Basra Security still Fragile; Offensive Planned in Diyala; Will Petrodollars Resolve Iraq Crisis?

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iraqi government is about to send troops into Diyala in an attempt to tamp down violence and combat local militias there, just as was done in Basra, Maysan and Mosul. I have begun to wonder whether the secret of these campaigns is not so much the show of military force as the behind-the-scene bribes given by the government to insurgents to go find another line of work. It still boggles my mind that Mosul could be taken without a shot (though it has suffered from terrorism strikes in the aftermath.

The periodic waves of euphoria that wash over the political class and some of the media in Washington cause serious security risks in Iraq to be forgotten. Al-Maliki sent some troops to Basra? OK, Basra is fine, we can forget about it. In fact, the situation there, while improved, is far from stable or assured. I suspect trying to do more to ensure that this key province does not go south (it is the source of most of Iraq’s petroleum wealth and the site of two major ports, without which Iraq would be landlocked) is one reason PM Gordon Brown has decided not to pull out of Iraq, and, indeed, to send a few more troops there to train Iraqi soldiers.

Finance Minister Bayan Jabr Sulagh argues that Iraq’s newfound windfall from greatly increased petroleum revenues can help the country grow its way out of crisis. I hope so, but a word of caution is in order. Iran and Algeria are also oil states, and one had a revolution and the other a sanguinary civil war. It isn’t that you have petroleum income. It is how exactly you deploy it.

Alexandra Davis points out that Iraq’s election law is still incomplete, casting doubt about whether provincial elections will be held this fall. Not only that, but cabinet-level decisions such as whether to allow the display of photos of religious personages in connection with political campaigns will now be review and possibly changed by the parliament.

Zavis also reports that Baghdad is putting in solar-powered street lamps. It is hoped that they will reduce crime and violence. The regular electricity grid is unreliable. By the way, the LAT quotes a general suggesting that solar electricity generation is six or seven times as expensive as with fossil fuels. Isn’t that estimate out of date? I thought it was down to only three times. Engineers, please weigh in.

Baghdad joins my own city of Ann Arbor in this project of solarized street lamps.

“At least 16 Iraqis were killed and 20 more were wounded in the latest round of violence. One U.S. soldier died from a non-combat related incident as well,” according to antiwar.com. Worth thinking about are these items:

‘ In Baquba, an IED wounded three members of the local Awakening Council. . .

Peaceful marchers in Hawija demanded that Kirkuk’s provincial elections take place on schedule. . . [To interpret this item we have to know if they were Kurds, who are trying to take over the province and incorporate it into the Kurdistan Regional Government.]

Fallujah is under a curfew following yesterday’s pair of bomb blasts targeting local officials. . .

Two high-ranking army officers were kidnapped in Kirkuk. . .