Skip to comments.The fantasy is over, we must partition Iraq and get out now (a view from the thames)
Posted on 05/21/2006 4:51:33 AM PDT by FerdieMurphy
We should not have gone to Iraq because going to Iraq implied staying and staying implied leaving. Now begins the leaving, and it will be bloody. All else is an illusion.
This weekend another Iraqi government, the third in three years, entered office under American guns in Baghdads green zone. Ibrahim al-Jaafari gives way to Nouri al-Maliki, though neither the defence nor internal security posts are filled. These are posts that matter, with their murky unofficial links to police, militias and Baghdad death squads.
The reason they are unfilled is that post-withdrawal Iraq is already up and running. Power has seeped away from the coalition and its still puppet ministers. It has moved out onto the streets of Baghdad and Basra and into the morgues.
The jungle drums can read the signs. The British are back in helmets and tanks in the south, the Americans are back bombing and strafing villages in the west. The coalition has lost any ability to guarantee security to the Iraqi people, who must look elsewhere. In Iraq, optimism may always be a virtue but it has become fantasy.
This place is a failed state. There is no rule of law. Murder is unpunished. No foreigner dares to move except by air. Any Iraqi risks his life working away from home and women risk their lives working at all. Interpreters wear balaclavas. Vendetta killings come not daily but hourly, measured only by body counts. Professionals are decamping to Jordan in greater numbers even than under Saddam. Water, power and petrol supplies are also worse.
At the end of this month Tony Blair flies to Washington to discuss with George W Bush how to escape. What was to be a neocon beacon of democratic stability has become a hell-hole of anarchy. Iraq is no longer just a mistake: it is the outcome of an intellectual and moral catastrophe from which the image of western democracy will take a generation to recover.
Bush and Blair have been shielded from this truth by years of sycophantic briefing, but they cannot be shielded from opinion polls. The war is overwhelmingly unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic. Since both leaders are planning their departures, they are frantic to have the incubus removed from their shoulders. Iraq policy is a matter of dates.
The best moment to withdraw was when the Pentagon originally intended, in June 2003, leaving Ahmed Chalabi to fight things out with the Shiite clerics after Saddams downfall. But the urge to rebuild a nation got the better of Bush and Blair. Another window was in December 2003, then June 2004, then December 2005, drop dead dates when control might have been handed over to whichever majority leader was ascendant. Another date is now, with a new government in place.
A crucial illusion of American and British policy is that the occupation is somehow maintaining the integrity of the state and its government. It is not. It is undermining both. In truth there is no state and coalition troops are merely squatting in camps dotted across the landscape, emerging occasionally to kill or get killed.
There are two consequences of each refusal to leave. First, the troops offer an ever more inviting target for insurgency and a magnet for anti-western guerrillas from across the region. This in turn boosts the militias as alternative power networks and encourages politicians to back them rather than the army. Second, each postponement of withdrawal undermines the independence and self-reliance of the current Iraqi leader. The American failure to entrench Ayad Allawi as a new Baghdad strongman last year and leave him to fend for himself was not democracy but stupidity.
Milikis position even within the Shiite majority depends on his appeasing the Mahdist gangs and the Iran-backed Badr Brigades linked to Ayatollah al-Sistani. The one certainty is that the presence of American power at his elbow will weaken, not strengthen, his credibility as a nationalist leader.
Washington and London still do not hear the message, that their occupation is hugely unpopular among Iraqis, except for those VIPs whose lives literally depend on it.
Withdrawal becomes harder with each postponement. Those with a vested interest in occupation are more entrenched. Bases are enlarged, contracts let, corruption extended. For the past year British and American policy has been rooted in the concept of orderly transition to a new Iraqi army, the latest version of Vietnamisation. Over the course of 2005-06 American and British troops were to be replaced by new army and police units. Last October the mooted date for this was May 2006. Such dates are meaningless when an occupier has lost initiative to anarchy.
The new Iraqi army strategy might have been plausible had the old army been reformed and a new nexus of power and loyalty established in Baghdad. That option has long gone. Despite quantities of training and equipment, an Iraqi army deployable nationwide is blind optimism. (Its officers dare not even drive home in uniform). Local troops are unreliable outside their home district simply because they are never going to outgun the militias. Soldiers can be brave as lions, but why kill fellow Iraqis and provoke revenge when the occupiers will soon be gone?
Police are more important to local security than soldiers, and they have everywhere distanced themselves from the occupation. The only peace in Iraq is where local police are in league with whatever power structure, clerical or criminal, is locally dominant. Battles in the south are largely between Mahdist and Badr gangs and their offshoots. These fights will be resolved only when one or other emerges as dominant. The coalition has not the remotest leverage over this.
