Blunkett Blames Cheney Rumsfeld Baker

Blunkett Blames Cheney, Rumsfeld
Baker Commission to accept 3-region Solution?
40 Killed; Tal Afar Bombed

WaPo reports,

‘Last month, 776 U.S. troops were wounded in action in Iraq, the highest number since . . . November 2004, [and] the fourth-highest monthly total since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The sharp increase in American wounded — with nearly 300 more in the first week of October . . .
Beyond Baghdad, Marines battling Sunni insurgents in Iraq’s western province of Anbar last month also suffered their highest number of wounded in action since late 2004. ‘

WaPo reveals that only half of the over 20,000 US troops wounded in Iraq were returned to duty, suggesting 10,000 were badly enough hurt to take them out of the combat theater. Some 20 percent of those wounded in Iraq, over 4,000 soldiers, receive “severe” wounds that will leave them challenged the rest of their lives.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that [Ar.] hundreds came out for the funeral in Sulaymaniya of Member of Parliament Mohammad Reza Mohammad, who had been a member of the Sunni fundamentalist Kurdish “Islamic Grouping.” He had been found shot dead along with his driver on Thursday in north Baghdad. Parliamentarians have been kidnapped; some of their relatives have been kidnapped or killed; but I don’t know how many sitting members of parliament have been killed. It is a pretty major thing and should be front page news.

Former British Home Secretary David Blunkett has revealed that the idea of dismantling the Baath-dominated Iraqi army and bureaucracy in May of 2003 came from US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (It is often blamed on proconsul Paul Bremer, but it has all along been obvious that he was ordered to do it by higher-ups). A precise timeline for the development of this policy (which had been ruled out at the Pentagon as late as March 15) and a precise account of where it came from has never been published.

It would be important to know what the role of the Likudniks was in this regard: Irv Lewis Libby and John Hannah in Dick Cheney’s office, and Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and the neo-plumbers of the “Office of Special Plans“– i.e. Abram Shulsky, David Wurmser, Michael Rubin and others at the Pentagon. The decision was clearly against US interests, but an Iraq without an army may well have had a special appeal to Rightwing Zionists and their Chalabist allies among the Iraqi expatriates.

Blunkett further reveals that the British cabinet, including presumably Prime Minister Tony Blair, thought that this dissolution of the skeleton of the Iraqi government was absolutely insane and tried as hard as they could to stop it.

‘ “The issue was: “What the hell do you do about it?’ All we could do as a nation of 60 million off the coast of mainland Europe was to seek to influence the most powerful nation in the world,” he said in interviews to publicise his new diaries.

“We did seek to influence them, but we were not in charge . . .

“We dismantled the structure of a functioning state,” he said, adding that the British view was: “Change them by all means, decapitate them even, but very quickly get the arms and legs moving.” ‘

Well in the British system if a minister deeply disagrees with policy, the person should resign. Clare Short appears to have been the only one who behaved honorably in that regard. [Update: Readers have pointed out that John Denham and Robin Cook resigned before her and should be added to the honor roll.]

The London Times reports that the Baker Commission will recommend a loose federal Iraq with 3 semi-autonomous regions.

This is a very bad idea for so many reasons it would take me forever to list them all. But here are a few:

1. no such loose federal arrangement would survive very long (remember the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States?), so the plan leads to the dismemberment and partition of Iraq. This outcome is unacceptable to Turkey and Saudi Arabia and therefore will likely lead to regional wars.

2. The Sunni Arabs, the Da`wa Party and the Sadr Movement are all against such a partition, and together they account for at least 123 members of the 275-member parliament. Some of the Shiite independents in the United Iraqi Alliance are also against it. I would say that a slight majority in parliament would fight this plan tooth and nail. The US cannot impose it by fiat.

3. The Sunni Arabs control Iraq’s downstream water but have no petroleum resources. If the loose federal plan ends in partition, the situation is set up for a series of wars of the Sunni Arabs versus the Shiites, as well as of the Sunni Arabs and some Turkmen versus the Kurds. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia will certainly be pulled into these wars.

It is not good for the region to have a series of wars over Iraq. It is not good for the security of the United States, since those wars will probably involve pipeline sabotage by guerrillas and will likely disrupt Middle Eastern oil flows. (Did Americans like $3.20 a gallon gasoline and $300 a month heating bills? Would they like to try $15 a gallon gasoline? What do you think would happen to the world economy?)

