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2008 May 28 Wednesday
Kurds Happy And Peaceful Keeping Out Iraqi Arabs

Writing for Condé Nast Denis Johnson has a great piece on Kurdistan as a peaceful boomtown. Kurdistan stands apart from Iraq and is better off for it.

Bloody insurgency and sectarian strife tear at the country of Iraq, but Iraqi Kurdistan—three northern “governorates’’ under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government, with its own language, flag, and national anthem, its own Parliament and its own army—prospers relatively free of violence. The Kurdistan region is open for business. With the buzz of dealmaking and the ringing cell phones and the smell of oil literally in the air, you get a sense, sitting in the Atrium, of being caught up in this planet’s biggest game, of touching the skirts of power and intrigue and life-changing wealth. (Read more about what lies beyond the Iraqi oil boom.)

The Kurdistan region is Paul Wolfowitz’s wet dream: maybe not a beacon of democracy, but certainly a red-hot ember—peaceful, orderly, secular, democratic, wildly capitalist, and sentimentally pro-American—afloat on an ocean of oil.

I think Kurdistan provides an ignored lesson: Ethnic and religious homogeneity brings peace. This runs counter to the prevailing multicultural mythology which our liberal elites would have us believe.

If you can get permission to cruise around and get thru the checkpoints in Iraq then you can see a very rapidly growing, peaceful, and happy country.

On off days we get around Erbil meeting friendly folks and shooting them, and Susan asks about the “situation on the ground” and “future prospects” and shoots the whole city, while I take notes and wonder what happened to the war.

“It’s safe here, you can go anywhere”—by which they mean wherever you find yourself in this region the size of Maryland, you’ll be safe. But whether you can actually get through the checkpoints without papers from the Ministry of Security, that’s quite another matter. With its zealous and largely successful antiterrorist measures and its capitalist fever and as-yet-incomplete system of laws, the country serves up a blend of Orwellian, penitentiary-style security and Wild West laissez-faire: no speed limits, no driver’s insurance, no D.U.I. traps—there’s very little drinking and apparently zero drug abuse—loose regulations for firearms, and homesteaders’ rights to rural land; also—at least while the parliament wrestles with the question of government revenue—no taxes. Of any kind. But to board a plane leaving Erbil, passengers must pass two vehicle checkpoints, four electronic screenings and pat-downs, and a final bag-and-body search planeside.

If we let the Kurds split off and form their own country there will be one country in the Middle East whose populace unabashedly love America.

And the Kurds love Americans. Love, love. Investors swarm in from all over the globe, and foreigners are common in Erbil, but if you mention tentatively and apologetically that you’re American, a shopkeeper or café owner is likely to take you aside and grip your arm and address you with the passionate sincerity of a drunken uncle: “I speak not just for me but all of Kurdish people. Please bring your United States Army here forever. You are welcome, welcome. No, I will not accept your money today, please take these goods as my gift to America.”

If we force the Kurds to bow to the Baghdad government their love of America will evaporate. After all the massive screw-up of US policy in Iraq could we at least get this one thing right? Probably not. But we really ought to let the Kurds stay independent of the Arabs in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2008 May 28 08:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2008 May 05 Monday
Walled Communities Bring Revival In Iraq

Surely a model for America's Latin American demographic future, walls and gated communities bring peace and prosperity to Iraq.

Baghdad - There is big excitement on al-Marifah Street. City workers are installing a new transformer to bring power to a part of the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiyah that hasn't been on the city's electrical grid for more than a year.

"A year ago, dead bodies lay on this street for days; no one dared to pick them up. But now we are getting lights and shops have opened back up," says Mahdi Jabbar Falah, a 40-year resident who has just moved himself and his family of nine back to their house. They fled last year after Mr. Jabbar received a bullet in an envelope, a sure sign he was on someone's hit list.

"Last year, this was a ghost town," he says, "but now I feel we are alive again."

If you are young do not choose a low paying occupation. Don't spend years trying to earn a Ph.D. to then work as a post doc and then an assistant professor. You need to think in terms of the walled gated community once America's lower classes swell up and come to define the national culture. The walls make for a much better lifestyle as the Iraqis can surely attest. Learn lessons from this war.

Saidiyah is one of the many neighborhoods and towns in and around Baghdad that residents abandoned during the worst of the sectarian violence. Officials there estimate that more than half the area's 60,000 people moved out. Now, many are moving back and the trucks overflowing with household goods coming through al-Marifah Street attest to that.

But there has been a price to pay: Saidiyah is now surrounded by a 12-foot-tall concrete wall, a barrier that the US military completed four months ago. Long lines of cars await inspection by the Iraqi Army at the town's one public entrance, while pedestrians submit to a pat-down.

One guy in the article claims the walls do not bother him since he can't see them from his house. Well there, I hadn't thought of it that way. If you can see in advance where the walls will go up around your community the good real estate play is to buy at a location that won't be in eyesight of the walls. You heard it here first.

By Randall Parker    2008 May 05 09:08 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2007 April 21 Saturday
US Creating 7 Walled Gated Baghdad Communities

As a representative of a society whose elites celebrate multiculturalism, a US General has to deny that partition is the order of the day.

U.S. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the top spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, was quoted as saying Wednesday that he was unaware of any effort to build a wall dividing Shiite and Sunni enclaves in Baghdad and that such a tactic was not a policy of the Baghdad security plan.

"We have no intent to build gated communities in Baghdad," Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper, quoted Caldwell as saying. "Our goal is to unify Baghdad, not subdivide it into separate [enclaves]."

Unity. Everyone can get along. There are no insurmountable differences between the peoples of the world. Kumbaya.

But what's that 3 mile long 12 foot high concrete barrier getting built across Baghdad?

In Adhamiyah, a restive section of northern Baghdad, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division last week began erecting a 3-mile-long, 12-foot-high barrier around a Sunni enclave that's surrounded by predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. A single Iraqi army checkpoint now controls access into the Sunni area.

Why do American leaders need to pretend the rest of the world is all perfectly compatible with each other? Because our Open Borders elites have to defend that they aren't introducing incompatible elements by letting anyone come to America. Gotta defend the domestic faith even if doing so requires verbal somersaults to reconcile actions with stated policy.

Some call it apartheid. Some call it creation of ethnic ghettoes. But why not some positive spin? The US military is creating exclusive upscale gated communities. How about building some midget golf courses across rooftops too?

At the level of high level policy makers the belief that liberal universalism can create workable societies is still the defended faith. But down at the level of US field commanders liberal universalism is a dead faith killed by bombings and death squads.

Besides Adhamiyah, barriers are going up in Ghaziliyah, Khadra and Ameriyah in western Baghdad — all Sunni areas — and three are being built in the southern Rashid district in locations that officials didn't specify.

Military officials said it's only coincidence that so many of the enclaves are Sunni. Bleichwehl said the decision to erect barriers rests with commanders in the field.

Lots of walls are the only way the US can occupy Iraq with less than a half million soldiers. If Bush wants to pretend that his field commanders have enough troops to do the job then he's got to pretend that ethnic partition is liberal universalism.

The wall elements are prefabricated and trucked in.

The project for Adhamiya involves the building of a 3-mile wall along streets on its eastern flank. It consists of a series of concrete barriers, each weighing 14,000 pounds, that have been transportedto Baghdad from Camp Taji, north of the city. Soldiers are using cranes to put the barriers in place.

We could do the same thing to the US border with Mexico and cut off that source of illegal immigrants.

Also see my previous post Walls Bring Peace For Iraqis.

Update: I think the real interesting point here is that it took the extreme circumstances of a change of control of the US Congress to the Democrats with demands to end the war, a surge to about 150,000 US troops in Iraq, an extension of combat tours to 15 months, a few billion dollars a year getting wasted, thousands of US troops killed, and continued high levels of killings in Iraq to get the Bush Administration to the point where small scale partition became an acceptable option. Their faith is strong. Their willingness to accept the evidence of empirical reality quite a bit less so.

