Imagine a world where instead of wasting a couple trillion dollars on Iraq we had spent the money on ways to replace oil imports. We'd have higher living standards and a lower trade deficit. The Iraqis can't maintain the infrastructure we built.
BAGHDAD — In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.
A society that can't build some infrastructure is also a society that can't maintain it.
But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.
Read the full article. The US builds facilities, hands them over to the Iraqi government, and the facilities are immediately closed. Not enough engineers, doctors, nurses, and other skilled workers to use the facilities that US taxpayers paid to build. The Iraqis do not feel grateful because they are still poor and see lots of destruction around them. Plus, they resent that we are there in the first place.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan US officials are looking at building alliances with tribes since obviously the central government is never going to amount to much more than a big corruption racket.
A lack of realism about human nature causes American governments to engage in massively wasteful and futile undertakings. The lies that pass for politically correct conventional wisdom about human nature lead to wealth destruction and decay of our own society while simultaneously breeding resentment abroad. When rational thinking about the evidence on human nature is placed beyond the pale there's a big price to pay and we are paying it.
While the Bush Administration releases reports that put a positive spin on developments in Iraq a leaked draft of a GAO report finds few signs of progress in Iraq.
Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.
The GAO claims that attacks against civilians have not lessened.
The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."
"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months," Sheik Hazim al-Araji, a top aide to Sheik al-Sadr, said in a statement read on Iraqi television.
The announcement comes in a week in which intense street battles in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala killed more than 50 people. Authorities blamed the fighting on intra-Shi'ite rivalries between the Mahdi Army and other militias, principally the Badr Brigade, for the control of key mosques and other sites in the city.
Sadr can try to declare a ceasefire. But the members of his militia might need to keep fighting the Badr Brigade and other militias just in order to stay alive. Also, some of the breakaway factions of the Mahdi Army are no longer taking orders from Sadr and his ceasefire won't stop them.
The reports about Iraq generated by organs of the US government matter less at this point than do the decisions of Shiite militia factions battling each other for control of towns and industries in Iraq.
Iraq is in danger of becoming a failed state and faces the possibility of collapse and fragmentation, a foreign affairs thinktank said today.
The bleak assessment, from Chatham House in London, said Iraq was suffering from not one but many civil wars and insurgencies involving numerous communities and organisations struggling for power.
With Iraq so polarised by years of conflict and violence, it was futile to rebuild the country as a unitary state with a strong and centralised government, argued the report, written by Gareth Stansfield, a Middle East expert at Exeter University.
But we had to rebuild Iraq as a single country because if we didn't that'd throw into question the wisdom of turning the United States into a Balkanized multi-racial society with no market dominant majority. We need to demonstrate that multiculturalism can work in foreign lands to prove that it can work here.
There is not 'one' civil war, nor 'one' insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities in today's Iraq. Within this warring society, the Iraqi government is only one among many 'state-like' actors, and is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. It is now possible to argue that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation. These are some of the key findings of Accepting Realities in Iraq a new Briefing Paper written by Dr Gareth Stansfield and published today by Chatham House.
The paper also assesses Al-Qaeda activity within Iraq, especially in the major cities in the centre and north of the country. Dr Stansfield argues that, although Al-Qaeda is challenged by local groups, there is momentum behind its activity. Iraq's neighbors too have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all have different reasons for seeing the instability in Iraq continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments.
Dr Stansfield argues that with the myriad conflicts in Iraq following societal, religious and political divides and often involving state actors, the multinational forces are finding it exceptionally difficult to promote security normalization. The recent US 'surge' in Baghdad looks likely to have simply pushed insurgent activity to neighboring cities and cannot deliver the required political accommodation. A political solution will require Sunni Arab representatives’ participation in government, the recognition of Moqtada al-Sadr as a legitimate political partner, and a positive response to Kurdish concerns. Further, it would be a mistake to believe that the political forces in Iraq are weak and can be reorganized by the US or the international community, there must be ‘buy-in’ from the key Iraqi political actors.
Dr Stansfield says: ‘The coming year will be pivotal for Iraq. The internecine fighting and continual struggle for power threatens the nation’s very existence in its current form. An acceptance of the realities on the ground in Iraq and a fundamental rethinking of strategy by coalition powers are vital if there is to be any chance of future political stability in the country.’
The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway, says his forces in volatile al Anbar province are continuing to see a significant reduction in violence. He says local tribesmen are joining the Iraqi security forces in record numbers and are helping U.S. troops to defeat al-Qaida insurgents in the province. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.General Conway told reporters at the Pentagon that it has taken four years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq for the predominantly Sunni population of Anbar province to realize that al-Qaida in Iraq can only offer a future filled with fear and instability.
"What we are seeing transpire in Anbar province today is a clear, discernible wedge between the Sunni tribes and the al-Qaida in Iraq," said General Conway. "Some very brave people have stepped up to speak out against al-Qaida and encourage their fellow tribesmen to work together toward an Iraq that is stable and at peace with its neighbors."
