Iraq/ Turkey Tensions in Streets, Halls of Parliament Turkish Economy Imperilled Istrabadi Resigns, Slams Iraqi Government

Iraqi president – slash – Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani condemned Syria’s president Bashar al-Asad for supporting the Turkish claim of the right to invade Iraq in search of Kurdish guerrillas [the Turks–and I suppose the US State Department — say ‘terrorists’] being given safe harbor there. Talabani connived at the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 on similar grounds, but now is posing as the great champion of Arab solidarity and denouncing Bashar for urging foreign troops to make incursions into a fellow Arab state. Mam Jalal, you don’t have standing to make that particular argument after you brought Bush to Baghdad.

Thousands of Kurds demonstrated in the northern city of Dohuk against Turkey’s threatened invasion.

Now we have the duel of the parliaments. First the Turkish parliament voted to allow military incursions into Iraq in hot pursuit of Kurdish terrorists who killed people in Turkey. Now the Iraqi parliament is crafting a resolution denouncing the Turkish parliament. All these mutual condemnations remind me eerily of 1914.

Meanwhile, the guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party threatened to retaliate against any Turkish military moves against them in their safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, by hitting the oil pipelines in Turkey.

Turkey’s stock market and currency value could be badly hurt if Ankara sends troops into Iraq. Such adverse economic consequences would be a shame, since Turkey is one of the few economic bright spots among non-oil countries in the Middle East.

The Iraqi political class continues to fiddle as Baghdad burns. Now PM Nuri al-Maliki is trying to prevent Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi from making political hay by visiting mostly Sunni Arab prisoners in Iraq prisons, of which their are thousands, many languishing for long periods without trials or even without formal charges.

The Iraqi guerrillas continued their steady drumbeat of bombings and assassinations on Saturday, in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Iskandariya, and even Basra.

Feisal Istrabadi, former deputy ambassador of the Shiite government of Iraq to the United Nations, has resigned in disgust with the corruption and inefficiency of the Iraqi government and is now speaking out critically. Like Gen. Rick Sanchez, apparently he told the US media all those sunny things about the situation in Iraq despite his better judgment, because it was part of his job to be a good soldier. I know and admire Mr. Istrabadi, but I really wish more people such as he and Sanchez had started speaking out earlier (summer 2004 would have been good), since they in effect ended up running interference for Bush’s reelection campaign and prolonged the agony for both countries. I debated Istrabadi more than once, as at the Lehrer Newshour, and also on radio shows such as Warren Olney’s To the Point and have to wonder whether, despite our surface disagreements (with me playing the critic and pessimist), he actually agreed privately with much of what I was saying. Another issue is that far Rightwing and mostly very dishonest blogs such as Powerline used the testimony of Iraqis such as Istrabadi to bring sharply into question my own analyses. They used to charge that Cole was way off base since our generals and the Iraqi officials agreed with Bush about the ‘improving’ situation in Iraq. And all these brain dead Rightists are now crowing about the reduced casualty counts in Iraq, as though they weren’t artificially achieved, as though they could possibly be sustained, and as though they meant anything in the absence of genuine political progress. Now that Sanchez and Istrabadi are revealing that they actually privately agreed with critics such as myself even at that time and all along, will the Rightwing blogs now apologize to those they smeared?

An interesting article on the apparent drop in casualties in Iraq and its true significance. The authors argue that violence has actually spiked in Baghdad, where there are lots of US troops, but declined in other areas from which troops have withdrawn. Local forces appear to have taken care of the more violent characters (such as “al-Qaeda in Iraq”) after the Coalition troops were no longer around, as in al-Anbar.

I haven’t crunched the numbers myself, and so can’t comment on these conclusions. I think the authors are incorrect to conclude that US troops have left al-Anbar. I believe that they are enforcing a vehicle curfew in Falluja, and that the ones left in Mosul have just started one in that city. My guess is that an important part of the story is various forms of lockdown of the Sunni Arab population, which has been the major source of violence all along (the Shiite south outside Basra and Diwaniya has been relatively quiet except when we attacked Muqtada al-Sadr frontally; in the two cities mentioned, there has been substantial Shiite on Shiite violence).

As long-time readers know, I believe that the only reason that the various players don’t form brigade-sized units and fight set piece battles with one another is US air power, which would take them out if they tried it. I don’t agree with the authors’ conclusion that a US withdrawal would lead to social peace, since I believe that the low intensity war is only low intensity because the US military imposes limits on intensity. If the US forces weren’t there, the local forces would fight their various wars to a conclusion or a stalemate.

Farideh Farhi explains the significance of the resignation of Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and his replacement by a diplomatic novice close to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She points out that Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei signed off on these changes, suggesting that he has either lost control of the nuclear issue or that he is throwing his weight behind the far Iranian right in the form of Ahmadinejad. Either way, she says, this resignation is big news.

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