October 12, 2005

A Bridge Not Far Enough?

There was something of a breakthrough in the Iraqi constitution drafting process announced late yesterday (as was noted by reader LH). Credit goes to Zalmay Khalilzad, who has proven his mettle as one of the most competent and skilled appointees of the Bush Administration's foreign policy wing. He may not have achieved the broad consensus he wanted, but he was working with intractable problems and managed to compel at least some compromise. According to the New York Times:

Iraqi political leaders said they had agreed to an important last-minute change in the draft constitution on Tuesday evening in exchange for a promise by some prominent Sunni Arab leaders to give public support to the document in the nationwide referendum on Saturday.

The change would create a panel in the next parliament with the power to propose broad new revisions to the constitution. In effect, the change could give the Sunnis - who were largely shut out of the constitution-writing process - a new chance to help redraft the document after elections in December.[...]

Along with the new constitutional panel, the Iraqi leaders agreed to some smaller changes to the charter, several lawmakers said. At least two of them represented concessions to Sunni demands. One is a moderation of the so-called de-Baathfication process to root out former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public office, and the other is a clause providing firmer guarantees of Iraq's unity.

It remains to be seen how "important" the Sunni population deems these changes to be and whether or not they will translate into Sunni support for the draft constitution in the upcoming referendum - scheduled for October 15. As far as I can tell, the far more pressing issues deal with the ability of various groups to form near autonomous regions, and how and to what degree the proceeds from oil are divided. These remain unresolved. But at least one Sunni political organization, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has given their blessing in reaction to the concessions, and there may be more in the wings.

The Iraqi Islamic Party was the only Sunni Arab group involved in the talks, which also included the leaders of Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish political alliances and the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Makky [a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party] said the party had acted in coordination with another major Sunni group, the Conference of the People of Iraq, which also agreed to change its stance and support the constitution.
My blog mate praktike is correct to point out that some level of skepticism is warranted when assessing the extent to which the Iraqi Islamic Party speaks for the broader Sunni masses.
I think Robert Worth may be a tad too optimistic about the clout that the Iraqi Islamic Party has among Sunni Arabs. After all, they played a remarkably similar interlocuting role during the run up to the January elections, and they were unable to have much if any effect on Sunni Arab turnout. But this is certainly better than nothing--jaw-jaw being better than war-war and whatnot. [emphasis added]
Ultimately, the success of this 11th hour change lies in ability to do just that: encourage more discussion and, hopefully, a greater willingness to forego violence in favor of the nascent political process. At least until round two.
The change would also give Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted elections in January, a significant new motive for participating in politics. The more parliament seats they win in the December elections, the better chance they would have of changing the constitutional provisions they oppose, like allowing for the creation of semiautonomous regions within Iraq.
The down side is that this is really nothing more than a quick fix, a patch on a hemorrhaging artery - but at this point, staunching the bleeding is needed to save the patient so it is, nonetheless, a net positive. If we can get enough Sunnis focused on the political process, we may be able to weaken support for at least some strains of the various insurgencies - in the short term. Unfortunately, engagement in the political process does not necessitate an abandonment of more violent tactics. The various factions are quite capable of employing multiple methods, simultaneously, to achieve their ends.

And even if the Iraqi Islamic Party's endorsement translates into a positive Sunni turnout in favor of the draft constitution, I think that the changes have done little more than kick the constitutional can down the road. The actual modifications (softer de-Baathification rules, a nod to unity) do little to assuage the main concerns that the Sunni population had with the draft - they just memorialize an agreement to talk more, later. And those talks may not necessarily lead to anything of substance.

The constitutional panel would have four months after its creation to propose changes to the document, Mr. Makky said. Those proposed changes would then be voted on by the full assembly, which would have to approve them by a two-thirds majority. The changes would then have to be approved in another popular referendum. [emphasis added]
Therein lies the real problem. Even if the Sunni population supports the constitution in the referendum (or remains indifferent), and then comes out en masse in the December elections, and the Sunnis are able to garner a substantial percentage of seats in the assembly (say, 20-25%), they would still be utterly powerless to change the constitution. While under the rosiest scenario they would have proportional representation on the new constitutional panel, any changes to the actual document would require a two-thirds majority in the assembly, and even the most delusional Sunnis don't believe that they could muster a two-thirds majority via the December elections. They are bound by the fact that, at most, they make up 20-25% of the Iraqi population.

