Sunday, January 30, 2005
"A Mixed Story," by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/mixed-story-im-just-appalled-by.html, 30 January 2005.
I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq.It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders.
Oh? Is Cole saying that Allawi and Hakim are unknown?
Or less known that challengers in most American elections?
Or that it's unclear what Allawi's policies would be?
Or what the Kurdistan Alliance wants?
Or is Cole complaining about proportional parliamentary representation in general?
But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain
Let's see... what else happened in Bahrain in 2002...
In February 2002, Amir HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa proclaimed himself king. In October 2002, Bahrainis elected members of the lower house of Bahrain's reconstituted bicameral legislature, the National Assembly.
Well, there's always...
The election of President Pervez Musharraf's candidate for Prime Minister of Pakistan is a big victory for Musharraf, and for U.S. efforts to retain Pakistan's support in the war against terror. Zafarullah Khan Jamali, 58, a tribal chieftain from Baluchistan, narrowly defeated his closest rival, a pro-Taliban preacher. But his slim, one-vote majority reeked of political bullying and dealmaking. It was an arrangement rigged outside Parliament, struck in lengthy telephone calls to an exiled politician hoping for a comeback and, a losing candidate claims, tainted by bribes and threats.
Continuing with Cole...
Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.
I would imagine that the Allied Occupation of Germany gives the live to a supposed devotion to Deutche federalism.
Embracing Defeat, a book quite sympathetic to communist and leftist elements in Japan during the Occupation, criticizes SCAP for reversing some of its demilitarization and democratization plans. But Cole's writing is hyperbole. Perhaps he should learn the history of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers before he talks about people wanting to "be MacArthur."
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly "extremely offended" at these two demands and opposed Sistani.
An alternative explanation is in America's Secret War.
I'm not sure what the truth is, but considering President George Bush's democratic speeches, I doubt he was "extremely offended."
Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn't hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn't use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.
This had nothing to do with the fact that:
The food ration card plan was opposed because the Ba'athis had drawn up the cards, so it would underrepresent Shia and Kurds, and
Shia and Kurds declared they didn't care, as long as the election was soon as possible?
Politics is complicated. Again, I don't know everything. But not every situation is a conspiracy.
So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi,
Like Afghanistan is now a soft dictatorship under Karzai?
or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables.
SCIRI is so pro-American. So are the Iranians.
It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.
How many polling places were overrun by insurgents? None.
What fraction of the country voted? About 60%.
But this is not "truly aboveboard."
With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed "election." Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.
Zen Pundit has the goods.
The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a "joke," and I stand by that.)
Which one is it? Are candidates secret? Or are names associated with lists?
This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.
"... a referendum on which major party..."
So like any multi-party democracy in the world?
Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.
Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.
Update: The American Scene adds its own criticism of Cole (from The Corner). -- tdaxp 1 February 2005
Monday, January 24, 2005
"Al-Yawir on the Chalabi Affair," by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/al-yawir-on-chalabi-affair-lbc-arab.html, 24 January 2005.
Remember earlier discussion on the mysterious legal threats against Ahmed Chalabi? It may have been just the Iraqi version of Howard Dean running his mouth
[Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawir] said that Hazem Shaalan is an Iraqi patriot, but has a tendency to express sharp opinions in public that do not represent those of the al-Iraqiyyun Party slate, nor even the interim Iraqi government. He pointed out that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had distanced his government from some of Shaalan's statements.
A possibly corrupt Iraqi version of Howard Dean, at that
Shaalan directed his threat against Chalabi after the latter revealed that Shaalan had sent $300 million in cash to a Beirut Bank. Shaalan says it was to buy tanks and other weapons for the Iraqi government. The United States is investigating the transfer of funds.
As goes democracy, so goes crazy politicians and corruption scandals. Good.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
"The Third Baath Coup?", by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/third-baath-coup-if-as-i-have-argued.html, 13 January 2004.
"Neo-Baathism in Iraq," by "mark," Zen Pundit, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/01/neo-baathism-in-iraq-juan-cole-had.html, 13 January 2004.
