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February 06, 2009


More central power/nationalist positions seems to be the trend. Where might it lead?

Kirkuk -- the Kurds are going to have to cut a deal to get something because Dawa will never allow them to take control of it. This has been the trend to date with the postponement of the elections required by the new constitution concerning Kirkuk and all the posturing in 2008 on this question. I would expect Dawa and the Kurds to reach some sort of brokered arrangement that allows the Kurds more autonomy than the Sunnis will ever get, but not outright control of Kirkuk. A brokered deal would actually be a good thing as it would forestall bloodshed concerning Kirkuk. What the Kurds decide to do over the next year will dictate this issue.

Sunnis -- definitely getting the short stick here, as Dawa is hostile to the Awakening Councils and has no interest in brokering anything for regional Sunni power.

US -- these trends reinforce a firmer Iraqi hand in requiring us to get out. Are the Dawa our long-term friends in any way? I would expect them to have more in common with Iran than the US long term.

Iran -- will have to focus on bargaining with Iraq as an equal adjoining state rather than having a greater degree of control over internal Iraqi affairs. But the bottom line is that Dawa and Iran see eye-to-eye on many things, so not that much of a problem for Iran. Iran would greatly further its own interests if it treats Dawa Iraq as equals.

Sadr -- looks to be waning in influence in every way. His one previously unique brand -- strong Iraqi nationalism ---- is co-opted by Dawa, and Sadr's extreme religious rhetoric now becomes his sole trademark.

These elections probably portend a growing stability in Iraq (which is good), coupled with a growing hostility toward our interests. So much for winning, but this has always been the predictable outcome from day one. Hopefully Iraqi elections continue in some free manner, rather than going the way as Russia has concerning its elections. But as with the Palestinians, free elections are probably only going to cement anti-US sentiment on the long term issues of the region. It makes sense to predict a free Iraq joining Iran in supporting the Hamas/Hezbollah of the Arab world.

Now that's some solid commentin'

dmbeaster, I would add that Sadr's star began to fade as so as SOFA was done. Actually, probably before as his main thrust was always get rid of the occupiers, us.

With the agreement that became a done deal. The question became not if but when and many Iraqis are content to let us stay a little longer since under the terms of the agreement we have less real presence in their lives.

Sadr, of course, was the least influenced by Iran. And I am not really sure Iran wanted a vassal state next door. That would present an even more threatening face to the West.

A few notes:

Sadr is still relevant in so much as he keeps Dawa/Maliki to the preferred agenda. Also, he still has a large contingent of followers.

Sadr was also greatly weakened by direct military/law enforcement actions. Members of his movement were arrested en masse, and many thousands were killed. That'll take the steam out of anyone. Also, Iran deliberately splintered and disrupted Sadr's militia because he had outgrown his utility.

Iran really wants ISCI to break off a large Shiite super region in the South, which Iran feels it could control (with all that oil there, it's a real prize).

Sadr opposes this, vehemently. That is one of the reasons why Iran never really considered him a suitable proxy.

I think it is in the national interest of the US to have a strong central government in Iraq, so long as it can control most of the country's territory. Whether under Sunni or Shiite rule, a unified Iraq would in most cases serve as a decent counterweight to Iran, and in most cases would be hostile to allowing al Qaeda to establish a safe haven in its territory.

Best case scenario is a relatively democratic government with participation from Sunnis and Kurds. If the Iraqi government lacks Saddam's overt hostility to both the US and Iran, then it's practically a net win for everyone. The US government should continue to encourage, as best it can, centralizing tendencies and talky, talky not fighty, fighty between the various factions.

Of course, you can bet that if the best-case scenario comes to pass, the neocons will claim it was all due to the genius of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Eric, I hope you guys are prepared to counter that. We need a term for the kind of foreign policy I see hilzoy, Eric, Yglesias, etc. advocating. Liberal realism, maybe?

Progressive Realism?


OT - WTF? Is there any reason for the U.S. military to be involved in this (even if everything had gone super-peachy)?

