Saturday, July 17, 2010

'The very existence of Iraq is in danger'

For any of you who still think that the Petraeus "Surge" somehow fixed Iraq, this report from Michael Jansen in the Jordan Times ought to be a reminder that it may have brought down the level of violence (which is nonetheless much higher that any "stable" state would countenance), but its underlying problems remain unsolved.  Months after the election, there is no government (and Jansen lays out the reasons very well).  And, there remains (both inside Iraq and outside) a Baath-party-based resistance that is intent on bringing down the Shii-based government in Baghdad.
. . . . the cause of four months of political deadlock is Maliki's refusal to step down as head of government.

Iyad Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition won most seats in parliament, insists that he should be called on first to form a government. He has little chance of doing so because his party represents secularists and Sunnis while the post-war regime was founded on ethno-sectarianism and has been dominated by sectarian Shiites and separatist Kurds for the past seven years.

Under Iranian pressure, Maliki's sectarian State of Law bloc joined forces with the Iraqi National Alliance, comprising the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council headed by Ammar Al Hakim and the party loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. Tehran clearly hoped that given the fact that this grouping is just four short of the 163 majority needed to form a government, the new super-Shiite alliance would agree on a premier and get on with the job of choosing ministers.

However, Sadr absolutely refuses to countenance Maliki's return as premier because he was responsible for the neutralisation of the Sadrist militia in the spring of 2008 and the arrest of hundreds of followers. Hakim does not share Maliki's political agenda and has his own candidate for the top job.

In a bid to weaken him, Maliki's super-bloc partners engineered the fall of the minister of electricity by organising mass protests over the lack of power in Basra and other southern cities as temperatures climbed to 50 degrees centigrade. The shortfall in electricity production has been a particularly hot issue since the fall of the Baathist regime. Iraqis simply cannot understand why the US occupation administration and Iraqi government have not been able to restore power to pre-war levels. Many Iraqis blame Maliki for failing to rein in widespread corruption which, they believe, is a major cause of the electricity crisis.

What is more surprising, senior SIIC figures met last month with three pro-Baath Iraqi exiles based in Damascus, in spite of the fact that the former ruling party has been outlawed in Iraq since 2003. All three of the pro-Baath interlocutors attended a conference held by one wing of the Baath party in Damascus on April 29. This wing, led by Muhammad Younis Al Ahmad, a former governor of Mosul, is seeking to unite with the wing led by Ezzat Ibrahim Al Duri, Saddam Hussein's deputy who is believed to be conducting resistance operations inside Iraq.

Following a series of deadly bombings of government sites in Baghdad, beginning with last August, Maliki blamed Syria for the attacks and demanded the extradition of former officials, including Ahmad, who was accused of organising the bombings.

Damascus-based Khalid Al Maeny, civil engineer and political scientist, is involved in political resistance. He told this correspondent that he and other Iraqi exiles seek to establish a "national political movement" to work "against the occupation as political resistance" and "save Iraq". He stated: "There are many [Iraqi] technocrats in Syria, independents who do not belong to any party, who are interested in joining in the struggle in Iraq.”

He said the US occupation has failed at all levels. The military failed because armed resistance continues. A US political presence in Iraq is unwelcome once Washington withdraws its troops.

"After seven years, there is no real government and the economy is in very bad shape."

His group is prepared to work with Baathists but "we will not repeat the Baathist government. We refuse all religious parties. We don't want [Sunni] Al Qaeda or [Shiite] Muqtada Al Sadr. We want to separate religion and state.... The first stage is reconciliation. We must forge a new national, political contract and substitute military resistance with a political project."

He said the sectarian constitution of 2005, written under US guidance, has produced only "violence and division".

An independent who left Iraq 30 years ago and now dwells in the Syrian capital, Fadhil Al Rubaiee observed that the post-war "political process is at a dead end… Iraqis were deluded into thinking the [March parliamentary] election would bring change. The question of who is next prime minister is a detail. We are drowning in details. The very existence of Iraq is in danger.... A national conference should be called and Iraqis should prohibit division or federalism and insist on a secular state for all its citizens."

Unfortunately, he remarked, "there is no political will for such an effort.

All of this, of course, has come in the wake of the attempt by George W. Bush and his entourage to make a "new Middle East," starting with Iraq in 2003 (and then - they hoped - Lebanon in 2006, courtesy of the supposedly invincible Israeli military).  Many of the same politicians and think-tank "scholars" who set the Iraq debacle in motion are now demanding that the US bomb Iran.  Its nuclear installations are supposedly the target (although some, such as Amitai Etzioni, advocate bombing civilian infrastructure as well) - but as with Iraq, regime change is surely envisioned as a possible result.

But the consequences of such an attack will likely be dire.  I highly recommend the just-published report by Paul Rogers of Open Democracy and the Oxford Research Group, who lays out a probable scenario.  It's not pretty.  And, I might also note, Prof. Rogers published in 2002 a report outlining the very negative consequences of a then-looming attack on Iraq.

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