Iraqi Federation Observations

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maps illustrating "disputed territories", KRG control objectives, Mosul Vilayet, ethnic composition, oil & gasfields,
 & "PKK areas"; for related maps & UNAMI data, see also:United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq

Minorities in Iraq: The Other Victims | Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line
Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003
Rapid Assessment of Return of Iraqis from Displacement Locations in Iraq & from Neighbouring Countries
Iraq’s Refugee and IDP Crisis: Human Toll and Implications | Iraq's three-region solution Petition
Analysis of proposed Kurdish constitution: An Insult to all Iraqis and a Formula for Regional Disaster

16 Aug 11    Oh Mother Kurdistan!, Obituary for Lady Hamael Mahmoud Agha Zebari, GOGEL
16 Aug 11    Happy 65th birthday to Massoud Barzani,, Anton Keller
16 Aug 11    88th Anniversary of aerial bombing of Sulaymaniyah, GOGEL
15 Aug 11    The Phantom Menace, NYT, DANIEL L. BYMAN
13 Aug 11    88th Anniversary of aerial bombing of Sulaymaniyah, Awene, GOGEL (in Kurdish)
11 Aug 11    Spring comes, but not for Iraq's Kurds, The Daily Star, Meforum, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
31 Jul 11   Kurds serve warning as U.S. withdrawal nears, Reuters, Jim Loney
31 Jul 11   Baghdad needs to keep the peace in Kirkuk, Gulf News
30 Jul 11   Iraqi sherpas: They Risked Their Lives, NYT, editorial
27 Jul 11   Kirkuk is a 'land mine' where all sides want U.S. to stay,, Roy Gutman
27 Jul 11   U.S. proposal to relocate 3,000 Iranian dissidents rebuffed,, Roy Gutman
22 Jul 11    Three keys to stability in the Middle East, letter to J.Biden, S.Peres, D.Mitterrand, T.Blair, KurdishMedia, GOGEL
13 Jul 11   Drawdown in Iraq, NYT, editorial
11 Jul 11   Panetta Presses Iraq for Decision on Troops, NYT, ELISABETH BUMILLER
3 Jul 11   Where's Kurdistan's missing $4 billion?, The Kurdistan Tribune, Michael Rubin
5 Jun 11   Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan, National Interest, Joost R. Hiltermann
2 Jun 11   Iraqi protesters’ arrest sparks concern, Washington Post, Tim Craig et al.
28 May 11   Mock-democary, broken promises & self-serving policies do have consequences, Anton Keller
27 May 11   Self-determination, independence or federation,, Asad Khailany
25 May 11   International redress strategies,, Barry A. Fisher
24 May 11   Human Rights Watch: Iraqi Kurdistan: Journalists Beaten, Sued, Detained, Threatened With Death
24 May 11   No Arab Spring for the Kurds - if the current Kurdish leadership can help it, Christian Science Monitor, Dan Murphy
22 May 11   Voices from a Brave city, Sulemani,, Shenah Abdullah
20 May 11   Nawshirwan Mustafa: About the Crisis in Kurdistan,
18 May 11   Anger Lingers in Iraqi Kurdistan After a Crackdown, NYT, Tim Arango et al.
17 May 11   Reality vs. Idealism,, Mehdi Kordestani
16 May 11   List of victims of Sulaimanyia demonstrations, CSI
16 May 11   Ann Clwyd: Baghdad & Kurdistan authorities cracked down on peaceful protesters, House of Commons
16 May 11   KRG withdrawal from commitment to participate in dialogue meeting
11 May 11   Noam Chomsky: 'U.S. & its Allies Will Do Anything to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World',
10 May 11   IRAQ: In country's north, a youth-led 'Kurdish spring' blooms, Los Angeles Times, Maria Fantappie
7 May 11   Peshmerge Minister threatened Lvin Magazine’s editor by death penalty, Lvin Magazine
6 May 11    Kurdish conflicts threaten to upset Iraqi parliament's balance of power, Kurd Net, Yaseen Taha
27 Apr 11   Talabani-Barzani Military Junta will not halt the social revolution,, Mufid Abdulla
25 Apr 11   A cry to the international community from Iraqi Kurdistan,, Kamal Chomani
21 Apr 11   The contradictions of the Arab Spring, Washington Post , David Ignatius
19 Apr 11   Amnesti International: Independent investigation urged into police violence in Iraqi Kurdistan
19 Apr 11   Physical attacks, arrests subdue journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan, Reporters Without Borders
13 Apr 11   Iraqi Youths’ Political Rise Is Stunted by Elites, NYT, TIM ARANGO
12 Apr 11   Amnesti International: DAYS OF RAGE - Protests and repression in Iraq, report
28 Mar 11   Clashes Fuel Debate Over U.S. Plan to Leave Iraq, NYT, TIM ARANGO
24 Mar 11   Why Are People In Northern Iraq Protesting?, Bilgesam (repr. KurdishMedia), Arzu YORKAN
20 Mar 11   Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated, NYT, MATTHEW C. KLEIN
18 Mar 11   Respect for the Dead, Respect for the Living, UN Halabja commemoration, Anton Keller
15 Mar 11   Overriding desire for democracy tops Arab youth agenda, Zawya
14 Mar 11   Campaigners demand president's apology for Kirkuk comments, Zawya, Bradost Lawin
9 Mar 11   80 Iraqi MPs threaten to suspend membership in parliament, Zawya, Fulaih al-Jawari
9 Mar 11   Opposition locked in Kurdish parliament after objection, Zawya, Hevidar Ahmed
9 Mar 11   Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kurdistan Post, Plea to President Obama
9 Mar 11   Letter to US President Obama Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq,
8 Mar 11   Eight al-Iraqiya deputies announce split from bloc, Zawya, Abdullah Shames
8 Mar 11   Kurdistan ruling parties may reconsider running for elections jointly, Zawya, Dilshad Saifaddin
7 Mar 11   Najaf Council members vote for semi-autonomy, Zawya, Salah al-Khuzaei
7 Mar 11   Talabani: opposition is necessary for progress of Kurdistan, Zawya , Sarwa Hawrami
7 Mar 11   Iraqi govt. has few options to improve economy, Zawya , Laith Hadi
5 Mar 11   Official: Maliki hasn't order to withdraw Kurdish troops from Kirkuk, Zawya, Karzan Bamandi
5 Mar 11   "President, I don't need you": 126000 votes for Mr. Barzani to resign, CNN.ireport
3 Mar 11   Common Project of Opposition Parties for Commencing Political Reform in Kurdistan Region (arab version)
3 Mar 11   Barham Saleh says ready to resign to solve problems, Zawya
2 Mar 11   The tragedy that is Iraq, openDemocracy, Issa Khalaf
2 Mar 11   Pro-democracy demonstrations in northern Iraq/south Kurdistan, openDemocracy, Kamal Chomani
28 Feb 11   Sadrists launch referendum on public services across Iraq, Zawya , Raman Brosk
28 Feb 11   Turkish foreign minister: Kirkuk is the identity of Turkmans, Zawya, Hawar Baziyan
28 Feb 11   Declaration: Demands of Protesting People in Kurdistan, Committee of Maidany Azadi
27 Feb 11   Press Release, Arabian Political Assembly in Kirkuk
27 Feb 11   KDP second man in Kirkuk to cool down rage, Zawya, Sarwa Horami
27 Feb 11   Kurdish top politicians head to Kirkuk to settle unrest, Zawya, Ashti Khurshid
27 Feb 11   Kurdish ruling parties news statement on Kirkuk, Zawya, Sirwa Horami
24 Feb 11   Iraqi protests: aimed at changing the current regime?, openDemocracy, Shatha Al Juburi
24 Feb 11   Authorities in Iraq urged to allow peaceful protests, Amnesty International
23 Feb 11   Goran reiterates call for Kurdish govt. resignation, Zawya, Hazhar Mohammed
22 Feb 11   Shaho Saeed: The powers that be have no proposals for reforms in Kurdistan,
19 Feb 11   8 demands by protesters in Sulaimanyia, CNN.ireport
31 Jan 11   Gorran Movement: Current Situation in Kurdistan – Iraq,
1 Jan 11   Remarks to Lvin magazine seminar,, Michael Rubin
23.Dez 10   Exodus der Christen aus dem Irak, NZZ, Inga Rogg, Kommentare
12.Dez 10    Ein Ghetto für verfolgte Christen, NZZ am Sonntag, Inga Rogg, Kommentare
7 Jan 10   Masrour Barzani: Iraq’s Security is Kurdistan’s Security, Jamestown Foundation, Wladimir van Wilgenburg
16 Nov 09   Liberate Iraq’s Economy, NYT, FRANK R. GUNTER
12 Nov 09   U.S. Adviser to Kurds Stands to Reap Oil Profits, NYT, JAMES GLANZ, Editor's Note
11 Nov 09   Minorities in Iraq’s North Seen as Threatened, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10 Nov 09   War veterans make Iraq their business, FT, Roula Khalaf et al.
29 Oct 09   For Every Iraqi Party, an Army of Its Own, NYT, NAJIM ABED AL-JABOURI
23 Oct 09    Election Law, Kirkuk Gridlock, Combat Troop Withdrawal:Counting Backward, NYT, Editorial
13 Sep 09   In Anbar Province, New Leadership, but Old Problems Persist, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10 Aug 09   Report sees recipe for civil war in Iraq, Washington Times, Eli Lake
4 Aug 09   Iraqi violations of international cultural obligations - Turkmen case, UN Council of Human Rights, SOITM
4 Aug 09   Human Rights Abuses of Indigenous populations in Northern Iraq, UN Council of Human Rights, SOITM
26 Jul 09   Now It’s a Census That Could Rip Iraq Apart, NYT, ROD NORDLAND
23 Jul 09   Stability in Iraqi Kurdistan: Reality or Mirage?, Brookings Institution, Lydia Khalil, (full report)
21 Jul 09   British firm buys stakes in N. Iraq oil permits,, Bloomberg
21 Jul 09   Iraq's Northern Problem, The Washington Examiner, Michael E. O'Hanlon
16 Jul 09   Towards equal and non-discriminatory Iraqi citizenship, MVC, Anton Keller
16 Jul 09   What Iraq Needs More Than Oil: Water, Foreign Policy, ANDY GUESS
15 Jul 09   British Parliamentarians launch report on Kurdistan Region, APPG
15 Jul 09   Amnesty International condemns attacks on Christian minority in Iraq.
15 Jul 09   Seven Questions: Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, FOREIGN POLICY, Elizabeth Dickinson
11 Jul 09   Turkey won’t accept the Mosul carrot, Today's Zaman, GÜRKAN ZENGIN
11 Jul 09   Ankara dismisses proposals to unite with Iraqi Kurds, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Turkey only ‘viable alternative’ for Iraqi Kurds, says ICG, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Kurdistan Regional Government Minister: 'The best way forward: a new Mosul Vilayet', ICG, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Kurds Defy Baghdad, Laying Claim to Land and Oil, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10/13 Jul 09   Turkmen & other Non-Kurds Oppose Sham Constitution for 'Iraq's Kurdistan':'It doesn’t augur well'
9 Jul 09   Iraq's oil & gas enhances Nabucco's viability, FT, Ed Crooks et al.
9 Jul 09   Iraqi Kurds sees Turkey as viable partner,
8 Jul 09   Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N°88
7 Jul 09   Iraq: Is Another Conflict Inevitable?, PNA, IPS,  Mohammed A. Salih
1 Jul 09    Kurdish leaders are drunk with power, Daily Star (Beirut), Meforum, Michael Rubin
16 Jun 09   Autonomy and the Assyrians of Iraq, Nimrud Baito
10 Jun 09   Northern Iraq elections: the case for suspending them sine die, letter to H.E. Jalal Talabani, ICESC
10 Jun 09   Northern Iraq on way to unlock estimated 40 bn barrels of oil, FT, William MacNamara
28 May 09   Problems in the pipeline, FT, Anna Fifield
18 May 09   Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis, NYT, SAM DAGHER
15 May 09   Northern Iraq to pump first new oil since Saddam's fall, FT, Javier Blas
15 May 09   Can the election eliminate the domination of the 2 leading parties?,, Mufid Abdulla
12 May 09   Iran urges Iraqi action on Kurdish rebels, WP, Reuters
5.Mai 09   Kirkuk bleibt ein Zankapfel - UN-Bericht über die Lage in Nordirak, Neues Deutschland, Karin Leukefeld
1 May 09   Provincial Elections in Kurdish-administered region: reliability and concerns, SOITM
23 Apr 09   UN suggestions: share Kirkuk or give it autonomy, FT, Anna Fifield
22 Apr 09   U.N. launches report on Iraq's contested Kirkuk, WP, Reuters, Missy Ryan
17 Apr 09   For relocating 13000 Palestinians: Abbas seeks Barzani’s support, Kurdish Media, Mufid Abdulla
4 Apr 09   Joint minorities statement on KRG's Nineveh expansion plans, SOITM
29 Mar 09   Troops Arrest an Iraqi Ally in Baghdad, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN
19 Mar 09    Enabling Kurdish Illusions, Weekly Standard, Meforum, Michael Rubin
12 Mar 09   Kurds look anxiously for reconciliation, FT, Roula Khalat
Mar 2009   Nobody’s Client: The Reawakening of Iraqi Sovereignty,” lowy Institute Analysis, lydia Khalil
27 Feb 09   Responsibly ending the war in Iraq,” Camp Lejeune, President Barack Obama
26 Feb 09   Iraq’s Year of Living Dangerously, NYT, Michael E. O'Hanlon
26 Feb 09   Barzani rejects IHeC to supervise KRg elections," Hawlati, KurdishMedia,
11 Feb 09   Nineveh Plain Election Observation Mission, UNPO-ACE
2 Feb 09    “Reform in Kurdistan: We and Them – What are the Reasons for our Disagreements?”, Nawshirwan Mustafa
30 Jan 09   Iraqi Elections Face Crucial Test in Violent Mosul, NYT, IAN FISHER
4 Jan 09   Disputed Territories in Iraq, Kurdistani Nwe, Roberta Cohen
Jan 2009   Minorities in Iraq: The Other Victims, CIGI Special Report, Mokhtar Lamani, comment
2009    “Preventing Conflict over Kurdistan,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Henri J. Barkey
27 Dec 08   Common goods in Islamic and Arab law - Questions on water. land and fire (oil), Sami ALDEEB
24 Nov 08   As Kurdish North Grows, Some Are Left Out, WP, Andrea Bruce
24 Nov 08   Appeal to President-elect Barack Obama to protect also Northern Iraq's Turkmen, Orhan Ketene
23 Nov 08   Kurds in N. Iraq Receive Arms From Bulgaria, WP, Ernesto Londoño
12 Nov 08   Pls trust me: "Our path to a secular, federal democracy is inspired by the U.S.", WSJ, Masoud Barzani
11 Nov 08   Kurdistan: the other - but not exactly exemplary - Iraq, FT, Anna Fifield
5 Nov 08   Salve Obama!, Washington Post, Iconoclast
22 Oct 08   Kirkuk Oil refinery: an overdue common denominator project, FT, Anna Fifield
8 Oct 08   The Misrule of Massoud Barzani: Iraqi Kurdistan's Yasser Arafat, World Politics Review, Sam Brannen
11 Sep 08   Iraq Cancels Six No-Bid Oil Contracts, NYT, Andrew E. Kramer & Campbell Robertson
5 Sep 08   Who Controls Khanaqin? Inside Iraq, al Jazeera,
19 Aug 08   Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq, NYT, RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
4 Aug 08   A Major Political Test for Iraq, NYT, editorial
28 Jul 08   Iraq’s Technical Support & Production Service Contracts: Pros & Cons, Middle East Economic Survey, Tariq Shafiq
25 Jul 08   Iraq’s Refugee and IDP Crisis: Human Toll and Implications, Middle East Institute, Phebe Marr
9 Jul 08   'Easy Oil' in Kurdistan Spurs Wildcatters to Brave the Risks, Wall Street Journal, Neil King, Jr.
26 Jun 08   Iraq: Flourishing Corruption Under American Occupation,, Rauf Naqishbendi
22 Jun 08   Iraq Petroleum Company successors show up in Baghdad, NYT, editorial
17 Jun 08   1930 all over? Another Bad Deal for Baghdad, NYT, KARL E. MEYER
15 Jun 08   Comparative Analysis of Ministry of oil & Kurdistan fiscal terms as applied to the Kurdistan Region,” KRG, Pedro Van Meurs
5 Jun 08   History repeating itself: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control, The Independent, Ali A. Allawi
31 May 08   The Mideast Won't Change from Within, Wall Street Journal, MOHAMMED FADHIL
7 Mar 08   Fact Finding Mission to Iraq’s Three northern governorates,” Finnish Migration Service.
1 Mar 08   Adopted Guidelines, Mosul Vilayet Council (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish)
1 Feb 08   Kurds’ Power Wanes as Arab Anger Rises, NYT, Alissa J.Rubin
Feb 2008   Rapid Assessment of Return of Iraqis from Displacement Locations in Iraq & from Neighbouring Countries, UNHCR
10 Jan 08   Benchmarks missed, the Goal is now 'Iraqi Solutions', WP, Thomas E. Ricks et al.
7 Jan 08   Is Iraqi Kurdistan a good Ally?, AeI online’s Middle Eastern Outlook, MEforum, Michael Rubin
9 Dec 07   Kirkuk Pot Heating Up as Arabs, Turkmen & Kurds Vie for Kirkuk’s Oil, NYT, Stephen Farrell
9 Dec 07   No External Peace Without Internal Balance, NYT, Thomas L. Friedman
5 Dec 07   KRG Deputy PM Fattah meets US Vice President Cheney,
2 Dec 07   Nonstop Theft and Bribery Are Staggering Iraq, NYT, Damien Cave
28 Nov 07   Baghdad must implement Kirkuk Article 140 of Iraq Constitution,, Nechirvan Barzani
22 Nov 07   Shiites in S. Iraq Rebuke Tehran, WP, Amit R. Paley et al., comments
20 Nov 07   KRG responds to Baghdad’s threats to oil international companies,
12 Nov 07   KRG signs five more petroleum contracts,
9 Nov 07   Mosul Vilayet: a Pathway Out of Mideastern Gridlocks, Today's Zaman, Anton Keller
6 Nov 07   Clouds Over Northern Iraq, Wall Street Journal, Norman Stone
6 Nov 07   Ministry announces 7 new, reviews 5 existing contracts,
5 Nov 07   Kurdistan's Hope for Talks, Washington Post, Nechirvan Barzani, comments
27. Okt 07   Die PKK fordert internationale Vermittlung, NZZ, iro
26 Oct 07   Bina Bawi - Northern Iraq, Petholding
24 Oct 07   Who's fooling whom: U.S. Officials Upbraid Kurds on PKK, NYT, RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. et al.
24 Oct 07   Iran accuses US of backing Kurdish militants on its border, Sydney Morning Herald, Richard Oppel
24 Oct 07   AKP BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD, EDM, Gareth Jenkins
23 Oct 07   PKK Battlefield Tactic Changes Reflect Political Goals, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Gareth Jenkins
23 Oct 07   Olmert pressed to give up supporting Iraqi Kurds, Today's Zaman, Ercan Yavuz
23 Oct 07   Make Walls, Not War, NYT, PETER W. GALBRAITH
22 Oct 07   Kurdistan as a model for Iraq, CFR's Greg Bruno interviews Falah Mustafa Bakir
21 Oct 07   PKK threat: attack us and we blow up Iraqi oil pipeline and tanker trucks, al-Sharq al Awsat
19 Oct 07   Local Foes Commit [again] to Peace in Baghdad, WP, Joshua Partlow
19 Oct 07   Turkish Bid to Pursue Kurds Poses Quandary for Iraq, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN
16 Oct 07   Slipping away,, Hussein Tahiri
16 Oct 07   Turkey Requests Authority to Attack, WP, Molly Moore
15 Oct 07   Iraqi Oil Spoils, NYT, editorial
15 Oct 07   The Kurdish example, Washington Times, Falah Mustafa Bakir
14 Oct 07   Cross-Border Strike Could Imperil Broader War in Iraq, WP, Molly Moore et al., comments
12 Oct 07   Observations on current Turkish-Iraqi border issues, Iconoclast
11 Oct 07   Worrisome Turkish-Kurdish Border Area, Washington Post, Joshua Partlow
11 Oct 07   Storm Warnings: Turkey-Iraq, newropeans-magazine, René Wadlow
11 Sep 07   KRG responds to Iraqi oil minister's recent statements,
10 Sep 07   Northern Iraq has what’s missing in Baghdad, NYT, Thomas L. Friedman
10 Oct 07   Erbil to host conference on Iraq federalism, The Globe - Erbil
8 Oct 07   Shifting Targets - The Administration’s plan for Iran, The New Yorker, Seymour M. Hersh
8 Oct 07   Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power, WP, Joshua Partlow, comments
7 Oct 07   Syria Is Said to Be Strengthening Ties to Iraqi Opponents, NYT, HUGH NAYLOR
6 Oct 07   Taking the lead on Iraqi oil, Wall Street Journal, Nechirvan Barzani
3 Oct 07   Federalism, Not Partition, WP, Joseph R. Biden Jr. & Leslie H. Gelb, comments
2 Oct 07 Kurdistan spearheads Iraq oil investment,
1 Oct 07   In Iraq, Repeated Support for a Unified State, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN, correction
29 Sep 07   Iraq Kurdish region says new oil deals are legal, Reuters, Simon Webb
29 Sep 07   Security may trump ethnicity in Kirkuk, Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi
28 Sep 07   Official Calls Kurd Oil Deal at Odds With Baghdad, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN et al.
26 Sep 07   US Senate adopts non-binding Iraq Federalism Resolution with 75 yeas to 23 nays
24 Sep 07   Ray Hunt's Iraq Oil Deal Gets Everybody's Attention, Washington Post, Michael A. Fletcher
15 Sep 07   The tribal ways of Iraq, IHT, Arthur Lieber, letter to the editor
14 Sept 07   A Surge, and Then a Stab, NYT, PAUL KRUGMAN
13 Sep 07   re: No longer tabu: League of Nations' role on Iraq, Anton Keller
13 Sep 07   The Ottoman Swede, NYT, ROGER COHEN
10 Sep 07   Dallas Oil Company Approved to Drill in Kurdistan, NYT, BLOOMBERG
8 Sep 07   KRG signs oil and gas contract with US-based Hunt Oil,
7 Sep 07   The Partitioning of Iraq, Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer
6 Sep 07   Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law in Arabic and English, updated model contract,
1 Sep 07   The Kurdish Secret, NYT, THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
31 Aug 07   Abandoned at the Border, NYT, JOSEPH P. HOAR, Op-Ed Contributor
31 Aug 07   Shiite’s Tale: How Gulf With Sunnis Widened, NYT, DAMIEN CAVE
20 Aug 07    Seeing is believing, NYT, Thomas L. Friedman
17.Aug 07   Rache, Referendum oder Religion? Nordirak destabilisiert, Telepolis, Peter Mühlbauer
10 Aug 07   U.S. Seeks U.N. Help With Talks On Iraq, Washington Post, Colum Lynch and Robin Wright
10 Aug 07   Jordan Yields Poverty and Pain for the Well-Off Fleeing Iraq, NYT, SABRINA TAVERNISE, video
8 Aug 07   Pressed by U.S., a Wary U.N. Now Plans Larger Iraq Role, Washington Post, Colum Lynch
6 Aug 07   Kurdistan Oil & Gas Law approved by Kurdistan Parliament,
4 Aug 07   In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies, Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan
30 Jul 07   A War We Just Might Win, NYT, Michael E. O’Hanlon & Kenneth M. Pollack, Op-Ed Contributor
20 Jul 07   Why the United Nations Belongs in Iraq, NYT, ZALMAY KHALILZAD
17 Jul 07   Exit Strategies, WP, By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
15 Jul 07   UK Representation thanks KRG's British & international friends,
Summer 07   "Iraqi Kurdistan's Downward Spiral", Middle East Quarterly, Kamal Said Qadir
27 Jun 07   Pointing to Stability, Kurds in Iraq Lure Investors, NYT, Kirk Semple
11 Jun 07   Tribal Coalition in Anbar Said to Be Crumbling, Washington Post, Joshua Partlow et al.
8 Jun 07   A New Danger in Iraq, NYT, editorial
5 Jun 07   Then there is Plan "MC.", Informed Comment,  Anonymous
3 Jun 07   Moktada al-Sadr: An Enemy We Can Work With, NYT, Bartle Breese Bull, Op-Ed Contributor
31 May 07   Les Turcomans Irakiens: un people oublié ou marginalisé, France-Irak Actualité, Gilles Munier
30 May 07   Strife in North Iraq as Sunni Arabs Drive Out Kurds, NYT, Edward Wong
28 May 07   Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq, NYT, Michael Moss & Souad Mekhennet
7 May 07   In Iraq, the Play Was the Thing, NYT, HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
May 2007   A Summary of Kurdish Linguistic Problems, KCDME, Ismet Sherif Wanli.
23 Apr 07   Kurds Cultivating Their Own Bonds With U.S., Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
19 Apr 07   Iraq and the Kurds: Resolving the Kirkuk Crisis,” International Crisis Group, Middle East Report no. 64
12 Mar 07   Corruption: The Dark Underbelly of Kurdistan’s Dream,” Globe and Mail (Canada)¸ Mark Mackinnon
4 Mar 07   Iraq’s Mandaeans face extinction, BBC, Angus Crawford
11 Feb 07   Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003, Minority Rights Group Intern., Preti Taneja
2007   The oil and gas law of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq, law no. (22), KRG
2007    Oil and Gas Exploration and Production: Reserves, Costs, Contracts, Denis Babusiaux et al.
23 Dec 06   Shiites Remake Baghdad in Their Image, NYT, SABRINA TAVERNISE
21 Dec 06   Avoiding a Thirty Years War, Washington Times, Richard W. Rahn; a friend's comment
13 Dec 06   Kurdistan: America between the Turks and Kurds, The Economist
13 Dec 06   Turkish Kurds in Iraq: Lonesome rebels, The Economist
9 Dec 06   How about bringing back Saddam?, WP, raiser; Iconoclast's comment
28 Nov 06   Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker, WP, Dafna Linzer et al., comments
24 Oct 06   Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster, NYT, editorial
8 Oct 06   America ponders cutting Iraq in three, The Sunday Times, Sarah Baxter
28 Sep 06   Iraq's Kurds threatten secession over oil rights, FT, Steve Negus
17 Sep 06   The KDP and PUK: use it, loose it, or lose it,, Hussein Tahiri
Jul 2007   Torture & Denial of Due Process by the Kurdistan Security Forces, Human Rights Watch report 19
25 June 06   Solution: Break up Iraq; Reality: It's not so easy, NYT, Dexter Filkins
17 May 06   Iraq's Impending Fracture to Produce Political Earthquake in Turkey, PINR, J.P. Gundzik
16 June 06   The State of Iraq: An Update, NYT chart, Nina Kamp, Michael O'Hanlon & A.Unikewicz
10 May 06    Iraqi Federalism II - Answering Three Common Objections,, Ilya Somin
9 May 06   Decentralized Federalism in Iraq,, Ilya Somin
9 May 06   Three Iraqs Would Be One Big Problem, NYT, ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
9 May 06   The Mother of All Mistakes, The Dignified Rant, Brian J. Dunn
9 May 06   The Prison of the Present, RealClearPolitics, Victor Davis Hanson
9 May 06    A decentralized Iraq is the necessary solution, National Review, J.R.Thomson & H.Hindawi
1 Mar 06   Red Lines Crisscross Iraq's Political Landscape, PINR, Michael A. Weinstein
1 May 06   Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq, NYT, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. and LESLIE H. GELB
26 Jan 06   Civil Society-in-the-Making - Massoud Barzani Style, NYT, Richard A. Oppel Jr.
21 Jan 06   Kurdistan Regional government Unification Agreement,” KRG
9 Sep 05   New Orleans and Baghdad, NYT, THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
1 Feb 05   As Iraqis Celebrate, the Kurds Hesitate, NYT, PETER W. GALBRAITH
2005    The Turkmen Reality in Iraq”, Kerkuk Foundation, Arshad al-Hirmizi
2005    Reducing Ethnic & Religious Conflict through Political Decentralization, Al Sabah, Ilya Somin
6 May 04   America's Failed Foreign Policy and Iraq, Today's Zaman, Ibrahim Al-Marashi
18 Apr 04   The Last Iraqi Insurgency, NYT, Niall Ferguson
1. Mär 03  Nordirak: Kirkuk und der Kampf ums mesopotamische Öl, Junge Welt, Nick Brauns
27 Feb 03   Iraq's rich mosaic of people, BBC, Kathryn Westcott
1996    Question du feu (pétrol): res in usu omnium en Droit Musulman et Arab, Sami Aldeeb
Sep 1995    Hot Spot: Turkey, Iraq, and Mosul, Middle East Quarterly, Daniel Pipes
1991    The Iraqi Revolution of 1958: The Old Social Classes Revisited, Tauris London, R. Lewis et al. (ed.)
1988    Iraq: A Country Study, Library of Congress, Helen Chapin Metz, ed., The Ottoman Period, 1534-1918
1978    The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton University Press, Hanna Batatu