These results are only a loss if the U.S. has retarded goals.

If the U.S. is not reaching for retarded goals, the results are about the best that could be hoped for.

Dawa does not represent a restoration of the Saddam regime in any way. So, the original enemy has not returned to power.

Dawa does not want an internationally-minded Sunni fundamentalist regime (in other words, not apt to become a friendly environment for Al-Qaeda). Support for an Iraqi law and order government means opposition to foreign fighters and their allies.

Dawa is weakest as against Iran, but even here, its centralizing focus is less exploitable by Iran than ISCI's. It will not be unfriendly to Iran, but with its nationalistic angle it can still assert some independence. One motivation for each of Iran and Iraq's nuclear, chem, bio programs when they had them was the threat from each other. There's some benefit with that motive removed.

Biden and Gelb are quiet about their old plan, as they should be. There were circumstances, in an ever worsening sectarian violence spiral, and in the absence of anything resembling a Bush plan, where their ideas seemed more reasonable. They are now OBE and let sleeping dogs lie.

This does not add up to a loss for the U.S. in terms of its general desires for Iraq between 1991 and 2001, an Iraq that was neither under Saddam or the Iranians (and a Sunni-fundamentalist pro-AQ Iraq, which was unimagined)

Sadr, who was neither Baathist, nor an Iran toady nor pro-AQ (so why was he singled out as an enemy then? Unless the occupation was to be a self-licking ice cream cone.) is less influential. So even here, a guy who was elevated to the status of major enemy for no particular reason, ends up not being the big winner. (Sadr's worst quality I suppose, was that he did decide to start off post-Saddam politics with a lynching and then went on to lead Baghdad ethnic massacres)

Even Turkey is happier with a bit more centralized than federalized Iraq.

So, this Iraq wants us out sooner rather than later and won't accept U.S. bases.

This all adds up to only being a problem for the U.S. administration, if the U.S. administration sets a retarded goal of perpetual foreign military presence and meddling for its own sake. Yes, the U.S. conservative movement had these retarded goals, but the prestige of the U.S. today does not need to be judged by that yardstick if the current administration no longer cares.

The most problematic thing from the U.S. point of view is the lack of success for the Awakening movements and their lack of good relations with Dawa and ISCI. So, that could work against the anti-AQ effect if the Awakening leaders move back into partnership with internationally-minded Sunni jihadis. The U.S. should really get gone before that happens, if it happens.

But even here, Dawa, backed by ISCI, will be fighting AQ types. The consequences of the Awakened going radical again would be tragic for their ethnosectarian constituency and get truly awful, but they would be contained by or consumed with the Iraqi central authorities. The more they try to win, the more they lose.

The good aspects of this moment really mean that in the President's formulation of "getting out as carefully as we got in", "Carefulness" should not, repeat not, repeat not, be automatically equated with "slowness". In fact given the Iraqi majority's desires for US exit, long-term stability risks, and the likelihood that the U.S. really can neither prevent them, nor would it suffer over much from their outbreak, all point in one direction. Leaving *faster* is the more "careful" way of getting out.

So, this is a better endgame from a U.S. pov than many other possibilities, but this outcome was basically accidental, it came at a price that was not worth it for pretty much anyone except some newly empowered Iraqi politicians, and the the public record makes it obvious that any conservative argument that this particular outcome was their master plan is bogus.

"Of course, you can bet that if the best-case scenario comes to pass, the neocons will claim it was all due to the genius of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Eric, I hope you guys are prepared to counter that."

I'm sure he is, and I am too. It would just be an additional chapter in the book I'm writing that essentially demonstrates that Republicans have described their foreign policy and described contrasts with the Democrats for their political profit for over 60 years, managing to avoid accuracy and honesty for just about the entire time.

so why was he singled out as an enemy then?

The answer to that question lies in this excerpt:

This all adds up to only being a problem for the U.S. administration, if the U.S. administration sets a retarded goal of perpetual foreign military presence and meddling for its own sake.

Sadr wasn't going to go along with that.

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