Instead, they will need to rely on a coalition partner(s), and even then, this coalition would have to include substantial numbers of Shiites and Kurdish politicians. That is an extremely unlikely scenario given the historical, and ongoing, hostilities and the tendency (thus far) of Iraqi politicians and voters to identify strongly with ethnic and sectarian roots.

In other words, any objections that the Sunnis have to the constitution, as is, are unlikely to be remedied by the reconvening of a constitutional panel. At the end of the day, the Shiites and Kurds are holding all the cards. So, the constitutional draft is probably not going to be altered by the new panel unless the Shiites and Kurds agree. Their unwillingness to compromise further could mean that this attempt to woo the Sunnis away from an embrace of violence will ultimately fail - even if delayed by a couple of months. The hope is that a new space for dialogue has been created - but that dialogue must bear fruit or it will be all for naught. If ethnic/sectarian tensions subside as a result of the current compromise, the same impasse that plagues the process today will re-emerge after the December elections, and the same forces pulling the country in different directions will dig in. Only then, we will have milestones to point to if political cover for withdrawal is what we're hunting. Let's hope it's not.

Posted by at October 12, 2005 02:57 PM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

Sorry, but this is one of the dumbest things to come down the pike in months from the Bush administration. First off, you'd have to be a really stupid Sunni to think that you would have sufficient representation to actually change the constitution thanks to this no provision.....

More critically perhaps is the idea of changing a proposed constitution within a week before a national referendum on ratification of the said document. Anyone who thought that the constitutional process was a serious effort to establish a framework for the legitimacy of an Iraqi government now knows that this is just another piece of paper that exists solely to be exploited for short term political gain. Changing the draft at the last minute renders the whole process something of a bad joke.....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 12, 2005 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

some time ago Greg, or one of the commentors, posted some guestimates of possible outcomes (const wins, sunnis oppose, Sunnis go violent, Etc) with estimated percentage probabilities.

Anyone have that?

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 05:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg posted this from reader Dan Larsen

Greg, there are five options, not just three:

1: Constitution passes despite solid Sunni opposition. The Sunnis grudgingly accept the Constitution and field candidates in the December elections.

2: Constitution passes despite solid Sunni opposition. The Sunnis boycott the December elections and leave their country to be governed by Shia and Kurds with solid American support. (of course, I guess there's 2a: the Sunnis rise up in open rebellion).

3: The Constitution fails due to solid Sunni opposition. The Kurds and Shia accept the continued governance under the provisions of the TAL, new elections are held in December.

4: The Constitution fails due to solid Sunni opposition. The Kurds and/or Shia do something stupid.

5: The Constitution passes with modest Sunni support.

Personally, I really don't think very many Sunnis will come out for the Constitution--your 30% projection for option 5 is probably overly optimistic. But where you have dug yourself into depression is by forgetting options 1 and 3.

Options 1 and 2:

The Sunnis may be in a position akin to those of the Anti-Federalists of the American Constitution: opposed to it, but willing to work within its framework should they be unable to muster the political power to defeat it. Remember, they are not merely opposing the Constitution, they are opposing the Constitution within the framework of the TAL--and there is evidence to suggest that the Sunnis are prepared to abide by the terms of the TAL, whether in adoption or rejection.

"Boycotting the referendum and parliamentary elections (in December) would be a lose-lose proposition. Our hope will be in the next parliament that will hopefully be more balanced than this one."--Sunni Negotiator Sadoun Zubaydi shortly after the Constitution was passed over Sunni objections
link here

I think that Sunni powerbrokers understand that open rebellion is suicide and that boycotting the parliamentary election in December should the Constitution be ratified is stupid. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from it, for the Kurds and Shia will govern without them with American support.