By Randall Parker    2007 April 21 12:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2007 April 13 Friday
Walls Bring Peace For Iraqis

Audacious Epigone points to a Wall Street Journal story on a US officer who is putting up walls in Baghdad to keep the Sunnis and Shias from killing each other.

Gigot and company must be fuming. Too bad the WSJ's own Greg Jaffe reports (free partial here) on yet another successful example of a constructive wall in a tenuous area of the world:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The lower-middle-class neighborhoods that Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson's troops patrol have been the epicenter of Iraq's civil war for most of
the past year. "Every issue facing Baghdad writ large is in our area," he says.

In recent weeks, Col. Peterson has tried a controversial approach to calming his sector. As Sunnis and Shiites have separated into their own neighborhoods, he has resisted the urge to encourage reconciliation or even dialogue. Instead, he has erected massive concrete barriers between the sects.

The Epigonous one points out that I've previously advocated construction of a wall across Baghdad to separate the Sunnis and Shias. When people can't get along we need to admit they can't get along and act accordingly. We do this with divorce courts and "irreconcilable differences".

That lieutenant colonel in Baghdad has been on a learning curve about the nature of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq. Peterson probably came to realize the value of barrier walls when he demonstrated the threat of Shia police.

When the squadron commander Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson took over South Dora, he could not trust the predominantly Shiite police battalion. Evidence linking them to Shiite militias was overwhelming. And his troops had to watch their own backs.

"In many cases, we felt like the national police were targeting us," he said.

Peterson arrested seven police officers he suspected of being behind murders and kidnappings, particularly of Sunnis. They likely weren't the only ones involved, but he thinks the arrests did send a strong message.

You know how the Sunnis claim that the Iraqi police are their enemy? Lt. Col. Peterson has demonstrated with a powerful experiment that, yes, the Iraqi police in Baghdad are the mortal enemies of Sunnis.

Relations between the Shiite police force and the Sunni population were so bad that Peterson decided to lock the police out of a key Sunni neighborhood.

"I thought, given the situation where there was so much distrust, we just had to separate them for a while."

The results were immediate.

"Murders went down, mosque attacks went down," Peterson said. "So, immediately, there was a sense of relief amongst the population — that they were no longer going to be subjected to national police running around, and essentially, terrorizing the people."

These national police work for the Iraqi national government that American soldiers are fighting and dying for. Why do the lessons about human nature have to be learned at such a high cost?

Part of the job of the US troops involved in the surge into Baghdad? Babysitting the Iraqi police to protect the populace from them.

Now, when the police are in Sunni neighborhoods, they are always accompanied or monitored by U.S. forces.

Col. Peterson says the increase in U.S. troops made a huge difference. They are able to cover much more territory, get better information on both Sunni and Shiite threats, and monitor the police more closely. But Lt. Steve Harnsberger says it means his soldiers are doing a double job.

"We're trying to control our own elements, but also national police. It seems to take a little bit away from our capabilities, and puts more stress on the squad leaders and the individual men."

Remember, in theory American troops protect the government and the people from the insurgents and militias. But American troops also protect the people from the Iraqi goverment. But the Iraqi government was chosen by an election which, in the minds of George W. Bush and the neocons, is tantamount of a holy bestowal of miracles. (aside: "insurgents" means Sunni fighters and "militias" mean Shia fighters).

The events in Iraq are all nature's way of telling us that some facts about humanity aren't compatible with liberalism. The neoconservative liberals and the left liberals hold false beliefs about human nature. Western democracy only works to the extent that Westerners want freedom not only for themselves but also for their fellow citizens. In Iraq the people see all relationships as defined by dominance and submission. The fight is on over who will dominate and who will submit. They aren't willing to see each other as equals.

By Randall Parker    2007 April 13 11:29 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2007 February 11 Sunday
Mahdi Army Brings Progress To Sadr City

A secure Shia-dominated Sadr City has already begun to recover from the still on-going Iraqi civil war.

BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 — Just past the main checkpoint into Sadr City, children kick soccer balls at goals with new green nets, on fields where mounds of trash covered the ground last summer. A few blocks away, city workers plant palm trees by the road, while men gather at a cafe nearby to chatter and laugh.

Sadr City, once infamous as a fetid slum and symbol of Shiite subjugation, is recovering, with the help of $41 million in reconstruction funds from the Shiite-led government, all of it spent since May, according to Iraqi officials, and millions more in American assistance.

But as Shiite areas like Sadr City begin to thrive as self-enclosed fiefs, middle-class Sunni enclaves are withering into abandoned ghettos, starved of government services.

What a great story, right? A victory for Bush Administration strategy? Not so fast. The secret is that the Shia Mahdi Army sectarian militia, using Sunni-killing death squads and ethnic cleansing, made Sadr City safe enough for economic recovery.

Many residents credit a Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, and its powerful political leader, the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, for keeping the area safe enough to allow rebuilding. Yet the Mahdi Army has also killed American troops and has been linked to death squads preying on Sunnis, making the district a potential target as American troops pour into Baghdad to enforce the new security plan.

Shias have flowed in from Sunni majority areas, rents are rising, the economy is growing, and signs of prosperity (by Iraqi standards of course) are showing up.

If the United States would let the Shias push the Sunnis entirely out of Baghdad then all of Baghdad would start rebuilding and the economy would boom. In other words, ethnic cleansing is the path to recovery. But under US supervision the ethnic cleansing could be done without killing. Help the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other. Help them settle in areas which are pure one group or the other.Short of that, a wall across Baghdad to separate the two ethnic groups might work to greatly reduce the disruptions from civil war.

By Randall Parker    2007 February 11 05:27 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 January 04 Thursday
Iraq: What To Do Once Troop Surge Fails?

Once Bush tries his next set of futile and foolish policies in Iraq we'll be down another hundred billion dollars with another thousand Americans dead with tens of thousands permanently injured. At that point what should we do next? I suggest we stop throwing good money after bad and write off Iraq like a really bad investment. But for those who still want us to try to accomplish something before we withdraw the debate will likely move on to the question of partition. What to do once US troop surge doesn't stop the Iraq civil war?

WASHINGTON – As President Bush readies a new strategy for Iraq, some experts in Washington are looking beyond the question of US troop levels to what might happen if worst-case scenarios come true. Call it Plan B: How the United States might handle Iraq's partition.

It may still be possible to hold Iraq together, many of these critics believe. A surge in American military strength might help. But the hour is late - and a lack of contingency planning on the part of US officials may be one reason the situation has become so dire.

What is the main reason the Bush Administration is still in fantasy land in their public pronouncements and plans for Iraq? How about a lack of willingness to admit the sheer scale of the wrongness of their model of human nature? Bush's obstinate refusal to admit error about human nature underlies the Iraq debacle. Bush's government has admitted serious problems in Iraq. But they have not admitted that they formulated their Iraq policy based on very wrong myths about human nature. Bush would rather be wrong than admit to being wrong.

Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says we should look at Bosnia both as a model of how bad the deaths can get and how we can partition to stop the killing.

The US might need actively to aid Iraqis in relocating to parts of the country where they feel safer, says Mr. O'Hanlon. This sort of resettlement assistance wouldn't be unprecedented, he notes. The US did it in Bosnia.

Such a policy would perhaps preempt the violent Balkans-style ethnic cleansing that is already occurring in Iraq, O'Hanlon says. Sectarian strife is displacing 100,000 Iraqis a month.

"One-third to one-quarter of the ethnic cleansing that might occur [in Iraq] has occurred," says O'Hanlon.

Michael O'Hanlon and Edward Joseph have an essay in The American Interest arguing for the need for a back-up plan should the US troop surge fail (and it will). The essay is entitled Toolbox: A Bosnia Option For Iraq and they argue we should assist Shias and Sunnis to move away from each other.

The war in Bosnia ended only after as many as 200,000 civilians died and half the country’s population had either been expelled or fled from their homes, leaving the country a patchwork of ethnically homogeneous pieces. NATO airpower, a reinforced UN contingent and the military successes of Muslim and Croat armies were critical elements leading to the 1995 Dayton Accords. But Dayton could not have been negotiated had not ethnic relocations already occurred, creating definable and mostly defensible territories.


