Political Gridlock, Violence, Continue
Protests Against “Liberation” Day
Violence left 16 dead and others wounded on Sunday, the anniversary of the fall of Saddam (see below).
Shiite leaders met Sunday to attempt to resolve the gridlock over the formation of a new government led by Ibrahim Jaafari. It failed. Now the leaders say they will meet with the Sunni Arabs and Kurds to find out why they oppose Ibrahim Jaafari so vehemently. Haven’t they been listening? The Kurds also renewed their objections to Jaafari. In fact, they dislike him because he favors a fairly strong central government and opposes the loose federalism favored by Kurds, as well as their plans of grabbing Kirkuk for themselves.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani appears to have been unhappy about the continued stalemate. He wrote the United Iraqi Alliance leaders asking that they form a government quickly.
The fundamentalist Sunni Iraqi Accord Front continued to express its opposition to Jaafari. The Sunni Arabs feel that Jaafari has not effectively reined in Shiite death squads. I also suspect that they feel they can’t dislodge the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq from the Ministry of the Interior, where it has brought in elements of the Badr Corps paramilitary that was originally trained by Iran, unless they give it the prime ministership as a booby prize.
Al-Zaman says that there were demonstrations on Sunday in Mosul [Ar.] by protesters against the designation of April 9 (the fall of Saddam and the US occupation of Iraq) as a national holiday. Iraqis divided about whether the US presence is a liberation or an occupation. But in Mosul, a city of over a million with about 80% of the population Sunni Arab, there is less uncertainty about which it is. a representative of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Mosul spoke of the “shame” of celebrating the day on which Iraq was occupied. The demonstrators challenged the University of Mosul to forbid the commemoration.
In Baghdad, Association of Islamic Scholars leader Ahmad al-Kubaisi said that the US has completely failed in Iraq.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), had a statement read to a crowd of protesters in Basra explaining that the commemoration was of the collapse of the Saddam regime, not of a foreign military occupation. (This incident is an indication that there is unrest about the holiday among Shiites, too.)
The Iraqi Accord Front, made up of religious nationalists, urged that the day be commemorated by demonstrations against the US occupation.
The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party likewise rejected the commemoration of April 9 as a national holiday, and lamented all the Iraqi lives lost during the US invasion and subsequently.
They can’t even agree on whether April 9 is a national holiday or not!
The over-emphasis on the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the US and even Iraqi press is the direct result of a concerted Department of Defense propaganda campaign, according to the Washington Post. Military correspondent Thomas Ricks writes, “Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi’s role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist.”
Long-time readers know that I have long railed against the “Zarqawi myth.” (Click on the Billmon link for more). Mostly the US has been fighting Iraqi guerrillas, especially those with a background in the Fedayee Saddam, military intelligence, and the officer corps. Contrary to the fevered fantasies of VP Richard Bruce Cheney, the Baath regime was afraid of Zarqawi and once put out an APB on him when they thought he might have come into Iraq. Another piece of proof that propaganda usually betrays itself.
David Enders and Dan Murphy at the CSM report on the increasing difficulty Shiite leaders are having in restraining their rank and file from reprisals against Sunni Arabs for the guerrillas’ attacks on Shiites. Sunni newspapers linked to mainstream leaders have also exacerbated this crisis. They get a fascinating interview with a lower-level official of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq who urges that top fundamentalist Sunni Arab leaders should be killed. This thing is not going anywhere good.
Saud al-Faisal has also been so impolite as to point out the Iraq is in fact having a civil war: “The definition of civil war is that the people (of a country) are fighting each other … I don’t know what we can call (what is happening) in Iraq except a civil war.”
Kurdish and Shiite leaders Sunday condemned Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for his charge that Arab Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. So too did Kuwaiti Shiite members of parliament.
Veteran BBC correspondent John Simpson says that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal predicted before the Iraq war that it would bog down the US and Britain for years, set Shiites and Sunnis at each others’ throats, and give an opening for greater Iranian influence. Simpson had asked Saud al-Faisal what the US said when he told them this. He said they did not even seem to be listening. Simpson had asked Saud al-Faisal why he though the Bush administration wanted to go to war. He said that Cheney had told him, “because it is do-able.” Simpson explains all the reasons for which it wasn’t really. And, anyway, what the hell kind of reason is that to go to war?
It turns out that the Ramadi insurgents are . . . good at insurgency.
Another retired general has called for the resignation of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and complained about the lack of backbone in the active-duty officer corps in standing up to his daft plan for invading Iraq with only 100,000 men; that would have been fine if you didn’t have to rule it once you conquered it.
Hassan al-Fattah of the NYT points out that the problem with the Bush administration argument that American Iraq would be a new exemplar for the region and spread democracy is that when Iraq went bad, so did the democracy project.
Senator Arlen Specter called on Bush and Cheney to fully explain the leaks in summer of 2003 to the American people. Specter wouldn’t be speaking out this way if congressional Republicans weren’t petrified that this scandal will sink their party in 06.
Bush’s defense is that he has an “inherent right” to declassify documents. What BS. Declassification is a bureaucratic process with rules. Bush can initiate it. He can’t just arbitrarily declare some parts of some documents leakable for petty political purposes. The number of “inherent rights” of the presidency, from torturing people to prancing around their living rooms when they are out at a ball, keeps exponentially increasing. Next he’ll be asserting a claim to deflower our daughters.
Caleb Carr argues that maybe the Iraqis just need to have their civil war. He makes analogies to the United States in the 1860s.
But Iraq is not like the US in the 1860s. It is an industrialized, modern country floating in modern armaments. A million or more people could die in such a war, and millions be displaced. For another thing, Iraq unlike the US is not a virtual island. It is deeply imbricated in social, religious, political and economic relations among Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, etc. That is, a civil war in Iraq won’t stay a purely Iraqi affair. If Shiites are massacred and look as though they may lose, Iran will come in on their side. Likewise the Saudis will fund a defense of the Sunni Arabs, and the vast Sunni Arab hinterland gives them strategic depth. And, a Kurdish massacre of Turkmen, if that happened in Kirkuk, would certainly bring in the Turkish government.
Not only would an Iraq civil war not stay in Iraq, it would not leave the world unscathed. A regional guerrilla war with pipeline sabotage could take 15% of the world petroleum production off the market. If you don’t know that the total production is 85-86 million barrels a day, and don’t know what Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait produce and export of that, you shouldn’t be prescribing civil war in the region.