With regard to the recent dust-up in the pages of the NYT between Bush and Bremer over the dismantling of the Iraqi Army, Ward Harkavy at the Village Voice reminds us that the mystery has already been solved by former British Home Secretary David Blunkett. He revealed in his memoirs that Cheney and Rumsfeld were the ones pushing for dismantling the Iraqi army, much to the dismay of the British. Bremer was taking orders from Rumsfeld, but being a good soldier has all along declined to blow the whistle on the Neoconservatives who ordered him to do implement several disastrous decisions. My guess? Dismantling the Baath army and the professional bureaucracy was intended as a way of ensuring there were no obstacles to putting corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi in charge of Iraq (that was the Rumsfeld- Wolfowitz- Feith plan). What they didn’t know was that Bremer had been charged by his old boss, the State Department, with derailing the Chalabi conspiracy and ensuring that the US ruled Iraq directly for a year or two. The combination of the Neocon plot to install Chalabi and destroy the Baath institutions, and the Powell-Blair plot to destroy Chalabi and ensure that Iraq was properly administered for a while, resulted in the worst of all possible worlds– Bremer trying to run Iraq without an indigenous army or professional bureaucracy. Feith personally blackballed even seasoned Republican Arabists, depriving Bremer of even minimal expertise. Bush’s inability to choose between Rumsfeld and Powell led to a muddle. Apparently W. now thinks he wasn’t even informed of the decision to get rid of the army. This recollection is faulty, but it is proof that he did not make the decision. Blunkett says Cheney and Rumsfeld did.
Riverbend the most well-known Sunni Arab blogger of Baghdad , is no longer a Baghdadi. Like some 2 million other Iraqis, she is now a refugee in a neighboring country (she is in Syria, where there may now be 1.5 million Iraqis; there are some 800,000 in Jordan). Her family had decided that it was just too dangerous to remain in Baghdad, where Shiite militiamen have been ethnically cleansing them. Clearly, they were afraid of a home invasion by the Mahdi Army. She is lucky to have gotten out a couple of months ago. Syria just decided to tighten up visa requirements for Iraqis trying to flee there. Al-Hayat reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had been apprised of this decision earlier.
Many formerly middle class Iraqis are suffering in Syria, running out of money, facing increasingly steep rents, even facing water and electricity shortages (which have followed them to Damascus!) Ninety percent of their children are not in school,creating the prospect of a generation of displaced juvenile delinquents. The UNO and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society say that the US troop escalation has been accompanied by an increase in the number of displaced Iraqis. (There has also been an increase in the number of civilian Iraqi casualties). Many Sunni Arab families in Baghdad have been ethnically cleansed by Shiite militias. Riverbend has joined their number, one more tragedy among millions of tragedies.
Al-Hayat reports that the Iraqi army has been put in charge of security by the US military in Diyala province, and that the residents of the province (east and northeast of Baghdad)are afraid that the war on “al-Qaeda” (i.e. Salafi Jihadis) might turn into a battle among the armed paramilitaries and organizations that make up the US-backed “Council for the Salvation of Diyala Province.” (That is, these tribal councils the US is supporting are made up of tribes, and tribes are notorious for feuding among one another as much as for fighting outsiders. The anthropologists call it segmentary politics and contrast it to the unified state.) Local fears have been provoked because the US has allowed its new allies to establish 100 bases in recent months. Sheikh Ali al-Burhan al-`Azzawi of the al-`Izzah tribe in Diyala raised the alarm about the prospect of tribal vendettas. He dismissed the transferral of security duties to the Iraqi army as “pro forma.”
At the same time, the Association of Muslim Scholars has warned that fighting could break out among guerrilla groups after the withdrawal of the Americans. It called on the groups to put forward a realistic program that takes into account the conditions of Iraq and the region, emphasizing that “the Resistance cannot rule by itself.” AMS stressed that carrying a gun does not make someone a good administrator. (AMS is saying this!)
In other words, a lot of people in central Iraq are afraid that the tribal and political militias in the Sunni Arab may well, having been armed and helped to garrison themselves by the US, fall on one another when the Americans have left.
That this article is appearing in al-Hayat is a little worrisome to me. This Saudi-funded London daily was an early supporter of the policy of getting the tribes to fight al-Qaeda, reporting that such fights were going on in 2005 when they probably were pretty desultory affairs. It appears that the editors may be rethinking whether this approach is a good idea; and, if anyone knows Sunni tribal politics it is the Saudis.
Bravo to Andrew Tilghman for his new essay at Washington Monthly, “The Myth of al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
An invaluable new blog has been launched by Ben Lando of UPI: The Iraq Oil Report. He reports on the privatization of Iraq’s electricity sector.
The Shingetsu Institute in Japan has links for Japanese-Islamic relations, including with Iraq.
Barnett Rubin has more on the threatened Iran war rollout at the Global Affairs group blog.
McClatchy reports Iraqi political violence for Thursday and for Wednesday. Seem still to be bombs going off in Baghdad.
McClatchy conducts an admirable open discussion of a recent article alleging that US troop deaths in combat have trended down this summer. Regular readers know that I think such allegations depend on not taking into account seasonal falls in guerrilla activity during torrid Junes and Julys. The McClatchy case depends almost solely on August, which I maintain is bad statistics; you can’t prove anything at all with one month. Moreover, if you don’t let an entire city like Fallujah drive–beginning in May– you obviously cut down on guerrilla activity (Fallujah is about 1/3 of al-Anbar). It is artificial and cannot be sustained, and it looks to me like one of a series of steps taken to manipulate the numbers leading up to the September report.