Facilitating voluntary relocations is difficult to time correctly. If done too soon, government-assisted relocations could codify an ethnic segregation process that most Iraqis do not inherently desire. It could even encourage some militias to accelerate violence against minorities within their neighborhoods in the belief that it would be relatively easy to drive people from their homes if they knew that new jobs and houses awaited elsewhere. If done too late, however, much of the killing that we hope to prevent would have already occurred (as in Bosnia). This is why the Bosnia Option needs to be discussed now, even if it might not be implemented for several more months as we try to salvage success from the current strategy.

The key--and the most challenging part of an ethnic relocation policy--is to get the parties to informally accept it. With an informal understanding among belligerents, ethnic relocation can be less traumatic and destabilizing. For example, the vast majority of Croatia’s Serbs were expelled during two military operations (in May and August 1995) that had at least tacit acquiescence from Belgrade. Without minimizing the trauma to the Serbs (indeed, the Croatian commander will be tried in the Hague for alleged war crimes), the fact is that they suffered nothing like the calamities of Muslims forcibly uprooted from Serb-held parts of Bosnia. Likewise, thousands of Serbs left western Bosnia after the war, without violence, as part of land swaps agreed between Croats and Serbs at Dayton.

My guess is that hundreds of thousands Iraqis want to move right now and would if moving was made easy with prefabricated housing to live in once they have moved.

As the Sunnis and Shias become more separated what I want to know is just how much killing will continue due to the Shia tribes fighting each other? How much of the death toll today is due to clan warfare? How much of the killings are due to criminal gangs fighting?

By Randall Parker    2007 January 04 09:16 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 August 31 Thursday
Iraq Partition An Option?

Michael E. O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution makes an argument for partitioning Iraq.

There is what might be called a "Plan A-" option - facilitating voluntary ethnic relocation within Iraq while retaining a confederal governing structure. We should offer individuals who want to protect themselves and their families the chance to move to an Iraq territory more hospitable to their ethnicity and/or religion.

To a substantial extent this is happening already, but the 100,000 or more internally displaced Iraqis have received scant help or protection to date. With Plan A- as a policy, not an accident, the international community and Iraqi government could help offer housing and jobs to those wishing to move, as well as protection en route. Houses left behind would revert to government ownership, to be offered to individuals of other ethnic groups who wanted them, in what would largely become a program of swapping. Funds for some new home construction would be needed as well.

To help move the Shias and Sunnis away from each other it would not be necessary to state that a big carving up of Iraq was in progress. Just help them do something many already want to do: Get away from the other group in order to be more safe.

The Kurds want independence.

At this crowded market place in the center of the city of Irbil, almost everyone wants to see more than just autonomy within Iraq.

One man says, "For many years we have struggled and died for our freedom."

Another says, "The Iraqi government has not done anything for us."

And still another says, "Iraq should be divided into four or three regions just like Shias and Sunni and Kurdistan."

But the Kurds have been so successful at keeping the Shia Arab-Sunni Arab civil war out of Kurdistan that Arabs are flocking to the peaceful Kurdish region as a safe refuge.

Thousands of Arabs like Hamid have arrived among the ethnic Kurds of the soaring northern mountains, fleeing the violence gripping much of Iraq since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in February pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The trend is a stunning reversal for Iraq's Kurdistan, home mainly to non-Arab Kurds. During the 1980s, tens of thousands of Kurds were killed in the region during Saddam Hussein's military campaign, which emptied entire villages.

In June, Hamid set up a private clinic in Sulaimaniya, in partnership with a cardiologist and an orthopaedics specialist -- both of whom are also from Baghdad, 330 km (205 miles) to the south.

The Kurdish majority can maintain order in the Kurdish region only because they are the overwhelming majority. Therefore a small number of Arabs can find safety in the Kurdish region. But should so many Arabs flood in that they become a large minority or majority then the civil war would start up in the Kurdish region as well.

Some observers claim many partitioning efforts have not worked out well.

The critics of partition, on the other hand, see separation as a kind of ethnic cleansing with a human face. In a 2000 statistical study published in World Politics, "Partition as a Solution to Ethnic War," Yale political science professor Nicholas Sambanis found that partitions did not significantly reduce the risk of wars breaking out again. He points to the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea after a 1993 partition; the violent 1992 collapse of the partition of Somaliland; and the recurring wars between India and Pakistan since partition, including the 1971 partition that sliced Bangladesh from Pakistan -- not to mention the post-partition Arab-Israeli wars of 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. He warns against carving up warring African countries into many little monoethnic states, which would only replace civil war with international war.

I do not see these examples as proving the anti-partition case. If these countries hadn't been partitioned the result could have been even worse.

By Randall Parker    2006 August 31 10:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2006 July 03 Monday
Will Internal Migration Lead To Iraq Partition?

New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, who has put his life at risk to get stories in Iraq, says partition of Iraq would be difficult because of the ethnically mixed neighborhoods in cities.

But in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul, there are no clear geographical lines separating the main groups. A breakup into ethnic regions or states would almost certainly increase the pressure on families to flee the mixed neighborhoods to be closer to members of their own group. Shiites to Shiites, Sunnis to Sunnis. Ethnic cleansing is already happening in Iraq, but still at a relatively slow pace.

Iraq's main groups - and even smaller ones, like Christians and Turkomans - now live together in many places. While the Tigris River acts as a broad ethnic boundary in both Baghdad and Mosul - Sunnis on the west and Shiites on the east in Baghdad, and Sunnis on the west and Kurds on the east in Mosul - there are large pockets of each group on both sides of the river.

Trying to divide those cities could result in the expulsion of tens of thousands of people from their homes, maybe more. That is not a pretty process: the neighborhoods around the edges of Baghdad have already experienced a lot of ethnic cleansing - mainly Shiites being forced from their homes.

But unless the inter-ethnic violence abates up that partitioning is going to continue to happen. All the while US policy makers will continue to insist that partition is unthinkable. Baghdad is ethnically purifying into Shiite and Sunni sections along the two sides of the Tigris River that runs through it.

Imad Talib lived in a Shiite-dominated district for many years until threats by Shiite militiamen forced the Sunni Arab to move across town. Ahmed Khazim left a mostly Sunni suburb for Sadr City, where his Shiite sect forms the majority.

Religiously mixed neighborhoods of this sprawling city are gradually disappearing as sectarian tensions are prompting Shiites and Sunnis to move to areas where they are predominant.

The trend is raising concerns that Baghdad is slowly being transformed into a divided city with a Shiite-dominated east and mostly Sunni west, separated by the Tigris River that flows through the heart of the capital.

The rate of populations shifting around is limited by housing. People can't all get up and move simultaneously. Every family of one ethnic group who flee create an opening for a familiy of another group to move in. But this all takes time. Also, construction of housing takes time. The rate of migration would be faster if more housing was available.

Estimates on the number of families that have moved due to the conflict vary. But one part of the Iraqi government puts the number of peopple who have moved at over 23,000.

Since the Samarra bombing, Interior Ministry official Satar Nawrouz estimates that nearly 4,000 families or about 23,670 people have been forced to relocate to other neighborhoods in the Baghdad area due to sectarian tensions.

Since the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra was bombed on February 22, 2006 that works out to over 5000 per month in Baghdad alone. Continued over the course of a year that would add up to 60,000. The Iraqi government has a limited ability to track its own citizens and that estimate may well be too low.

Assyrian writer Rosie Malek-Yonan, author of The Crimson Field, testifying before the House Committee on International Relations on June 30, 2006, claims that just last week 7000 Assyrian Christians fled Baghdad.

We Assyrians are not extraordinary people. But we are caught up in the cross fires of extraordinary events. And yet we don't fight violence with violence. We don't retaliate. Because we just want to live. When our churches are bombed, we don't think of retribution. We walk away as Christians should.

