Saturday, February 25, 2006

Iraq - A Gordian Knot

Earlier today, the Bushevik weblogs (they no longer see themselves as any kind of conservative) were crowing over a report in Murdoch's "Advertiser" newspaper about a peace deal between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq. The agreement was televised in Iraq and involved four sheikhs from the Sadr movement who made a "pact of honour" with the conservative Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, and called for an end to attacks on places of worship, the shedding of blood and condemning any act leading to sedition. They took this deal to mean that all would be well in Iraq and that "liberals" had been bedwetting girlie-men or even traitors abetting Osama by worrying about a hot civil war in Iraq. Mark Noonan at "Blogs for Bush was particularly gleeful:
More Bad News for Democrats. Seems that the eagerly anticipated Iraqi Civil War might not happen...I'm sorry, Democrats...but, hey, hurricane season is only a few months away and maybe we'll have a horrible storm killing thousands of Americans that you can try to pin on President Bush! There's always a hopeful tomorrow!
And Mark Margolis at GOP Bloggers continued the theme with a post entitled "Peter Daou Will Be So Upset..." which accuses the Left of "salivating over the idea of civil war in Iraq." Thus do Mark and Mark reveal themselves as true sociopaths like so many of their Republican ilk, devoid of all empathy and fellow feeling for the many who would lose their lives - American, Iraqi and others - should the current cold civil war heat up. To accuse the Left of their own empty-heartedness is to fly in the face of all the evidence. It's the Left who have argued for better body and vehicle armor, fewer "collateral" civilian casualties, better "hearts and minds" tactics. It's the Left who argued we shouldn't get into Bush's bloody and stupid adventure in Iraq in the first place.

However, it looks like the Busheviks' triumphalism may have been misplaced. The London Sunday Times, also Murdoch owned, has extra details today which underscore that fine words from some leaders may not be enough to stem the tit for tat flow of reprisals for reprisals.
Sunni and Shi’ite clerics also agreed to ban attacks on each others’ mosques. But the head of the Badr organisation, Hadi al-Amari, has issued a challenge to Khalilzad. “We have decided to incorporate militias into the Iraqi security forces and we are serious about this,” he said. He warned security portfolios must remain in the hands of a Shi’ite.
El Sadr's Mahdi army have also been implicated in attacks. In the worst reprisal attack, in which 47 bodies were discovered in a ditch in Diyala province, one witness claims to have seen the victims being driven around in the characteristic white Opels and BMWs favoured by the Mahdi army. In yet another attack, a Sunni imam was abducted by men driving an Iraqi military vehicle and found later shot in the head.

The actions do not match the words. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the ridiculous statement of Ibrahim Jaafari, the prime minister - "The Iraqi people have one enemy; it is terrorism and only terrorism. There are no Sunnis against Shi’ites or Shi’ites against Sunnis." Whether or not Iraq descends into a new "hot" phase in it's ongoing sectarian conflict will depend on whether actions match rhetoric - and so far they have not. I'm sure the common people will assume that words are for TV and actions are for real.

Despite a massive security lockdown over 60 people died yesterday, bringing the toll since Wednesday to over 200. Many Iraqis refused to heed prime mnister Jaafari’s appeal for calm and there are very real fears that clerics like Sistani are beginning to lose control of their radicals. I would remind Mark, Mark and other Busheviks that it was the Left who warned, loud and long, about the dangers of allowing armed militias to gain so much power and penetrate so many parts of the apparatus of law and order in Iraq. In April last year, I wrote:
No democracy has long survived when major armed groups are out of the direct control of the State and these militias will have to be curbed by the Iraqi parliament. Removing the perceived need for their existence by ending the imposed ethnic divisions in government would certainly help but international pressure must be brought to bear on Iraq to break up the militias and subsume their members into the military piecemeal.
The Right, following the neocons in their habitual lack of planning, pretty much ignored the situation and wrote we Lefties off as "defeatists" in favor of rah-rahing for Bush's non-plan for victory. Without strong pressure from outside and given all the failures of the reconstruction, Iraqi powerbrokers kept their militias as security blankets. Thus followed the current chaos, no matter who set the bombs in Samarra.

Now, according to the Times, the Bush administration is actively considering the possibility of halting a descent into chaos by installing a "strongman" dictatorship in Iraq. Allawi, always one of the White House's favourites, seems to be the strongest candidate for the position of "The New Saddam". No "mission accomplished" then, just a case of back to square one.

The alternative would be even more unpleasant.
Last autumn, Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, argued that a civil war “would finish Iraq for ever”.

“The Iranians would enter the conflict because of the [Shi’ite] south, the Turks because of the Kurds and the Arabs . . . will definitely be dragged into the conflict.” Their prime motivation would be to prevent an Iranian-backed “Shi’ite crescent” forming across Lebanon through Syria to Iran, Iraq and the Gulf.
In Iraq, (and let us not forget it's knock-on effects for the current growing crisis over Iran) Bush has forged for himself a Gordian knot that no amount of swordplay can ever unravel. No matter how the Busheviks try to spin it, his administration created this mess.

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