Iraq's Ethnoreligious groups & major tribes


Iraq's reportedly known gas & petroleum fields

source: International Crisis Group, Middle East Report #88, 8 July 2009, p.32


Mosul Vilayet

This map was composed on the basis of those attached to the Report of the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Mosul Vilayetof 16 July 1925 (15 MB); it is reproduced from: P.E.J.Bomli, "L'Affaire de Mossoul", H.J. Paris, Amsterdam 1929.  According to the Report by HM's Government to the League Council on the Administration of Iraq for the year 1929 (p.71), the 1920 census revealed:

Iraq's demography in 1920
vilayets  surface kmSunnites    Shiites    Jews   Christians   total
Baghdad     141227      524414      750421    62565     20771   1360304
Basra       138741       42558      721414    10088      2551     785600
Mosul        91009      579713       22180    14835     55470     703378
total       370977     1146685     1494015    87488     78792    2849282


Some Assyrian groups' territorial claims


Kurdistan Regional Government control objectives

SOURCE: Staff reports | By Mary Kate Cannistra |  The Washington Post - November 23, 2008

source: International Crisis Group, Middle East Report #88, 8 July 2009, p.31

Reported PKK position

source: Washington Institute, 2008

Turcoman land claims

source: private communication to the editor from Iraqi Turkoman leaders

source: ?


BBC    27 February, 2003, 17:27 GMT

Iraq's rich mosaic of people
By Kathryn Westcott, BBC News Online

Iraqi representatives at a US-brokered meeting to start shaping a future government of the country have agreed to work for a democratic, federal Iraq - but it is not yet known what roles the country's various people groups will play.
The Shia Muslim Arabs of the south as the majority group will expect, for the first time, to play a major part in a new administration, while the Kurds of the north may seize the chance to cement their autonomy. For the thousands of displaced minorities, the regime change could present an opportunity to simply return home.

Who are the people that make up the country's rich mosaic? Click on a name below to find out more:
Sunni Arabs | Shia | Christians | Kurds | Marsh Arabs | Turkmen | Assyrian

Sunni Arabs
This minority, which constitutes barely 20% of the population, has wielded power over the Shia Arab majority and the Kurdish minority since Iraq was created by the British in 1921.

Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party is dominated by Sunni Muslims

Their domination dates back to the time when Sunni Ottomans took control of the region in the 16th Century.

More recently, when the governing Baath Party came to power in 1968, it was controlled by Sunni Arab clans from provinces in north-western Iraq.

Among them was Saddam Hussein, whose power extended through his Sunni Arab family, extended family and his clan, the Tikritis from the small town of Tikrit on the Tigris north of Baghdad.

Arabs comprise 75-80% of the population
Kurds make up 15-20%
Other ethnic minorities, such as Turkmen and Assyrian, 5%
95% are Muslim, 5% Christian and other minorities
Sunnis dominated the country's central region with its politics, the army and administration and many branches of the security services.
Another large Sunni clan that wielded power was the Dulaimi clan, which made up most of the regime's security and intelligence personnel.

They also led civil unrest and coup attempts against the president. Some 150 soldiers and officers were executed in 1995 after they revolted in response to the execution of a Dulaimi air base commander accused of planning to kill the president.

Sunnis tend to be secularist leaning.

Shia Arabs make up between 55% and 60% of the population. They are predominantly in south-east Iraq, around the city of Basra, but also make up a sizeable minority of the population of Baghdad.

Shia Muslims are the largest community in the country

They have historically been dominated and at times oppressed by the Sunni elite, who have excluded them from the highest ranks of power.

During Saddam Hussein's reign, Shia opposition groups were fiercely oppressed and a number of political leaders assassinated.

As a result, the opposition tended to look to neighbouring Iran for support, and in the late 1970s, thousands of Shia were expelled to Iran under the pretext of their "Persian connections".

Najaf, 190km south of Baghdad, was once the Shia power centre
Karbala, 80km southwest of Baghdad, replaced Isfahan in Iran as the centre of Shia scholarship
The Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution (Sciri) in Iraq is the strongest political group and claims to represent much of the Shia population. It has between 5,000 and 10,000 troops - known as the Badr Brigades - based mainly in Iran.