The civil war has to be wearying. That weariness is perhaps the best hope for reaching a political settlement. But I suspect there are too many factions with too many incompatible expectations to make a deal possible. Some of the factions aren't going to abandon their ambitions unless they are utterly defeated.
U.S. commanders think their squeeze on Sunni and Shiite extremists is having an impact. In al-Qaeda's stronghold of Anbar province, tribal leaders have begun allying with American forces against the Sunni terrorists. According to Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands day-to-day military operations in Iraq, there were just 60 attacks in Anbar last week, compared with 480 per week a year ago. But al-Qaeda continues its deadly attacks, as in last Saturday's brutal ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and left three missing.
But while the Sunnis of Anbar might have turned against the foreign Sunnis the Iraqi Sunnis still see the Shias as enemies in a civil war. Plus, the Shia factions are fighting each other even as the Kurds fight the Arab Iraqis in areas which the Kurds want to make part of an independent Kurdistan.
Check out this mention of a fight between Madhi Army militia and Iraqi police.
News agencies reported that at least three people were killed Thursday in fighting between Iraqi police and the Madhi Army, the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric. The incident took place in the city of Diwaniyah, about 110 miles south of Baghdad.
Was this a battle between central authority and a militia? Or a fight between two rival gangs for turf? Maybe both at the same time.
Portions of the January 2007 US government National Intelligence Estimate "Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead” have been made public and the New York Times has published them. It is no worse than anything you have already heard. But it comes from supposed experts and government officials. First off, the NIE sees continued decay in security in Iraq as likely unless some way is found to turn it around.
Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism. Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.
The US troop surge might delay the downward trend for a while. But eventually the surge will end and the fighting will continue to escalate.
What the NIE misses: A stronger government isn't going to be a fairer government.
If strengthened Iraqi Security Forces (I.S.F.), more loyal to the government and supported by coalition forces, are able to reduce levels of violence and establish more effective security for Iraq’s population, Iraqi leaders could have an opportunity to begin the process of political compromise necessary for longer term stability, political progress, and economic recovery.
But loyalty to the government is not all that different than loyalty to a Shia militia. The Iraqi government is basically the biggest Shia militia. The next paragraph from the report says something similar.
Nevertheless, even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this estimate.
Winner-take-all? That's what any battle for the Iraq government is about.
The Shias do not want to share power with the Sunnis. The Sunnis do not want to admit that they are not the majority. These two paragraphs describe problems that US forces can not fix.
Decades of subordination to Sunni political, social, and economic domination have made the Shia deeply insecure about their hold on power. This insecurity leads the Shia to mistrust U.S. efforts to reconcile Iraqi sects and reinforces their unwillingness to engage with the Sunnis on a variety of issues, including adjusting the structure of Iraq’s federal system, reining in Shia militias, and easing de-Baathification.
Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status, believe the central government is illegitimate and incompetent, and are convinced that Shia dominance will increase Iranian influence over Iraq, in ways that erode the state’s Arab character and increase Sunni repression.
While the Arabs duke it out the Kurds busily work to assure their autonomous zone is as large as they can make it.
The Kurds are moving systematically to increase their control of Kirkuk to guarantee annexation of all or most of the city and province into the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) after the constitutionally mandated referendum scheduled to occur no later than 31 December 2007. Arab groups in Kirkuk continue to resist violently what they see as Kurdish encroachment.
The Kurds have de facto seceded from Iraq already. I say we let them secede officially. That way at least one of the factions will see us as friends.
The report states that the Sunni jihadist group Al Qaeda in Iraq (A.Q.I.) and Shia oppositionist Jaysh al-Mahdi (J.A.M.) are blowing up things and people on a scale that is feeding the cycle of sectarian violence. The recent bombing that killed at least 130 people in a market shows one of these groups knows how to fan the flames.
The next part of the report sounds like a list of talking points for why the US should do a troop surge.
If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the I.S.F. would be unlikely to survive as a nonsectarian national institution; neighboring countries — invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally — might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; A.Q.I. would attempt to use parts of the country — particularly Al Anbar Province — to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.
The newest trend in conventional wisdom regarding Iraq, going as unexamined by the major media as every previous stage of denial masquerading as incontrovertible fact regarding this war, reads something like this: Iraq is certain to descend into greater chaos and potential genocide, become a terrorist haven, spark a regional war, and elevate Iran to a position of dominance in the Middle East if we leave now. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Forget that the case has by no means been made that this worst-case scenario will come to pass. That is irrelevant. The question is now, as it was before the war, of whether or not we have the right; the right to escalate the war in Iraq against the wishes of its people and government, or the right to expand the war by attacking Iran.
He is right. We can't trust those bozos. Will Turkey intervene if Kurdistan secedes? Why? With what justification? Will the Shias fight effectively enough to put the Sunnis in danger of being overrun in their own area and therefore pull in Sunni neighboring states? Or will the Sunni neighbors just send aid and keep their distance while the Shias show themselves unwilling to take the fight into Sunni areas?
Dennis Dale argues the American people are the only force that can hold the Bush Administration accountable and responsible for its actions and that the failure of the American people to do so is a moral failure.
