First I want to apologize for the absolutely atrocious spelling, grammar, and syntax. I dashed this off as a real quick, first read response to COL (ret) Lang's previous post about the electoral purges. This is also why its all reaction and no reflection, which is, I believe, what JohnH was looking for. So I'm going to make a good faith effort to show my work, so to speak. The observations below are based on what I observed going on in Iraq in 2008, especially in regards to the provincial elections, SOI transition, and SOFA negotiation process. My observations were supplemented from reading excellent primary source reporting, as well as secondary analysis. First, let me clarify that by end of the Iraq Project I mean in the political sense. Our ability to influence the politicians in Iraq, including the ones that we have helped to install in power, as well as the out of government elites and notables seems to be pretty clearly over with. The reason for this is that careful Iraq watchers have seen that there are really two overarching factions in Iraq that have developed.
The best writing on this was done at the old Abu Aardvark by Professor Lynch and the old Abu Muwaqama by Dr. Parker (who used the handle "Dr. Irak"). Both of them referred to these two groups as the "powers that are" and the "powers that aren't". The former are the three major players in the national coalition government. They come from two groups, the Kurds and the exile Shi'a, and have previously included the Sunni exile movement largely because the US badgered them to do so. The powers that aren't are the traditional and/or tribal Sunnis and Shi'a, as well as the Sadrists and some other non-exile Iraqis. The major difference between the groups is the former, with the exception of the Kurds, are diasporan movements that don't have indigenous support bases and the latter are indigenous movements that have little power. The other big issue is that the latter, the powers that aren't, are the movements and groups that have been the most committed to the idea that there should be an Iraq; not a loose confederation or congory, not two or three separate countries, but one, unified Iraq. The powers that are clearly don't feel this way. The Kurds have made it clear that they want their own nation-state, ISCI/Badr want to be able to float the Shi'a South free (this is what the fight for Basra was largely about), and Maliki and his Dawa Party seem to have moved to a more nationalist stance, but this is clearly part of the coup proofing concept. Each of these three ruling factions also has captured huge chunks of the Iraqi Security Forces. The Iraqi Army is largely divided between Kurdish Pesh and Badr Corps members and Maliki has set up his own shock troop, Counter-terrorism unit in the past two years. The much more subtle electoral manipulations surrounding the provincial elections, as well as the very overt purges that have just been reported, demonstrate our political inability to influence the Iraqi political process. Two years ago Maliki was falling all over himself to bring the Sunni exile party back into his government to please the US, but then mid 2008, something changed. What changed was the Iraqi realization that they could run out the clock on the US on the SOFA agreement, which they did. This resulted in a Security Agreement (despite what reporters will use it is NOT a SOFA) that put sharp time limits on how long we can stay, refused to reup the UN recognized occupation authorization, and once implemented strictly curtailed US activities in Iraq. As this realization was setting in the Government of Iraq (GOI) rebuffed follow on attempts by the US to work on a reconciliation process, slow walked the Security Agreement negotiations until they'd backed up the provincial elections ones, and then rolled the US negotiators on both. This is very significant in terms of our political influence. The whole point of a COIN strategy, and both GEN Petraeus and AMB Crocker testified to this before Congress, is to create an opening for the political process to take over leading to reconciliation, institution building, etc. The opening that the COIN breaks that the US either recognized and tried to exploit (the Awakenings, the Baghdad ethnic cleansings) or made (the Surge, creation of the SOI) was squandered by the Bush Administration on forcing through an outrageous SOFA agreement, as well as provincial elections as a HUGE benchmark. When the Iraqis perceived our weakness on these negotiations, we started to loose our ability to influence things. This was then followed by the SOI handoff to the Government of Iraq. By the time all the changes came down, and from what I observed much to the chagrin and dismay of the military, the US basically was out maneuvered by the Maliki government in the manner in which the handover occurred. What this demonstrated to the GOI was that they had the upper hand and to the SOI that we weren't the allies they thought we were. What this leaves me with, especially in light of the overt purges of even people that Maliki claimed as allies, is that the US's ability to influence the process and the policies of Iraq and it the Iraqi government are severely curtailed. Moreover, our other Iraqi allies, the SOI/Awakening folks, who are actually Iraqi nationalists now have one further example of why the US can not be relied upon. Should the upcoming elections further consolidate the Kurdish, Dawa, and ISCI/Badr hold on the government, not to mention leave the issues of Kirkuk unresolved, a major storm will be on the horizon. JohnH also asked about advisors and indicated that advisors have more influence. Here to I need to clarify. By advisor I meant the military's role in Iraq, which is now predominantly security force advising. Our major influence is on the training of the Iraqi Army, National Police, Iraqi Police (these are the local cops, I have no idea who picked the names). The military's advisory role is clearly, by the nature of the changed mission just since the end of June 2009, not as powerful as it was. The influence of the diplomatic or political advisors has, to my mind, been reduced ever since the US failed to use its real leverage in 2007 and early 2008 to establish a reconciliation process to cement the COIN breaks and opportunities, as well as getting rolled on the SOFA and provincial elections negotiations. One final point: if these purges and the subsequent elections further cement the power and control of the powers that are, given that Dawa and ISCI/Badr are complete constructions of the Iranians and the Kurds were heavily subsidized over the years by Iran as a check on Saddam Hussein, then I don't see how anyone can argue that the Iraqi endeavor has empowered Iran to the point of making it appear, even if it really is not, the regional hegemon. It is this that I think shows that the US wasn't planning on Maliki as strongman, because by allowing what has happened to happen politically, by failing to consolidate the COIN breaks, the US has empowered Iran and that is certainly not part of any US end state I've ever heard of. Dr. Adam Silverman