Plot to Bomb Iraqi Gov’t in Green Zone
Plan to Declare Islamic Emirate in Diyala
Saudis to Build Security Wall, Fear Civil war
Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that the Iraqi government the curfew in Baghdad succeeded in preventing a rumored “suicide car bombing conspiracy” in the capital with its sudden imposition of a one-day curfew. The plot was said to have been aimed at “sensitive sites” including the complex of government buildings in the Green Zone. (The Green Zone is the small patch of land in central Baghdad, surrounded by thick walls and Marine guards, where most Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies are located.)
If al-Hayat is right, the guerrilla movement had planned a major multi-pronged offensive for Saturday that aimed at decimating the Iraqi government.
The US military arrested a close associate of Adnan al-Dulaimi (a leader of the Iraqi Accord Front, the Sunni fundamentalist coalition in parliament). The associate was suspected of being involved in the conspiracy to set off a big string of car bombs and even to set off a car bomb inside the Green Zone. Seven other persons were also detained with regard to the plot. The US military said that Dulaimi himself was not suspected of involvement. No, only his bodyguards. How likely is that?
WaPo also reports on the plot:
‘ The measure was announced Friday night, a few hours after U.S. troops raided the residence of Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the largest Sunni Arab coalition in Iraq’s parliament, and took into custody his bodyguard, identified by Dulaimi’s supporters as Khudir Farhan Zargan.
“Credible intelligence indicates the individual, a member of Dr. Dulaimi’s personal security detachment, and seven members of the detained individual’s cell were in the final stages of launching a series of [car bomb] attacks inside the International Zone, possibly involving suicide vests,” the U.S. military said in a statement. ‘
The fasting month of Ramadan will end around Oct. 22 or 23, depending on which authorities people follow. The next day will be Eid al-Fitr or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. Iraqi intelligence learned that the guerrillas in Diyala Province (pop. 1.3 mn.) northeast of Baghdad, with its capital at Baqubah (pop. 154,000), were planning to announce the formation of the Islamic Emirate of Diyala on Eid al-Fitr. Government forces also found in a Sunni mosque plans for ethnically cleansing the Shiite minority from Diyala. Diyala is among the more violent provinces in Iraq. It had been the site of a major Baath military base, and has a Sunni majority but substantial Shiite and Kurdish minorities.
So not only was the Iraqi government nearly decapitated, but it almost formally lost control of one of its major provinces. (If the plan to declare an Emirate has been forestalled, it is nevertheless not a sign that the Iraqi government controls Diyala. It does not. The Sunni guerrillas do.)
The raid that tried to foil the guerrilla plot resulted in a number of arrests.
That’s the story. But I have questions. Severe questions. Isn’t it odd that such a major plot was foiled by the arrest of seven or eight people? Wouldn’t it have needed hundreds? Seven or eight people could have done some damage inside the Green Zone, but not really significant damage. So the rumors that it was a coup attempt make no sense given the scale of the arrests. Then the involvement of people so close to Dulaimi is very suspicious. Was this raid a shot across the bow of the Iraqi Accord Front, a slap on the wrist for having considered such a thing? (The US certainly listens to all Dulaimi’s phone calls.) Does the US need the Sunni parliamentarians so much that they can largely overlook the involvement of their close associates in terrorist plots?
As for Diyala, it seems to be in the hands of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement already. Why would it matter if the guerrilla leaders make this declaration? How could some arrests stop them from doing so? There is something hyped about this story, too, though the apparent acknowledgment that there is an Islamist Emirate in Diyala is welcome.
Security has deteriorated so badly in Iraq that Saudi Arabia has decided to build a 550-mile-long high-tech security fence. The Saudis are afraid that if Iraq has a hot civil war, Iraqis will try to flee as refugees to Saudi Arabia. They also are afraid that the nasty characters who blow up weddings and children buying ice cream will come to Saudi Arabia at some point. The Saudi security fence is a huge vote of no-confidence in the Iraq that Bush built. Let’s put it this way. Americans think of the puritanical Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia as the most militant of the Muslims. Now, the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia are saying that they are afraid of the Iraqis. What does that tell you? Or what does it tell the American public that the Saudi government views Iraq rather the way the Israeli government views the Palestinians?
