Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Natives Are Restless: continued political disintegration of Iraq

The Kurds complain about US rule as reported by the Independent (UK).

21 January 2004

Iraqi Kurds, the one Iraqi community that has broadly supported the American occupation, are expressing growing anger at the failure of the United States and its allies to give them full control of their own affairs and allow the Kurds to expel Arabs placed in Kurdistan by Saddam Hussein.

Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, told The Independent in an interview that the Kurds had been offered less autonomy "than we had agreed in 1974 with the regime of Saddam Hussein".

This shocking turn of events can only be compounded by the imminent collapse of US resistance to direct election demands by southern Shiites. This is in part due to large protest marches in southern Iraq by the Shiite community. While it has been widely reported that some 30,000 protestors marched in Basra to complain about economic conditions, it hasn't been widely reported that other cities in southern Iraq have also seen economic protest marches. The final straw seems to have been the march by an estimated 100,000 Iraqis in support of their highest spiritual authority Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Jack Straw the foreign minister in Tony Blair's cabinet has already reportedly advised Washington to accede to Shiite demands rather than risk a stall of the political process [Guardian(UK)].

However if the Shiites soon take power, they are unlikely to be willing to honor any promises that Americans may have made to the Kurds. The greatest risk of the situation has always been not a pro-Saddam or pro-Baathist resistance movement, but a true general uprising motivated by the political tensions between the different ethnic and religious groups. As the case now seems to be occurring, the whole of Iraq is being pulled into highly polarized pieces whose only real factor in common is their increasing disenchantment with American occupation.

This is in stark contrast to the upbeat tone of President Bush's State of the Union speech text delivered tonight (MSNBC). In it, he claims that:

"The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right... Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June."

The true danger is that the Iraqi's lose patience with the process we've imposed and rise up against it. This problem can only be solved by hurrying out the door and not letting it hit us on the way out. However any imminent US withdrawal or even turn-over of the political reins might incite fractious sectarian violence and even outright civil war. Right now because of their mistakes, the Administration is between a rock and a hard place. Their only real hope is that it either doesn't go to hell in a hand basket quickly, or that Americans don't really care about that come November.

The actions of the Bush Administration so strain all credibility, that unfortunately that they lead to cynical denunciations of American motives. However as the old saying goes, never look to malice what stupidity alone can suffice as an explanation. Here the CSM reports an outraged critic of the Administration in his frustration resorting to accusations of US interference in Iraqi democracy. It is fairly clear that the handpicked Iraqi governing council has no legitimacy or support within the country of Iraq. It is also clear that the Administration would prefer a compliant puppet government over a robust if anti-American democracy. This is however the game that Americans have been gotten into by the Bush Administration, and that critics warned against. If some have in their outrage called France or Germany obstructionist or even outright enemies of the United States, then since they are democracies it is somewhat naive to underestimate the possibility of anti-American democracies even if we should be the ones promoting the democracy.

Speaking from Ajman, a coastal city in northeastern United Arab Emirates, former Iraqi UN envoy Mohammed Al Douri accuses the United States of sowing chaos in Iraq so that it could delay or prevent altogether the direct elections of a new government. A vote by the Iraqi people would probably lead to electing leaders "against the American presence in Iraq," he told The Associated Press, and such elections would threaten the US stronghold of oil wealth and strategic location.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Army Reserves admits serious errors in call-up errors and an increasingly likely future problem with personnel retentions according to the NYT.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 — The chief of the Army Reserve said on Tuesday that a series of mistakes in mobilizing and managing reserves for the war in Iraq had put the Army on the brink of serious problems in retaining those soldiers.


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