The group is led by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, whose followers have waged a low-level war of ambushes, sabotage, and assassinations against Saddam Hussein's regime for 20 years.

As the country's majority group, Shia are expecting a major say in the post-Saddam administration.

Shia form a sizeable minority in Baghdad

In 1991, after the first Gulf War, President Bush senior encouraged Iraqis to rise up against their leader. The opposition, including the Kurds of the north, believed this would mean the US would back a rebellion.

The Badr Brigades crossed the border into southern Iraq and Shia strongholds, including the holy city of Najaf on the Euphrates, rose in revolt. Lacking US support, it was brutally suppressed.

The Shia have been protected by no-fly zones in the south, patrolled by British and American fighter planes.

Before the Gulf War in 1991, Christians comprised almost one million of the Iraqi population.

Chaldeans are one of the largest Christian communities

Today, there are an estimated 650,000 Christians and all the churches report that number is still shrinking, as many continue to leave the country.

Many left to join relatives in the West after the first Gulf War and the imposition of economic sanctions against Iraq.

Assyrian (see separate entry) and Chaldean Catholics - who acknowledge the supremacy of the Catholic Pope - are the largest Christian communities. They can trace their ancestries to ancient Mesopotamia and the surrounding lands.

Other Iraqi Christians include Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics and Greek Catholics and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Christians used to number one million
Today there are an estimated 650,000
The constitution allows freedom of religion
Many Christians can be found in the northern cities of Kirkuk, Irbil and Mosul, but there are also a significant number in Baghdad.

Christians rose to the top ranks in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz prominent among them. Commentators say anti-Christian violence was largely suppressed by the Baath regime.

Iraq's Christian communities have lived in harmony with their neighbours for decades. In Mosul, for example, there are an estimated 50,000 Christians.

The city - Iraq's third-largest and a centre of the oil industry - is also home to Muslim Kurds, Turkmen and Arab Muslims.

But some communities were subjected to the government's systematic "relocation programmes". For the Christians, this was particularly marked in the oil-rich areas, where the government tried to create Arab majorities near oil fields to secure control of economic assets.

Some Christians feared that the US-led war conflict in the country might generate anger against them. They recalled the first Gulf War, when "New Crusaders" was how many Muslims sympathetic to Saddam Hussein described the American and allied forces.

Kurds are members of an ethnic group that mainly inhabit south-eastern Turkey, north-western Iran, northern Iraq and parts of Syria.

Many Iraqi Kurds have fled the country for Europe

They are descendants of Indo-European tribes and appear in the history of the early empire of Mesopotamia. They trace their distinct history as mountain people to the 7th Century BC.

Kurdish nationalism manifested itself in the late 19th Century, but the aspirations of Kurdish nationalists have remained unfulfilled. Together, they make up the world's largest ethnic group without a state.

They are predominantly Sunni Muslim, a religion that was embraced by the Kurds around the 7th Century AD.

Iraqi Kurds, who make up 15% to 20% of the country's population, have been fighting for self-rule from Baghdad since 1961.

Kurds are the largest ethnic group without a state
Others live in Turkey, Syria and Iran
Some 3.5 million live in the no-fly zone
In 1970, an agreement between Kurdish leaders and the Iraqi Government paved the way for the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) to be set up in northern Iraq four years later.

After the 1991 Gulf War, Baghdad lost its control of the KAR and, with the protection of American and British planes keeping Saddam Hussein's forces at bay, the Kurds formed a de facto state in the mountains.

Kurds have been victims of military campaigns by the former central government.

During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Kurdish guerrillas stepped up their opposition against the regime, with help from Iran. The Iraqi president deployed troops in the north in response.

In 1988, he unleashed a seven-month campaign against strongholds belonging to one of the main Kurdish parties, involving use of chemical weapons affecting thousands of villages.

In March of that year, at least 5,000 Kurds perished in one hour when forces dropped chemical bombs on the eastern town of Halabja.

And, in 1991, after the first Gulf War, Kurdish nationalists persuaded the local army auxiliary force comprising Kurds to change sides and take part in a rebellion. But the insurrection was crushed, causing an exodus of about 1.5 million Kurds into Iraq and Turkey.

The Kurds make up the bulk of the estimated nearly one million Iraqis who were displaced during Saddam Hussein's rule.

These systematic displacement programmes were conducted by the Baath Party in an attempt to control the oil-rich areas in the north of Iraq.

Policies included forcible expulsion or stripping families of identities, property documents and food ration cards. Many fled the country or ended up in squalid camps for displaced people within the KAR.

The Kurdish enclave is controlled by two factions - the PUK in the north-east headed by Jalal Talabani, and the KDP which dominates the north-west and is headed by Massoud Barzani.

For the past 10 years the two have been bloody rivals, but recently signed a unity pact.

They constituted the greatest armed challenge to the old Iraqi regime - between them, the two groups could muster about 60,000 fighters.

The Kurds favour a post-Saddam constitution that envisages two federal regions, one in the predominantly Kurdish north and one in the Arab south.

But this would likely bring opposition from one of Iraq's powerful neighbours, Turkey, which, with its own Kurdish population of 12 million, is very sensitive about anything that could be construed as a Kurdish move towards independence.

Marsh Arabs
The Marsh Arabs are mainly Shia Muslims who once inhabited the marshes around the southern reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Many of the Marsh Arabs have been displaced

They are believed to have lived in the ancient wetlands along the border with Iran for 5,000 years.

Marsh Arabs lived in houses made of lattice-worked reeds and survived by rearing buffalo.

But most of the original Marsh Arabs - who numbered around 250,000 a decade ago - have become displaced and much of the marshes drained.

Accessible only by boat until the advent of the helicopter, the marshlands were a traditional centre for banditry and rebellion.

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, they were an infiltration route for Iraqi opposition militias based in Iran.

Marsh Arabs lived in cathedral-shaped reed houses
They raised buffalo and fished, when not taking part in Mesopotamian battles
A unique culture was obliterated by drainage schemes
And in the days after the first Gulf War, many Marsh Arabs, along with hundreds of thousands of Shia in the south, rose up against Baghdad.

The rebellion was crushed and many marshland villages were bombed by Saddam Hussein's troops.

Shortly after, the Iraqi Government set about obliterating swathes of the marshes, which were systematically drained.

The former Iraqi regime said the draining of the wetlands was part of a massive irrigation scheme to improve the lives of the local population, but the UN environment programme concluded the intention was to simply drain the marshland dry.

At least 100,000 Marsh Arabs were displaced within Iraq and about an additional 40,000 fled to Iran.

The predominantly Muslim Turkmen are an ethnic group with close cultural and linguistic ties to Anatolia in Turkey.

They number about 2% of the population.

Turkmen began to settle in Mesopotamia in the 11th Century and number of communities were founded in Iraq in the 12th Century.

Settled in Mesopotamia in 11th Century
Many have been displaced
They are historically and culturally tied to Kirkuk
They live mainly in northern Iraq, particularly in the area around Mosul and Kirkuk - which it sees as its historical and cultural base - south of the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

The Baghdad Government had long tried to change the demography of the areas where Iraq's vast oil wealth lies by forcing Kurds and Turkmen out to be replaced by Arabs from southern Iraq.

Turkmen leaders say thousands of their community were forced into destitution in northern Iraq, while up to 20,000 made their way illegally to Europe throughout the 1990s.

Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is finished, Kirkuk could become the centre of a struggle between the Turkmen and the Kurds, both of whom have people who will want to return to their homes.

The Turkmen community's two main parties are divided in their support. One works in co-operation with the Kurdish authorities, the other is backed by Turkey and opposes a Kurdish state in northern Iraq - especially one that would adopt Kirkuk as its capital.

Assyrians are descendants of the ancient empires of Assyria and Babylonia. These empires ruled over what was known as Mesopotamia, roughly the same area as modern Iraq.

After the collapse of their empire during the 6th and 7th Centuries BC, the Assyrians scattered across the Middle East region.

Assyrian political parties campaign for more national rights

They embraced Christianity in the 1st Century and are today followers of the ancient church of the East, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Chaldean Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations.

Like the Armenians, they were victims of Ottoman massacres and in 1915 were driven by the Turks out of the mountainous region where they were living as a semi-independent people.

A year after Iraq became independent in 1932, the Iraqi military set upon the Assyrians resulting in large-scale massacres in retaliation for their collaboration with the British, the former colonial power.

Assyrians weren targeted as part of the Baath regime's internal deportation programmes to maintain a grip on the nation, particularly the oil-rich areas.

Hundreds of Assyrian villages were destroyed by Iraqi forces in northern Iraq, churches and monasteries were torn down and Assyrians denied the right to practise their religion and preserve their culture and language.

Recently, however, there appeared to have been some kind of reconciliation with the government. Some places of worship were rebuilt and the Assyrian culture appeared to have been tolerated.

There are five seats reserved for northern Christians in the Kurdistan National Assembly in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. The most important party representing this group is the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM).

It campaigns for the recognition of Assyrian national rights and encompasses Chaldean, Assyrian and Syriac identities - which the party says are different names for one common identity.

April 18, 2004

The Last Iraqi Insurgency
By Niall Ferguson

LONDON — From Ted Kennedy to the cover of Newsweek, we are being warned that Iraq has turned into a quagmire, George W. Bush's Vietnam. Learning from history is well and good, but such talk illustrates the dangers of learning from the wrong history. To understand what is going on in Iraq today, Americans need to go back to 1920, not 1970. And they need to get over the American inhibition about learning from non-American history.

President Bush, too, seems to miss the point. ''We're not an imperial power,'' he insisted in his press conference on Tuesday. Trouble is, what he is trying to do in Iraq -- and what is going wrong -- look uncannily familiar to anyone who knows some British imperial history. Iraq had the distinction of being one of our last and shortest-lived colonies. This isn't 'Nam II -- it's a rerun of the British experience of compromised colonization. When Mr. Bush met Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain on Friday, the uninvited guest at the press conference -- which touched not only on Iraq but also on Palestine, Cyprus and even Northern Ireland -- was the ghost of empire past.

First, let's dispense with Vietnam. In South Vietnam, the United States was propping up an existing government, whereas in Iraq it has attempted outright ''regime change,'' just as Britain did at the end of World War I by driving the Ottoman Turks out of the country. ''Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators,'' declared Gen. Frederick Stanley Maude -- a line that could equally well have come from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld this time last year. By the summer of 1920, however, the self-styled liberators faced a full-blown revolt.

A revolt against colonial rule is not the same as a war. Vietnam was a war. Although the American presence grew gradually, it reached a peak of nearly half a million troops by the end of the 1960's; altogether 3.4 million service personnel served in the Southeast Asian theater. By comparison, there are just 134,000 American troops in Iraq today -- almost as many men as the British had in Iraq in 1920. Then as now, the enemy consisted of undisciplined militias. There were no regular army forces helping them the way the North Vietnamese supported the Vietcong.

What lessons can Americans learn from the revolt of 1920? The first is that this crisis was almost inevitable. The anti-British revolt began in May, six months after a referendum -- in practice, a round of consultation with tribal leaders -- on the country's future and just after the announcement that Iraq would become a League of Nations ''mandate'' under British trusteeship rather than continue under colonial rule. In other words, neither consultation with Iraqis nor the promise of internationalization sufficed to avert an uprising -- a fact that should give pause to those, like Senator John Kerry, who push for a handover to the United Nations.

Then as now, the insurrection had religious origins and leaders, but it soon transcended the country's ancient ethnic and sectarian divisions. The first anti-British demonstrations were in the mosques of Baghdad. But the violence quickly spread to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where British rule was denounced by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Shirazi -- perhaps the historical counterpart of today's Shiite firebrand, Moktada al-Sadr. The revolt stretched as far north as the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and as far south as Samawah, where British forces were trapped (and where Japanese troops, facing a hostage crisis, were holed up last week).

Then, as now, the rebels systematically sought to disrupt the occupiers' communications -- then by attacking railways and telegraph lines, today by ambushing convoys. British troops and civilians were besieged, just as hostages are being held today. Then as now, much of the violence was more symbolic than strategically significant -- British bodies were mutilated, much as American bodies were at Falluja. By August of 1920 the situation was so desperate that the general in charge appealed to London not only for reinforcements but also for chemical weapons (mustard gas bombs or shells), though these turned out to be unavailable. [really? cf:]

And this brings us to the second lesson the United States needs to learn from the British experience. Putting this rebellion down will require severity. In 1920, the British eventually ended the rebellion through a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions. It was not pretty. Even Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for the air force, was shocked by the actions of some trigger-happy pilots and vengeful ground troops. And despite their overwhelming technological superiority, British forces still suffered more than 2,000 dead and wounded.

Is the United States willing or able to strike back with comparable ruthlessness? Unlikely -- if last week's gambit of unconditional cease-fires is any indication. Washington seems intent on reining in the Marines and pinning all hope on the handover of power scheduled -- apparently irrevocably -- for June 30.

This could prove a grave error. For the third lesson of 1920 is that only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty. After all, a similar handover had always been implicit in the mandate system, but only after the revolt had been crushed did the British hasten to install the Hashemite prince Faisal as king.

In fact, this was imperial sleight of hand -- Iraq did not become formally independent until 1932, and British troops remained there until 1955. Such an outcome is, of course, precisely what Washington should be aiming for today -- American troops will have to keep order well after the nominal turnover of power, and they'll need the support of a friendly yet effective Iraqi government. Right now, this outcome seems far from likely. What legitimacy will any Iraqi government have if the current unrest continues?

There is much, then, to learn from the events of 1920. Yet I'm pessimistic that any senior military commander in Iraq today knows much about it. Late last year, a top American commander in Europe assured me that United States forces would soon be reinforced by Turkish troops; he seemed puzzled when I pointed out that this was unlikely to play well in Baghdad, where there is little nostalgia for the days of Ottoman rule.

Maybe, just maybe, some younger Americans are realizing that the United States has lessons to learn from something other than its own supposedly exceptional history. The best discussion of the 1920 revolt that I have come across this year was in a paper presented at a Harvard University conference by Daniel Barnard, an Army officer who is about to begin teaching at West Point. Tellingly, Mr. Barnard pointed out that the British at first tried to place disproportionate blame for their troubles on outside agitators. Phantom Bolsheviks then; Al Qaeda interlopers today.

But for the most part we get only facile references to Vietnam. People seem to forget how long it took -- and how many casualties had to pile up -- before public support for that war began to erode in any significant way. When approval fell below 40 percent for the first time in 1968, the total American body count was already past the 20,000 mark. By comparison, a year ago 85 percent of Americans thought the situation in Iraq was going well; that figure is now down to 35 percent and half of Americans want some or all troops withdrawn -- though fewer than 700 Americans have died. These polls are chilling. A quick withdrawal would doom Iraq to civil war or theocracy -- probably both, in that order.

The lessons of empire are not the kind of lessons Americans like to learn. It's more comforting to go on denying that America is in the empire business. But the time has come to get real. Iraqis themselves will be the biggest losers if the United States cuts and runs. Fear of the wrong quagmire could consign them to a terrible hell.

Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at New York University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is the author of the forthcoming "Colossus: The Price of America's Empire."

Today's Zaman    6 May 2004

America's Failed Foreign Policy and Iraq
Ibrahim Al-Marashi

During World War One, the victorious British General Maude entered Baghdad and declared to its inhabitants that they were "liberated" from years of "Ottoman tyranny." The British then took the three vilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra to form what is today Iraq. The Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shi'a Arabs had little in common with each other except for their animosity towards their British. It was obvious to these communities that 'liberation' meant 'occupation' and they united to expel the British. The British response was to create a monarchy sympathetic to their wishes in 1921.By 1958, the Iraqi people again united to overthrow what they perceived as a government too subservient to the British. It was in the chaos following the 1958 Revolution that allowed a tyrant like Saddam Hussein to climb to power. It seems that the current American policy to Iraq is following the same mistakes made by the British decades ago. The US policy today will shape events in Iraq for years to come either for better or for the worse.