But when the veil fell from the Administration's connivance, we chose to avert our eyes. The other, ancillary justifications offered for deposing Saddam were all furtively moved up a spot. Like the disgraced subject of a Soviet show trial, the WMD/terrorist threat was erased from the offical history. It was never primarily about WMD became the line (and besides, everyone thought he had them, straight-faced). Such a blatant lie requires the complicity of its intended audience.
Why did we play along?
Holding our leaders accountable would have entailed acknowledging the thing for what it was: a national disgrace and a crime. Because there’s no entity more powerful than the United States, there is no one to hold its leadership accountable other than the sovereign American people.
When we took a pass we disgraced ourselves and damaged our republic in ways we won’t know for years to come.
Listen up American people. You are a disgrace. You continue to let Bush get away with his conduct of a foolish war. Does that argument fly? I guess my conservative argument against that is that the American public lacks the capacity to discharge the responsibilities of voters of the most powerful nation in the world. The problem, then, is universal suffrage.
Who should be held responsible? People who are smart enough to know better. That's not a populist mass democracy answer. Still, Dennis writes great prose and he's all worked up about Iraq. Go read him.
Stephen Hadley, President Bush's National Security Adviser, claims the NIE justifies the Bush plan for a troop surge.
I want to begin by saying that while the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, which is an effort to bring together all the elements of the intelligence community and come out with a consolidated set of judgments about the situation in Iraq -- this is a new document, the result of the conclusion of that review, but it's not new intelligence. That is to say, the substance of the document is intelligence that we have been provided by the intelligence community for several months, and it is this intelligence and the picture it paints that caused the President to conclude and then develop a new strategy or new approach to Iraq.
Secondly, in developing that new strategy or new approach, the intelligence community was a participant, and this intelligence, of course, inputted into that process to help us identify, then, and develop the policy that we did. Put another way, the intelligence assessment that is reflected in this NIE is not at war with this new approach or new strategy the President has developed, but I would say, explains why the President concluded that a new approach, a new strategy was required; explains a number of the elements of that strategy, and generally supports it. That is to say that the policy is designed to deal with the challenges that are reflected in this intelligence.
Bush's plan is the only thing the Bushies could think to do that assumes there's some way to make a semi-happy outcome in Iraq using US power. That is why the Bush and company are pursuing the troop surge.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced today to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"
As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!"
Imagine a parallel universe where Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, was given a drug to make him kind and benevolent to everyone. He probably would have been killed within a week. He might have lasted longer as his enemies would have suspected he was trying to trick them into showing their opposition to his regime. But eventually some of them would have done the old "et tu Brute" assassination in order to seize the throne for themselves.
Long running multi-generational dictatorships are the best we can hope for in the Middle East. The royal rulers of these dictatorships (e.g. King Abdullah II of Jordan and King Mohamed VI of Morocco) can afford to be less brutal because their claim to power takes on a widely accepted and familiar supernatural or superstitious basis for legitimacy. In countries where the people are too dumb or too tribal or too Muslim to handle democracy (or all the above) then only a dictatorship can maintain control. The main question becomes just how benevolent the dictatorship can be.
Syria, now under a second generation of Assad family rule, will - if Bashar doesn't make some big mistake - continue to move toward more of a Jordanian model of fairly benevolent dictatorship as long as the Jewish neoconservative supporters of Israel do not manage to get the United States to overthrow the house of Assad. If the Assads stay in power that'll be good for Christians and other minorities in Syria and also the Christians in Iraq who hope to flee to Syria to escape the Muslim fundamentalist savages that the US invasion has unleashed.
At this point with Saddam's sons both dead even the restoration of Saddam to power wouldn't be assured to start Iraq down the road toward a slow mellowing of the rulers because Saddam has no heirs to inherit the throne. Though perhaps his half-brother has kids who could inherit the throne? Ideally Iraq needs a dictator whose sons and grandsons are known to have some moral scruples and self discipline. Then the slow road toward a more benevolent monarchy could start again in Iraq.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.
A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.
The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.
This article has become a big news story. But what is news about it? That Iraq is getting steadily worse? We all know that. That the US military knows this? Regardless of their public statements we know they know the score. They are deeply involved in the fighting. They know how bad it is. So why the big reactions to the article? It means no one can pretend that Iraq is not getting worse. Truth has to come from some unimpeachable source when the truth is especially ugly and undesired. Otherwise lots of people will find reasons not to believe it.
Curiously, Iran and Syria are listed as factors that make the violence worse in Iraq. But they are way down the list after many other factors. Someone please tell the neoconservatives that they are clueless once again. No, Iran is not the author of the mess in Iraq.
According to the slide from the Oct. 18 briefing, the variables include “hostile rhetoric” by political and religious leaders, which can be measured by listening to sermons at mosques and to important Shiite and Sunni leaders, and the amount of influence that moderate political and religious figures have over the population. The other main variables are assassinations and other especially provocative sectarian attacks, as well as “spontaneous mass civil conflict.”