Simply put, the fact that Sunnis are registering in droves within the TAL framework--despite that they are doing so to oppose the Constitution--is incredibly good news. The Sunnis are being brought into the political process. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the TAL's legitimacy will hold: Sunni acceptance if the Constitution passes. I think it will. I regard option 1 as considerably more likely than option 2.

Options 3 and 4:

The question is now whether the Kurds and the Shia will abide by the TAL if they lose the referendum (a possiblity the Tradesports futures market has at around 30%). I am rather more worried about Shia/Kurd stupidity should the Constitution fail than Sunni non-acceptance should it pass; there has been irresponsible Kurd talk of seccession. The key periods will be the two months between referendum and new elections--once the new parliament is in place, the ability to do something stupid and get away with it will be considerably less--and then the risk that talks could break down next year and the Shia/Kurds do something stupid then. I think the US will be able to hold things together between October and December, and then hopefully the situation on the ground by next year might be better to facilitate constitutional negotiations, but there is good cause to worry about option 4.

Here's my personal estimate of the likelihood of each option (accepting the Tradesports estimate, so 1+2+5=70%, 3+4=30%):

1: Constitution pass, Sunni accept: 50%
2: Constitution pass, Sunni reject: 5%
3: Constitution fail, Shia/Kurds accept: 15-20%
4: Constitution fail, Shia/Kurds do something stupid: 10-15%
5: Constitution pass with modest Sunni support: 15%


http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/archives/004769.html

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 12, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

thank you very much Eric.

Id suggest that the odds of 1 or 5 have just increased significantly. Not necessarly to the total probability of 65% that DanLarsen suggested, but theyve definitely increased.

Of course I suppose the odds of 2 have declined rather more than the odds of 4 - IF the constitution is STILL blocked by the Sunnis, its more likely the Shia will say theyve compromised enough already.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

that should be odds of three, not two.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 07:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would say that 1, 2 and 5 have just increased dramatically. 3 and 4 were always a longshot because they required a "no" vote and that was always unlikely. But if somehow it is shot down, then you are right about 4.

Of course, I don't think Dan provided the full story on what either 1,2 or 5 might entail in the long run. Any of those options will not necessarily translate into tangible results in terms of curbing support for the insurgencies. Especially if, as I suggested, the constitutional "can" that was kicked down the road comes to a stop and the Sunnis realize that the new and improved constitutional panel is little more than a more inclusive version of the exact same process that yielded the first draft.

Also, as I mentioned, there is nothing stopping the Sunnis from keeping their irons in multiple fires so as to maintain all options. In other words, keep up the insurgency while seeing what they can get out of the political process. In fact, it could be argued, that their sole leverage and bargaining position at this point is the promise of more, or even greater, violence and destruction. So, the incentive would be to not give this up until there are meaningful political gains.

The current concessions don't qualify as meaningful political gains. Yet.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 12, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The AMS seems to be clearly linked to the insurgency (playing the Sinn Fein role, if you will) Im not at all sure that the IIP is actually linked to the insurgency, and of course Sunni pols like Yawer are actively opposed to it. So I dont know that the linkage you describe is that simple. And Im not sure that Sunni Arabs on the ground, or even the mass of Sheiks, local notables and Imams, etc are so easily turned off and on. Once you have mass participation in the October election, and then the December election, and then a new govt that probably wont be as straightforward a Shiite-Kurdish alliance as the previous elected govt, it seems at least possible that a lot of the legitimacy of the insurgency to the ordinary folks who have provide the sea for the insurgents to swim in will go away.


And to some extent the insurgency is a wasting asset, as the Iraqi forces train up. Your unstated assumption is that time is not on our side, and that anything that doesnt solve the problem, is of no value, because otherwise when we leave it all goes to hell.

