December 11, 2005

Present at the Disintegration?

There are going to be a rash of victory declarations (brace yourselves!) in the advent of Thursday's elections. Before such cheery peeps get a bit too carried away, dare I suggest that they deign to read Makiya's must-read in the NYT today?

P.S. Tip for the uninitiated: Makiya was pro-war, so let's please not denigrate him as a hapless defeatist in comments.

Posted by Gregory at December 11, 2005 03:33 PM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

Thanx for that link, Greg.

I'd heard that the Iraqi Constitution was a disaster in the making, but this was the first time I've seen anyone explain what the "disasterous" provisions are.

Perhaps most disturbing is that one a "region" is formed, the Iraqi Army needs permission to enter it. This is practically a recipe for the creation of "terrorist sanctuaries" throughout Iraq -- and not just al Qaeda affiliates. Indeed, I would suggest that the devolution of military and police authority to the militias, and the numerous reports of torture and murders (including mass murder) by those affiliated with these militias, is leading to Iraq becoming a "war OF terror".

And the implications of such a war are monumental --- although Shiites dominate Iraq, Sunnis are by far the dominant Islamic sect in the Muslim world as a whole, and one can easily see the international Sunni community coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Iraq -- and a "terror war" spreading throughout the globe as a result.

Even worse -- the US is on the "wrong" side here, in terms of realpolitik. If things do start to get out of hand, the US would be much better off on the Sunni side of things....

Posted by: lukasiak at December 11, 2005 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanx for that link, Greg.

I'd heard that the Iraqi Constitution was a disaster in the making, but this was the first time I've seen anyone explain what the "disasterous" provisions are.

Perhaps most disturbing is that one a "region" is formed, the Iraqi Army needs permission to enter it. This is practically a recipe for the creation of "terrorist sanctuaries" throughout Iraq -- and not just al Qaeda affiliates. Indeed, I would suggest that the devolution of military and police authority to the militias, and the numerous reports of torture and murders (including mass murder) by those affiliated with these militias, is leading to Iraq becoming a "war OF terror".

And the implications of such a war are monumental --- although Shiites dominate Iraq, Sunnis are by far the dominant Islamic sect in the Muslim world as a whole, and one can easily see the international Sunni community coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Iraq -- and a "terror war" spreading throughout the globe as a result.

Even worse -- the US is on the "wrong" side here, in terms of realpolitik. If things do start to get out of hand, the US would be much better off on the Sunni side of things....

Posted by: lukasiak at December 11, 2005 05:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While Kanan Makiya's analysis is excellent and I agree with his prescriptions at the end of the article, his extreme pessimism is unfounded.

The smaller first and second of his three points (that the constitutional structure is deficient in that the parliament has too much power and that the executive is too weak) do seem to be accurate. However, while I agree that this will undermine the incoming government, to say that it will do so "fatally" is a prognostication that seems, well, excessively fatalistic. Poor constitutional structure can be problematic, but to say that this, in and of itself, is certain to doom the incoming government is unreasonable. Let's see how it plays out a bit first before we pronounce it fatal, shall we?

His third point, which dominates most of the article, contains superb analysis but I think it rests upon a dubious premise. If Iraq was to "regionalize," it would indeed be disastrous and his analysis of its consequences seems accurate. But what, exactly, is the appetite for a Shiite region? I think it may be less than most people anticipate.

First, let me point to slides 32 and 33 of this IRI poll from early September of this year. ( http://www.iri.org/pdfs/09-27-05-Iraq%20poll%20presentation.ppt ). The question posed was "were your governate to form a region with a neighboring governate would you favor or oppose the formation of a region?" Only 30% either strongly or somewhat favored, while 60% opposed, 50% strongly so. Slide 33 has a regional breakdown: there was wide support only among the Kurds. In the Mid-Euphrates region, 61% were opposed, 49% strongly so. In the South, 37% were in favor while 49% were opposed, 35% strongly so. Similarly, look at slide 31 from this IRI poll from early July. (http://www.iri.org/pdfs/08-10-05-Iraq%20poll%20presentation.ppt#31) In the Mid-Euphrates, 89% responded that "the new Iraq constitution should establish a strong, central government." In the South, 66% of respondents answered the same way. While obviously this may change, the notion that "regionalization" is somehow a preordained conclusion unless the Constitution is revised is belied by these numbers.