Just this week, 7,000 Assyrians left Baghdad for Northern Iraq. The women and children have taken refuge in other Assyrian homes, while the men sleep in the cemeteries at night. I don't mean figuratively. I mean literally. They sleep in the cemeteries because they have no other shelter. These suffering Assyrians in Iraq depend on our courage in the western world to help them.

A few months ago, I met with Mar Gewargis Sliwa, the Assyrian Archbishop of Iraq from the Assyrian Catholic Church of the East. His account of the lives of Assyrian children in Iraq was appalling and heartbreaking. He said to me, "We can't help our children anymore. They play in fields of blood. We are a poor nation. We need help. Help us."

A Christian town of 30,000 in the Kurdish region has 3 to 6 heads of family arriving every day looking for housing so their families can flee other parts of Iraq.

Lamani said that 3,500 Christian families who had received threats had also fled the capital for the relative safety of Kurdistan.

The sudden influx of Christians to Inkawa has made it increasingly difficult for families of modest means to rent accommodation. A two-room apartment now costs at least 500 dollars a month, with more spacious properties costing double.


Other families share a single apartment, while the demand for even meagre homes from Inkawa estate agents remains high in this town of 30,000, almost all Christians.

"Three to six heads of families come here every day looking for lodging, and it's more and more difficult to find something for them," says estate agent Kameran Matti.

The Christians in Iraq are especially getting shafted by the US invasion. They were safer under Saddam Hussein. Western Christians ought to set up programs to build housing in Iraqi Christian villages in relatively safer areas so that Christians can flee to safer areas.

A report from April 14, 2006 puts the number of internal refugees on the move at more than ten thousand a week at that point.

The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes for safer parts of the country has more than doubled in two weeks to 65,000, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration said Thursday.

A ministry spokesman reported a twofold jump from the 30,000 internal refugees estimated on March 30. The ministry put the number of families on the move at 10,991.

I doubt that Iraqi government employees are trying to systematically conduct a census with questions that would let them measure the extent of the internal migrations. So these numbers sound like guesses.

The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) puts the number displaced over the last 4 months at 150,000.

"While many were displaced as long ago as the early 1980s, the last four months of increasing violence and relentless sectarian tensions have resulted in the displacement of a further 150,000 individuals."

That's a rate of 450,000 per year. The internal migration rate could accelerate in response to future bombings, killings, and threats by militias. The war could go on for years. De facto partition looks more likely than not.

Update: The partitioning of Baghdad might end up putting some government ministries in Sunni hands and others in Shia hands depending on where they are located. Sunnis and Shias may become unwilling to cross over the river to get to work in areas where the other group dominates. Perhaps the Shiites in government will place more government offices on the Shia side of the Tigris River.

Update: Will the internal migration rate increase? Will ethnic cleansing accelerate. A rise in deaths in Baghdad suggests that the pressure to move to more ethnically pure neighborhoods will increase.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 4 — The central morgue said Tuesday that it received 1,595 bodies last month, 16 percent more than in May, in a tally that showed the pace of killing here has increased since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.

The more people of one ethnic group move out of a neighrborhood the more that those who remain will think they've got to leave too.

By Randall Parker    2006 July 03 09:38 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (18)
2006 May 04 Thursday
Can Decentralization Stop Iraq Lebanonization?

Can regional autonomy and a massive negotiation stop the low grade civil war in Iraq?

In a report released today, The Fund for Peace (FfP) urges the international community to begin exploring a new negotiated settlement in Iraq based on greater autonomy for the country’s regions or peaceful partition of the country. The current trend toward full scale civil war is documented in the three year summary report, “From Failed State to Civil War: The Lebanization of Iraq, 2003-2006.” The study concludes that there was a window of opportunity for progress in Iraq for approximately four months after the invasion. After that, worsening levels of tension were evident in all twelve indicators measured by the research project. The pattern is described as the Lebanization of Iraq, or an escalating sectarian war.

All the things that were supposed to help made things worse because the Sunnis feared rule by Shias. Also, the capture of Saddam allowed the insurgency to distance themselves from the old regime and therefore boosted their legitimacy.

The report is the fifth in a series in which a dozen social, economic and political/military indicators are measured month-by- month, along with assessments of the strength of Iraqi state institutions. Paradoxically, the report shows that benchmarks proclaimed by the U.S. government as key measures of progress toward stabilization and democratization -- such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, the transfer of sovereignty to an interim government, and the 2005 elections -- were followed by periods of deterioration, due in large part to Sunni fears of domination by Shiites and Kurds, who were reaping the benefits of the transition. This sustained the Sunni insurgency that evolved into wider sectarian warfare within the Arab community, a much larger threat to the integrity of the nation.

They argue for decentralization. That might work. But I suspect decentralization is another word for partition. What could hold the country together in a decentralized model? Only the ability of one faction to conquer the other factions.

The report argues that decentralization may avert full scale internal war if it is negotiated internationally, including participation by regional actors, and provides for a pre-agreed formula for the sharing of oil revenues, international guarantees to protect disputed territories, such as Kirkuk, and minority safeguards throughout the regions.

Dr. Pauline H. Baker, author of the report, says: “The center is not holding in Iraq. We can no longer pretend that a weak central government can reverse these worsening trends. The deterioration has gone too far. The nature and scope of violence, factionalization within and between the major groups, the proliferation of militias, and intensifying group vengeance and fear of retribution are driving Iraq into de facto partition. We must face these facts.”

The report also contends that: “The main questions are no longer whether the U.S. or the insurgents are ’winning’ or ‘losing’ …but whether national disintegration can be reversed, how fast the disintegration will occur if it is not, and whether a soft landing with minimal bloodshed can be managed.” The report shows that Iraq has steadily descended into entrenched sectarian conflict, which is probably irreversible.

The Fund calls for an international conference convened by the UN and Iraq to consider a wider regional settlement involving Iraq’s neighbors and other Arab states, all of whom have a vital stake in not allowing the country to descend into chaos. It may be a long shot, the report concludes, but fresh options need to be put on the table to avoid the violent splintering of Iraq, an outcome that would trigger wider regional conflict.

My guess is that all the UN's horses and all the UN's men can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. A mere run-of-the-mill king couldn't do the job. A ruthless dictator might be able to pull it off. But neither the Bush Administration or the liberals would find such a choice morally acceptable.

You can find their full report here.

Decentralization has become the new great hope for Iraq in American foreign policy debates. Writing in the New York Times Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware and Leslie Gelb also argue for decentralization of power in Iraq as part of an exit strategy for the United States.

The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact.


The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

I do not think this will work. But I'm for it since we could pretend it will work while we pull out the troops. Peace With Honor! Long Live Richard Nixon! Pretending that beats the heck out of pretending that our current course of action is somehow beneficial to the United States.

Biden sounds like he thinks autonomous regions would give the 3 main ethnic groups time to cool their anger toward each other. (But ParaPundit thinks they won't stop blowing up bombs and dragging each other away in cars to be shot)

"The only way to have a united Iraq five years from now (is) to give each of the major constituencies some breathing room at the front end," says Biden. Noting that the constitution recognizes an already autonomous Kurdish north and provides for other autonomous regions to be formed, the Delaware senator adds, "This [plan] is completely consistent with the elements of the existing constitution."

More years of autonomy for the Kurds will just move them further down the road toward statehood (and good for them I say). But the Sunnis and Shias are fighting over who gets to control the country as a whole. Unless the borders between these autonomous regions become huge mine fields with US troops keeping the separated groups apart I do not see how autonomous regions will stop the on-going civil war.

Writing in Asia Times Ehsan Ahrari finds some serious flaws in Biden's proposal.

There are a number of "sacrosanct" concepts of US democracy that, in the view of American politicians, should be equally sacred to the rest of the world. Foremost is the desirability of a federal (or federally based) democracy.

However, they tend to forget that, when first established, the United States was not a federal democracy as we know it today. The great Civil War of 1861-65 was one of the chief reasons for its emergence as a federal democracy.

Yet a federal government with limited power is a recipe for disaster in Iraq. In the first place, "autonomy" is a code word that the Kurds hope to use to break away eventually and establish an independent Kurdistan. Emulating the Kurdish practice, a number of Shi'ite groups envisage the creation of an autonomous region in the south.

