legislative body, whatever it might be, meant no more to the military than a crowd of 500 men, less vigorous and disciplined than a battalion of the same number.”–Madame de Stael referring to Napoleon’s coup d’etat

  19. CletracSteve says:

    My comments, though a bit obtuse, were responding to yet another suggestion to reducing the heat in the M.E.. I tried to say that I believe all considerations are fruitless until the U.S. makes a major direction change.
    Addressing L. Mitchell’s comment about installing (a) major base(s) in Iraq: The use of the military should only be a policy implementation, not an objective in a civilian controlled democratic republic. Bases should not be objectives in themselves. Are the bases to protect U.S. oil interests, to threaten Iran, to extend Israel’s effective forward position, … ?

  20. arbogast says:

    What do Prescott Bush, the President’s grandfather, and Joe Kennedy, the President’s father, have in common?
    They were both strongly sympathetic to Adolph Hitler.
    I think part of the history that needs to be revisited is the incredible support Hitler got on the way up from “leaders” in the West, certainly including the U.S.
    Hitler had to start a world war and it subsequently had to be discovered that he had systematically murdered 6,000,000 non-combatants before he was, shall we say, discredited.
    The problem is that he, at the same time, succeeded in lowering the bar to world war and 6,000,000 non-combatants.
    In Iraq, we and our ally, have embroiled a region in war and caused the deaths of 100,000 plus non-combatants.
    Are we to be given a moral free ride, because Hitler embroiled the entire world in war and killed 6,000,000?
    I don’t think so. I don’t think you can say, “We’re not as bad as Hitler,” and just keep on talking.

  21. robt willmann says:

    In light of the slaughter and robbery in Mesopotamia, I must be “candid”, as those who call themselves diplomats like to characterize discussions.
    Sadly, Ms. Al-Rahim’s article focuses narrowly, and says the 800-pound gorilla in the room is not one.
    Her Dayton Process for Iraq misses the point: she speaks of other countries putting their fingers in Iraq’s affairs to make an Iraqi National Compact, rather than a Middle East Compact.
    No mention is made of Iraq, its neighbors, and other countries getting together to normalize relations with Iran and to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and the occupation of their remaining territories.
    The proposal looks more like the festival in Bonn, Germany that was to be this wonderful compact for Afghanistan. Remember that? The new Afghan government and its “leader”, Hamid Karzai, guarded by American mercenaries.
    A Concert of the Middle East would be nice, but Ms. Al-Rahim ducks it.
    And she is downright shifty about that big gorilla following everyone around–the Draft Iraq Oil and Gas Law–in saying that “a draft oil law, designed to ease Sunni fears, is opposed by the Kurds”.
    Now come on, Ms. Al-Rahim. You might dress nicely and run with some fast company, but don’t blow smoke at an old smoke-blower.
    The Iraq Oil and Gas Law is a 33-page stagecoach robbery.
    We get to start laughing with the preamble. “To help the Iraqi Ministry of Oil focus on its main duties . . . the oil activities operated soley by the Ministry of Oil have to be transferred to technical and commercial entities and institutions . . . .” And, “Whereas, the rehabilitation and further development of the Petroleum industry will be enhanced by the participation of international and national investors of recognized technical, operational, and managerial skills as well as robust capital resources . . . .”
    Hmmm . . . I think a pattern is developing.
    After the usual pious language about how the oil and gas are owned by all the people of Iraq (but not controlled by them!), we get down to what my grandfather referred to when he had me tag along to help bedeezer calves.
    Article 9(A): “The rights for conducting Petroleum Operations [which is everything -rw] shall be granted on the basis of an Exploration and Production contract. The contract shall be entered between the Ministry (or the Regional Authority) and an Iraqi or Foreign Person, natural or legal . . . .”
    Thus, oil and gas companies from the U.S., Britain, and Israel can get these contracts.
    Article 13(A): “An Exploration and Production Contract shall give the holder an exclusive right to conduct Petroleum Exploration and Production in the Contract Area.”
    Now it gets exciting.
    Article 33(A): “INOC [the Iraq National Oil Company -rw]
    and its subsidiary companies as well as other Individual and collective persons who are holders of a right to conduct Petroleum Operations are subject to the payment of the following fiscal impositions:
    (1) Royalty; (2) Property Contribution and Property Transfer Tax . . . , (3) municipal and local taxes due; and (4) the taxes provided in the Income Tax Code.”
    OK, I only have to pay those four things if I have a contract.
    And how much royalty do I have to pay to the “Iraqi people”,
    who “own” the oil and gas?
    Article 34(A): “INOC and other holders of an exploration and production right shall pay a royalty on petroleum produced from the Development and Production Area, at the rate of twelve point five percent (12.5%) of Gross Production measured at the entry flange to the Main Pipeline.”
    Oh, Baby! 12.5%!
    Even a graduate of today’s rotten public schools can do this arithmetic. 100% minus
    12.5% for the Iraqi people leaves me with . . . uh, just a moment . . . .
    And what can I do with all this loot?
    Article 35(A): “Holders of Exploration and Production Right can transfer any net profits from Petroleum Operations to outside Iraq after paying taxes and fees owed.”
    See you later, Sucker.
    Note to the Iraqi people: A Texas farmer or rancher would chase an oil and gas landman off his property with a double-barrel shotgun who tried to con him or her into signing a lease for a one-eighth (12.5%) royalty. And that’s on land in which oil is not a sure thing. But you are sitting on perhaps the second largest oil reserves in the world which can be extracted easily and cheaply. So you don’t have to play that game.
    Note to the American people: Have the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and National Public Radio told you what I just wrote?
    The Iraqis know that Grand Theft Oil is underway. As long as the Iraq Oil and Gas Law continues to be promoted, there will be no Dayton Process for Iraq.
    The killing will continue.