I dont think that in the long run 20% of the population can hold 80% hostage. The insurgency is the product of transition, when Sunni Arabs make up most of the trained and organized force in the country (other than the foreign "occupiers") The insurgeny goal has to be to create civil war, and to drive the Americans out BEFORE that balance shifts. So if we buy even a few months, deferring the civil war, and relieving the pressure for a total American withdrawl, that could be decisive.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

also, if, in the next 4 months, there is a significant increase in recruitment of Sunni arabs into the Iraqi army, that wil make said army a much more useful force in establishing order in the Sunni Triangle. To the extent that the insurgency is driven by abuses and day to day humiliations of occupation, either by coalition forces, or by the Kurds and Shiites who have thus far made up almost all of the Iraqi army, that would help to turn the vicious circle in the other direction.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, actually I think I indicated that buying time is of some value. Staunching the bleeding is a net positive. To the extent that the political process can develop its own momentum and sap support from the insurgencies, the delaying of the inevitable disagreement over the constitution is a good thing (can I say "re-disagreement"?). And that being contingent on the political process actually gaining momentum and the Sunni population willingly going along for the ride, and the eventual disagreement not erupting into full blown conflict - none of which are foregone conclusions by any stretch.

Where time is not on our side, is that the longer the violence goes on the more likely that differences and animosities will harden and embitter. The sense of nationalism and unity that existed in Iraq pre-invasions has been steadily replaced by sectarian/ethnic identification. Many Iraqis have complained of such, and how before people didn't really think in terms of "Sunni" or "Shiite" but now it is becoming the most important distinguisher. The passage of time cuts both ways.

And in terms of linkage, I don't claim that there is any solid linkage. My guess is there are varying levels of connection/coordination/linkage between political events/groups and insurgent activity depending on who you're talking to. Amongst this loose conglomeration, I don't doubt that many players think it in their interest to play all sides and keep all option open. Even the devoutly political and non-violent probably realize that their leverage at the negotiating table comes from the backdrop of violence and their ability, ostensibly, to affect it.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 12, 2005 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to me that you're doing an awful lot of analyzing on the basis of insufficient information. Just wait a couple of days until they vote, and we'll all be smarter.

Meanwhile, I think that the Nobel Peace Prize should have been given to the Iraqi people. What an amazing performance! Their patience, toughness, seriousness, commitment to a democratic system (with all the limitations that we all recognize) and willingness to compromise, have been remarkable, and I find it churlish that so many smart people continue to talk about the imminent civil war. Zawahiri knows better, he sees that civil war isn't happening. Quite the contrary, the political system is working.

And please give some credit to Chalabi, who has proven to be a superb negotiator. I suspect he has done at least as much as Zal to have brokered this agreement.

Finally, I have often suggested that it's better to watch the constitutional process unfold than to parse every paragraph and comma. They're doing very well. They're doing better than anyone had any right to expect. So let's applaud them for what they've done and wait until the votes are counted before our next deep think session.

slower, please.

Posted by: michael ledeen at October 13, 2005 03:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to me that you're doing an awful lot of analyzing on the basis of insufficient information. Just wait a couple of days until they vote, and we'll all be smarter.

Meanwhile, I think that the Nobel Peace Prize should have been given to the Iraqi people. What an amazing performance! Their patience, toughness, seriousness, commitment to a democratic system (with all the limitations that we all recognize) and willingness to compromise, have been remarkable, and I find it churlish that so many smart people continue to talk about the imminent civil war. Zawahiri knows better, he sees that civil war isn't happening. Quite the contrary, the political system is working.

And please give some credit to Chalabi, who has proven to be a superb negotiator. I suspect he has done at least as much as Zal to have brokered this agreement.

Finally, I have often suggested that it's better to watch the constitutional process unfold than to parse every paragraph and comma. They're doing very well. They're doing better than anyone had any right to expect. So let's applaud them for what they've done and wait until the votes are counted before our next deep think session.

slower, please.

Posted by: michael ledeen at October 13, 2005 03:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can we get serious here for a moment?