Writing from where he's lived for years in Beirut Lebanon Michael Young points out the same problem where a weak central government wouldn't have the strength to stop the sectarian fighting.

The scheme to divide Iraq, like Lewis' earlier willingness to place his vast expertise at the service of the Bush administration so it could implement deep transformation in the Middle East, has revived accusations that the U.S. is redeploying hubris in its dealings with the Arabs.

This was well expressed by Gary Sick, a former National Security Council staffer during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, on the private Gulf 2000 mailing list which Sick hosts. In a powerful critique of the Biden-Gelb plan, Sick wondered how the weak Iraqi central government outlined by Biden and Gelb could prevent sectarian fighting, defend women and minorities, ensure an even distribution of oil resources, terminate the pernicious role of militias, and avoid regional interference in Iraq's affairs. He concluded that it simply could not, while the autonomous regional governments would likely make matters worse in pursuing their parochial interests. It would be up to the U.S. to resolve and regulate sensitive issues, undermining a principal Biden and Gelb goal, namely offering the U.S. an effective means of exiting Iraq.

Right now security agencies and the military of the central government of Iraq are being used by the Shias against the Sunnis. How can a somewhat neutral central government be created? I do not see how it could be staffed. Where to get people who are willing to be even handed to all factions?

Also see my previous posts "Iraq: Loose Federation Or Partition?", "Ethnic Cleansing To Produce 3 States In Iraq?", and "Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?".

By Randall Parker    2006 May 04 10:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2006 April 22 Saturday
Iraq: Loose Federation Or Partition?

Writing in the UK's Prospect Magazine Gareth Stansfield argues that the best we can hope for in Iraq is a loose federation of three ethnic provinces.

Despite the imminent formation of a government of national unity, Iraq is splintering into its three historic provinces. The break-up can be managed, but it cannot be avoided. The western powers and Iraqi nationalists must now accept that radical federalism is the only alternative to civil war

The British and American governments still take the position that Humpty Dumpty hasn't fallen off the wall yet. Therefore all the King's horses and all the King's men pretend that they are not trying to put the Humpty man back together again.

Stansfield believes (wrongly in my view) that the break-up of Iraq could get molded into a return to the status quo of how Iraq was governed during the Ottoman Empire. My problem with that view: What army will serve the role of the Ottoman Turkish military that maintained control?

The partitioning, or rather radical decentralisation, of Iraq is under way. This should not necessarily be seen as a problem. Historical Iraq was a place of three semi-independent parts—Kurdish north, Sunni centre and Shia south—within the loose framework of the Ottoman empire. It is the centralised Iraq—starting with Britain's creation of the modern state in 1921-23 and reaching its nadir in nearly three decades of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship—that has failed and should be allowed to die.

There are, however, powerful forces refusing to contemplate partition or "hard federalism." The radical Shia movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, emerging as one of the most powerful groups in Iraq, rejects federalism as a divide-and-rule tactic and defends Iraqi identity in traditional nationalist terms. Opposition among the Arab Sunnis who have traditionally dominated the state is even stronger. Whether radical Islamists, ex-Ba'athists or secularists, Arab Sunnis see federalism as undermining everything they have stood for in nearly a century of Iraqi history.

The "hard federalists" want to control the whole place. But they are divided on which faction should rule. That's a formula for a very intense civil war.

David Goodhart found much to agree about in Stansfield's essay and Goodhart also believes that a loose federalism short of partition is possible for Iraq.

Last year's constitution is full of federal phrases, but there is no real agreement between the centralists (the Sunnis and the more nationalist, anti-Iranian Shias led by Moqtada al-Sadr) and the federalists (the Kurds and the SCIRI-supporting Shias) on the things that matter: oil, the role of the national parliament and the army.

Returning to a looser, federal country based on the three Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra does not mean partition - there is still a role for a reduced central state - but it does need very careful management. Stansfield argues that some of the alleged problems with radical federalism, such as an Iranian takeover of the south or a Turkish "veto", are not as serious as they seem. Turkey is heavily involved in the Kurdish north, both politically and economically, and could live with decentralisation. But there are tricky regional border disputes in the north, and many of the biggest cities, particularly Baghdad itself, have very mixed populations. Large Sunni and Shia groups might end up as restive minorities in powerful regions with governments hostile to their interests.

The "careful management" theorists for a confederated set of 3 provinces (Kurdistan, Sunnistan, and Shiastan) based on an Ottoman Empire model face one insurmountable problem: The 3 stans would have no Ottoman Empire with ruthless Turkish soldiers over them to keep them part of a larger state. The only groups in Iraq who want to keep Iraq together want to keep it together so their groups can rule the other groups. The Sunnis want to rule over the Shias as they used to. Shias such as Sadr want to rule over a central Iraqi state. Unlike the Arab factions the Kurds want out of Iraq altogether and already have de facto independence. The only power in Iraq that might serve as forceful maintainer of a loosely federated system is the United States. But the American people do not want to hang around in Iraq enforcing a political settlement that leaves no single internal group in charge for decades to come. A look at the trend in Bush's approval rating makes clear the lack of public enthusiasm for colonialism.

I expect to see continued ethnic cleansing in the Shiastan and Sunnistan zones that will make each zone increasingly more ethnically homogeneous. Only US withdrawal might put an end to the ethnic cleansing. But it is not clear to me that US withdrawal would do the trick at this point. The amount of distrust and animosity between Shias and Sunnis at this point might have reached a point where their mutual hostility perpetuates.

Then is partition an option? The answer depends on whether the Shias will find enough motive to conquer and rule the Sunnis. If the Shias won't put up that big of a fight then the Sunnis might be able to keep control of their area. But the borders between the Shia and Sunni areas - most notably ethnically divided Baghdad - are going to continue to be scenes of a lot of violence.

By Randall Parker    2006 April 22 09:38 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2005 December 10 Saturday
Saudis Expect Iraq To Break Into Pieces

UPI correspondent Claude Salhani says Saudi government officials think Iraq will break up.

Jordan, another staunch U.S. ally in the region, is also in the Saudis' state of mind when it comes to the question of Sunni/Shiite rivalries. When the Shiites began making progress in Iraq both Jordan and Saudi Arabia decided "the Shiites must not be allowed to win," said an adviser to the Saudi palace.

If in the final analysis this means Saudi Arabia and Jordan, both of them U.S. allies, might need to discreetly funnel support to the Sunni resistance in order to keep the Shiites in check, then so be it.

Saudi officials will admit -- privately --they do no think that Iraq will remain unified.

"We do not believe that an Iraq in its present form is salvable," confided a Saudi official in Jeddah.

Is this Saudi analysis motivated more by their desires or by their expectations? The Saudis do not want to see the Iraqi Sunnis ruled by the Iraqi Shias. The Saudis also see the Iraqi Shias as under considerable Iranian influence. If the Saudis start backing the Sunnis that'll increase the odds that Iraq will fall apart when US troops leave. Maybe the Saudis will even make common cause with the Kurds and Iraqi Sunni Arabs split them each separately off from the Iraqi Shia Arabs.

By Randall Parker    2005 December 10 10:36 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2004 July 01 Thursday
Carroll Andrew Morse Addresses Objections To Iraq Partition

Carroll Andrew Morse, whose Tech Central Station article arguing for a partition of Iraq I've previously linked to comes back to Tech Central Station with a new essay addressing objections to a partition of Iraq into multiple smaller states.

The argument in favor of starting with mini-democracies is rooted in an intuitive understanding of organizational dynamics. It is easier to organize 10 people to work together towards a common goal than it is to organize 100; it is to organize 100 than it is 1,000, etc. An important facet of this is the element of leadership. There are many people capable of managing their own lives, a group of one. Some subset from that group is capable of managing a group of 10. From that subset, a smaller subset is capable of managing a group of 100. There are probably very few people capable of managing a group of 25 million. The best way to find qualified leaders is to pick from people who have had success in managing smaller groups.

Morse points out that violence is just as possible within states as between them.