  22. Larry Mitchell says:

    During the frenzy to start the war in Iraq, many words of caution as to possible difficulties were countered by comparisons with Germany and Japan after WWII. The theory was that after toppling their dicatator and presenting them with the gift of democracy, our new best friends – the Iraqis, would be ever grateful. It stands to reason that we would have a military base(s) (as in Germany and Japan) in Iraq from which we could spread democracy and generally go about doing good. After all the president put the “Axis of Evil” at the top of our priorities, and a charter member was right next door.

  23. jonst says:

    Col War Zombie,
    Whether the friggin ME is ‘stable’ or not, whether it is under the ‘control’ of the US, or not, you/we are soon gonna get 200$ per barrel oil. The oil is running out.
    The question then becomes, IMHO, anyway, whether the delusion of a ‘stable’ ME bringing us ‘cheaper oil’ continues. If it does, we will continue to do what we, as a nation, have been doing. Spending the bulk of capital, and blood, and place in world, on seeking ‘control’ in order to stabilize. Rather than taking all those resources and rushing, as fast as we can, away from a, primarily, petroleum based economy. Since the decision will be made by those in the petroleum business, or bought by the petroleum business, I think I know what the decision will be. The delusion will not only go on, it will expand a bit before it runs smack up against reality.

  24. Poetry says:

    Take the Pledge
    All Presidential Candidates should make pledges like those below. If they refuse, then you should refuse to vote for them.
    1. No More Oil Wars.
    2. Work for independence from foreign oil on day one.
    3. No more wars for corporate profit.
    4. No more secret deals for $4 per gallon gas.
    5. No more Chicken Hawks promoting wars of choice when they themselves avoided combat.
    6. Make government green–if you can’t make what you have the most control over green, I don’t care about your plans to make the country green.
    7. No more torture.
    8. No more lying about torture.
    9. No more re-defining torture.
    10. No more drunken hunting.
    11. No more secret deals with big corporations to divide up the spoils before the war even starts.

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