Finally, I just don’t believe that the Arab and Muslim worlds would ever forgive the US for breaking up Iraq, and there are likely to be reprisals if it happens.

Solomon Moore and Louise Roug of the LA Times argue that Iraq is beset by four struggles: 1) Arab-Kurdish at Kirkuk in the north; 2) Sunni Arab guerrillas vs. US and Iraq security forces in al-Anbar Province; 3) Shiite-Sunni in Baghdad and environs; and 4) Shiite-Shiite struggles in the South.

The picture they paint accords well with sociologist Charles Tilly’s description of a revolutionary situation as the simultaneous outbreak of several distinct struggles. The French Revolution was the same way, with urban riots in Paris and peasant unrest in the countryside, with ideological struggles between royal absolutists and partisans of the Rights of Man, etc., etc.

But I would offer this critique of the Solomon-Roug piece. It suggests that the struggles are more disparate than they really are.

Look at it this way. The US deposed the formerly ruling Sunni Arabs in favor of the Shiites and the Kurds. So there is a former ruling group fighting back against a tripartite alliance (US/Kurds/Shiites) and attempting to roll back their new dominance and their maximalist objectives. Over time a small number of Sunni Arabs have also attached themselves to the Americans and the new regime, and the guerrillas hit them, as well.

Thus, the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement wants 1) to force the US out of al-Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah Provinces and to displace Sunni Arab American allies there; 2) to roll back Kurdish dominance in Kirkuk and Kurdish claims on parts of Ninevah; and 3) to take back Baghdad and its hinterlands from the newly dominant Shiite/American alliance.

This way of looking at things unifies three of the major ongoing conflicts around the revanchist Sunni Arab guerrilla movement.

It also challenges the LAT trope of the US troops caught in the middle of several essentially Iraqi ethnic struggles. The US isn’t an extraneous element. It put the Kurds and Shiites in charge and has been complaisant toward Kurdish expansion in Kirkuk. It isn’t caught in the middle. It is the linchpin of the tripartite alliance.

The Shiite on Shiite struggles in the south are largely but not completely separate from this guerrilla war in the center-west-north. For instance, some of the violence in Basra has been laid at the feet of Sunni guerrillas funded from Saudi Arabia. It is not impossible that some Basra Sunnis are hitting Shiite groups and putting the blame on other Shiite groups, encouraging internecine Shiite faction-fighting.

But it is true that a struggle among SCIRI, the Sadr Movement, Da`wa and Fadhila, plus some small Sadrist offshoots, is roiling the south in a way not directly connected to the Sunni Arab guerrilla struggle elsewhere.

So I would argue that there really are just two major struggles going on.

Sunni clerics of the Association of Muslim Scholars and Shiite authorities such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani are planning to issue a joint fatwa forbidding Sunni-Shiite sectarian killings. I fear it is past the point where such clerical calls will have a significant effect. There is also the little problem that some AMS clerics appear to have links to the 20th of July Brigades guerrilla group and some of the leading Shiite clerical authorities in Najaf are close to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its paramilitary Badr Corps, which has been implicated in sectarian killings.

In the meantime, al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.],the Association of Muslim Scholars in an internal memo attacked the Iraqi Islamic Party as traitors to the Sunni cause for their willingness to cooperate with the United States in various ways. An IIP spokesman said that such charges are not new and the IIP is used to them from AMS.

Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that over 40 Iraqis died in political violence on Saturday.

Reuters reports 17 killed or announced dead in political violence aside from those killed by the car bomb in Tal Afar.

The truck bombing in the northern Turkmen city killed 14 and wounded 13.

In the Sunni Arab heartland, tribal elements boasted of killing two dozen guerrillas during the past week, a claim that I wouldn’t exactly take to the bank.

Some 14,000 police and Iraqi army troops have locked down the northern oil city of Kirkuk in a security sweep, with backing from US helicopter gunships. There was a two-day curfew there that ended Sunday morning. The problem: The “police” in Kirkuk are mostly Kurdish peshmerga paramilitary elements, who are the targets of Arab and Turkmen guerrillas. So this wasn’t a civil security operation by the state against criminals. It is one more battle in the ethnic civil war, peshmerga versus other guerrillas.

A Turkish MP has urged that the referendum planned for late 2007 on whether Kirkuk should join the three provinces of the Kurdistan Regional confederacy be postponed instead to 2017. Many observers are afraid that the referendum will spark a hot civil war in the Iraqi north.