The past 10 years of history -- Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now the Sudan, to name the most obvious cases -- is full of examples demonstrating that intrastate violence is neither intrinsically better nor worse than its interstate counterpart. Intrastate violence can be sadistically efficient when one side uses its control of the government to gain terrible advantage. This dynamic is a large part of the story of the Rwandan massacre, where the Hutus carefully used state machinery to plan and implement the massacre of 800,000 of their Tutsi countrymen. The Tutsi cry for help was ignored, in large part, because the Tutsis had no government to speak through (while the Hutus held a seat on the United Nations Security Council). Is the world comfortable with placing certain groups in Iraq in the same disadvantaged position as Rwanda's Tutsis?

I'd go out on a limb here and guess that more people have died in the last 10 years from intra-state political violence between factions than from inter-state wars.

Morse acknowledges that Turkey's reaction poses a problem but he questions whether Turkey's government will see intervention against an independent Kurdistan as worth the harm it would do to Turkish ambitions to join the EU.

Turkey, neither a dictatorship nor a true liberal democracy, does present a challenge to this scenario. Turkey fears that the formation of a Kurd-dominated state from the remains of Iraq might encourage the 12 million Kurds living within Turkish borders to seek their own state. Turkey, according to the armchair realists, can be expected to do whatever is necessary to stop any breakup of Iraq. The armchair realists, however, too quickly ignore realist constraints on Turkish action. The long-standing goal of Turkey's foreign policy is membership in the European Union. Is Turkey prepared to effectively kill that effort by becoming the non-democratic occupier of another democracy? Furthermore, is the Turkish government confident that the 12 million Kurds will sit quietly on the sidelines during an invasion? An invasion is just as likely to exacerbate Kurdish nationalism as it is to quell it.

Morse argues that if either Syria or Iran invaded the Iraqi Kurdish zone that allies (obviously the United States) of the Kurds could help the Kurds retaliate by seizing the Kurdish territories of either of those countries. Though the US would most likely be very unwillingto help the Kurds seize and annex a chunk of what is not part of sovereign Turkish territory.

The Turks might feel compelled to intervene anyway if their own 12 million Kurds started rebelling to secede from Turkey. But what does it say about the West that the Western powers have been willing to collude with the governments of 4 different states to deny the national aspirations of a distinct linguistic and ethnic group?

My own guess is that Iraq may well descend into civil war and the issue of whether to partition will, at that point, have to be taken far more seriously than it has so far. As soon as the body count from the civil war gets high enough the interests of neighboring states will begin to weigh less heavily and the need to pull the combating factions in Iraq apart will become so compelling that partition will become probable. How the Turks and Turkish Kurds will respond is hard to guess. But NATO (or at least its current make-up) may well become a casualty of an Iraqi civil war.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 01 05:01 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2004 June 20 Sunday
Will The Kurds Try To Secede From Iraq?

The Kurds are developing distrust of America and are afraid the Bush Administration will betray them.

IRBIL, Iraq - (KRT) - In the days since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution governing the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that has no overt mention of Kurdish concerns, something has been brewing in the streets here that was unheard of just a few weeks ago: Anti-American sentiment.

If I was in their position I wouldn't trust the United States either. The Bush Administration can't be counted on to insist on Kurdish autonomy.

The Kurds fear being forced to live under a Shia Arab religious government.

Sitting under a huge portrait of Mulla Mustapha, Barzani spoke intensely: "In the past, the Sunni Arab minority ruled Iraq. Now religious groups could take power and dictate. If every now and then a fatwa (a religious decree) would be issued by Sistani or someone else, what would be the guarantee that Kurds can live?

"The Americans won't stay forever, and what then?"

The Kurds are right to fear eventual rule by the Arabs in part because the Kurds are substantially more liberal than the Arabs.

The Kurdish troops in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are ready to abandon it to fight against the Arabs if the Kurdish region is not allowed to maintain its autonomy.

The local troops have earned high marks for their professionalism; many of them, like the 24-year-old Nasser, got years of military training in the fight against Saddam Hussein with the peshmerga guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That's where Nasser's loyalty remains, he readily admits. "I'm still a peshmerga," he says, laughing. "I only wear this uniform because our party's leadership told us we have to join the ICDC." How long they'll tell him to stay is an open question. "If our leaders decide to pull out of the government," he says, "we will leave with them. It will be easy for us to go to the mountains and fight the new government."

Kurds are being threatened by Arabs in Fallujah and other Arab cities because the Arabs see them as disloyal and allied with the American forces. The Kurds are fleeing Arab regions to return to the Kurdish north to take back land they'd previously been forced off of by Saddam Hussein's regime. But this return is displacing Arabs. So migrations of Arabs and Kurds within Iraq are making the majority Arab and Kurd zones more purely Arab and Kurd. There may be 100,000 Arabs living in refugee camps as a result of being forced off of lands and out of houses in Kurdish region of Iraq. (same article here)

The Kurdish migration appears to be causing widespread misery, with Arab settlers complaining of forcible expulsions and even murders at the hands of Kurdish returnees. Many of the Kurdish refugees themselves are gathered in crowded and filthy refugee camps.

U.S. officials say that as many as 100,000 Arabs have fled their homes in north-central Iraq and are now scattered in squalid camps across the center of the country.

The Kurds will continue to stream north while the Arabs move in the opposite direction. This will make the regions of Iraq have even less in common. The Kurds may avoid outright secession out of fear of US military forces. But the US really should avoid allowing events to unfold in ways that will push the Kurds to the point where they feel alienated from the United States. My guess is that the Bush Administration will try so hard to cater to the Shia Arabs that the Kurds will end up feeling pretty well shafted though.

If the US would guarantee Kurdish autonomy then the Kurds would love to see the US set up permanent bases to help safeguard the Kurdish region.

The Kurds are not in the worst position of all the factions in Iraq.The Assyrian Christians face an even worse future than the Kurds may face.

By Randall Parker    2004 June 20 03:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2004 May 12 Wednesday
US Deal Making May Lead To De Facto Iraq Partitioning

The creation of a Sunni militia commanded by Baathist officers to control Fallujah with American support has other groups in Iraq thinking they too can maneuver to get American blessings for their own local militias to control some piece of Iraq.

Muqtada al-Sadr, who led a wave of uprisings in Shia cities in the south a few weeks ago, will be encouraged too, though American forces this week began to flush his Mahdi army out of Karbala and another town in the south. Still holed up in Najaf, Mr Sadr says that he has learnt a lesson from Fallujah: “if you want to be friends with America, you must fight it.” The revival of a Sunni Arab militia has given Kurdish and Shia militia commanders good cause to reconsider their earlier promise to dissolve and join a new army.


Now Mr Hussein's former soldiers may be able to choose between a career in Mr Allawi's forces and in those run by former Baathist generals.

Defense Ali Allawi couches his spoken fears by referring to the fears of the Iraqi people about the return of Baathist officers to power.

BAGHDAD--A funny thing happened on the way toward Iraqi sovereignty. Last week, former Iraqi Army officers, led by a Republican Guard general, strode through Fallujah's streets in their old olive-green uniforms and shook hands with a U.S. Marine commander, sealing a pact to retake control of the city's armed forces. And Iraqi Minister of Defense Ali Allawi watched it all, aghast. "Iraq is too fragile . . . to overcome the legitimate fears of people that all those creeps are coming back into power," he says.

Allawi knows that his central Army will be less powerful if the US goes around and makes deals that empower local forces. But maybe the US will start supplying him with money to pay to local military leaders to rent their loyalty.

The Bush Administration appears to be as willing to make a deal with Sadr as it is with the Baathists.

General Martin Dempsey, commanding general of the 1st armoured division, said on Tuesday that he had begun negotiations with “stakeholders” including members of Mr Sadr’s militia to form two battalions of 1,840 troops in Najaf, which he said Mr Sadr's “lieutenants” could help to recruit.

How to become a "stakeholder" in Iraq? Well, one way is to have influence over people who have demonstrated an ability to kill Americans.