I had traveled to Iraq over two weeks ago, just as the crises in Falluja and Najaf were beginning. My personal belief is that the American policy in Iraq is repeating the same disastrous mistakes of the British in 1920. Many people in the US administration cannot understand why the Iraqis did not welcome US troops with open arms after "liberating" Iraq. The average Iraqi remembers that it was part of US foreign policy during the Iran-Iraq war that kept Saddam Hussein in power. Most Iraqis knew that the US gave military and intelligence support to their former tyrant to make sure Saddam emerged victorious over Khomeini's Iran. This relationship was inflated to the point in Iraq where many Iraqis themselves believed that Saddam was a CIA agent. In 1991, President Bush Senior asked the Iraqis to revolt against Saddam Hussein. When they revolted in the south and north, Bush withdrew his offer of support allowing many Iraqis to be massacred by Saddam's army. Again, the Iraqis were convinced that the US wanted to keep Saddam in power. Because of this American policy, many Iraqis believed that Saddam was a creation of the US. Therefore, many Iraqis had no reason to thank the US for removing Saddam; in their minds, it was the US that created him. As a result, the many US foreign policy makers mistakenly classified the Iraqis into two camps; pro-Saddam or anti-Saddam factions, and thus once the Saddam government was vanquished, the anti-Saddam tendencies in Iraq would rally behind the US. The fact that Iraqis could be neither pro-Saddam, nor pro-American was never thought of in these circles. While many Iraqis would be happy to see Saddam Hussein leave, they would not necessarily welcome an American occupation.

The US tried to employ a link between the attacks of September 11th with the Saddam government in order to justify an offensive war against Iraq as a "defensive action." One month after the attack in October 2001, the US media began to report of a meeting in the Prague between Muhammad al-Atta, the alleged "mastermind" of the 9-11 attacks and Samir al-'Ani, an official working in the Iraqi embassy in the Czech Republic. While it was proven that the meeting never took place, some US government officials continued to emphasize the alleged 9-11-Saddam Hussein link, as part of America's war on terror. Despite the fall and collapse of the Saddam Hussein government, the US government still plays an important role in justifying the occupation of Iraq as well as continuing America's role in the "War on Terror." The Bush administration attempted to blame most of the terrorist attacks on one person, the Jordanian national Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. While Zarqawi has committed horrendous attacks in the past, one must ask if the US administration is trying to create a "villain" to pin all the blame for the violence in Iraq? The administration has been guilty suggesting that the increase of terrorism in Iraq is a "good thing" because it has provided a magnet for foreign terrorist to fight their "jihad" in Iraq and not the US. The fact that these "jihadis" are attacking "American" soldiers and innocent Iraqis is irrelevant, just as the fact that the war on Iraq was advertised by the administration as aiding the "War on Terror," where in fact it has opened up a new front in this war. Thus "Operation Iraqi Freedom/War on Terror" has only intensified the global terrorism.

While the official US diplomatic justification for going to war against Iraq was to disarm its weapons of mass destruction capability, the war itself was referred to as "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Thus, US policy tired to enforce the notion that the war was not only about weapons, but about liberating the Iraqi people. This bias was that the US, with its technological advancements was more qualified to bring democracy to Iraq and rebuild the country after the war. Nevertheless, the Iraqis proved more than capable of reconstructing their countries after the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf war. Despite UN imposed sanctions, Saddam Hussein rebuilt his country after 1991 at a quicker pace than the US Coalition Provisional Authority.

Once the US emerged victorious in the war, they realized that they really had no policy for a post-Saddam Iraq. Their current policy is indicative of day-to-day planning rather than a long-term strategy. The first policy mistake they made was failing to restore order in Iraq after the fall of the Hussein regime. The amount of US forces deployed in Iraq was only enough for a military war and not rebuilding a nation. The second mistake was when the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army. Not only were the amount of US troops inadequate, but he dissolved the last symbol of a sovereign nation. What began after this action is what is perceived by many Iraqis as a colonial humiliation reminiscent of the British rule.

Just as the British forced the first Iraqi government to accept British military based in Iraq, so will the US force the new Iraqi government to accept American bases in Iraq. The instability in Iraq at the moment, has served the US policy in an ironic fashion. The more unstable Iraq is, the more the US can justify having their bases in Iraq in order 'to stabilize' the country.

Thus the justification of a war to remove weapons of mass destruction served as a "smokescreen" for establishing a pro-American state in the heart of the world's oil reserves. America's "debt" to the Iraqi people to establish a democracy, also touches upon another implicit cultural bias prevalent in the US media, in that the Iraqis as Arabs and Muslims are not capable of establishing their own democracy. The former Iraqi Information Minister responded to such notions by harkening back to the Iraq's ancient past to remind the US and UK that Hammurabi, the Babylonian king wrote the first code of law: "When we were making the law, when we were writing the literature and the mathematics the grandfathers of Blair and little Bush were scratching around in caves." Yet, in the aftermath of the war, it has been a Shi'a religious cleric, Grand Ayatollah 'Ali Sistani that has been the greatest advocate for democracy in Iraq. When the Coalition Provisional Authority suggested that Iraq's first referendum be based on system where members of caucuses, hand picked by the Americans would be responsible for the elections, it was Sistani who insisted that a truly democratic system is based on an "one person-one vote" system.

US policy has also hoped to that democracy would spread from Iraq throughout the Middle East. This ironically resembles the "domino theory" of Communism spreading throughout the world that drove US Cold War strategic thinking. In the immediate aftermath of the war, tensions escalated between the US on one hand, and Iran and Syria on the other, terrorist attacks occurred in places ranging from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Turkey, and the post-war chaos in Iraq may have given Al-Qa'ida agents a new base to continue their campaign against the US. The favorable prospects for the region have yet failed to materialize.

    This article is penned down by Ibrahim Al-Marashi exclusively for Zaman.
    Ibrahim Marashi is a Research Associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His research focuses on the diffusion of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and missile technologies in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Iran.
    Marashi received an MA in Political Science at the Arab Studies Center at Georgetown in 1997. He has a BA in History and Near Eastern Studies from the University of California Los Angeles.
    Prior to joining CNS, Marashi worked with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University on a project classifying captured Iraqi state documents. He was also a researcher on Iran-Iraq affairs at the US State Department, Congressional Research Service, and National Defense University.    (published 2005 in the Iraqi paper Al Sabah)

Peace Through Federalism:
Reducing Ethnic and Religious Conflict through Political Decentralization
Ilya Somin (*)

Ethnic and religious divisions are a serious challenge for many emerging democracies. If not carefully managed, such conflicts can lead to a reversion to authoritarianism or a bloody civil war. There is no perfect way to guarantee against such an outcome. But, in countries like Iraq, one essential mechanism for reducing the risk is decentralized federalism. Federalism cannot, by itself, solve all of Iraq’s problems. But it may not be possible to establish a stable democracy without it.  Yet federalism will not work unless it is accompanied by decentralization of control over government revenue and valuable resources such as oil.

Federalism, Democracy, and Group Conflict
In an ethnically or religiously divided society where power is concentrated in the hands of the central government, whichever group controls that government can completely dominate the entire country.  Therefore, no group can afford to let one of its rivals seize control of the national government. Democracy thereby becomes extremely difficult to maintain.  Minorities fear that whichever group is in the majority will gain power through the electoral process and then reduce the minorities to second-class citizens or worse. In such situations, minority groups often take up arms rather than accept the results of the democratic process, which they see as concentrating power in the hands of the more numerous group. Unfortunately, the usual result is either an ongoing conflict or a descent into dictatorship with one group seizing total control. This kind of process is part of the reason why Saddam Hussein was able to establish and maintain a highly centralized dictatorship in Iraq, playing one group against another. It also helps explain why Iraqis have had such enormous difficulties in establishing and maintaining democracy.

Fortunately, federalism can help break this pattern. Ethnic or religious groups that are minorities in the nation as a whole are often majorities in their particular regions. Under a federal system with decentralized authority, such minority groups can use the democratic process to control the areas where they live  - even if they do not have a majority in the nation as a whole.  Though the minority group cannot control the central government, federalism ensures that it is not completely at the mercy of whoever does. The danger of civil war is thereby reduced, because minority groups can accept democratic election of the central government. Even if they don’t win national elections, they can still protect their rights and interest by electing the government of their particular region.

Regional governments cannot be given 100% absolute authority over their territory. Regional governments in areas where one group is in the majority must still respect the basic human rights of members of other groups living in their jurisdiction. A delicate balance must be achieved, under which the national government has sufficient power to protect these local minorities, but not enough to undermine regional governments’ autonomy. Achieving such a balance is not easy, but it is far preferable to the alternatives of civil war, oppression of local minorities, and dictatorship.

Decentralized federalism has helped strengthen democracy and alleviate ethnic and religious conflict in a wide variety of nations, such as India, Canada, and Switzerland. In all these states, geographically concentrated minorities have reconciled themselves to democratic elections at the national level because federalism enables them to control the governments of their regions. Iraq too can benefit greatly from such an arrangement.

The Importance of Oil Revenue and Fiscal Independence
For federalism to be able to alleviate conflict, it is not enough to establish a system of regional autonomy that exists only on paper. Local and regional governments must have real power over important issues. Perhaps most important, they must have their own sources of funding that are not dependent on the central government. They need be “fiscally independent,” as economists call it. If the national government controls all or most of the available sources of revenue, it can force regional governments to do its bidding simply by threatening to withhold funds if they don’t.  In such a scenario, regional governments cannot provide any meaningful protection for minority groups, because they would have no recourse against the majority that dominates the national government and also controls the regional governments’ purse strings. In the long run, federalism cannot work if regional governments do not have at least some substantial degree of fiscal independence.

Obviously, the main source of government revenue in Iraq is oil. Centralized control of oil revenue was one of the main pillars of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Most other oil-rich nations that allow their central government to monopolize control over this resource have also found it impossible to maintain democracy. If the national government continues to monopolize control of oil revenue under the new constitution, both federalism and democracy are likely to be undermined.

If regional governments are to have any real autonomy, they must have access to oil revenue that cannot be cut off by Baghdad. There are several possible ways to achieve this. Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith has proposed that the proceeds from Iraq’s oil reserves be transferred to a fund in which each individual Iraq citizen will have a share, just as stockholders can own shares of a corporation. Iraqis’ property rights in the shares would be guaranteed by law and each citizen would be able to buy or sell shares as they see fit.  Regional governments could tax the income derived from these shares by citizens living within their jurisdiction. By this means, individual Iraqis would acquire an important source of income and investment capital, while regional governments would have access to oil revenue that could not be eliminated by the central government.

Smith’s proposal is not the only possible way to decentralize control of Iraq’s oil resources. Other alternatives might include direct ownership of some oil fields by the regional governments themselves or ownership by private investors. It is important to recognize that Iraqis need not commit to a single ownership model that applies to all the oil in the country. It is perfectly possible for some oil to be controlled by the central government, some by regional governments, and some by  ordinary Iraqis holding shares in a Smith-style fund. What is essential, however, is that Iraq get beyond the Saddam Hussein model under which control of all the nation’s oil resources is concentrated in the hands of the central government.

Decentralized federalism can play a crucial role in helping to overcome Iraq’s religious and ethnic divisions, and setting the nation on the road to a stable democracy. But in order for this happy outcome to occur, Iraqis must ensure that control over the nation’s oil resources is no longer monopolized by the central government.

(*)    Assistant Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law; B.A., Amherst College, 1995; J.D., Yale Law School, 2001; M.A. Harvard University Department of Government, 1997; Ph.D. expected.

SOMA Digest, Netherlands

Iraq's three-region solution Petition

To:  Honorable President Bush
George W. Bush, U.S. President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Honorable President Bush:

Soon after America went to war, Saddam’s regime was toppled and institutional tyranny was buried in Iraq. Americans were overjoyed by returning freedom to the oppressed Iraqis. America told them it would make their country the beacon of democracy for the larger Middle East. We know changing from democracy to dictatorship can be accomplished overnight, but to move from dictatorship to democracy needs the patience of generations!

Mr. President, Four years of beheadings, suicide bombings, demolition of shrines, and other atrocities should be enough to make the world cognizant of the culture of hate between the Sunnis and Shiites.

Since America has the primary responsibility toward Iraq’s future it can no longer afford to continue to deny the complexity of Iraqi society: first, that there are two major ethnicities, Kurds and Arabs; and second, within the Arab community a bitter religious division exists between Sunni and Shiite factions, and third, these realities exist along with the presence of other minorities. None of these have been taught the initial alphabet of democracy. They either are the oppressor or are being oppressed.

If America abandons its quest to re-establish Baghdad as the strong capital of Iraq and works with the realities on the ground, then other options are easier. Iraq is already a divided society. It no longer makes sense to refuse to honor the all too-evident wishes of the majority of Iraqi people to no longer be yoked together in a state that was initially configured by failed British policy for its colonial interests. Break the country into three autonomous regions and let each respective community take full responsibility for the security of its region. It can be done. Kurdistan is a living example. We must remind ourselves if in the past the Iraqi territorial integrity had been kept together it was done with an iron fist, but the truth of the matter is that its society had never been unified like societies of other nations. Why should we deny that and continue to hope in vain?

The plight of America’s military in Iraq has lessened America’s influence at the global level. And America’s enemies in the region such as Iran and Syria are celebrating the White House’s predicament in Iraq; because, it has given them a free hand to contribute more to Iraq’s chaotic situation without even being slapped on that hand. At the same time Iran has been successfully indirectly fighting America on two other fronts --in Afghanistan and Lebanon, and not very concerned about what America has to say regarding its nuclear ambitions. It does not matter how many rounds of negotiations America sits in with the Iranians and discuss Iraq, they won’t play the role of honest broker in helping America bring the dire situation in Iraq to an end. This is because a barely controlled chaotic Iraq works better for Iranian interests than having a democratic Iraq. Therefore, America should not be optimistic for a viable solution through Iranian mullahs. Instead, America can devise a workable solution for Iraq by dividing it into three regions in order to focus on troublesome areas such as Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The three-region solution can provide a graceful exit, and will give peace and democracy to the peaceful majority of Iraqis. It is still not too late to turn the course of the war around and let the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis be their own palace guards under a flexible federal government in Baghdad. This is a proper way to implant the seeds of democracy in this turbulent country. It could be the preferred way for America to leave Iraq with her head held high. It is still not too late to do that.

Sincerely, The Undersigned
[no date given] Petition to Honorable President Bush was created by and written by Dr. Kirmanj Gundi and Dr. Jabar Kadir


February 1, 2005

As Iraqis Celebrate, the Kurds Hesitate

Erbil, Iraq — OF all the remarkable things that happened at the Iraqi polls on Sunday, perhaps the most striking was pulled off by the Kurdish independence movement. With almost no advance notice, hundreds of Kurds erected tents at official polling places in Iraq's Kurdish areas and asked those emerging from the ballot booths to take part in an informal referendum on whether Kurdistan should be independent or part of Iraq. From what I saw, almost everyone stopped to vote in the referendum, and the tally was running 11 to 1 in favor of independence.

This news will not be welcomed by American and British officials, who have studiously ignored the Kurdish independence movement, pretending that the unity of Iraq is not at issue in the country's transition to democracy. Those who organized the independence referendum - mostly representatives of Kurdish nongovernmental organizations - had sought a meeting last February with the American administrator in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, to show him their petition with 1.7 million signatures asking for a vote on independence. Neither Mr. Bremer nor his main deputies would see the group. Thus the actual voting on Sunday caught coalition officials by surprise - in part because Kurdistan, strongly supportive of the American presence in Iraq, has not been a priority for our diplomacy.

United States officials have preferred to see Kurdistan through their own lenses. Last summer, I heard Condoleezza Rice speak at a meeting in Washington about how impressed she was with the Kurdish commitment to the building a new, unified Iraq. I know every Kurdish leader she met with, and I know that none of them would prefer to be an Iraqi if an independent Kurdistan were a realistic option.

Kurdish leaders, well aware of the practical impediments to independence, repeat a mantra that the Americans want to hear: Iraq should be democratic, federal, pluralistic and united. But their hearts are not in it. As Massoud Barzani, leader of one of the two major Kurdish political groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said at an Election Day news conference in his mountaintop headquarters nearby at Salaheddin, "I am certain there will be an independent Kurdistan, and I hope to see it in my lifetime."

While the Kurdistan Regional Government maintains that the referendum was entirely a private initiative, the voting was greatly facilitated by a younger generation of officials, who believe their elders have already made too many concessions to the unity of Iraq. With a wink from the government, election officials at many locations permitted the independence movement to distribute referendum ballots inside the polling places.

Iraq's new Assembly will face the task of preparing a constitution for a country where a sizable part of the population almost unanimously does not want to be part of the whole. The representatives of the Kurdish areas will most likely be the second-largest bloc in the Parliament. They will not press for independence any time soon, but they will be mindful of the referendum vote. A second election is scheduled for the end of this year, and it is quite possible that the referendum movement will convert itself into a political party by then if it feels that the major Kurdish parties have made too many concessions.

The Kurdish region today functions as if it were an independent state. The Kurdistan Regional Government carries out virtually all government functions, and Baghdad law applies only to the extent the Kurdish Parliament chooses to apply it. Kurdistan is responsible for its own security (which is the main reason it has been free of the violence wracking the rest of Iraq) and maintains its own armed forces.