A number of secondary indicators are also taken into account, including activity by militias, problems with ineffective police, the ability of Iraqi officials to govern effectively, the number of civilians who have been forced to move by sectarian violence, the willingness of Iraqi security forces to follow orders, and the degree to which the Iraqi Kurds are pressing for independence from the central government.
Chaos in Iraq has been steadily increasing.
These factors are evaluated to create the index of civil strife, which has registered a steady worsening for months. “Ever since the February attack on the Shiite mosque in Samarra, it has been closer to the chaos side than the peace side,” said a Central Command official who asked not to be identified because he was talking about classified information.
In the Oct. 18 brief, the index moved still another notch toward “chaos.”
If the US military isn't going to be allowed to fight the Shia militias I figure the chaos will only go down once the Shiites have driven Sunnis from areas that have both Shiites and Sunnis.
BAGHDAD – Shiites from the crowded Baghdad district of Sadr City are reveling in what they deem their "victory" over American forces after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of US and Iraqi checkpoints surrounding the area.
The checkpoints - manned by US and Iraqi troops for a week in an effort to find a kidnapped US military translator of Iraqi descent as well as snare an alleged death-squad leader - had snarled traffic and bred growing anger in the slum.
They also provided Mr. Maliki with a chance to further assert his independence after weeks of friction between Washington and Baghdad - just days before US midterm elections, in which the Iraq war has become a defining issue.
Aides to the premier have said that they want to take advantage of the vote, and the unpopularity of Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, to expand Maliki's authority. The new assertive tack is boosting the portrayal of Maliki as commander in chief.
The rosy scenario has America-defying Maliki so boosted in the eyes of Shia Iraqis that they all support him when he some day cracks down on Shia death squads. I'm picturing flying pigs.
The Shias blame us for the bombings in Baghdad even as their militias carry out lots of the attacks and as they purge the Sunnis.
In Baghdad, an increasing number of Shiites believe that the US is more to blame for violence in Baghdad than Sunni insurgents - a once-common accusation that largely disappeared last February, when sectarian bloodletting surged after destruction of a key Shiite shrine. Some even accuse US forces of deliberately planting bombs to stoke more violence.
"The bombs came after the Americans came. When they are there, they are controlling security, so who is to blame?" says Ali al-Saidi, an Internet cafe owner. "When [US forces] entered Sadr City, we were worried. When they leave, we feel safer."
"The Americans are trying to make trouble in Sadr City," asserts Abu Ali. "They want to return Sadr City and the Mahdi Army to a war situation."
Our soldiers are dying so that Iraqis can develop paranoid deluded fears about our intentions.
I'm thinking the power has shifted so far toward the Shia militias that the US desire to see the Iraqi government crack down on al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is just a dream. Not gonna happen.
One happy talk Bush Administration theory is that an Iraqi unity government's own military forces will eventually get control of the streets and make the Sunni and Shia sides stop killing each other. Well, that's looking unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Shia militias instead might scale up their attacks against Sunnis in Baghdad.
The armed Shiite death squads in Sadr City could increase their attacks against Sunnis across the capital, in the worst-case scenario. At a minimum, the action could send the wrong message to Sunnis — that their rivals in the Shiite militia can act with impunity and with political cover at the highest levels.
That could severely undercut the U.S. goal of strengthening a national, unity government to stabilize Iraq.
It also could leave the American military mission in limbo: U.S. officials are highly unlikely to keep Americans troops aggressively patrolling Baghdad's streets against militia-run death squads, if their hands are so tied that soldiers can't act.
The soldiers at the bottom already say they can't act against the Shia militias that are trying to kill them and that are trying to kill any Sunnis they can get their hands on. Now, maybe if the US continues to cave in to Shia Prime Minister Maliki this will strengthen him so he can consolidate more power in the government. Then Maliki can undercut the Shia militias. And then again, maybe not too. Maybe the Shia militias will keep killing Sunnis because the Sunnis keep killing Shias and Maliki will continue to let the whole thing go on. Another possibility: Maliki can not stop the militias. So his support of them doesn't matter.
If US forces pulled out of Baghdad the Shias would win in street fighting. There are more Shias and they have the Iraqi government's resources to help the Shia militias. In a simple democracy the majority rules. The Shiites are the majority. Therefore the US military's current job in Iraq is to thwart the will of the majority.
In the face of Shia death squads the Sunnis have become more willing to cooperate with American forces. But this cooperation has Shias thinking the US now favors the Sunnis and that this makes the US the enemy of the Shia majority.
Growing suspicions among leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite majority that the United States is shifting its favour toward once dominant Sunnis are fuelling the tensions that have broken into the open between Baghdad and Washington.
Iraq's ethnic Kurds share the concerns, which senior Shi'ite Muslim officials say are at the root of the public spat over security between Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush's top officials in Iraq.
"We feel there is an American-Sunni agreement under way ... to give Sunnis more authority," a senior Shi'ite government official said, before Maliki's dramatic order on Tuesday for U.S. troops to end a blockade of a Shi'ite militia stronghold.
"This will only escalate the situation."