Shia tribal leaders are negotiating an agreement with Sadr to present to the US for approval.

Under the agreement, al-Sadr's outlawed militia would become a legitimate political organization, participants said. A criminal case against al-Sadr would be postponed until after June 30, when the U.S.-led coalition is scheduled to turn over sovereignty in Iraq to an Iraqi caretaker government. Al-Sadr is wanted in connection with the murder of a rival cleric in Najaf last year.

But Major General Martin Dempsey, Commander, 1st Armored Division, claims the US is not going to keep Sadr's militia together. The US is trying to hire away Sadr's militia into a different organization that would not have the same organizational structure.

Q General, David Lee Miller, Fox News. To what extent do you see Shiites in the south rising up Sadr? And to what extent, if any, do you think you might be able to use Iraqis to ultimately remove him from Najaf -- maybe Iraqi forces?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, that is -- our goal -- I wouldn't describe our goal as to have Iraqi forces remove him, except if they're Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) that are part of what we're trying to build as a legitimate force. And, incidentally, these young men we're getting from the political parties, the agreement is that they come into these ICDC units and they are broken apart and fused back together. So we're not building a Badr organization/company and an INC company -- we're building -- we're getting young men from those organizations and bringing them together. Yeah, I'd certainly like to get to the point where they would be the solution to the problem.

But Sadr's "lieutenants" will probably be leaders in this new structure. There will be important differences however. These guys will be on a payroll funded by the US taxpayer, will not need to go looting businesses to make the payroll, and their boss won't be telling them to shoot at American soldiers. Same guys though. Their character and outlook will not be all that different. But they will be under a different incentive structure. How long will that incentive structure remain in place and effective?

Sadr says he is ready to make a deal.

"I am ready to end everything if the occupation forces officially ask for negotiations on condition that these negotiations are just and transparent and under the stewardship of the Shiite religious authorities," Sadr said in a statement signed by him.

Will the CIA or military put Sadr on the payroll to keep him from trying to build up a replacement force some months down the line?

US military operations against al-Sadr are probably aimed at least in part at weakening Sadr's negotiating position.

Karbala, Iraq - The U.S. military attacked a mosque in this holy city late Tuesday in its largest assault yet against the forces of young rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, even as the first signs emerged of a peaceful resolution to the five-week standoff with him.

My guess is that the US military is going to continue to go around making deals with local militias in order to create a more peaceful atmosphere. The US is going to show various parties a lot of money to get them to go along. Some of the more powerful players will also be offered insider "legitimate" power and perhaps forgiveness for past sins. In spite of attempts to reform the ex-militiamen into new fighting forces which are nominally suppose to be part of a national force these deals are going to facilitate a devolution of power to the tribal and militia groups. The militia fighters have already demonstrated a willingness to fight for their factions. It is hard to believe these militia fighters are going to feel much allegiance toward the central government.

The facade of democracy will be created by elections to choose a democratically elected government. But before the elections much power will already have shifted into the hands of various military officers, clerics, and tribal leaders. The newly elected government (assuming we get that far) will be weak. It will be necessary to let the power shift to local power brokers in order to keep the peace in each area.

This development puts the Kurds in a difficult spot. The Kurds are acting a lot more restrained and civilized. This is probably costing them influence. Will they see this as a lesson that violence would pay them some political dividends? At the very least if there are going to be Sunni and Shia military forces which are effectively outside of the control of the center then the Kurds had better hang on to their weapons too. Of course, they are probably going to anyway.

The Bush Administration seems to have crossed a Rubicon of sorts as it seeks to add more carrots into the mix along with sticks of military force in order to lower the casualty rates and make Iraq outwardly more peaceful. Therefore the Iraqi insurgents have been effective in causing a change in Bush Administration policy toward Iraq. While a reasonable case can be made for the idea that the Bushies have been "played" by the Sunni officers in Fajullah in particular this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Bushies were already "played" by Ahmad Chalabi and other Iraqi advocates of the war. Better to be in a con game with locals who have real power who can provide some benefits in resturn. But this redistribution of power came at the very high cost of a lot of lives of American boys and of innocent Iraqi civilians along with a considerable amount of ill will on the part of Iraqis and Arabs in general.

Will the Bush Administration's new found willingness to make deals with various devils in Iraq translate into a political gain for George W. Bush back in the United States? This depends in part on whether Paul Bremer and the US generals can make and manage deals with all the right people. Management of those deals will require a great deal of skill. Whether all those people can be incentivized to stick with their deals remains to be seen. Also, not every enemy in Iraq wants to make a deal. There are religious jihadis who just want to kill kill kill. Can the US hire ex-Baathists who are competent enough and motivated and well connected enough to help run down most of the jihadist car bombers? Time will tell.

Update: Writing in the Jerusalem Post Paul Rubin says if the US supports one faction in power the US will be blamed for what that faction does. Do we want that? (requires free registration)

Does the US want to become a participant in an Iraqi civil war between Islamists and nationalists, Sunnis and Shi'ites, and among ambitious would-be tyrants?

Does it want to be the sponsor of a regime that will be overthrown and thus blamed by the victors?

Does it want to be the sponsor of a regime that survives and wins that war by ruthless repression and by killing tens of thousands of people?

No matter how the US leaves Iraq, radical Shi'ite Islamists, al-Qaida terrorists, and pro-Saddam forces will claim they threw it out. The only thing that will shut them up is the victorious side wiping them out.

One advantage of partition done the US is that at least one of the partitions (Kurdistan) will not go through a huge convulsive civil war. This would be a public relations win for the Bush Administration and for the United States in general. The United States would be able to point the finger of blame at the Shias or the Sunnis if they have a huge convulsive civil war by saying "See, the Kurds showed it is possible to make a peaceful democracy".

Better to be able to strike a morally superior pose: "Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they remain a little people. A silly people! Greedy, barbarous, and cruel-as you are!"

By Randall Parker    2004 May 12 01:20 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2004 May 04 Tuesday
Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?

William E. Odom, retired US Army Lt. Gen., former director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, and currently at the Hudson Institute has told the Wall Street Journal that the best the United States could do in Iraq is to withdraw rapidly. (same article here)

It was hard to disagree with Odom's description of Mr. Bush's vision of reordering the Middle East by building a democracy in Iraq as a pipedream. His prescription: Remove U.S. forces "from that shattered country as rapidly as possible." Odom says bluntly, "we have failed," and "the issue is how high a price we're going to pay - less, by getting out sooner, or more, by getting out later."

At best, Iraq will emerge from the current geopolitical earthquake as "a highly illiberal democracy, inspired by Islamic culture, extremely hostile to the West and probably quite willing to fund terrorist organizations," Odom explained. If that wasn't enough to erode support for the war, Odom added, "The ability of Islamist militants to use Iraq as a beachhead for attacks against American interests elsewhere may increase."

Odom sees Bush Administration Iraq policy as an unmitigated disaster. Strong stuff coming from someone with his record.

Democracy scholar Larry Diamond has decided not to return to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq because Diamond thinks the attempt to establish a democracy in Iraq is a lost cause.

"We just bungled this so badly," said Diamond, a 52-year-old senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. "We just weren't honest with ourselves or with the American people about what was going to be needed to secure the country."


"You can't develop democracy without security," he said. "In Iraq, it's really a security nightmare that did not have to be. If you don't get that right, nothing else is possible. Everything else is connected to that."

Noah Millman of Gideon's Blog asks what is the Bush Administration's plan and what alternatives are there to whatever it is?

Perhaps the best way of talking about Iraq is not in terms of democracy or stability but legitimacy: how can we constitute authority that will be legitimate in Iraqi eyes and congruent with American interests? Elections, even if they lead to a questionably liberal result, would certainly do more to assure legitimacy than other methods of choosing a government, as Mickey Kaus points out.

But his questions beg another question: alernative to what plan? What, precisely, is the plan that gets us to stable, democratic legitimacy in Iraq? Is there one? Does Kagan have a suggestion beyond keeping on keeping on? Would he have reduced Fallujah to rubble, damn the consequences, to teach the jihadis a lesson? Does he think we're giving al-Sadr too much rope - or just enough to hang himself with? Shouldn't he have to lay this out in the same kind of detail that he demands of the cut-and-run set, or do idealists get a pass here? If he knows better than Paul Bremmer how to do his job, oughtn't he to enlighten us?