For the people of Kurdistan, the issue is not simply a matter of keeping what they have. What drives the move for independence is not just the love of Kurdistan but also a widespread antipathy toward Iraq. The Iraqi flag is a hated symbol of a brutal regime, and it is still banned in areas controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (it does fly, along with the Kurdistan flag, on a few public buildings elsewhere in the region).

The Kurds do not allow Arab units of the new Iraqi military onto their territory, nor do they permit Baghdad ministries to open offices. They refuse to surrender control of their international borders to Baghdad for fear that the central government will cut off their precious access to the outside world.

As the Assembly draws up the new constitution, Kurdish leaders likely will settle for a deal that preserves their region's de facto independence and financial autonomy and gives them control over the disputed province of Kirkuk. Especially important, the Kurds insist on a fixed percentage of Iraq's budget and full control over Kurdistan's petroleum, including the right to export it.

Kurdish dreams of independence have long been thwarted by the hostility not only of Arab Iraqis but also of Turkey, Iran and Syria - each of which have substantial Kurdish minorities. These neighbors will be alarmed by the results of the independence referendum. Wiser heads, especially in Turkey, now see a loose Iraqi federation as by far the lesser evil than a Kurdish state.

The United States would do well to learn the lessons of the former Yugoslavia, where policymakers denied the reality of breakup until it was too late to contain the accompanying violence. Just four days before Yugoslavia's wars began in June 1991, the American Secretary of State, James Baker, was in Belgrade focused on the impossible task of stopping Slovenian and Croatian secession when he should have been trying to prevent the shooting.

A dying Yugoslavia was a different situation than a nascent Iraq, to be sure. But the question remains: will Kurdistan want to stay in an Iraqi federation - even a very loose one? As the United States learned in Yugoslavia, it is hard in a democracy to hold people in a country they hate. The Kurds' demand for independence is not an immediate crisis, but it is a coming one.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia, is a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington.


February 1, 2005

As Iraqis Celebrate, the Kurds Hesitate

Erbil, Iraq — OF all the remarkable things that happened at the Iraqi polls on Sunday, perhaps the most striking was pulled off by the Kurdish independence movement. With almost no advance notice, hundreds of Kurds erected tents at official polling places in Iraq's Kurdish areas and asked those emerging from the ballot booths to take part in an informal referendum on whether Kurdistan should be independent or part of Iraq. From what I saw, almost everyone stopped to vote in the referendum, and the tally was running 11 to 1 in favor of independence.

This news will not be welcomed by American and British officials, who have studiously ignored the Kurdish independence movement, pretending that the unity of Iraq is not at issue in the country's transition to democracy. Those who organized the independence referendum - mostly representatives of Kurdish nongovernmental organizations - had sought a meeting last February with the American administrator in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, to show him their petition with 1.7 million signatures asking for a vote on independence. Neither Mr. Bremer nor his main deputies would see the group. Thus the actual voting on Sunday caught coalition officials by surprise - in part because Kurdistan, strongly supportive of the American presence in Iraq, has not been a priority for our diplomacy.

United States officials have preferred to see Kurdistan through their own lenses. Last summer, I heard Condoleezza Rice speak at a meeting in Washington about how impressed she was with the Kurdish commitment to the building a new, unified Iraq. I know every Kurdish leader she met with, and I know that none of them would prefer to be an Iraqi if an independent Kurdistan were a realistic option.

Kurdish leaders, well aware of the practical impediments to independence, repeat a mantra that the Americans want to hear: Iraq should be democratic, federal, pluralistic and united. But their hearts are not in it. As Massoud Barzani, leader of one of the two major Kurdish political groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said at an Election Day news conference in his mountaintop headquarters nearby at Salaheddin, "I am certain there will be an independent Kurdistan, and I hope to see it in my lifetime."

While the Kurdistan Regional Government maintains that the referendum was entirely a private initiative, the voting was greatly facilitated by a younger generation of officials, who believe their elders have already made too many concessions to the unity of Iraq. With a wink from the government, election officials at many locations permitted the independence movement to distribute referendum ballots inside the polling places.

Iraq's new Assembly will face the task of preparing a constitution for a country where a sizable part of the population almost unanimously does not want to be part of the whole. The representatives of the Kurdish areas will most likely be the second-largest bloc in the Parliament. They will not press for independence any time soon, but they will be mindful of the referendum vote. A second election is scheduled for the end of this year, and it is quite possible that the referendum movement will convert itself into a political party by then if it feels that the major Kurdish parties have made too many concessions.

The Kurdish region today functions as if it were an independent state. The Kurdistan Regional Government carries out virtually all government functions, and Baghdad law applies only to the extent the Kurdish Parliament chooses to apply it. Kurdistan is responsible for its own security (which is the main reason it has been free of the violence wracking the rest of Iraq) and maintains its own armed forces.

For the people of Kurdistan, the issue is not simply a matter of keeping what they have. What drives the move for independence is not just the love of Kurdistan but also a widespread antipathy toward Iraq. The Iraqi flag is a hated symbol of a brutal regime, and it is still banned in areas controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (it does fly, along with the Kurdistan flag, on a few public buildings elsewhere in the region).

The Kurds do not allow Arab units of the new Iraqi military onto their territory, nor do they permit Baghdad ministries to open offices. They refuse to surrender control of their international borders to Baghdad for fear that the central government will cut off their precious access to the outside world.

As the Assembly draws up the new constitution, Kurdish leaders likely will settle for a deal that preserves their region's de facto independence and financial autonomy and gives them control over the disputed province of Kirkuk. Especially important, the Kurds insist on a fixed percentage of Iraq's budget and full control over Kurdistan's petroleum, including the right to export it.

Kurdish dreams of independence have long been thwarted by the hostility not only of Arab Iraqis but also of Turkey, Iran and Syria - each of which have substantial Kurdish minorities. These neighbors will be alarmed by the results of the independence referendum. Wiser heads, especially in Turkey, now see a loose Iraqi federation as by far the lesser evil than a Kurdish state.

The United States would do well to learn the lessons of the former Yugoslavia, where policymakers denied the reality of breakup until it was too late to contain the accompanying violence. Just four days before Yugoslavia's wars began in June 1991, the American Secretary of State, James Baker, was in Belgrade focused on the impossible task of stopping Slovenian and Croatian secession when he should have been trying to prevent the shooting.

A dying Yugoslavia was a different situation than a nascent Iraq, to be sure. But the question remains: will Kurdistan want to stay in an Iraqi federation - even a very loose one? As the United States learned in Yugoslavia, it is hard in a democracy to hold people in a country they hate. The Kurds' demand for independence is not an immediate crisis, but it is a coming one.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia, is a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington.

January 26, 2006

Kurd's Writings Land Him in Jail:
A Critic of Party Corruption, or a Reckless Defamer?

ERBIL, Iraq, Jan. 25 — Kamal Sayid Qadir had just returned here from Austria in late October when two trusted former students invited him for coffee at the Hotel Avista.

For Mr. Qadir, the meeting held the promise of a reunion of kindred spirits from Salahaddin University where, as a faculty member a few years back, he had clashed with administrators allied with the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. From Austria he had written articles accusing Mr. Barzani's all-powerful Kurdistan Democratic Party of corruption while calling members of its intelligence service, the Parastin, criminals and its chief — Mr. Barzani's son — a "pimp."

But Mr. Qadir said he never made it home from the hotel that night. Betrayed by his former students, who unknown to him had joined the Parastin, he says he was abducted after he left the hotel. He is now imprisoned here, sentenced last month to 30 years for defaming the Parastin and Kurdish political leaders after a trial that he said had lasted 15 minutes.

His case, while extraordinary, is by no means unique. Two journalists from Wasit Province in east central Iraq face 10 years in prison for suggesting that Iraqi judges kowtow to the American authorities just as Saddam Hussein's courts rubber-stamped edicts of the Baath Party. The journalists, Ayad Mahmoud al-Tamimi and Ahmed Mutair Abbas, had also accused the then-governor of Wasit of corruption and labeled him a bastard, a grave insult here.

Taken together, the prosecutions indicate how much remains at play in newly democratic Iraq. The nation has made remarkable steps away from totalitarian rule: the overthrow and prosecution of a genocidal dictator, two national elections and the adoption of a Constitution. But it remains to be seen how far Iraq will ultimately travel toward true Western-style democracy.

In much of southern Iraq, for example, real power increasingly lies with Shiite militias that serve religious leaders and enforce a rule of strict Islamic mores and second-class treatment of women. Now, the prosecutions of journalists suggests that the new Iraqi government is at another crossroads. Will it revert to state-sanctioned intimidation of the news media or allow the sort of free-flowing exchange of ideas that flourish in newspapers, blogs and other media in the Western world?

"These cases set a terrible precedent and are sure to make any Iraqi journalist think twice before writing about powerful political figures," said Joel Campagna, senior program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group in New York.

As with other nations newly liberated from authoritarianism, Iraq is still testing the limits of responsible free speech, and some of the name-calling and rumor-mongering that goes on clearly oversteps the boundaries. Many of Mr. Qadir's criticisms exceeded what would be tolerated in other Middle East countries, particularly his assertions about the sexual proclivities of the Barzani clan.

A number of Kurdish journalists who have called Mr. Qadir's imprisonment outrageous say they are nevertheless uncomfortable with some of his writings, calling them offensive and reckless. Indeed, Mr. Qadir said in a prison interview that he had apologized for parts of articles he now says contained improper personal insults. But he vowed to continue to criticize official corruption, including what he says are secret abductions by the police.

But the Iraqi authorities increasingly go beyond merely responding to unfair or false claims, Mr. Campagna and other observers say, using the courts as an instrument of intimidation to discourage reporting on corruption and abuses of power. Iraq, he added, "is following the poor example of its neighbors who routinely detain, criminally prosecute or imprison reporters for their work."

For its part, the Kurdistan Democratic Party says almost all Mr. Qadir's accusations are false. His arrest came after he was served with a proper warrant, said a senior official of the K.D.P. and the Parastin, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. He said Mr. Qadir had been given a fair trial and had not, as he has asserted, been abused in prison, forced to sleep in his own excrement, threatened with torture or denied food and water. Massoud Barzani "has nothing against him," the official added.

The Kurdish party tolerates reporting of official corruption and supports narrowing defamation laws so fewer types of articles might be subject to criminal prosecution, the official said. But he also said defamatory writings intended "as a political weapon" should still be subject to prosecution. Mr. Qadir's writings would fall in this category, he said.

Mr. Qadir's case has drawn international attention and put enormous pressure on Kurdish leaders. The senior official of the K.D.P., which controls western Kurdistan, said that Mr. Qadir's sentence would be reduced to one year and that his family would be permitted to bail him out. The senior official said a court would make the ruling in the next few weeks.

But Mr. Qadir still could face serious criminal jeopardy from complaints yet to be prosecuted, said Ismael Khalil Shakeeb, the presiding criminal court judge in Erbil and one of the judges who sentenced him last month. "He has insulted many other people," he said.

Mr. Qadir, 48, credits a statement issued by the United States over the Voice of America for possibly saving his life. An American official in Baghdad said Washington had discussed the case with Kurdish officials. Delegations including Austrian officials have paid prison visits, he says, adding pressure that greatly improved his living conditions.

Kurdistan is, in most respects, the most westernized and prosperous part of the new Iraq, having experienced a decade or more of virtual independence even before the American invasion. But writers here face threats and arrest for running afoul of the K.D.P., Mr. Qadir says.

"We have no freedom of the press," he said in an interview conducted Friday afternoon in the Erbil prison. "It's all arbitrary; they can arrest anybody. I never thought I'd be a victim of the Kurds."

Mr. Qadir's complaints about curbs on press freedoms are supported by Rebin Ismael, a former senior editor of a large Kurdish newspaper who now runs an American aid organization in Erbil.

In Kurdistan, he says, it is not unusual for the secret police to threaten or arrest journalists who fail to toe the line of the K.D.P. More than a dozen journalists have been arrested in recent years, he says, but the cases are never reported on in Kurdistan because other journalists fear saying anything critical of the party.

"Generally, any journalists or writers not connected to the party are under threats," Mr. Ismael said. "If you write anything not in their interest, they will arrest you or call your cellphone and threaten you."

He said he and his wife, a Kurdish reporter whose articles have mocked the party, had not slept in their house for nearly a month, having fled after she received threatening calls.

The senior Kurdish party official described Mr. Ismael as a credible and respected journalist but took issue with his comments. Told the names of four of the writers Mr. Ismael said had been arrested, the official said the four had not been arrested but had been called to "interviews" by the police.

He said he did not know how many other journalists had submitted to such police interviews. He said only one writer aside from Mr. Qadir had been sent to prison in recent years.

Mr. Qadir, born and raised in Kurdistan, is now a citizen of Austria, where he studied and lived until 1991, when Kurdistan was effectively liberated after the Persian Gulf war. He returned to teach law and political science at Salahaddin University but clashed with the administration as he lectured students about K.D.P. abuses, he said. Nepotism and graft are still rampant today, he said.

He left the university a few years ago, he said, and returned to Austria, where he continued to write about Kurdistan for Internet publications, adopting a strident and disparaging tone that pushed his criticism well past what anyone living here would contemplate. He accused K.D.P. officials of siphoning public funds and spying for the K.G.B. and the Israeli Mossad, and he wrote that one Barzani clan member was homosexual and another had had trysts with Russian women.

He say he regrets calling Massur Barzani, the Kurdish leader's son, a pimp. But he argues that the Parastin often use prostitutes to gather information.

The senior K.D.P. official said the criticism of the Parastin and the personal attacks on the Barzanis were all false. But he admitted he did not know whether the Parastin used prostitutes to aid intelligence gathering.

If freed and allowed to stay in Kurdistan, Mr. Qadir says he will continue to criticize what he characterizes as the police-state atmosphere in Kurdistan. "I never knew Kurdistan was in this shape, where people get abducted by the secret police," he said.

Yerevan Adham in Erbil and Salahaddin, and Mona Mahmoud and Ali Adeeb in Baghdad contributed reporting for this article.

May 1, 2006

Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq


A decade ago, Bosnia was torn apart by ethnic cleansing and facing its demise as a single country. After much hesitation, the United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords,which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies last year.

Now the Bush administration, despite its profound strategic misjudgments in Iraq, has a similar opportunity. To seize it, however, America must get beyond the present false choice between "staying the course" and "bringing the troops home now" and choose a third way that would wind down our military presence responsibly while preventing chaos and preserving our key security goals.

The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact.

It is increasingly clear that President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. Rather, he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor. Meanwhile, the frustration of Americans is mounting so fast that Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout, even at the risk of precipitating chaos and a civil war that becomes a regional war.

As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can't win and we can't lose. But intercommunal violence has surpassed the insurgency as the main security threat. Militias rule swathes of Iraq and death squads kill dozens daily. Sectarian cleansing has recently forced tens of thousands from their homes. On top of this, President Bush did not request additional reconstruction assistance and is slashing funds for groups promoting democracy.

Iraq's new government of national unity will not stop the deterioration. Iraqis have had three such governments in the last three years, each with Sunnis in key posts, without noticeable effect. The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won't and don't want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can't defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that's exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.

The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn't refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

The third component would be to ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow.

Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown , but we also can't have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up.

Fifth, under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq's borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq's neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A "contact group" of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal.

Mr. Bush has spent three years in a futile effort to establish a strong central government in Baghdad, leaving us without a real political settlement, with a deteriorating security situation — and with nothing but the most difficult policy choices. The five-point alternative plan offers a plausible path to that core political settlement among Iraqis, along with the economic, military and diplomatic levers to make the political solution work. It is also a plausible way for Democrats and Republicans alike to protect our basic security interests and honor our country's sacrifices.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Leslie H. Gelb is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

PINR    01 March 2006

''Red Lines Crisscross Iraq's Political Landscape''
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

With the bombing and destruction on February 22 of the al-Askari shrine -- one of the holiest sites of Shi'a Islam -- and the nearly immediate retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques throughout Iraq, the military phase of the struggle over the country's political future overwhelmed and derailed its political dynamics, as the Sunni Arab bloc in Iraq's new parliament -- the National Accord Front (N.A.C.) -- broke off its participation in negotiations over the composition of a government to replace the outgoing transitional administration. Although a cycle of sectarian violence, marked by killings on both sides, had been building and intensifying for months, the al-Askari bombing precipitated the first open admission by Iraq's fragmented political class that the country was entering the condition of full-scale civil war.