The odds are slim to none that this whole constitutional process will have any significant impact on the Sunni insurgency. The "concessions" that were just included in the proposed constitution are meaningless (these changes are not only coming a week before the referendum, but haven't even been voted on by the Iraqi parliament---does any sane person believe that you can just SAY what will be in the constitution?). The acceptance of the new constitution by the IIQ is merely a reflection of realpolitik Iraqi-style---the IIQ is positioning itself to fill a political vacuum that will allow it to reap the graft that will flow toward "co-operative" Sunnis.

Its funny to see the wingnuts all happy about the IIQ, given that the Party is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dan Darling would have a field day doing his "six degrees of separation" schtick bwtween the IIQ and al Qaeda).

And although US media reports will describe any outcome as a success (i.e. even if Sunnis turn out in sufficient number to reject the constitution, we will be told that its a sign of progress because shows that the Sunnis are committed to Democracy), the only real metric for "success" of this process will be voter turnout among the Shia and Kurds.

Right now, its doubtful that turnout will reach even the levels of the "blue thumb" elections; unlike in the parliamentary elections, Sistani is not making participation a religious obligation for the Shia (and until very recently, reportedly had taken a "hands-off" approach to the referendum) nor does there seem to be much enthusiasm among the Kurds.

If turnout is lower, the primary cause will be the way the process is structured -- "everybody knows" that the referendum will pass in Shiite and Kurdish areas, and there is little impetus to bother to vote. But lower turnout will likely be reported as a result of the "success" of the insurgency in intimidating voters, and as the failure of "democracy" to take hold in Iraq, because during the legislative elections, the "high" voter turnout was attributed to the failure of the insurgency and Iraqi enthusiasm for democracy.

But as I noted earlier, this whole constitutional process is merely a dog-and-pony show for American audiences, and will have little or no impact in terms of bringing order to Iraq.

***************************

And please give some credit to Chalabi

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Credit? To a convicted embezzler?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 13, 2005 01:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can we get serious here for a moment?

The odds are slim to none that this whole constitutional process will have any significant impact on the Sunni insurgency. The "concessions" that were just included in the proposed constitution are meaningless (these changes are not only coming a week before the referendum, but haven't even been voted on by the Iraqi parliament---does any sane person believe that you can just SAY what will be in the constitution?). The acceptance of the new constitution by the IIQ is merely a reflection of realpolitik Iraqi-style---the IIQ is positioning itself to fill a political vacuum that will allow it to reap the graft that will flow toward "co-operative" Sunnis.

Its funny to see the wingnuts all happy about the IIQ, given that the Party is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dan Darling would have a field day doing his "six degrees of separation" schtick bwtween the IIQ and al Qaeda).

And although US media reports will describe any outcome as a success (i.e. even if Sunnis turn out in sufficient number to reject the constitution, we will be told that its a sign of progress because shows that the Sunnis are committed to Democracy), the only real metric for "success" of this process will be voter turnout among the Shia and Kurds.

Right now, its doubtful that turnout will reach even the levels of the "blue thumb" elections; unlike in the parliamentary elections, Sistani is not making participation a religious obligation for the Shia (and until very recently, reportedly had taken a "hands-off" approach to the referendum) nor does there seem to be much enthusiasm among the Kurds.

If turnout is lower, the primary cause will be the way the process is structured -- "everybody knows" that the referendum will pass in Shiite and Kurdish areas, and there is little impetus to bother to vote. But lower turnout will likely be reported as a result of the "success" of the insurgency in intimidating voters, and as the failure of "democracy" to take hold in Iraq, because during the legislative elections, the "high" voter turnout was attributed to the failure of the insurgency and Iraqi enthusiasm for democracy.

But as I noted earlier, this whole constitutional process is merely a dog-and-pony show for American audiences, and will have little or no impact in terms of bringing order to Iraq.

***************************

And please give some credit to Chalabi

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Credit? To a convicted embezzler?!?!?!

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 13, 2005 02:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Much as it pains me to agree with lukasiak, this constitutional process is going to be much less of a magic bullet than the "train and equip" process that's ongoing. Once there is a decent enough army to effectively garrison and police the Sunni regions, some Sunnis may decide to throw in the towel.