In much of Iraq everything points to a looming conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. To all who know these people, this is an utter tragedy, brought on by the coalitions continued presence and its failure to establish order. All recent experience of such conflict, whether in Ulster, Palestine, Sudan or Yugoslavia, sees it resolved into population movement and ethnic cleansing. This is now proceeding bloodily in and round Baghdad. It will bring an awful residue of ghost districts, refugee camps, revenge attacks and safe havens. In Yugoslavia the solution, abetted by western intervention, was partition. In Iraq America began the same process by guaranteeing de facto autonomy to Kurdistan. That logic must now be followed to its conclusion. Partition was always the most likely outcome. This view is at last gaining traction in Washington, advocated by Joe Biden, the Senate foreign relations chairman.
A template is offered by the constitution negotiated a year ago by Zalmay Khalilzad, Washingtons Baghdad proconsul, and approved by the voters. Its chapter five allows any of Iraqs 18 provinces to be grouped into regions, each with an allotted share of oil revenue and an option of assuming responsibility for legislation and organising internal forces . . . police, security and regional guards.
This could not be more specific. Provincial governors in Sunni and Shiite regions may vote themselves, individually or collectively, a similar autonomy to that enjoyed by the Kurds. It is clear that this will embrace formal and informal military and police units. Dreadful problems would remain, including the governance of Baghdad and of the mixed areas bordering Kurdistan. But at least there is a constitutional framework for decentralisation such that military responsibility can be handed over to new regional commanders. That could begin at once if coalition forces can bear to surrender their bases. The alternative is an eternity of the present stasis.
In southern Iraq the British have already handed three provinces over to local forces, obeying the old Arabist maxim: find the nearest strongman and give him guns. What the Americans do in central Iraq is their decision. American troops are desperate to leave, though what happens to a dozen gigantic bases is beyond imagining (perhaps they will become refugee camps).
This is in part Britains war and that part should be Britains to end. Iraq is no longer about nation building or democracy spreading or reputation enhancing. It is about getting out in the best possible order. The route is mapped in the Khalilzad constitution. The endgame of yet another western intervention will be yet another partition. But at least the sooner the better.
How many nations has the author built?
This bizarre spin (the previous "governments" were intended to be temporary as means of chosing the one longterm government) is all I need to read before moving on.
Echoing the advise of "Plugs" Biden? Not a very good move. Leftist critics have never been satisfied, or right about anything. Even if we had rolled into Baghdad and found Hussein on top of a pile of chemical munitions, reading a love letter from OBL......they'd still be parroting the same lines.
advise = advice
Partition would cause a civil war. The Sunni areas don't have much oil.
"Simon Jenkins" doesn't SOUND French, but hey - what's in a name?
"....would cause a civil war."
And that is a bad thing?
The killing rate in Iraq is barely that found in the residential areas of DC.
There are other American cities with higher rates of killing, and when you get into such third-world vacation spots as Lagos, Nigeria, downtown Baghdad is seen for the peaceful respite that it really is.
Well, more than that, perhaps he ought to review the immediate post WWII Italian political history, extending right up to 1994. Seemed like they had a new government every five minutes.
Great point. In 1999 I met an Italian woman who was amused by how Americans complained about their government. She said something to the effect of "Our government, not the party but the government itself, has changed every three years since World War II, you don't know how good you have it."
She may have been exagerrating (or I'm misremembering) but her point was clear.
Even if this is an exagerration, I guess this writer wishes we'd bailed on Italy after WWII.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no good.
I for one felt that it was a mistake to try to "nation build." I did however, support the invasion and still do. I always thought that they had no ability really to build a democracy in Iraq (the people are backwards). I felt that we should turn it over to the tribes and get out and if the country was partitioned that would be the best of all worlds for everyone concerned. That being said, I feel that the Iraq's are doing better then I thought they would be doing. It is really time to take a good look at Iraq and see what is going down. It may be worth while to stay and it may be best to get out. But, the worst thing to do is make it look like we are being chased out.
Simon Jenkins is and always was, an idiot.
Depends on who wins.
Try this: Without our "nation building" Iraq would now be annexed to Iran.
Actually, she was being conservative. On average, the governments lasted something like eleven months.
Not only were there numerous political parties, but numerous contending factions within the parties, and contending factions within the factions. By comparison, Iraq is as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar. :-)
Plus, people might remember Italy has had its share of internal terrorism, death and mayhem.
That got the ol' BS detector pegging off the scale. I couldn't resist reading more of it, but none of it surprised me.
This article would make great cat litter box or birdcage liner.
Our cats deserve better litter!
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