As PINR has consistently projected for more than two years, the deep conflicts of interest among the three major ethnic-religious groups -- Shi'a Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds -- would reach a critical point when the time came for the country's political forces to negotiate a permanent settlement of their differences or to move toward separation. That moment arrived with the December 15, 2005 elections for a four-year parliament, which forced the political class to confront its stark divisions in the context of having to form a government. [See: "Iraq's Election Aftermath Reveals a Failed State"]

As negotiations for a government proceeded from late December into February, it became clear that an agreement on its composition would prove to be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Each player in the process was compelled to clarify its demands, revealing profound and -- according to the players -- irreconcilable conflicts. Rather than signifying an interruption of the political process, the al-Askari bombing and its aftermath vividly symbolize the failure of that process.

Behind the violence, which justifiably occupies the attention of the media and decision makers in the short term, are the persistent interests that surfaced in the negotiations as a series of non-negotiable demands by each side against the others. The phrase that dominated public discussion of the bargaining process in Iraq was "red line," meaning a limit beyond which a player would not go in making concessions to its adversaries. Rather than seeking compromise, the players engaged in drawing a crazy quilt of red lines, resulting in deadlock.

A sign as telling as the al-Askari bombing that the political process had broken down was the decision on February 20, 2006 by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to go public with a threat to cut off aid to Iraq's security forces if the Iraqi political class did not agree to form a "national unity government" in which each sectarian and ethnic bloc had a share in power and subsumed its militia under a national army and police force.

Asserting that the U.S. is "not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces that are run by people who are sectarian," Khalilzad abandoned the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that had been his trademark in favor of blunt external pressure that had little credibility -- an admission of frustration. As the players proceeded on a collision course, Washington's influence over the negotiations steadily diminished to the point at which it has become a bystander reduced to issuing warnings from the sidelines.

Red Lines Proliferate
The stage was set for deadlock on February 11, when the Shi'a bloc -- the United Iraqi Alliance (U.I.A.) -- which has the largest number of seats in the new parliament voted 64-63 to name Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the transitional prime minister, as its choice for prime minister in the permanent government. The largest bloc in the new parliament, holding 130 of its 275 seats against the Sunni N.A.F.'s 55, the Kurdish Alliance's (K.A.) 53 and the secular Iraqi National List's (I.N.L.) 25, the U.I.A. has been beset by internal conflicts among its component factions that are reflected in al-Jaafari's razor-thin margin of victory.

Al-Jaafari, who represents the Dawa Party, achieved his win with the support of anti-occupation cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose faction controls 30 of the U.I.A.'s seats. Al-Sadr's backing of al-Jaafari was based on his opposition to Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the candidate of the U.I.A.'s largest faction, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (S.C.I.R.I.). Although the preponderance of the components of the U.I.A. are based in Shi'a clerical families, those families and their followers are divided by longstanding rivalries. The winning coalition of Dawa and the Sadrists came at the price of honoring S.C.I.R.I.'s red line that it be awarded control of the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of internal security and -- under the transitional government -- has been in S.C.I.R.I.'s hands and has been held responsible by Sunnis for sectarian attacks on their community.

In response to the prospect of continued S.C.I.R.I. control over the power ministries -- interior and defense -- N.A.F. leader Adnan al-Dulaimi drew his own red line, insisting that those portfolios be given to figures who are not identified with the Shi'a clerical establishment. Al-Dulaimi's demand was met by the leader of S.C.I.R.I.'s militia, the Badr Brigade, with the assertion that S.C.I.R.I. "will not relinquish the security portfolios."

Building on their deadlock over the power ministries, the U.I.A. and the N.A.F. drew red lines on an array of other issues. The U.I.A. insisted that the N.A.F. condemn "terrorism" and actively oppose the Sunni-led insurgency, to which the N.A.F. replied that the U.I.A. must distinguish between terrorism against civilians and legitimate resistance against what they consider the U.S.-led occupation. The N.A.F. demanded an end to the purge of ex-Ba'ath Party members from public life, which the U.I.A. rejected. Most importantly, the N.A.F. demanded that Iraq's current constitution be modified to restrict regional self-rule and the U.I.A. insisted that the Shi'a-dominated south, with its vast oil resources, move to regularize its substantial autonomy, leaving Sunni Arabs in fear that the resource-poor center and west of Iraq, where they are concentrated, will be impoverished.

Reinforcing the Sunni-Shi'a deadlock at the level of the political class is Sunni public opinion. A survey conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and reported in the Washington Times on February 1 found that only five percent of Sunni Arabs approved of the December 15, 2005 elections, 92 percent thought that the new government was illegitimate, and 88 percent approved of attacks on U.S. forces. Sunni Arab participation in the political process, which Washington believed would integrate the Sunni community into a nation-building project, has not had the desired effect, but has only worked to reveal the latent political confrontation.

A little-noticed study conducted by Iraq's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and released in late January shows some of the reasons for persisting Sunni Arab disaffection. The study reported that the poverty level in Iraq has increased by 30 percent since April 2003, reaching 20 percent of the population. Two million Iraqis are having difficulty finding sufficient food and shelter, and live with an income of less than US$2 per day. The report attributed rising poverty to the "shutdown of the public sector," lack of access to education, and violence, all of which differentially affect the Sunni Arab population.

Under the pressure of deteriorating living conditions and the resultant disaffection of public opinion from a Shi'a-Kurd dominated political process, the Sunni leadership is constrained to take a hard line, as its opponents mobilize to maintain their present advantages and accelerate their drive toward regional autonomy. As the Sunnis press their demands, the Shi'a and the Kurds dig in and resist making any concessions.

Although the seemingly intractable conflict between Sunni and Shi'a Arabs gained the greatest attention during the negotiations, the third player in the struggle over Iraq's future -- the Kurds -- began to assert their own demands more forcefully and drew their own red lines. Already running the oil-rich northern provinces as a mini-state, the Kurdish Alliance, composed of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (P.D.K.) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.), had allied with the U.I.A. forces in the transitional government, but had become dissatisfied with the treatment they had received and were ready to act more independently in furthering their interests.

The central interests of the Kurds are to maintain their effective independence and to gain control of Kirkuk and its surrounding region, which has large energy reserves and had been split off from the Kurdish provinces under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. The Kurds complain that the transitional government, in which the Shi'a had the preponderant influence, did not facilitate the resettlement of Kurds who had been displaced from Kirkuk under Ba'athist rule, and that it failed to put into effect provisions of the Iraqi constitution and its subsidiary Law of Administration that require a census in and a referendum on the status of Kirkuk. Already in late January 2006, Governor of Kirkuk Abd al-Rahman Mustafa had threatened to suspend oil exports to the rest of Iraq if the central government did not allocate funds for taking the census and holding the referendum.

The status of Kirkuk became an explicit "red line issue" when President of the "Kurdistan Region" Masoud Barzani declared in mid-February that the situation would have to be resolved constitutionally by the end of 2007. Accession of Kirkuk to the Kurdish mini-state is as threatening to the Sunnis economically as the normalization of a Shi'a autonomous region would be, and has the added problem that the city is multi-ethnic, with Arab, Turkomen and Christian minorities that are resistant to Kurdish hegemony.

Barzani also drew a red line, as would be expected, around preservation of constitutional provisions guaranteeing regional autonomy. In a break with the Kurdish-Shi'a alliance, Barzani reported that in his negotiations with the U.I.A. he had insisted that the secular bloc led by former provisional Prime Minister Ayad Allawi be included in a national unity government along with the U.I.A., the N.A.F. and the K.A., which was a deal breaker for the U.I.A. due to al-Sadr's rejection of any collaboration with Allawi, who ordered the suppression of al-Sadr's rebellion against the occupation in 2004.

Finally, Barzani demanded that the arrangement in the transitional government whereby a Kurd receives the presidency be maintained and insisted that the constitution be changed to grant the president greater powers at the expense of the prime minister. In his most revealing comment in a February 10 interview with al-Arabiya television, Barzani said that Kurdistan would secede from Iraq if a Sunni-Shi'a civil war broke out and forthrightly declared that the Kurds had a right to their own independent state, although "we are aware of the international and internal circumstances" standing in the way of one.

It was in the face of the collapsing Iraqi political process that Khalilzad delivered his threat of an aid cut-off. He had preceded his public announcement by publishing an opinion column -- "Blueprint for a National Government" -- in which he laid out Washington's own red line -- a national unity government. Recognizing that marginalization and isolation of the Sunni Arabs is at the core of the deadlock, Khalilzad made a scarcely veiled demand that the Kurds and the Shi'a concede to Sunni demands.

Using hard rhetoric, Khalilzad wrote that Iraqi leaders "must" give "political minorities confidence that the majority will share power and take their legitimate concerns into account." Specifically, Khalilzad went on, the government "must" disband factional militias and the Defense and Interior Ministries have to be staffed "on the basis of competence, not ethnic or sectarian background." He warned that the Sunni-led insurgency would only be curbed if regional powers are not "allowed to dominate Iraq" and de-Ba'athification is limited to "high-ranking officials, integrating all those who did not commit crimes into mainstream society." On the root issue of regional autonomy, Khalilzad was direct: "Iraqi leaders must strike agreements that will win greater Sunni Arab support and create a near-consensus in favor of the constitution."

Having incorporated the entire Sunni position into his list of demands, Khalilzad's blueprint met with a predictable rejectionist response from the Shi'a and Kurds who accused him of violating Iraqi sovereignty and going back on U.S. policy by attempting to dictate a resolution of the conflict. In a telling and scathing paragraph-by-paragraph critique of Khalilzad's essay, Kurdish analyst Dr. Rebwar Fatah concluded: "Khalilzad's blueprint for Iraqi national unity will be as successful as the British Iraq. The difference is that in the early 20th century, imposing superficial nation-states over ethnic and religious groups was possible by bloodshed, but in the 21st century, the mission of Iraqi national unity shall remain a myth."

The moment of reckoning has arrived in post-Ba'athist Iraq and none of the major players shows a trace of the will to compromise that would be necessary to construct a genuine nation-state, in which diverse social groups have an overriding commitment to live together.

Even if civil war is averted in the short term and a government is formed, that government will not be a genuine national-unity administration, but an arena of conflict between contending power groups. In one of the most astute observations on the situation by an Iraqi politician, Abdul-Mahdi -- the S.C.I.R.I.-backed candidate in the U.I.A.'s election for the prospective prime minister -- shrugged off his loss, saying that any new government would not be popular and would not be likely to serve out a four-year term.

A weak central government, which seems to be inevitable, will be starved for funds and will have trouble enforcing security given the preponderant slide toward confederal regionalism. Ministerial portfolios will be allocated according to ethnic-religious groups, and ministries will tend to coalesce into self-enclosed fiefdoms -- as they already have in the transitional government -- that effectively resist coordinated direction from high political officials. With each major bloc demanding positions with real power, there will not be enough to go around and dissatisfaction will build among those who feel they have been slighted.

Most importantly, the red lines that the contending players have drawn are not preliminary negotiating positions, but reflect deeply embedded perceptions of vital interests that are resistant to reconciliation.

Washington has neither the trust nor the credibility nor the resources to impose its blueprint and will have to watch its efforts unravel. Fatah, the Kurdish analyst, perceptively observed that "the frustration that Khalilzad demonstrates in his article could be interpreted as some degree of a resignation." Increasingly resigned to the collapse of all its plans for Iraq, Washington has been placed in a no-win situation. It has no prospect of a graceful exit and seems fated to preside helplessly over Iraq's disintegration.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein (+1 765 49-44173)

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR; is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of All comments should be directed to

National Review    May 09, 2006, 5:56 a.m.

A decentralized Iraq is the necessary solution to the current political paralysis.
By John R. Thomson & Hussain Hindawi

Senator Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb recently published an article in the New York Times titled “Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq.” It’s a good idea, and one that we have been advocating for the past couple of years, both here on NRO and elsewhere. There remains little indication that the Bush administration is considering any significant alteration to its long held call for a centralized government; however, even the most stubborn observer must agree that long term prospects for such a formulation are slight indeed. In any event, it is encouraging that, after more than two years’ gestation, the idea is getting attention and being discussed more broadly.

There are of course challenges aplenty in the fulfillment of any governance formula for Iraq. The Arab world’s authoritarian tradition extends to Baghdad, requiring resolution and clear codification in law of any form of government. Fortunately, at the leadership level, good judgment increasingly seems to prevail. The agreement on a prime minister and cabinet, albeit after months of politicking, means politicians on all sides are at last being realistic, causing us to infer that they have a clear understanding of the virtual impossibility of creating an effective, strong central government.

Simply stated, Shia and Kurd leaders overwhelmingly favor a decentralized government, with the Sunnis nominally opposed, fearing they will be dealt out of Iraq’s oil wealth.

What is required is equitable distribution of oil ownership and its attendant financial benefits, a challenge that provides an outstanding free market opportunity which we summarize below. Following is what we have been recommending for the past two years, with respect to both governance and petroleum.

A cantonal system similar to the Swiss model is the most viable option for the restive, fearful Iraqi communities—Shia, Kurd, Sunni, Christian, and Turkmen. From countless talks with Iraqi leaders of the various communities, it appears eminently possible to maintain an Iraqi national fabric while allowing for semi-autonomous governance in different sectors of the country. Such a formula has peacefully united very different communities, the very challenge facing Iraq, in one nation for 800 years: Switzerland.

A system of five cantonal districts can be established. Three would be Kurd, Shia and Sunni dominated, based in the northern, central, and southern areas of the country respectively. Two other cantons would have special administrative status: the one, based in Baghdad (a melting pot of Shia, Kurds, Sunnis, Turkmen, and Christians, among others), would be recognized by all Iraqis as the country's capital canton; the other, embracing oil-rich Kirkuk plus Diali-Khanaqin, would also have special status owing to the area’s equally diverse ethnicity.

A Kurdish canton should contain three main districts—Erbil, Dahuk and Suleimaniya. Concentrated in the north, the Kurds are a dynamic, non-Arab minority comprising upwards of 20 percent of Iraq’s population. They have shown themselves remarkably capable of governing themselves effectively for a decade, have agreed not to seek independence, and should be allowed to retain their status.

The Sunni minority, similar in size to the Kurds, is reviled by the Shia because of decades of oppression by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and has understandable concerns of a strong central government dominated by Shia politicians—fears heightened by credible reports of Interior Ministry support for attacks on the Sunni community during the past year. The Sunni should have their own semi-autonomous canton in their heartland, the notorious “Sunni triangle” north and west of Baghdad.

The numerically dominant Shia would not only control their own development and destiny in the south and central areas where they predominate, but would also be a pivotal force in the national government based in the Baghdad special administrative canton, as well as in the other mixed canton of Kirkuk and Diali-Khanaqin.

The Shia community strongly favors running its own affairs, provided there is agreement on the composition and residual responsibilities of a Baghdad national government.

The remaining sizeable community to be specially considered is the Turkmen, a group which has felt inadequately considered since Iraq’s liberation and is fearful for its rights. Most live in the two proposed mixed cantons, as do the much smaller Christian communities (including Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians, Orthodox, and Protestants), and the Sabean, Mandaean, Yazidi, and Jewish communities. Clearly, every effort should be made to guarantee the rights of all such minorities in the ultimate cantonal and national constitutions.

What about the national government? It can and should provide for Iraq’s foreign relations, defense, and monetary requirements, and oversee the development, management, and equitable operation of the country’s massive petroleum reserves.

We have encountered no substantial or meaningful case favoring a nationalized, government-owned petroleum industry, just as we have heard no persuasive argument for a centralized Iraqi government, either from Baghdad or from Washington. Indeed, there could be no stronger proof-positive of Iraq’s newly attained free market status than for its greatest natural resource not to be socialized.

Iraq's vast petroleum wealth is an asset of inestimable potential, and must be developed to the benefit of all the country's citizens. There can be no question about oil in the north being solely for the benefit of Kurds, or oil in the south for the Shia; petroleum is an asset which should benefit all Iraqis equally.

The nation's enormous oil patch clearly requires professional local oversight. Local management, reporting to a board of directors (one-half of whom could be designated by the national parliament and the other half by shareholders) would see to the effective and honest operation of the industry, utilizing international companies to prospect and develop the oilfields and market the production.

Actual ownership should be Iraqi, adopting a modified Norwegian model that provides direct participation in the financial benefits of its oil industry to those to whom the resources belong—the citizenry. A key difference from the Norwegian model, however, should be that the Iraqi petroleum industry is actually owned by the citizens, whereas the Norwegian industry is state-owned, with profits earmarked to a host of services benefiting citizens.

The keys to a successful citizen-owned, locally managed, and internationally developed petroleum sector are threefold:
1. An equal number of shares distributed to every citizen age 18 or older.
2. Shares held by the original recipient for a minimum of five years, except in the event of death, when they would be deeded to the designated next of kin. In any event, shares could only be held by Iraqi citizens.
3. All petroleum related operations overseen by an independent Board of Directors.