The thing that will give the Sunnis a sense that the current government is inevitable is a well trained army that speaks Arabic sitting in their cities. Everything else is mostly window dressing.

Posted by: Andrew Reeves at October 13, 2005 02:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Much as it pains me to agree with lukasiak, this constitutional process is going to be much less of a magic bullet than the "train and equip" process that's ongoing. Once there is a decent enough army to effectively garrison and police the Sunni regions, some Sunnis may decide to throw in the towel.

The thing that will give the Sunnis a sense that the current government is inevitable is a well trained army that speaks Arabic sitting in their cities. Everything else is mostly window

Posted by: Andrew Reeves at October 13, 2005 02:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to me that you're doing an awful lot of analyzing on the basis of insufficient information. Just wait a couple of days until they vote, and we'll all be smarter.

With all due respect Mr. Ledeen, that's what bloggers/commenters do. After the vote, we will all weigh in on with a different, more informed perspective. But in the meantime, it's all about speculation - in real time.

I find it churlish that so many smart people continue to talk about the imminent civil war. Zawahiri knows better, he sees that civil war isn't happening. Quite the contrary, the political system is working.

Well, it depends on how you define civil war. I think the present situation could be accurately described as a low level civil war, and in most of my writings I try to be careful to refer to any future escalation as a "full blown civil war" or something more than the low level one currently occuring.

And please give some credit to Chalabi, who has proven to be a superb negotiator.

Hmmm, you'll have to excuse me if I am not quite ready to give the devil his due.

Finally, I have often suggested that it's better to watch the constitutional process unfold than to parse every paragraph and comma. They're doing very well. They're doing better than anyone had any right to expect.

That depends on "who" you are referring to in terms of "expectations." There certainly was a lot of fantastical thinking about what type of liberal democracy would be formed, the level of secularism and what types of civil liberties would be protected in the constitution. I think many, including President Bush, expected greater protections for Iraqi women - who ironically might lose some ground in certain areas post-Saddam (not saying life was better under Saddam in general). Many also did not think Islam would play such a prominent role.

So yes, many people did expect more, and were quite vocal about it. Whether or not they had the "right" to their expectations is an interesting, but probably seperate, matter.

slower, please.

LOL. Good stuff.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 13, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew Reeves : "Much as it pains me to agree with lukasiak, this constitutional process is going to be much less of a magic bullet than the "train and equip" process that's ongoing. Once there is a decent enough army to effectively garrison and police the Sunni regions, some Sunnis may decide to throw in the towel.

The thing that will give the Sunnis a sense that the current government is inevitable is a well trained army that speaks Arabic sitting in their cities. Everything else is mostly window "


That's probably correct. Of course, what is the current number of Iraqi Army battalions capable of independent operation? Down to 1?

As for the army sitting in their cities, if it's Kurdish/Shiite militias, that will just keep the war going. Barring large-scale ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs, which should help Al Qaida's caus in the Sunni world immensely.

Posted by: Barry at October 13, 2005 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's probably correct. Of course, what is the current number of Iraqi Army battalions capable of independent operation? Down to 1?

Definitely a problem, but I don't think that any of us outside of CentCom entirely know what's going on with these units. Take the two battalions that were downgraded from "level 1" to "level 2"--we don't know if the issue was support, how the troops behaved under fire, or just a re-assesment of two units whose quality was essentially the same but judged too optimistically a few months ago.

If the number of Iraqis who stand their ground under fire instead of dropping their guns and running increases substantially (which seems to be occuring), then we're at least well on the road to an Iraqi army that's holding down Anbar, Ninawah, Salah ad Din, and the Baghdad exurbs.

As for the army sitting in their cities, if it's Kurdish/Shiite militias, that will just keep the war going.

Whatever Iraqi army eventually results will probably be mostly Shi'ite and Kurd. And while a great many Sunnis will be unhappy with it, if (and again, this is a colossal "if") there's an Iraqi army capable of inspiring more fear than the insurgents in the four Sunni heartland provinces, whatever people's grumbling, the war will be effectively over. Of course, we are still a long, long way from such a goal, but every operation in which Iraqi soldiers gain experience and every training month should get us closer.