Zen Pundit is a genius. The first time I went to his site, I scrolled through and chalked him off as a Tom Barnett knock-off. No more. He read the same article I did and came up with a much, much deeper understanding of the situation. Making it doubly embarrasing is that I agree with his assessment. So why didn't I think of it?
First, Juan Cole's analysis (with emphasis for what I thought was important)
If, as I have argued, the Baathists along with some Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) allies are behind the guerrilla war, what do they want? They want to drive the Americans out of Iraq and make a third Baath coup, putting the Shiite genie back in its bottle and restoring Sunni Arab primacy.
A third Baath coup is no more inherently implausible than the first two. The Baathists probably have access to some 250,000 tons of munitions which are still missing. They know how to use them, and have been the managerial class, and many are Iran-Iraq War and Gulf War veterans with substantial military experience.
And this is my problem with the idea of just having the US suddenly withdraw its military from Iraq. What is to stop the neo-Baath from just killing Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Ibrahim Jaafari, Iyad Allawi (who is rumored not to sleep in the same bed twice), etc., all the members of the provincial councils and the new parliament, and then making a military coup that brings the party and its Sunni patronage networks back to power?
I think this coup would look more like the failed 1963 effort than like 1968, and has the potential to roil the country and the region for decades. The tanks and helicopter gunships and chemical weapons that the Sunni Arab minority regime used to put down the other groups are gone, and it is not clear that car bombs, Kalashnikovs and sniping could substitute for them. They can probably take the Green Zone and the television stations if the US abruptly withdraws, but could they really put down the South effectively again?
And now... the genius
A Neo-Baathist Iraq – which really means an Iraqi version of Sierra Leone or Somalia is not in American interests. Or in the interests of any of Iraq’s neighbors except perhaps Syria who would gain influence in the Sunni heartland.
Cole has correctly identified, in my view, some key truths about the situation in Iraq. That most our enemies there are driven by the idea of Sunni-Baathist resurgence. That they recruit along lines of family-clan-tribe clientage networks. That the brain of the insurgency are the surviving elements of Saddam’s SSO, Mukhabarat, MI, Special Republican Guard and Fedayeen who are following the old Soviet unconventional warfare doctrine of Spetsnaz forces ( hardly unexpected since Baathist Iraq had a Soviet model military establishment grafted on to a ME society with a decades long relationship with the USSR and Russia ). Soviet Spetsnaz doctrine called for “ Deep Operations”:
Soviet Spetsnz unit personnel however, like the Zarqawri Jihadis, were atomized individuals. The neo-Baathist Iraqi insurgents are not, as Cole pointed out with his reference to clientage networks. You catch and identify one individual chances are extremely high that other adult males linked to the captive by family and marriage ties are also involved. This is the insurgencies Achilles heel. This is also why aggressive Counterinsurgency tactics will put a dent in the insurgency, the culprits are naturally more identifiable unlike with Marxist guerilla movements.
The political bullet to bite is that we have to accept that a fairly significant portion of Iraqi Sunnis are really " the enemy" now in the same sense that the Germans and Japanese were during WWII and act accordingly. Some of this is our fault for mishandling the occupation but mostly its a vicious group of political gangsters determined to shoot their way back to power and dominance over the Kurds and Shiites. Let's stop sugarcoating things and face reality - the Sunnis by and large want a new dictatorship that will secure their priviliges once again.
Any prospects for broad-based democracyin Iraq will fail- or even maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity - unless we can isolate the more politically backward Sunni dominated areas from the rest of Iraq and put the insurgency on the defensive.
Sistani and the Kurds need to face that fact as well.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
"Downsides of Partioning Iraq," by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/downsides-of-partitioning-iraq-some.html, 4 January 2005 (from Andrew Sullivan).
Dr. Juan Cole argues against partioning Iraq. While partitioning as such might not be the best idea (a federal structure with Reconstruction for the Sunni lands makes a lot more sense) his reasoning is wrong, wrong wrong.