A citizen-owned oil industry would send a resounding message to Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and every other oil producing state in the region that petroleum is a resource of the people of each country. In so doing, state-owned companies would no longer have the option, as currently, to creak with inefficiency and reek of corruption.

Implementation of the above programs and policies would lead to:
• Development of trusted leadership cadres in the three major population groups;
• Reduction in potentially disastrous inter-communal rivalries;
• No need to deal with the foul regime in Tehran, simultaneously encouraging the already strong Iranian opposition;
• Iraq as a genuine beacon of free market democracy in the Middle East.

This is, in short, decidedly not the time to cut and run. America's Iraqi experience since the end of its brilliant military campaign has been an object lesson in what not to do. However, it is not too late to reverse the downward spiral and to implement with clarity and conviction what can and should be done to bring peace and stability to the country and, thence, the region.

It is a self-defeating myth that Americans have lost the respect and support of Iraqis. The overwhelming majority of Iraqi leaders and men in the street are grateful and hopeful that America will stay the course by providing security and guidance, until Iraqi forces and governmental structures are in place.

There are, however, three constituencies the coalition will never win over: Iraqi Ba'athist and assorted Muslim fanatics; al-Qaeda and other foreign inspired terrorist groups; and neighboring nations' governments, including most significantly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Iran.

A critical step for improving relations with Iraq's Shia is for the United States to open direct discussions between Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani and a senior U.S. representative. Having made the egregious mistake of treating Sistani like a 19th-century Japanese emperor, a way can and must be found to create the basis for mutually face-saving and profitable talks with the country's single most influential Shia leader. Undeniably important, Sistani is primus inter pares of Iraq's Shia clergy. The perception of further American kowtowing can only result in jealousy among his senior colleagues.

Another doubly important way to improve U.S.-Iraq relations is for Washington to cease discussions with Iran's leadership, whom Sistani and many other Shia clergy in Iraq despise. President Bush correctly identified Iran as a charter member of the Axis of Evil, and Tehran’s reigning mullahs wish America no luck whatever.

The recommended approaches to governance as well as petroleum sector organization and ownership have the great benefit of being broadly accepted by all Iraqis. They would avoid much of the predictable dispute that the coalition's current centralized approach for government and a nationalized petroleum sector have produced. Indeed, they would be as refreshing to good governance and nascent capitalism as the widely popular 15-percent flat tax for individuals and corporations that is already in place.

What remains is Republican concurrence with this thoroughly nonpartisan solution to Iraq’s two most pressing issues, followed by the U.S. mission and its British partners providing guidance and encouragement to the country’s new cabinet in the fulfillment of these realistic goals.

—John R. Thomson has worked as businessman, diplomat, and journalist in the Middle East for four decades, having lived in Beirut, Cairo, and Riyadh. Hussain Hindawi founded and edited for eight years UPI’s Arabic service, and most recently served as Chairman of the Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission.

    May 9, 2006

Three Iraqs Would Be One Big Problem

SOME pundits and politicians have been floating the idea that America consider dividing Iraq into three ethno-religious entities, saying this would not only stem the insurgency but also allow our troops an earlier exit. They are wrong: fracturing the country would not serve either Iraqi or United States interests, and would make life for average Iraqis even worse.

The first problem is that Iraq does not have a neat set of ethnic dividing lines. There has never been a meaningful census of Iraq showing exactly how its Arab Sunnis, Arab Shiites, Kurds and other factions are divided or where they live. The two elections held since the toppling of Saddam Hussein have made it clear, however, that Iraq's cities and 18 governorates all have significant minorities.

Thus any effort to divide the country along sectarian and ethnic lines would require widespread "relocations." This would probably be violent and impoverish those forced to move, leave a legacy of fear and hatred, and further delay Iraq's political and economic recovery.

Moreover, Iraq is heavily urbanized, with nearly 40 percent of the population in the multiethnic greater Baghdad and Mosul areas. We have seen in Northern Ireland and the Balkans how difficult it is to split cities, and with Iraq's centralized and failing services and impoverished economy, violence and economics cannot be separated. Deciding where Kirkuk, a key oil city, belonged would pit the Kurds against all the rest of Iraq's factions. Basra, the nation's port, is already under the sway of Shiite Islamist militias and could lose all of its secular character if the nation divided. In addition, the nation could not be partitioned without dividing the army, the security forces and the police. The regular military is largely Shiite with a significant number of Kurds. The Ministry of Interior forces are largely Shiite, and the police are hopelessly mixed with militias and local security forces that split according to local tribal, sectarian and ethnic ties. Dividing the country essentially means dividing the army and security forces and strengthening the militias — all of which would lead to more violence.

And of course, there is no way to divide Iraqi that will not set off fights over control of oil. More than 90 percent of Iraq's government revenues come from oil exports. The Sunni Arab west has no developed oil fields and thus would have no oil revenues. The Kurds want the northern oil fields, but have no legitimate claim to them and no real way to export the oil they produce (their neighbors Iran, Syria and Turkey have restive Kurdish populations of their own and thus no interest in helping Iraq's Kurds achieve self-sustaining freedom). Control of Basra would also be an issue, with various Shiite groups looking to separate and take control of the oil in the south.

Dividing Iraq would also harm regional stability and the war on terrorists. Sunni Islamist extremist groups with ties to Al Qaeda already dominate the Sunni insurgents, and division would only increase their hold over average Iraqis. And with Iraqi Sunnis cut out of oil money, Arab Sunni states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be forced to support them, if only to avoid having the Islamist extremists take over this part of Iraq.

Iran, of course, would compete for the Iraqi Shiites. The Kurds have no friends: Turkey, Iran and Syria would seek to destabilize the north and exploit the divisions between the two main Kurdish political unions. In the end, these divisions could spill over into the rest of the Middle East and the Arab world, creating a risk of local conflicts and the kind of religious tension that feeds Islamist extremism.

Washington has made serious mistakes in Iraq, and they may lead to civil war. Dividing Iraq, however, is virtually certain to make things worse. It would convey the message that America has been defeated and abandoned a nation and a people. Even if one could overlook the fact the United States effectively broke Iraq and has a responsibility to its 28 million people, it is impossible to deny that leaving behind a power vacuum in an already dangerous region is hardly a viable strategy.

Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics and Military Lessons." [adapted version of "Dividing Iraq: Think Long and Hard First", CSIC, undated]

comment on Cordesman's NYT edpage piece
The Dignified Rant     Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Mother of All Mistakes
Brian J. Dunn

Dividing Iraq now into three parts is both impractical and foolish:

Washington has made serious mistakes in Iraq, and they may lead to civil war. Dividing Iraq, however, is virtually certain to make things worse. It would convey the message that America has been defeated and abandoned a nation and a people. Even if one could overlook the fact the United States effectively broke Iraq and has a responsibility to its 28 million people, it is impossible to deny that leaving behind a power vacuum in an already dangerous region is hardly a viable strategy.
Though I wish Cordesman would take Hanson's counsel [see also below], I'll not comment on his complaints about our policy. The important thing is that dividing Iraq now would mean defeat.

I guess when we are winning and you can't stand that fact, the only thing to do is advocate the creation of somebody to whom you can surrender.

The enemy in Iraq can't cobble together a company-sized force to launch an attack or call any territory their own, so forcing Iraq into the Vietnam template is rather difficult. Even aside from the whole 'sand' thing.

But by urging the creation of a country in the Sunni portion of Iraq that the Baathists would control, voila! An entity that can accept our surrender and snatch an American defeat from the jaws of victory is created! Ah, the fruits of big-brained, nuanced thinking!

We cannot allow the Iraqi Baathists to run their own thug state. Even a shrunken Sunni Triangle-based state. Period. That's why we invaded Iraq, remember? Otherwise this is just a replay of Desert Storm where our only goal was to reduce the territory that Saddam controlled.

As the saying might go: When you start to take Baghdad--take Baghdad. And when you take it--keep it.

RealClearPolitics    May 09, 2006

The Prison of the Present
By Victor Davis Hanson

Listen to the present televised hysteria. Too few troops! No, too many still there! The CIA is out of control! No, it is weak and irrelevant! The Iraq mess only empowered Iran! No, its democratic experiment is the best way to undermine that neighboring theocracy.

Such frenzy of the 24-hour news cycle is now everywhere, as we are lectured that our victories over the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have caused as many problems as they solved.

But in war aren't choices usually between the bad and the far worse? So often victory leads not to utopia, but only something better.

Take our past ambiguous successes. Recall that the outcome of America's horrific, but successful, Civil War that ended slavery led not to racial harmony. Instead followed over a decade of failed Reconstruction and another century of Jim Crow apartheid in the South.

We saved a reeling Britain and France in World War I. But an isolationist United States did not occupy a defeated Germany. So we fought a resurgent Hitler little more than twenty years later, who talked of the 'stab in the back,' while he bragged that imperial Germany had withdrawn unbeaten from foreign soil.

The outcome of World War II (note the sudden need for the Roman numerals) was not perpetual peace or even the freedom of Eastern Europe, but rather its enslavement and a Cold War of a half-century.

The United States prevailed in saving South Korea. Yet it still bequeathed a lunatic nuclear communist state to our grandchildren.

Gulf War I was a smashing success. But it was followed by the slaughter of tens of thousands of Shiites and Kurds, twelve years of no-fly zones, and yet another war against Saddam.

Almost every controversy in this present war also proves to be a rehash of the past. Poorly armored Humvees? Thousands, not hundreds, of Americans perished, in thin-skinned Sherman tanks ("Ronson lighters") that never were up-armored even at the end of World War II.

Too few troops? In late July 1944 as Gen. George Patton raced eastward through France, the topic never came up. But by autumn as several under-strength American armies suddenly stalled on the distant Rhine, national recrimination replaced the earlier euphoria. What fool planner had advocated a broad-front advance into Germany with far too few soldiers?

Did removing Saddam empower Iran? No more so than ending Nazism gave more opportunity for our "ally" Stalin to enslave Eastern Europe.

Why was our Iraqi intelligence so poor in assessing the potential for postwar insurgency? The same was asked how some surprised American divisions near the end of World War II were nearly annihilated by Germans in the Bulge and by the Japanese on Okinawa?

Won't Iraq require years of occupation? We hope not. But years after our victories, American troops are still residing in Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, and the Balkans.

The point of these historical comparisons is not to excuse our present mistakes by citing worse ones from the past--or to suggest that all wars are always the same. Much less should history's examples be used to stifle necessary contemporary criticism that alone leads to remedy.

Rather knowledge of the capricious nature of wars of the past can restore a little humility to our national psyche.

We need it. Ours is the first generation of Americans that thinks it can demand perfection in war. Our present leisure, wealth, and high technology fool us into thinking that we are demi-gods always be able to trump both human and natural disasters. Accordingly, we become frustrated that we cannot master every wartime obstacle, as we seem otherwise to be able to do with computers or cosmetic surgery. Then, without any benchmarks of comparison from the past, we despair that our actions are failed because they are not perfect.

But why did a poorer, less educated, and more illiberal United States in far bloodier and more error-ridden wars of the past still have greater confidence in itself? Was it that our ancestors, who died younger and far more tragically, did not expect their homeland to be without flaws, only to be considerably better than the enemy's?

Perhaps we have forgotten such modesty because we have ignored the study of history that alone offers us guidance from our forbearers. It now competes as an orphan discipline with social science, -ologies and -isms that entice us into thinking that the more money and education of the present can at last perfect the human condition and thus consign our flawed past to irrelevance.

The result is that while sensitive young Americans seem to know what correct words and ideas they must embrace, they derive neither direction nor solace from past events. After all, very few could identify Vicksburg or Verdun, much less have any idea where or what Iwo Jima was. In such a lonely prison of the present what are historically ignorant Americans to make of a Fallujah or an Iranian madman's threat of annihilation other than such things can't or shouldn't or must not happen to us?

So, of this present war, I think our war-torn forefathers would say to us that both messy Afghanistan and Iraq are better places without their dictators even if they never will resemble Carmel or Austin.

They would add that it is not unusual to be confronted with new crises even after such apparently easy victories. And they would shrug that however scary Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran now appears, it poses nothing new or insurmountable to a confident and strong United States that has dealt with far more serious enemies in the past with its accustomed wisdom and resolve.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." You can reach him by e-mailing

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[Ilya Somin, May 9, 2006 at 1:40pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
Decentralized Federalism in Iraq: Both liberal democratic Senator Joe Biden and the conservative National Review have recently published articles arguing that decentralized federalism is the way forward in Iraq, and the best policy for addressing that country's serious ethnic and religious conflicts. Hopefully, a broad consensus will emerge on this point in the United States and (more importantly) in Iraq itself.

I published a piece making a similar argument in a supplement to the Iraqi paper Al Sabah last year. The English language version is available here.

UPDATE: Many people, both in the US and in Iraq, confuse decentralized federalism with partition of the country into three separate states (Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish). In reality, federalism is an ALTERNATIVE to partition, not a synonym for it. Like partition, it has the advantage of enabling each of the three groups to avoid total domination by any of the others. Unlike partition, it avoids breaking up Iraq into three relatively weak nations that would be easy pickings for Iraq's rapacious neighbors. The other alternatives to partition are probably dictatorship or civil war. Despite the very serious attendant risks, I don't think that partition should be categorically ruled out for all time. But, at the very least, we and the Iraqis should try federalism first.
[Ilya Somin, May 10, 2006 at 7:02pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
Iraqi Federalism II - Answering Three Common Objections:
Critics of proposals for decentralized federalism in Iraq raise several standard objections. See this recent piece by Anthony Cordesman for a representative example (hat tip to an anonymous commenter on my previous post). Here, I answer three of the most important ones: distribution of oil revenue, the problem of local minorities, and the claim that federalism will lead to partition.

I. Distribution of oil revenues.
The vast majority of Iraqi economic production and government revenue consists of oil. Nearly all the oil is found in the Kurdish north and the Shia-majority south. Thus, majority-Sunni central Iraq might be left out in the cold. Fortunately, all three of the federalism proposals cited in my earlier post propose ways around this problem. The possible solutions are guaranteeing the Sunnis a share of the government's oil revenue (Biden), a privatization model that would give all Iraqis individual ownership rights over oil (National Review), or a combination of the two (my approach).

If any of these policies are put into effect, there will initially be problems of credible commitment. The Sunnis might fear that the Shiites and Kurds will renege on the commitment to give them their share of oil money. However, once the payments get off the ground, these concerns can be eased. The US, if it wants to, can give the Shia-led government strong incentives to make the payments happen. The Iraqi government is likely to remain dependent on US assistance for some time, and we could condition that assistance on compliance with the terms of the federalism deal. Moreover, once payments begin, the government will have a self-interest in continuing them because the alternative would be a civil war that is much more costly. Finally, under my approach and National Review's (privatized shares of oil stock given to each member of the population, regardless of religion and ethnicity), any attempt by the government to confiscate the shares of the Sunni population would be likely to undercut the market value of ALL shares, including those held by Kurds and Shia. Kurdish and Shia shareholders would thus have a common interest with the Sunnis.

II. Mixed areas.
Most parts of Iraq do not have homogenous populations. There are Shia living in Sunni areas, Sunnis living in majority-Kurdish areas, and so on. In a federal system, the rights of local minorities may well be threatened by the local majority. Of course this problem does not disappear under a highly centralized government. Ultimately, the parties will have to bargain out the exact boundaries between them, addressing disputed areas such as Kirkuk. Whatever the details of the final settlement, there will obviously still be local minorities. There are two ways to protect their rights: 1) judicial review under a central constitution that guarantees basic individual rights, and 2) mutual deterrence.

Both approaches should be tried, but I set more stock by the second, because the Iraqi judicial system is in its infancy and is likely to improve only very slowly. The Sunni authorities should be able to agree to protect Shiite and Kurd minorities in their midst in exchange for the latter protecting the Sunnis in their areas. Such an "exchange of hostages" model is not very inspiring, but it does give regional governments an incentive to respect the rights of local minorities. Here too, the US and its Coalition partners can play a role in enforcing the bargain by denying or reducing aid to regional governments that violate minority rights. Will it work perfectly? Of course not. But it is better than the alternatives of civil war or centralization. Under the latter, the dominant group in the central government would be able to oppress its rivals all over the country, not just in a few regions.