Millman makes clear his uncertainty as to what the next US move should be. What he and other analysts need to do is to stop asking how to achieve various goals and instead ask what (very modest) goals can actually be achieved. The very first and absolutely necessary step is to develop an understanding of just why any realistic goals must be very modest. Before the war Stanley Kurtz laid out a case for why the time needed to develop conditions favorable for democracy in Iraq is on the scale of decades or longer. The American elite and people obviously do not have the patience for an imperial rule of Iraq long enough to make that happen. Since Kurtz wrote his article I've accumulated an even longer list of reasons why I think democracy isn't achievable in Iraq. See my recent post High Costs And Dismal Prospects In Iraq: How To Derive Benefit? for links to a number of reasons why liberal democracy is not going to succeed in Iraq. Here's a brief summary.

Having laid out the reasons why our goals must necessarily be modest let me repeat once again what is likely our best option: Partition Iraq. There are compelling arguments for partition. De facto partitioning is already underway as Arabs are being ethnically cleansed from Northern Iraq.

Currently the Kurds are far more favorably disposed toward the United States than the Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs. It is unlikely we can do much to alter Shia or Sunni Arab views toward the United States for the better. But we could manage to destroy the good will that Kurds have toward the United States. How? By forcing the Kurds to join a national Iraqi government that may well end up becoming as corrupt and cruel as Saddam's regime. One of our chief goals should be to leave the Kurds in a position where they will not eventually be screwed over by the Arabs. The only reliable way to accomplish this goal is a partition of Iraq that creates a new sovereign Kurdish state.

I see less downside from helping the Kurds set up their own country than I do from trying to turn all of Iraq into a federal democracy. The Turks will be unhappy and concerned that a Kurdish state will embolden their own Kurds to try to secede. But a free Kurdistan would be friendly toward the United States and desirous of US help in maintaining its security. Will the Shias and Sunnis dislike the US any more as a result of our spinning off Kurdistan into a separate country? Perhaps. But if the Sunnis were simultaneously given their own slice of Iraq to govern as their own country they might see that as a net gain for them versus the alternative of being ruled by a Shia majority.

The American elites and populace are unwilling to brutally put down all opposition and send hundreds of thousands of troops to rule Iraq with an iron fist for decades while successive generations are educated to create a semi-liberal ruling elite. Therefore no deep cultural change will be made that is of the sort needed to cause lasting political changes that would make Iraq less dangerous to US interests. The best we can hope to do is to break Iraq up into smaller pieces that will each be less capable of being a threat and more inclined to turn to the US for help in security matters.

One question I have at this point: Will the US kill Saddam before allowing the new Iraqi government to take possession of him? If the US doesn't kill Saddam then what are the odds that Saddam might manage to make it back into power once again?

Update: Aside from my reluctance (for both moral and strategic reasons) to see the Kurds left at the mercies of the Iraqi Arabs I have one other reason for being opposed to unilateral withdrawal at this point: Osama Bin Laden saw US withdrawal from Beirut and Somalia after taking casualties as a sign of decadence and this emboldened him to attack us. We have to follow a path that will not be perceived as simple retreat. A partition of Iraq followed by withdrawal from any part whose government wants to go forward without a US presence (the Kurds will likely want us to stay to defend them) will make our withdrawal a logical conclusion to a series of deliberate steps to remake Iraq.

The other factor that partition has going for it is that it effectively greatly reduces at least one factor (distrust between Kurds, Shias, and Sunnis) that weighs against successful democracy. Fixing that one problem still leaves all the other problems. The Sunni and Shia countries may still become dictatorships after their initial rounds of elections. But the Kurds will probably manage to make a go of maintaining a democratic system.

By Randall Parker    2004 May 04 03:08 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2003 December 02 Tuesday
Steve Sailer On The Iraq Partition Argument

Steve Sailer has written an essay that reviews the arguments for partitioning Iraq. Steve points out that Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, has come out in favor of partition (same article here).

A strategy of breaking up Iraq and moving toward a three-state solution would build on these realities. The general idea is to strengthen the Kurds and Shiites and weaken the Sunnis, then wait and see whether to stop at autonomy or encourage statehood.

The first step would be to make the north and south into self-governing regions, with boundaries drawn as closely as possible along ethnic lines. Give the Kurds and Shiites the bulk of the billions of dollars voted by Congress for reconstruction. In return, require democratic elections within each region, and protections for women, minorities and the news media.


The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.

In his own essay on partition Steve reviews many areas of the world where both peace and prosperity came as a result of partition.

Even when the great and the good are fighting for de facto secession, as in the 1999 Kosovo War, they cloak their actions in paeans to multicultural unity. The result of our interventions in the Balkans was the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia, the effective partition of Bosnia, and a combination of the two in Kosovo. Yet, Bill Clinton still declared with a straight face, "[T]he principle we and our allies have been fighting for in the Balkans is the principle of multiethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy."

Baloney. Peace and democracy didn't come to the Balkans until the various states and statelets became monoethnic, intolerant, and uninclusive. But, shhhh, you're not supposed to mention that.

Steve points out some of the problems with partitioning Iraq. Notably, who gets the oil? Also, Saddam Hussien forcibly relocated many Arabs into what used to be overwhelmingly Kurdish cities in the north. At the same time, many Shias moved north from the Shia heartland into poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of what was mostly Sunni Baghdad. Therefore the Shias and Sunnis are also far more intertwined than they used to be. But, as Steve points out, it is not like anyone has a better idea on how to make Iraq governable by anyone short of a brutal repressive dictator.

A division will leave some of each group being governed by a government dominated by one of the other groups. But the lack of a division will leave the Kurds and Sunnis being governed by the majority Shias. So how is division any worse? Division has the advantage of allowing the bulk of the Kurds and the Sunnis to be governed by their own kind. It also would take oil revenue away from the Sunnis and force the Sunnis into being a lot more responsible and a lot less able to cause trouble for others. The Sunnis, faced with the knowledge that they will soon be in charge of their own area, will also have far less incentive to continue their attacks. Plus, the US could draw down its forces in the Sunni Triangle since the Sunni Iraqi state will be the least important of the 3 new partition states.

See my own previous post of almost 4 weeks ago supportive of the partition proposal: Jim Hoagland: Sunnis In Iraq See Democracy As A Threat. Note that partition would turn many Sunnis from democracy opponents to democracy supporters. They wouldn't see dictatorship as a means to allow their faction to rule over Shias and Kurds since the vast bulk of Shias and Kurds would no longer be in their state. At the same time, democracy would be appealing to those Sunnis who would rather not have a dictator oppressing only them.

By Randall Parker    2003 December 02 01:36 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 17 Thursday
Iraq Will Not Be Partitioned

High level Bush Administration diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad answered questions about the Bush Administration's plans for post-war Iraq. From his answers it seems clear that the Bush Administration does not plan to partition Iraq:

With regard to future challenges, specifically we believe that three sets of challenges would lie ahead. First, there will be the political reconstruction of Iraq. This will involve thorough reform of the government, de-Baathizing Iraq, removing those elements used by Saddam to enforce his tyranny on the Iraqi people. Officials found guilty of crimes against humanity will be prosecuted.

The larger issue of transitional justice will be settled by the Iraqi people.

With regard to economic reconstruction, the economy, too, will need to be reformed to put Iraq on the path to prosperity. The U.S. is committed to ensuring the Iraqi people's oil patrimony will be used to meet the economic and reconstruction needs of the Iraqi people.

With regard to security reconstruction, Iraq's international borders will be protected and respected. Security inside Iraq will be critical. The violence inflicted by Saddam on Iraq's people have left serious scars. These problems need to be resolved by a reformed Iraqi judicial system, not by gun. Iraq after Saddam will have the rule of law, not the rule of gun.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 17 01:33 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
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