Ricks on the big question in Iraq

Tricks "Indeed, some US Army officers now talk more sympathetically about former insurgents than they do about their ostensible allies in the Shiite-led central government. "It is painful, very painful," dealing with the obstructionism of Iraqi officials, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Fetter. As for the Sunni fighters who for years bombed and shot U.S. soldiers and now want to join the police, Fetter shrugged. "They have got to eat," he said over lunch in the 1st Cavalry Division’s mess hall here. "There are so many we’ve detained and interrogated, they did what they did for money."

The best promise for breaking the deadlock would be holding provincial elections, officers said — though they recognize that elections could turn bloody and turbulent, undercutting the fragile stability they now see developing in Iraq.

"The tipping point that I’ve been looking for as an intel officer, we are there," said one Army officer here who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position. "The GOI [government of Iraq] and ISF [Iraqi security forces] are at the point where they can make it or break it." "  Tom Ricks and Karen de Young


Great Minds, etc……

It sure is a shame to have wasted so much and so many getting to a situation which was always available to us in Iraq.  We, more or less, created the phenomenon of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq through our ham-handed treatment of the Sunni Arab population of the country.  We literally drove them into the arms of the takfiri jihadis. 

Now, their disgust with the fanatics and a more enlightened policy on our part have made it possible for the greater part of the Sunni Arabs to part company with our true enemies.

As Ricks writes in this article, it is now up to the Iraqi Government.  Do they want to try to re-build the kind of condominium of communities that produced mixed marriages and mixed residence or do they want to "bet the farm" on the new social order that the CPA and the Chalabi crowd (there and here) installed?

I sympathize with those like Abu Aardvark (Lynch) who would like to see a unitary state in Iraq that receives the meek submission of the various groups.   In fact, that was never going to happen in Iraq.  The state and the national identity were too tentative and fragile to survive the battering that we inflicted on it.  There is a chance now of restoring national unity on the basis of bargaining (deal-making) and power sharing across ethno-sectarian and regional lines.

If the Baghdad government seizes that chance then a new Iraq can emerge.  If the government does not, then the stage is set for a long drama of internal and external conflict.  pl


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8 Responses to Ricks on the big question in Iraq

  1. Jose says:

    Interesting article because we continue to see this mess as what is in America’s best interest not Iraqis (all three of them).
    Why should the Shia accommodate the Sunnis, is that in their best interest? Is it in the best interest of their Shia patron in Iran? The comment that Iraqi politicians are out of touch with their populations, please see these polls:
    The Sunnis realized that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” so they turned on AQI but now wait patiently for America to turn on the Shia. The military officer quoted in the article realize that is alliance is not going to last. So do we turn on the Shia in favor of of the Shia?
    The Kurds simply want independence. Period.
    So my advice is to partition the country into three parts with some American presence in Kurdistan or simple hand over Acre-castle-like (http://www.antiwar.com/pat/?articleid=11319) embassy in Baghdad to a malevolent dictator like Ayad Allawi.
    This not a declaration of defeat but an Orwellian declaration of victory.

  2. lotus says:

    As for tipping points, the worst was whatever day in 2002 BushCo definitvely pivoted away from OBL to Saddam. But for that one, neither Pakistan nor Iraq would be at their own now (with, I assume, Afghanistan’s less-visible one soon to follow, if it hasn’t already passed).
    Thanks for the post, Pat. “The state and the national identity were too tentative and fragile to survive the battering that we inflicted on it” is especially spot-on — dammit.

  3. Martin K says:

    To be a bit rude: From red-hat perspective,long term, the US is landed with a trillion dollar tar-baby. Ouch.

  4. b says:

    There is one “funny” part in the Ricks piece:

    Late last month, Crocker traveled to virtually every nearby Arab country except Syria and Saudi Arabia. His message, one official said, was “Look, you have got to get behind this because you’ve got to do everything you can to give all sides confidence.”

    Looking at an Iraq map, there are exactly two “nearby Arab countries” other than Syria and Saudi Arabia.
    That would be Kuwait and Jordan – both of them more or less irrelevant. And Crocker “virtually” visited them?
    Ricks has quite some humor, but this is devastating.

  5. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat, I agree with your analysis wholeheartedly!
    One of the primary focal points to “grease” the way forward is the still unsettled “sharing” of oil revenues.
    While there is still substantial ongoing religious/ethnic/tribal tension between the various Iraqi parties that present enormous, and perhaps “perceived” unsolvable obstacles to a “unified” Iraq, “money” may go a long way toward calming the waters.
    If everyone gets not only a seat at the table (fair governmental participation), but also plenty to eat at that table (equitable oil revenue distribution), there still exists the possibility of a “peaceful” Iraq, and even a “unified” Iraq.
    Is the current Iraqi power structure ready to make this happen?
    It doesn’t appear so on the surface, but all should remember that most folks eventually tire of conflict, and the incentive of simply living one’s life free from strife is a powerful unseen hand motivating all regardless of creed or belief.
    The timeframe? Anywhere from days to centuries.

  6. paladin says:

    Good article, thanks. I think getting new (Sunni) blood into the gov’t will help the process. The orignial national elections seem to have been dominated by ASM and other rejectionist or semi-rejectionist groups for the sunni. If new faces show up and demonstrate a greater willingness to accept and work with the gov’t it may make it easier for the shia to make concessions as well.

  7. Martin K says:

    I would be very interested in seeing some information on the penetration of the Maliki state in shia tribal areas. My guess is that the tribal/clan level is much more powerful, as shown in Basra.

  8. jamzo says:

    events on the ground got so bad in 2007 the administration was forced
    loosen it’s intransigent stance and reverse strategy:
    1) it took on responsibility for stemming violence in baghdad by committing even
    more troops
    2) it stopped the anti-sunni campaign it initiated early in the occupation and started to “do business” with different sunni faction
    the iraq narrative in public discourse indicates general agreement that violence has been greatly reduced
    the iraq narrative does not indicate the extent to which the quality of life has improved by the reduction in violence,
    i am looking for sings of a complimentary diplomatic
    initiative but i don’t see it
    maybe the present situation is what we get
    a holding position
    with each passing day the administration loses bargainning power in iraq
    everyone knows that when bush/cheney leave the new washdc powers will have to make their own way forward and they will not be bound by the bush/cheney ideology and manner of cronyism
    the new powers may have no more than a different ideology and manner of
    cronyism but it will not be the bush/cheney brand

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