My practical suggestion: Help the Sunnis move away from the Shias. Arrange trucks to move them to Sunni areas. Either that or just withdraw and let the Shias fight to put down the Sunnis and to force the Sunnis to submit to Shia dominace. Once it is clear the Shias are dominant the Sunni Arabs will face two choices: submit to Shia rule or secede to create their own smaller and poorer Sunni country.
Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has gotten wind of a military report from the western Sunni Anbar province of Iraq which paints a very dismal picture of the war there. Col. Pete Devlin of the US Marines Corps serving in Anbar provice since February says we have lost Anbar.
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
He thinks Al Qaeda is the biggest political force in Anbar. If we had not overthrown Saddam Hussein then Saddam - and not Al Qaeda - would be the biggest force in Anbar and every potential rival group would be miniscule in size.
The US military has pulled a lot of troops out of Anbar and deployed them into Baghdad in order to head off the building civil war in Baghdad. Anbar is easier in some respects because few Shias are left in Anbar and so the Shias and Sunnis can't battle each other much in Anbar the way they can in Baghdad.
I doubt the US can maintain the current number of soldiers in Iraq. So local warlords and international groups will have a field day.
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.
Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.
Think about that. Anbar has little government left that derives power from the supposed central government in Baghdad.
Feeling marginalized in the new Iraq, the Sunnis in Anbar have generally lost faith in the new government in Baghdad. The Sunnis' "greatest fears have been realized," the report notes.
The Sunnis' suspicion of the central government makes the task of forging a political reconciliation more difficult. It has also complicated one policy option that some critics of Bush administration's strategy have proposed as an alternative means of stabilizing Iraq: dividing the country into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni enclaves.
Such a plan would not be welcomed by Sunnis, since they would not trust the central government to share proceeds from oil sales, the assessment notes.
As the situation has deteriorated, insurgent attacks have increased. The report describes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as an "integral part of the social fabric" of Anbar. The organization, which is predominantly made up of fighters who are native Iraqis, is flush with cash, much of it earned from black market or criminal activity.
Okay, the terminology here is confusing. Al Qaeda is this international terrorist group which aims to blow up Westerners in the West if they can manage and they want to force everyone to convert to Islam. These "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" are locals fighting for their tribes and sect of Islam (and for oil money!) against other tribes in a different sect that have all the oil money. Also, they are fighting American soldiers because those soldiers are in their neighborhood helping those other tribes in the other sect get the political power and oil.
But if Iraq was formally divided the Sunnis wouldn't get any oil revenue at all. If the Sunnis were left in charge of their own Sunni country they'd be helpless to do much about it.
Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah that he has enough U.S. troops — about 30,000 — to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces.
"For what we are trying to achieve out here I think our force levels are about right," he said. Even so, he said the training of Iraqi soldiers and police had not progressed as quickly as once expected.
His job is not to defeat the insurgency because the US government would have to implement a draft to field a military force big enough to do the job. Either that or the US would have to use far more brutal and ruthless tactics such as kidnapping family members of tribes fighting in the insurgency and kill a subset of the people they capture. Neither of those options is in the cards.
Zilmer wants a political and economic solution.
What is needed, he said, is progress on the economic and political fronts that will undercut support for the insurgency.
Good luck on getting progress on economic and political fronts. The price of oil is already a multiple of what it was when the US invaded. No further help for the Iraqi economy can be expected on that front. Inflation is raging and the economy is hampered by the security situation. So it is hard for better economic times to improve security when the insurgency is keeping the security situation dismal and the economy throttled.
How about progress on the political front? Well, many powerful Shias in the central government are supporting death squads against Sunnis. The Sunnis wouldn't reconcile themselves to Shia rule under much better circumstances than these.
Zilmer the boss agrees with Devlin his intelligence chief.
Pentagon officials hastily arranged the interview with Zilmer in response to a series of news reports about a classified report by the chief of intelligence for the Marines in western Anbar province, Col. Pete Devlin. Zilmer said he agreed with the assessment by Devlin, who works for Zilmer, and he did not dispute news reports that characterized it as depicting Anbar as locked in a military stalemate with inadequate political progress.
What I want to know: When US forces pull out will the Shias become willing to put down the Sunni insurgency with utter ruthlessness? Or will they reach a deal to confederate or even to split apart entirely?
The invasion of Iraq was a massive miscalculation by incompetent people. To protect the West from terrorism we should isolate ourselves from Muslims. Imperialism combined with immigration is absolutely the wrong response.
The Washington Post got hold of a cable sent by US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to Washington describing how bad things are getting in Baghdad. It is a PDF image file which I've partially (now fully) transcribed below:
This cable, marked "sensitive" and obtained by The Washington Post, outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.
Oops. We aren't supposed to know what our government knows. Our rulers know what is best for us. Show proper deference and your faith and refrain from reading the forbidden knowledge.
Here is the first quarter of the document:
R 121430Z 06
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5042
INFO IRAQ COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS BAGHDAD 001992
E.O. 122956: N/A
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, ASEC, AMGT, IZ
SUBJECT: Snapshots from the Office: Public
Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord
1. (SBU) Beginning in March, and picking up in mid-May, Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs section have complained that Islamist and/or militia groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits has been increasingly pervasive. They also report that power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life. Conditions vary by neighborhood, but even upscale neighborhoods such as Mansur have visibly deteriorated.