Nawaf Obaid, director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, said, “. . . the feeling in Saudi is that Iraq is way out of control with no possibility of stability. The urgency now is to get that border sealed: physically sealed.” He added that the Saudis are especially concerned about massive immigration of asylum seekers into the traditionally Shiite area of al-Hasa, where Saudi petroleum is. He said, “If and when Iraq fragments there’s going to be a lot of people heading south and that is when we have to be prepared . . .”
The Iraqi Ministry of Immigration has revealed to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that in the past two months, 80,000 Iraqis have registered with the government as having been internally displaced. Since February, altogether the internally displaced come to some 250,000, according to the Ministry.
Ministry official Hamdiyah Najaf warned that “the condition of these displaced persons is extremely bad.” Some are living in tattered tents and lack the most basic needs of life. Others have been forced to live with relatives in distant cities. Still others are sleeping on the ground. She said that there was very little repatriation of the displaced, almost none in fact. (This allegation contradicts earlier Iraqi government statements on the matter).
What follows is not an attack on persons, or valued colleagues. It is an attack on an intellectual framework. And by attacking it I would like to get analysts to rethink the framework. So, with all due respect, these periodic Brookings charts on Iraq statistics in the NYT have been completely useless and largely misleading. The fact is that many of the statistics are phony. This latest one says that the unemployment rate in Iraq is 30 percent. I challenge that. I challenge Brookings to prove it. I say that in Kirkuk, Ninevah, Diyala, al-Anbar, Salahuddin, Babel and Baghdad provinces (nearly half the country), the whole concept of going to work is almost meaningless for many residents because of the horrible security conditions. And I doubt things are humming along in Basra or Maysan either. The recent reduction in the number of attacks on US troops is also a mirage, because the US military has just run fewer convoys off base and so been less exposed to roadside bombs. When they do run a convoy, it is as likely to be attacked as ever. Oil production in August briefly spiked, though it still was not at the level of 2.8 to 3 million barrels a day typical of pre-US Iraq (pace what the op-ed alleged on the basis of one month). But in September the production fell again to only 1.8 mn. barrels a day.
And they actually say that “the economy has shown some improvement.” What?? Is there improved manufacturing productivity? Is Iraq producing more steel? Pharmaceuticals? Anything? Are retail sales up? No!. There is no improved ordinary economy. It is a mess, a hellhole. The only “improvement” in the Iraqi economy would be because of high petroleum prices. But because the oil industry is state owned and profits go straight to the government, this sector is disconnected from everyday livelihoods. There is no evidence that the oil income is getting out into the pockets of ordinary Iraqis. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that much of the petroleum income is being skimmed off by militias and tribes via smuggling, producing a collapse of security in Basra, Iraq’s third-largest city. There is no mechanism for auditing where the oil money is going. Saying that increased petroleum prices are producing an improvement in the Iraqi economy is like saying that increased gambling receipts by the Sicilian Mafia are a sign of an improved economy.
All along the way, these Brookings charts have been fantastically optimistic given the actual situation on the ground, and the whole idea that a country where there is no government to speak of and no indigenous army to speak of and 60,000 people a year being tortured, butchered and tossed mutilated in the streets by fanatical paramilitaries connected to government parties–that such a country is generating reliable statistics on employment and the economy is just a non-starter. Why aren’t people more suspicious of numbers like those given for “unemployment”? And I guarantee you that there has been no improvement in the Iraqi economy this year such as real Iraqis would notice it. In fact, the professional classes are fleeing the country and shopkeepers close up at 2 pm if they manage to open at all. There are over half a million economic refugees in Jordan, and God knows how many in Syria. Improvement in the economy, my eye.