Sunday, January 11, 2004

Mesopotamian Blues, can't get no satisfaction

This hasn't been a drop of good news in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was captured. Okay, that's an exaggeration. Since then some of our boys who've been away for up to two years serving in Afghanistan and Iraq have started coming home (NYT). In addition, there has been some movement on the frozen assets in Syria (NYT). Most of the news however has been mildly bad to downright troubling. Remember when the Administration's line was that it was just all media bias? They don't seem to be singing that song recently at all. ;-)

Of note, there continue to be blackouts and fuel shortages (NYT). Apparently the culprit is part fuel smuggling and part gaz guzzling luxury cars that have flooded the country (LAT). Talk about too much of a good thing! Besides that, we had another chopper shot down (WaPo). Meanwhile bombs (WaPo), riots in the previously quiet south of Iraq (MSNBC), and violent clashes and shootings in Kirkuk to the north don't paint an exactly rosy picture (NYT). Here Newsweek asks if we can keep things from completely falling apart in an article entitled "Refereeing in Hell". This isn't just a collection of bad anecdotes either. On the political level, Ali Sistani who is just considered the highest religious authority for the Shias who are 60+% of the Iraqi population has completely rejected any compromise with any political transition plan that does not include direct elections. The problem is that the current plans for Iraqi self-governance don't have any! Meanwhile to the north, Kurdish reluctance to cede autonomy creates the prospect of politically splitting Iraq in half (WaPo)!

In light of events like this, the optimism of our leaders as commented upon by Glenn Reynolds based originally on a September article by the CSM seems to be so much more cherry-picking. Never underestimate the ability of synchopants in order to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Yes, attacks in Iraq have gone down to about a dozen a day after a string of American military offenses. However they had risen from a dozen a day to two dozen right before Hussein's capture. The big offensives in other words just reduced the number of attacks back to were they were before the big surge.

Is all the news bad? No, Knight-Ridder reports that some Iraqis resent the loss of Iraqi life created by many insurgency attacks. However this same news source reports that we are running short on ammo for the troops. Apparently we just can't buy off the shelf because of the high army specifications that the ammunition must perform under. Additionally, the old truism that 'good help is hard to find' apparently is holding as far as recruiting Iraqis to either help us or prepare to take over security in the June transfer. That's less than six months away. Actung!

To quote from Yeats' poem the Second Coming:

"...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity..."


Update: Not only does the Shiite religious leader oppose American plans that don't include direct democratic elections, but he is being quoted in a publicly placed ad. This definitely escalates the situation. The Shiite religious leadership has gone on record in public with their demand, so backing down is unlikely as it would mean a loss of 'face'.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In a full-page newspaper advertisement on Monday, Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric reiterated his demand for the country’s next legislature to be elected, hardening his opposition to U.S. plans for regional caucuses.

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