2. (SBU) The Public Affairs Office has 9 local Iraqi employees. Two of our female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shiite who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her upscale Shiite/Christian Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover even their faces, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.
3. (SBU) Another, a Sunni, said that people in her middle-class neighborhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones (suspected channel to licentious relationships with men). She said that the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone checkpoint has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats in May. She says her neighborhood, Adhamiya, is no longer permissive if she is not clad so modestly.
4. (SBU) These women say they cannot identify the groups that are pressuring them; many times, the cautions come from other women, sometimes from men who they say could be Sunni or Shiite, but appear conservative.They also tell us that some ministries, notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transportation, have been forcing females to wear the hijab at work.
Dress Code for All?
5. (SBU) Staff members have reported that it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack from what staff members describe as Wahabis and Sadrists.
By noon Sunday I will transcribe the rest of this document image and do updates to this post with the rest of it.
Thanks to Greg Cochran for the heads-up.
Update: This first update takes us through the second third of the document.
6. (SBU) One colleague beseeched us to weigh in to help a neighbor who was uprooted in May from her home of 30 years, on the pretense of application of some long-disused law that allows owners to evict tenants after 14 years. The woman, who is a Fayli Kurd, says she has nowhere to go, no other home, but the courts give them no recourse to this assertion of power. Such uprootings may be a response by new Shiite government authorities to similar actions against Arabs by Kurds in other parts of Iraq. (NOTE: An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq. One editor told us that the KDP is now planning to set up tent cities in Irbil, to house Kurds being evicted from Baghdad.)
Power Cuts and Fuel Shortages
a Drain on Society
7. Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 115 degrees. Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without. That was only about four hours of power a day for the city. By early June, the situation had improved slightly. In Hai al Shaab, power has recently improved from one in six to one in three hours. Other staff report similar variances. Central Baghdad neighborhood Bab al Mu'atham has had no city power for over a month. Areas near hospitals, political party headquarters, and the green zone have the best supply, in some cases reaching 24 hours. One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day.
8. (SBU) All employees supplement city power with service contracted with neighborhood generator hookups that they pay for monthly. One employee pays 6500 ID per ampere to get 10 amperes per month (75,000 ID = USD 50/month). For this, her family gets 6 hours power per day, with service ending at 2 am. Another employee pays 9000 ID per ampere to get 10 amperes per month (90,000 = USD 60). For this, his family gets 8 hours per day, with service running until 5 am.
9. (SBU) Fuel lines have also taxed our staff. One employee told us May 29 that he had spent 12 hours on his day off (Saturday) waiting to get gas. Another staff member confirmed that shortages were so dire, prices on the black market in much of Baghdad were now above 1,000 Iraqi dinars per liter (the official, subsidized price is 250 ID).
Kidnappings, and Threats of Worse
10. (SBU) One employee informed us in March that his brother in law had been kidnapped. The man was eventually released, but this caused enormous emotional distress to the entire family. One employee, a Sunni Kurd, received an indirect threat to her life in April. She took extended leave, and by May, relocated abroad with her family.
Security Forces Mistrusted
11. (SBU) In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of guards at the green zone checkpoints. They seemed to be more militia-like, in some cases seemingly taunting. One employee asked us to explore getting her press credentials because guards had held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to nearby passers-by "Embassy" as she entered. Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people.
Supervising a Staff At High Risk
12. (SBU) Employees all share a common tale of their lives: of nine employees in March, only four had family members who knew they worked at the embassy. That makes it difficult for them, and for us. Iraqi colleagues called after hours often speak Arabic as an indication they cannot speak openly in English.
13. (SBU) We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their "cover." Likewise, they have been unavailable during multiple security closures imposed by the government since February. A Sunni Arab female employee tells us that family pressures and the inability to share details of her employment is very tough; she told her family she was in Jordan when we sent her on training to the U.S. in February. Mounting criticisms of the U.S. at home among family members also makes her life difficult. She told us in mid-June that most of her family believes the U.S. -- which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise -- is punishing populations as Saddam did (but with Sunnis and very poor Shiites now at the bottom of the list). Otherwise, she says, the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary.
14. (SBU) Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target. Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones. For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events.
15. (SBU) More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate.
Sectarian Tensions Within Families
16. Ethnic and sectarian faultlines are also becoming part of the daily media fare in the country. One Shiite employee told us in late May that she can no longer watch TV news with her mother, who is a Sunni, because her mother blamed all government failings on the fact that Shiites are in charge. Many of the employee's immediate family members, including her father, one sister, and a brother, left Iraq years ago. This month, another sister is departing for Egypt, as she imagines the future here is too bleak.
The US invasion of Iraq is a total debacle. The happy talk blogs would have you believe that the good news is being ignored by liberal main stream media. Well, here's a diplomatic cable from the US embassy that confirms all the worst problems I've been posting about. Ethnic cleansing is happening throughout Iraq. People are fleeing the country. Militias rule and the central government has no presence in whole neighborhoods. People live in fear.