Maybe.

Posted by: Andrew Reeves at October 13, 2005 03:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whatever Iraqi army eventually results will probably be mostly Shi'ite and Kurd.

this is unsustainable, unfortunately. Absent some kind of "shiny happy people" pluralistic society miraculously emerging in Iraq, the likelihood of a working "Kurdish-Shiite" alliance is slim to none. The desire for an independent Kurdistan is deeply held and of long-standing, and the more secure the overall situation in Iraq becomes (and the more established a semi-autonomous Kurdish Iraq becomes) the more likely that Kurdish populations in Iran (not to mention Syria and Turkey) will begin to cause trouble.

Since Iran is unlikely to grant its own Kurds the kind of autonomy to which they aspire, one can easily see how the "Shiite--Kurdish" military would become unworkable....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 13, 2005 03:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is a big difference between a “well-trained army that speaks Arabic sitting in their cities” from foreign powers (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.), one made up of local nationals and directed by a foreign power (Iraqi Army overseen only by the US), and one made up of local nationals and directed by a democratically-elected local government (Iraqi Army overseen by the elected Iraqi Parliament). The government cannot stand without the help of the army, but don’t underestimate the legitimacy given to the army by the elected government. The two work hand-in-hand.

Even Zarqawi knows this. If the elections are such an underwhelming event, why is he trying so hard to undermine them? Why are the insurgents trying to intimidate voters to keep them away from the polls?

Each election adds legitimacy to the Iraqi government and away from those who claim Iraq is being run by foreign invaders. Each election reaffirms the will of the Iraqi people to work together in a peaceful, unified Iraq. Each election refutes the very substance of the insurgency’s message.

Perhaps less surprising is having some of the same people who said we need to win the PR and media war to win the GWOT yesterday, are saying that military force is the only force that counts against the insurgents. If the fighting is going well, then the political process is a mess – notwithstanding the past election and upcoming referendum. If the Constitution looks like it might pass, then we’ve only got one Iraqi division fully capable of independent operations – as if the only Iraqis who are fighting and dying for a free Iraq are in that one division.

The Constitutional process is not a “magic bullet”; train and equip is not a “magic bullet”; there are no “magic bullets”. There is only a multi-dimensional process that leads to a free and secure Iraq.

Posted by: kevin at October 13, 2005 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This thing they're voting on has more holes than cheesecloth. It's full of weasel clauses and subject to alteration at any point.

So, really, the Iraqis are voting on something that they don't know what it is.
Not very democratic and nothing to be excited about anyhow.

Posted by: ghost at October 13, 2005 11:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew Reeves: "Definitely a problem, but I don't think that any of us outside of CentCom entirely know what's going on with these units. Take the two battalions that were downgraded from "level 1" to "level 2"--we don't know if the issue was support, how the troops behaved under fire, or just a re-assesment of two units whose quality was essentially the same but judged too optimistically a few months ago."

However, we're supposed to be engaged in an Army building exercise, not a maintenance excercise. The baseline expectation is that the number of level 1 battalions should be increasing, not holding steady with fluctuations.

And by now we're - what? A year, 18 months into the rebuilding of the Iraqi army. Level 1 battalions should be cranked out regularly.

Posted by: Barry at October 14, 2005 04:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i find the comparisons most upsetting. for one to compare war to misconceptions between victems who are merely caught in a turmoil so much of the populace. the only corralation is a battle of collective wills occuring painfully consistently much more to the men that must undergo total scrutiny and risk from a "impelled" mass desire for more variance. its just too much in this case for me to see a stunning female upset. but the concept of war is vividly active, too much so for wormongers, i mean society as a unit. the cultural benefits are ritely cheered, but like in war they do not outweigh the value of love, and life.


sincerly
george C.

Posted by: evam at October 27, 2005 10:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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