Then, how do you split up the resources? If the Sunni Arabs don't get Kirkuk, then they will be poorer than Jordan. Don't you think they will fight for it? The Kurds would fight to the last man for the oil-rich city of Kirkuk if it was a matter of determining in which country it ended up.
If the Kurds got Kirkuk and the Sunni Arabs became a poor cousin to Jordan, the Sunni Arabs would almost certainly turn to al-Qaeda in large numbers. Some Iraqi guerrillas are already talking about hitting back at the US mainland. And, Fallujah is not that far from Saudi Arabia, which Bin Laden wants to hit, as well, especially at the oil. Fallujah Salafis would hook up with those in Jordan and Gaza to establish a radical Sunni arc that would destabilize the entire region.
I think they're already fighting. A civil war has already begun. If pro-Democracy Kurds become rich and pro-Totalitarian Sunnis become "poorer than Jordon," good. Jordon has very limited ability to cause trouble. We do not want to arm our ideological enemies with oil wealth. We have let the Saudis keep their oil wells for fifty years, and it has not been working that well.
Al Qaeda in Iraq (former Monotheism and Jihad) is a leading terrorist organization there now. It is to late to keep them out. Tolerated by the Sunni-Ba'athis under Saddam Hussein, they are organized, motivated, and murderous.
Al Qaeda has already attacked us in our homeland. Sunni Iraqis have already "hook[ed] up with" those in other nations. The first world trade center bombing, for example, was masterminded by an Iraqi. Refusing to recognize that we are at war now and a "radical Sunni arc" is destabilizing the region now is foolishness.
Divorced from the Sunnis, the Shiites of the south would no longer have any counterweight to religious currents like al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Sadrists.
The Dawa Party has endorsed the elections. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolutionin Iraq has endorsed the election. Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr are running in the elections. These are the democratic forces in Iraq. Why should they be "counterweighted" by Sunni thugs?
The rump Shiite state would be rich, with the Rumayla and other fields, and might well declare a Shiite Islamic republic.
The fact is the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most progressive forces in the region. It has an educated and secular population that operates unders a constitutional republic. Iran has our enemies -- they have always opposed the Taliban and the Ba'athi reign of Saddam Hussein. Iran is friends with many of our friends, including Russia and China. Iran has an ability to trascend ideology in its foreign policy (say supporting the Christian Republic of Armenia in its struggles against Azerbaijan, or its support for the "infidel" Alawite Ba'ath Party in Syria) lightyears ahead of Saudi Arabia.
Reality determines policy. Events have conspired to give us and Iran very similar interests. There is no reason to throw that away.
It is being coupled with the Sunnis that mainly keeps them from going down that road. A Shiite South Iraq might make a claim on Shiite Eastern Arabia in Saudi Arabia, or stir up trouble there. The Eastern Province can pump as much as 11% of the world's petroleum.
So Americans would like this scenario why?
This is a reason to support Shia power. By their continued support for repression, terrorism, and hatred, the Saudis have stabbed us in the back. Their interests are not our interests. Spreading a democratic Shia revolution along the Persian Gulf would at worst check Saudi ambitions and at best create a order for that region.
There is more to life than cheap oil. Such as ending the regimes that support terrorism.
The true downside of isolating the Iraqi Sunni remnant is that it would cement the disconnectedness of that region. Before Saddam the Sunnis were the most connected, the most "Core" of Mesopotamia. It is an irony of history that with the liberation, the formerly isolated Kurds and Shia are embracing the world while the formerly secular Sunnis are turning inward.
Disconnnectedness breeds terrorism. Have freed the majority of Iraq's people and wealth, we may have to be content with 4/5ths victory. 4/5ths of the people free. 4/5ths of the wealth out of the hands of outlaws. 1/5th sullent, hateful, and backwards.
If the Palestinian election creates an administration capable of peace, from the Israeli administration to independence will have taken a little less than two generations. Taking freedom's wins in Iraq now, we may have to wait until 2044 to join the world. In the meantime it will continue to be a danger. And if we do leave al-Anbar Province, we will be back.