Update II: Here is the rest of the cable.
Many Baghdad neighborhoods have self-selected local governments centered around militias that control the people in each neighborhood. People do not trust their neighbors. They do not know the identity of many of the people who are enforcing codes of conduct and dress.
Frayed Nerves and Mistrust in the Office
17. (SBU) Against this backdrop of frayed social networks, tension and moodiness have risen. One Shiite made disparaging comments about the Sunni caliph Othman which angered a Kurd. A Sunni Arab female apparently insulted a Shiite female colleague by criticizing her overly liberal dress. One colleague told us he feels "defeated" by circumstances, citing the example of being unable to help his two year old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in the stifling heat.
18. (SBU) Another employee tells us that life outside the Green Zone has become "emotionally draining." He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral "every evening." He, like other local employees, is financially responsible for his immediate and extended families. He revealed that "the burden of responsibility; new stress coming from social circles who increasingl disapprove of the coalition presence, and everyday threats weigh very heavily." This employee became extremely agitated in late May at website reports of an abduction of an Iraqi working with MNFI, whose expired Embassy and MNFI badges were posted on the website.
Staying Straight with Neighborhood
Governments and the 'Alasa'
19. (SBU) Staff members say they daily assess how to move safely in public. Often, if they must travel outside their own neighborhoods, they adopt the clothing, language, and traits of the area. In Jadriya, for example, one needs to conform to the SCIRI/Badr ethic; in Yusufiya, a strict Sunni conservative dress code has taken hold. Adhamiya and Salihiya, controlled by the secular Ministry of Defense, are not conservative. Moving inconspicuously in Sadr City requires Shiite conservative dress and a particular lingo. Once-upscale Mansur district, near the Green Zone, according to one employee, by early June was an "unrecognizable ghost town."
20. (SBU) Since Samarra, Baghdadis have honed these survival skills. Vocabulary has shifted to reflect new behavior. Our staff -- and our contacts -- have become adept in modifying behavior to avoid "Alasas," informants who keep an eye out for "outsiders" in neighborhoods. The Alasa mentality is becoming entrenched as Iraqi security forces fail to gain public confidence.
21. (SBU) Our staff report that security and services are being rerouted through "local providers" whose affiliations are vague. As noted above, those who are admonishing citizens on their dress are not known to the residents. Neighborhood power providers are not well known either, nor is it clear how they avoid robbery or targeting. Personal safety depends on good relations with the "neighborhood" governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors.
22. (SBU) A resident of upscale Shiite/Christian Karrada district told us that "outsiders" have moved in and now control the local mukhtars, one of whom now has cows and goats grazing in the streets. When she expressed her concern at the dereliction, he told her to butt out.
23. (SBU) Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their own worldview. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate.
Will the ethnic cleansing eventually lead to a decrease in the extent of the inter-ethnic killings as the groups become more separated from each other? Will another mosque bombing like Samarra lead to much higher scale warfare? How is this going to play out?
Short of upping and leaving does the United States have any real cards to play in Iraq aside from just keeping on fighting with an inadequately sized force? My guess is that since we obviously aren't going to rule with the brutality of an Arab dictator we can't rule the place. At the same time our very presence motivates a substantial portion of the insurgency to fight.
Update III: Read the New York Times editorial "A Long Road Ahead in Iraq".
Take the police. It is meaningless to talk about Iraq's taking charge of its own security when the police forces that patrol its cities and run its prisons are rife with sectarian militias and death squads that would sooner wage a civil war than prevent one. While Mr. Bush holds out visions of Iraqi security forces standing up so that Americans can stand down, Iraq's deputy justice minister more candidly told The Washington Post last week that "we cannot control the prisons; it's as simple as that." He added that "our jails are infiltrated by the militias from top to bottom, from Basra to Baghdad."
I do not find it worth my time to read or listen to speeches about Iraq by major figures in the Bush Administration. They are in their own reality distortion zone. Meanwhile reality plays out tragically in Iraq.
The Times editors point to indicators that show things getting worse, not better.
Consider also the level of sectarian violence, a clear indicator of whether Iraq is moving toward national unity or sectarian conflict. In May 2003, there were five recorded incidents of sectarian violence. In May 2004, there were 10. In May 2005, there were 20. Last month there were 250. This is a very discouraging trend, as is the predictable response: thousands of families fleeing their homes.
The Times says that for the last couple of years electric power production has stayed flat and, as outlined in the diplomatic cable above, most of the time people do not have electric power. On Iraq the Times rejects solipsism.
Pretending things are better than they are will not make them so.
The Times says we face a number of questions on Iraq including whether to take on the death squads or try to cut down on the ethnic cleansing.
Should the United States resign itself to slow-motion "ethnic cleansing" in some mixed areas or try to stop it by pouring more American troops into zones around Baghdad and Basra where the threat seems most acute?
First off, unless the Times wants to start editorializing for a draft I do not see where the troops would come from to fight death squads or prevent ethnic cleansing. We need 4 times more troops to properly occupy Iraq. That isn't going to happen.
