Monday, January 8, 2007

How A Sectarian Government Inflames More Sectarianism

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunnis in Parliament Criticize al-Maliki's Security Plan
Pelosi warns Bush on Purse Strings

The killing by Iraqi guerrillas of 5 US troops was announced on Sunday. Three of them were airmen assigned to a bomb squad.

Reuters reports other violence in Iraq, including the discovery in the capital on Sunday of 17 bodies.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi got out ahead of a lot of Democratic lawmakers on Sunday, calling for Bush to justify the spending on sending extra troops to Iraq. It is an old and key principle in parliamentary regimes that parliament controls the purse strings. Pelosi is attempting to remind Bush of this control.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno is quoted as saying that 80% of Iraq's militiamen are probably OK and could be put into the Iraqi security forces, while the other 20% may have to be "captured or killed."

This comment seems to me a welcome evidence of realism, much better than the conviction that the Sadr Movement can be defeated militarily. But I fear that the "more extreme" militiamen are the cousins of the ones who are OK, and if you kill the cousin of an Iraqi, he has to kill you to restore clan honor. So if you kill the 20%, you turn the "moderate" militiamen into your deadly enemies. Americans are so individualistic, they can't seem to get their minds around clans and clan feuds. This failure of understanding or imagination has underpinned a lot of the failure in Iraq. What you do is to make a deal with the clan leaders and make them responsible for reining in the extremists, setting things up so that they are denied financial rewards if they fail to do so. Of course this plan depends on your ability to guarantee the safety of the clan leaders, which at the moment the US military cannot do.

Rob Collier of the SF Chronicle reports on those experts who believe that negotiating with the Sunni Arab guerrillas is the only way out of the quagmire. Saddam's execution has caused the neo-Baath angrily to pull out of talks.

Even the Jordanian parliament, a conservative and relatively pro-Western body with nary a Baathist among them, denounced the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic on the new security plan for Baghdad put forth by PM al-Maliki. Musa Abu Tawq and Ali al-Musawi write that some members of parliament have denounced the plan as unconstitutional because parliament has never been given the opportunity to vote on it. MP Hussein al-Faluji of the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni religious)insisted that the plan must be presented to parliament.

Others are criticizing the plan because it concentrates on Sunni West Baghdad and exempts Shiite Sadr City in the east. Members of parliament warned that this lack of even-handedness would exacerbate civil conflict rather than ending it. Kurdish politician Mahmud Osman objected to the planned use of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are in Iraqi army units, saying he worried that it might provoke fighting between Arabs and Kurds. He admitted that the plan had been approved by President Jalal Talabani and the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani. Three Iraqi army brigades are expected to head down from northern Iraq to the capital, two of them Kurdish. MP al-Faluji also said that the use of the Peshmerga should be presented to parliament for its approval.

Al-Zaman maintains that militiamen [a code word for the Shiite Mahdi Army] attacked the Baghdad district of al-Rahmaniya on sunday, killing 3 persons and wounding 10 among locals who were defending their homes. The militiamen set fire to 10 dwellings. At the same time, the Mahdi Army in Sadr City has begun a conscription drive to expand its ranks. Every family with a male between the ages of 15 and 45 is being forced to relinquish him to the militia.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that "al-Qaeda" in Fallujah assassinated Muhammad Mahmud, the head of the 1920 Revolution Brigades in the district of al-Saqlawiya, threatening al-Anbar Province with a feud between the two Sunni guerrilla groups. (I fear this business of the Sunni guerrilla groups fighting each other is a minor phenomenon, though al-Hayat has been playing it up for a year. During that year, any such tensions have had no effect on the deadly effectiveness of the guerrillas. Besides, I thought the US military was taking retinal scans of everyone who returned to Fallujah and that it was now hunky dory even if 2/3s of the buildings had been damaged by the 2004 US assault. So how come there are all these guerrilla groups in the city?)

It says that the Association of Muslim Scholars, a hard line Sunni clerical group, called on the former officers of the Iraqi military to liberate Iraq from occupation.

Al-Hayat maintains that Baghdad looks half empty, with residents fearful to go out for fear of a guerrilla or militia attack.

Newsweek reports on the ways in which the US is losing the information war in Iraq, with guerrillas cannily spreading around images of attacks on US troops. The chilling suggestion is made that some attacks are staged precisely to generate propaganda footage, i.e. the guerrillas are making snuff films with the GIs as victims.

Simon Jenkins compares Bush's surge in Iraq to other last-ditch failed attempts by leaders to rescue a failed war effort.

The Independent sees the new Iraqi oil law as "American-drafted" and as incredibly generous to investors and outside corporations, beyond the industry standard.

JLK has further comments on this issue.

Young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met Sunday with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani about "security issues." The Iranian press has reported that Sistani is attempting to restore the unity of the Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, from which Sadrist MPs have been alienated since PM Nuri al-Maliki met with US President George W. Bush.

Tim Phelps of Newsday considers the real possibility that Iraq was always mission impossible.

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