Second, Ayatollah al-Sistani has shown little enthusiasm for federalism in general, let alone the kind of hyper-federalism of these "regions." To me, it seems more likely than not that if a southern region plan were to be in the cards, he would work actively to defeat it.

Third, it is the conventional wisdom that the more-religious Shiite coalition in power now has overplayed its hand. While clearly we can't make any determinations until Thursday, we may be set for an influx of more responsible, secular Shiite leadership into power.

Fourth, I think it's taken a little while to set in, but the Shiites *are* the majority in Iraq. As they become accustomed to exercising power, rather than being oppressed by it, I think we'll see whatever remaining enthusiasm there is for a southern region begin to wane.

While worry is appropriate, panic is not. The notion that to be optimistic is "misguided" or that this constitution can result only in "discord," "disunity," and "disintegration" is excessively pessimistic in the extreme. If the Thursday elections are successful, it will represent a major advance in the political track of this process. Indeed, considered from a historical perspective, aside from a handful of initial mistakes the political track has been going almost swimmingly. At the beginning of the year, people were predicting doom due to Sunni non-participation. At the referendum, people were predicting doom because of Sunni opposition. (Not to toot my own horn, but before the referendum I projected that the most likely course of events was Sunni opposition but acceptance, which seems to be what is coming to pass). While the military track has been marred by untold administration blunders, the political track is going about as well as it can go. A cautiously optimistic wait-and-see attitude is the most appropriate here. Let's hold off on the doom and gloom unless and until the facts warrant it.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at December 11, 2005 09:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan....

the "regions" provision is there to accomodate minority, rather than majority interests. The Shiites don't need "regions" to exercise autonomy, they can do so as the majority. As such, they can decide how the "national" oil revenues are divvied up -- and deny Sunni's "their fair share."

But what if the Sunni regions decide they want autonomy?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 11, 2005 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"[T]he 'regions' provision is there to accomodate minority, rather than majority interests. The Shiites don't need 'regions' to exercise autonomy, they can do so as the majority."

That was exactly my point. The present discussion is about the Shiites creating their own region or regions in the south. I was pointing out that since they're in the majority it makes them less likely to do so. As for the oil revenues, the Constitution directs that they be distributed equally, except for the vexing Article 109, which distributes greater oil revenues to the region from which they were taken.

It would take a tectonic reversal in Sunni public opinion before the Sunnis would opt to form a region. (The September IRI poll has Sunni areas at 77% "strongly opposed.") But yes, at some point in the future that may be in the cards, particularly if the Sunnis come to believe that they're being mistreated by the Shiite majority. Such a region would be an unwelcome development, but less so compared with the formation of a southern Shiite one.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at December 11, 2005 11:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I disagree about the Shiite regions -- greater Sumer, if you will. Put yourself at the head of Dawa or SCIRI. Regionalizing puts your people in charge of a superstate within a state, and you don't have to share power with either Kurds or Sunni Arabs. You get to keep more of the oil revenue, and you get to keep the national army out. (I predict that the national army will be a preferred destination for Sunni men, and it's senior to mid ranks will have a decidedly Sunni cast by the end of the decade.)

Ordinary folks may not be in favor of Sumer right now, but this is in advance of the parties advocating for it, and the political elites -- who will have much to gain from it -- jockeying.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at December 12, 2005 05:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: power sharing, the post above should say ". . . you don't have to share power with Kurds, Sunni Arabs, or secular Shiites."

Dawa and SCIRI are not going to attain an absolute majority in the national parliament. One or both would certainly do so in a Sumer parliament.

That alone will prove sufficient basis for regionalizing.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at December 12, 2005 05:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

pardon want Kanan Makiya being berated here recently for "flowers and candy" optimism? Now hes deeply pessimistic - could this be related to his disappointment at things not working out as well as he incorrectly predicted? Is it possible that Makiya, while a good man who loves Iraq, and loves democracy, is not that good as a prognosticator?

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 12, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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