We are trying to swim upstream against the current in Iraq. I'd prefer we just pull out and let them sort it out. But Bush insists we stay and even many liberals shrink from the idea of pulling out and letting the Iraqis duke it out on their own. Well, there's a solution to the sectarian violence under these circumstances: Accelerate the ethnic cleansing by helping minorities in each neighborhood and region to move places where they are majorities. Protect their movement. Provide some money to help them move. Build tent cities. Bring in prefabricated homes.
At each step of the way the Bush Administration and the war supporters have refused to admit how much less can be accomplished in Iraq. At each step the amount we can accomplish goes down even further. The best case outcome gets even worse. Unless we admit how lousy the best case has become we will not take the steps necessary to accomplish even those very low objectives. We need to admit we can't stop the ethnic cleansing and find ways to make it happen with far fewer killed and less animosity between the major groups in Iraq.
Continued attacks on US forces and audio recordings supposedly from Saddam Hussein have ordinary Iraqis once again fearing that Saddam will return.
In conversations with a score of merchants, students, former government workers and other ordinary Iraqis over the past two days, almost all said they were pleased that Hussein was toppled. But most refused to allow their full names to be associated with any comments critical of the former president.
"You can't speak now, just like you couldn't speak during Saddam's time," said a math teacher who would identify himself by only his first name, Rami, which "would not be enough for them to catch me."
The ideal solution to this problem would be for Saddam to be found and to die in a shoot-out. A dead body with some bullet holes in the chest but a visible recognizeable face would be ideal. Then he could be paraded thru Baghdad. It would help if his sons were killed in a similar manner with their bodies also intact and recognizeable.
In contrast to the head-on charges that some Iraqi fighters launched against U.S. tanks in the war, the attacks now tend to focus on more vulnerable parts of the military, such as isolated checkpoints and slow-moving convoys, and not against strengths, such as armored units.
In another worrisome development, Iraqis who are working with the U.S. occupation force are being targeted. Most recently, on Saturday, seven new police officers who were graduating from a training academy were killed by a bomb.
One question I have is just how extensive are US intelligence efforts to try to penetrate Baathist circles to identify the people who are organizing these attacks.
Writing for The New York Times John Burns reports that the people in Iraq want order first and foremost.
Many of these Iraqis have no wider ambitions for the moment than to get back, at least, to some semblance of the order they had under Mr. Hussein. They want to return to their jobs. They want their neighborhood schools and banks and groceries and cafes reopened. They want hospitals and clinics to operate normally again. They want effective police patrols back on their streets, and gunmen disarmed or behind bars. They want electrical power running to their wall plugs again, and water flowing from their taps.
Ask them their priorities, and the answer is invariably: order, order, order.
Imagine that. The people in Iraq want police protection. Why are there too few US soldiers in Baghdad to provide order? Could it be that Donald Rumsfeld just doesn't care? Is this neglect a result of the attitude in the US military that they don't do peacekeeping because peacekeeping is for sissies? Or is the US military's logistic capacity so limited that it can not support the presence of a few divisions of soldiers in Baghdad? I do not see a plausible explanation other than "we just do not care all that much".
Under different circumstances, the victim, identified later as Kamal Sultan, might have had a chance. Here, the doctors flailed about with outdated equipment plugged in to dead sockets. They massaged Mr. Sultan's chest, and his heart murmured and skipped. They soaked up his blood with bandages and napkins, but it kept spilling onto the floor.
I think the United States government is being monumentally stupid in its handling of post-war Iraq. A single truck could haul up a generator big enough to supply electricity to a hospital. Enough generators to run all the hospitals in Baghdad probably would weigh about the same weight as a couple of M1 Abrams tanks. It is hard to argue that the United States lacks the logistical capacity to fix rather quickly some things about life in Iraq that are very visibly broken.
If the United States did not bring enough trucks to Kuwait to move supplies up more quickly then why not? If it had no plan for a rapid supply for the hospitals of Baghdad then why not? The United States could have bought precious good will fairly cheaply. Electric generators, a lot of cheap generic drugs, and guards to protect all the hospitals (the guards even could have been recruited in advance from friendly Arab nations such as Morocco and Jordan), and a few other things done to facilitate the provision of basic health care would have generated a great deal needed good will.
Outside the partly burned-out police station, a man holding a piece of gauze to his bloodied nose and mouth got out of a car to report to some of Mr. Razzaq's colleagues that he had just been shot at and assaulted. The police officers, dressed in olive-green uniforms and lounging in the shade, explained that there was nothing they could do.
"Where is the security that the Americans promised to provide the Iraqis?" the man said angrily before storming back to his car.
We need the trust of the Iraqi people. We need years to work toward building the kind of civil society that will support a democracy in Iraq. The place is split by sectarian and ethnic divisions. Some Mullahs are calling for an Islamic theocracy. The people are suffering the effects of extended totalitarian rule. Governments of some neighboring countries are trying to destabilize the place and make US rule difficult. In the face of all these problems the negligent US approach to post-war Iraq is eating away at the good will generated by the overthrow of Saddam.