III. Federalism and partition.
Critics of decentralized federalism often claim that it will lead to partition. Some, like Cordesman in his NY Times piece, do not even seem to distinguish between the two. It is in fact the fear of a dominant central government dominated by one's enemies that leads to pressure for partition. Implementation of a strong form of federalism would dampen these fears, though probably not completely eliminate them. Realistically, the Kurds will not accept a highly centralized government of any kind (and I don't blame them). The Sunnis will not accept one dominated by the Shia, as is likely to be case if the government continues to be democratically elected (the Shiites are 60% of the population). By removing the threat of nation-wide domination by one group, decentralized federalism will reduce pressures for partition rather than increase it. This is especially likely in light of the fact that partition would leave all three major Iraqi groups vulnerable to the depradations of Iraq's unscrupulous and rapacious neighbors. Federalism is a way to capture the main benefits of partition, while mitigating its dangers.

Decentralized federalism is not a panacea for Iraq's many problems, but it does have important advantages over the alternatives of centralization, partition, and civil war.

PINR    17 May 2006
''Iraq's Impending Fracture to Produce
Political Earthquake in Turkey''
Jephraim P. Gundzik

Unusual political stability in Turkey faces upheaval from Iraq's impending fracture along sectarian lines. The birth of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq will end Turkey's E.U. accession hopes. The collapse of the accession process will strongly undermine the legitimacy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.), making it increasingly vulnerable to political attacks from Turkey's secular establishment. These attacks could prompt the disintegration of the Erdogan government as soon as the end of 2006.

Sectarianism Governs Iraq
Far from providing the long-awaited impetus for political and social stability, the results of Iraq's December 2005 parliamentary election were another step toward the division of the country along sectarian lines. Secular candidates supported by the Bush administration were trounced in the election, while the broad victory of the Iran-backed Shi'a political parties undermined Washington's influence in Iraq. [See: "Red Lines Crisscross Iraq's Political Landscape"]

Thus far, it has been impossible for either Ibrahim al-Jaafari or his successor as prime minister, Nouri Maliki, to form a government. At the heart of Iraq's political impasse is the country's new U.S.-drafted constitution, which incomprehensibly calls for the division of political powers along sectarian lines.

The constitutionally-mandated division of political power in Iraq was meant to ensure that Shi'a, Kurds and Sunnis would participate equally in a government of "national unity." In practice, however, it has proved impossible for these disparate ethnic groups to reach a consensus for sharing cabinet positions.

Bush administration officials blame the escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq on the inability of the country's political parties to form a government. More likely, it is the other way around. Iraq's descent into civil war, which began with the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, has made it impossible for Shi'a and Sunni political parties to work together. Meanwhile, sectarian violence has raged out of control. At least 3,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian-related violence since February 2006.

Although Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is expected to fill his cabinet positions soon, Iraq's escalating civil war will continue to obstruct governance making it impossible for the country's new government to function. This, combined with the planned withdrawal in 2006 by most of Washington's coalition partners from Iraq, will pressure the Bush administration to begin withdrawing U.S. troops. A U.S. troop drawdown may be accelerated by electoral politics as the U.S. mid-term elections approach. The withdrawal of U.S.-led forces will fuel Iraq's civil war, speeding the country's fracture along sectarian lines.

As with Iraq's government, Washington played a strong role in the creation of the country's military, police and paramilitary organizations. As a result, these security organizations are also steeped in sectarianism, hence their role in enflaming Iraq's civil war. As foreign forces are withdrawn, Iraq's security organizations will devolve back into the Shi'a and Kurdish militias from which they were derived. These militias will be used to protect Shi'a and Kurdish territories, respectively. Compared to the Shi'a, the Kurdish militia, or peshmerga, is much better organized and more well-armed thanks to many years of U.S. support.

More than 90 percent of the Iraqi National Army troops stationed in northern Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan, hail from the Kurdish peshmerga. Rather than showing allegiance to a central military authority, these troops are loyal to peshmerga leaders. The Kurds have also maintained their peshmerga militia in northern Iraq. Combining these troops gives the Kurds a formidable army with which to defend its territory. Inevitably, Iraqi Kurds, who just anointed their own prime minister and parliament creating the Kurdistan Regional Government, will likely declare their independence from Iraq.

No E.U., No Erdogan
In the past six months, the Turkish military has amassed nearly 250,000 troops in southeastern Turkey and along the border between Turkey and Iraq. This buildup has two aims: thwarting Turkey's own Kurdish separatists operating in the region and protecting the interests of the Turcoman population in Iraqi Kurdistan. The birth of an independent Kurdistan could agitate Turkey's Kurdish population, which has suffered decades of repression at the hands of the Turkish military. It could also undermine the rights of the Turcoman living in Kurdistan.

The militarization of southeastern Turkey in response to Iraq's fracturing and moves toward Kurdish independence has already prompted new repression designed to foil any separatist designs by Turkey's Kurds. This repression, combined with probable Turkish military action against the new Kurdistan, will probably end Turkey's hopes of eventual E.U. accession. Without E.U. accession as an anchor, the Erdogan government will quickly lose its legitimacy.

In Turkey's November 2002 elections, the A.K.P. won a stunning 363 out of 550 parliamentary seats, allowing Prime Minister Erdogan to form the country's first single party government in more than ten years. Turkey has a unique electoral system, which allows political parties to gain parliamentary representation only after surpassing a ten percent threshold in popular votes.

Heavy political fragmentation combined with growing disdain for traditional political parties allowed the A.K.P. to control 66 percent of the seats in Turkey's parliament despite gaining only 34 percent of the popular vote. That a government with Islamist roots came to power with such a weak popular mandate initially raised serious legitimacy questions within Turkey's secular establishment, which includes the business community, the judiciary and the military.

The Erdogan government strengthened its legitimacy by immediately and aggressively pursuing E.U. accession, an issue dear to Turkey's secularists. These Herculean efforts seemingly paid off in December 2004, when Brussels formally accepted Turkey's E.U. accession application. Accession negotiations subsequently commenced in October 2005. Nearly simultaneously, Kurdish nationalists, based in Iraq, began to launch increasingly bold attacks in Turkey, including military ambushes and civilian bombings.

Turkey's military leaders have been almost powerless to pursue Kurdish nationalists of Turkish origin in Iraq due to Washington's restraining hand. The Bush administration does not want to undermine its Kurdish partners in Iraq by allowing Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is most likely because many in the Pentagon believe that Iraq's fracture along sectarian lines is unavoidable.

With no leverage over Iraq's Shi'a or Sunnis, Washington's only hope for maintaining military basing rights in Iraq is by cementing its relations with the Kurds. In addition, Turkey's military leadership, headed by General Hilmi Ozkok, has taken a pragmatic approach toward developments in Iraq and the broader implications of these developments for Turkey's E.U. membership. Nonetheless, a red line undoubtedly still exists for the Turkish military in Iraq. This red line is Kurdish independence.

In August 2006, General Ozkok will retire in favor of Turkish Ground Forces Commander General Yasar Buyukanit. General Buyukanit appears to have much more hawkish views toward the birth of an independent Kurdistan and Turkey's Kurds than does General Ozkok. Buyukanit raised many eyebrows at home and abroad after stating that he would personally lead the Turkish military into northern Iraq should Iraqi Kurds establish an independent state.

In order to launch a military action against Iraq's Kurds and to contain the threat of secessionist activity by Turkish Kurds, the Turkish military has already begun to militarize southeastern Turkey. With Europeans focusing heavily on Turkey's ability to improve its human rights record, military action against Kurds in Iraq, military action against an independent Kurdistan and renewed oppression of Turkey's own Kurds will bring Istanbul's E.U. accession process to a screeching halt.

The collapse of Turkey's E.U. accession bid can be expected to raise significantly the political heat on the Erdogan government from Turkey's secular establishment. This heat will be amplified as the May 2007 presidential succession approaches. Turkey current president Ahmet Necdet Sezer has acted as a secular bulwark against the Erdogan government, using his power to veto A.K.P.-sponsored legislation and to reject many government appointments made by Erdogan.

Since Turkey's president is appointed by the country's parliament, the political party controlling parliament will decide who replaces Sezer. Barring early elections, this party will be the A.K.P. Turkey's secular establishment is unlikely to accept an A.K.P.-appointed Islamist as the country's next president. The Turkish military may find it quite convenient to intervene politically to prevent this. Intervention could provoke the collapse of the Erdogan government by late 2006 or early 2007.

Report Drafted By:
Jephraim P. Gundzik (760.937.7152)

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR; is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of All comments should be directed to

     JUNE 25, 2006

Solution: Break up Iraq; Reality: It's not so easy

Dexter Filkins

Let it break up. It seems a simple enough solution. Iraq's three main groups - the Shiite Arabs, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds - are killing each other with greater ferocity than ever, and the Americans are playing referee. A number of American officials and experts, weary from the bloodletting, are giving renewed attention to proposals to let the regions of Iraq break into their own parts.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues for a variation of sectarian division - a loose federation of three largely autonomous regions that might help stop Iraq's slide into civil war while avoiding a complete breakup of the country. As attractive as the idea of dividing Iraq into sectarian regions sounds, it has one big problem: Especially in Iraq's urban areas, it could be a bloody affair. (Mr. Gelb acknowledges this, but says the risk of violence is no greater than under other solutions proposed for Iraq.)

From afar, it might seem that drawing new borders between Iraq's main groups could be accomplished fairly easily. Each group predominates in a different part of the country: Sunnis in the west, Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south. In the north, the Kurds, with their own language, army and regional government, have already gone their own way. But in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul, there are no clear geographical lines separating the main groups. A breakup into ethnic regions or states would almost certainly increase the pressure on families to flee the mixed neighborhoods to be closer to members of their own group. Shiites to Shiites, Sunnis to Sunnis. Ethnic cleansing is already happening in Iraq, but still at a relatively slow pace.

Iraq's main groups - and even smaller ones, like Christians and Turkomans - now live together in many places. While the Tigris River acts as a broad ethnic boundary in both Baghdad and Mosul - Sunnis on the west and Shiites on the east in Baghdad, and Sunnis on the west and Kurds on the east in Mosul - there are large pockets of each group on both sides of the river. Trying to divide those cities could result in the expulsion of tens of thousands of people from their homes, maybe more. That is not a pretty process: the neighborhoods around the edges of Baghdad have already experienced a lot of ethnic cleansing - mainly Shiites being forced from their homes. Many of these families have fled to refugee camps in central Baghdad. The individual stories told by these families are heartbreaking. Not everyone survives.

Kirkuk is the most complicated Iraqi city of all. It is divided into three main communities: Arab, Turkoman and Kurd. Within those there are many subgroups - Sunni and Shiite Arab, Sunni and Shiite Turkoman. As in both Baghdad and Mosul, there are pockets of Christians scattered throughout. In Kirkuk, the main issue is how to rectify the expulsion of tens of thousands of Kurds by Saddam Hussein in the 1980's. The houses emptied by the fleeing Kurds were filled by Arab families lured north by Mr. Hussein's regime. Since the fall of Mr. Hussein, tens of thousands of Kurds have been streaming back, mostly living in squalid camps on the city's eastern side. Splitting this city - and its oil reserves - would probably come down to power. In all likelihood, that wouldn't be pretty, either.    September 17, 2006

The KDP and PUK: use it, loose it, or lose it
by Dr Hussein Tahiri

On 30 April 2006, I had the opportunity to visit South Kurdistan and travel through the region for a month. I have been observing Kurdish politics for years and it was a good opportunity to see the situation, and talk to people at close range.

To my sorrow, at the end of a month living among the people in South Kurdistan I departed from there very disappointed. After 15 years of self-rule there has not been any significant development, despite claims to the contrary. In some respects, compared to my previous visit in 1997, the situation has worsened. Having said that there have been some positive developments in certain areas. The following are my observations of the situation in South Kurdistan. I will start by focusing on the positive developments.

Kurdish self-rule

For the first time in their history, the Kurds in South Kurdistan have been ruling over some parts of their traditional lands. Arab rule has not been directly enforced in South Kurdistan, and security for the region has been tacitly entrusted to the Kurdish population. This has helped the security of Kurdistan. While there have been daily explosions and terrorist activities elsewhere in Iraq the situation is relatively safe and stable in Kurdistan. This has helped the development of the regional economy. Compared to a decade ago the financial situation of the population in Kurdistan has improved significantly. There have been many construction projects such as buildings and roads completed or currently underway.

During my visit to the region, I also noticed that different Kurdish dialects are becoming closer. I saw many Soranis attempting to speak in Bahdini dialect and vice versa. In some cases, individuals could converse in their own dialects yet understand the dialect spoken by the other. Kurdish radio programs and television channels have greatly helped this. This has facilitated communication among the Kurds which has helped the development of pan-Kurdish sentiments.

More importantly, these developments in Kurdistan have had a flow-on effect to other parts of Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran has changed its slogan from autonomy to federalism. There are some political parties in North Kurdistan that are now also demanding federalism. The Kurds in Western Kurdistan have been more assertive in their demands for greater cultural, social and political rights. South Kurdistan has become a refuge for the Kurds in other parts when they flee persecution. Yet, despite these positive developments there are many problems as well.

What has gone wrong?

My last visit to South Kurdistan occurred in 1997. I was very hopeful upon returning to the region again that there would be ever greater positive developments. Back in 1997, basic services such as water and electricity were inadequate for the needs of the population. Water would often be available only for a couple of hours every two to three days, and electricity was sporadic at best. When I returned in April 2006, the region had access to a couple of hours water every five days and the electricity situation had not changed. After fifteen years of Kurdish self-rule basic services are almost non-existent.

After decades of suppression and destruction Kurdistan has remained underdeveloped. The Kurds are in urgent need of community development. During my month long visit, I did not see or even hear about any substantial community development activities. The minimal activities that are in place are operated by Kurdish intellectuals under the auspice of political parties, mainly the KDP and PUK. However, these activities are very limited in scope, and they are carried out to serve specific political purposes. Kurdistan requires human resources for political, social, economic and cultural developments. Without major community development projects Kurdistan will remain underdeveloped.

Another major problem I observed was economic dependency. Kurdistan is abundant in water resources. However, drinking water is being imported from Turkey and Iran. Agricultural produce is being imported, despite the fertile land lying fallow and empty where flourishing crops could be harvested. Such Economic dependency could lead to the destruction of Kurdistan. If Kurdistan is ever to declare independence, neighbouring states would not need to invade Kurdistan militarily; they would need only to impose economic sanctions to achieve their goal. Kurdistan’s economy is so dependent on external produce that it cannot survive such a sanction.

Kurdistan needs economic infrastructure. I did not observe any economic infrastructure being built, except for some few buildings and roads which had often taken years to complete. For instance, I was told that the Hewler-Suleimaniyeh road construction had started three years ago. When I travelled along this road, after three years, construction had progressed only to the stage of levelling the soil. Economic infrastructure is essential for economic independency and the survival of Kurdistan. Without such a development Kurdistan cannot be independent.

Agriculture is another pilar of economic independency and a vital industry for a flourishing society. Yet, systems within Kurdistan discourage agricultural development. There is inadequate support services and infrastructure for rural areas. Furthermore, a culture of militarisation within Kurdistan does not help the development of agriculture. There is no incentive for local people to cultivate land or learn agricultural skills. One of the legacies of Saddam’s rule has been that many Kurds have learnt to take up arms in order to achieve a monthly salary. This was an easier and quicker way to earn money than working in the fields or industrial sectors. Even now, many Kurds do not see any need to learn vocational skills or to work in an agricultural sector. Many join the ranks of Kurdish political parties, mainly the KDP and PUK, as peshmargas only to get a monthly salary. Conditions are seen as good - they are often required to go to work for only half their time – working for fifteen days, then returning home for the next fifteen. This is an easy way to earn a living. Why bother to learn occupational skills when easy money can be obtained simply by taking up arms? This trend has put economic development within Kurdistan at risk. The Kurds, especially young people, should be encouraged to learn skills. While the security of Kurdistan is very important and essential for economic development it needs to be in proportion. Kurdistan cannot only be defended by military force. The future of Kurdistan depends upon all aspects of economic development.

In any militarised society democracy and freedom is usually the victim. History has shown that those governments with military focus have created dictatorships. I am not saying that there is a dictatorship in Kurdistan. However, my fear is that the current society is heading in this direction. Kurdish independent media is being persecuted for criticising party officials or covering the news that the government does not like to be covered. The suppression of the people of Halabja a few months ago and the suppression of Kurdish demonstrators more recently indicates that the Kurdish administration is becoming more intolerant of opposition or criticism. The development of civil society is very slow, if existing at all. Without an independent media and civil society democracy cannot exist.

The Kurdish South is proud of its democratic organisations, such as the Kurdistan Parliament, especially when the two existing Kurdish administrations united in May 2006. While unification of Kurdistan was welcomed by the majority of the Kurds in South and other parts of Kurdistan, it underlined a deep division that has existed between the two main Kurdish political parties, KDP and PUK. Having 42 ministers out of a total parliament number of 111 members is not a good sign. It underlines the depth of problems (which was acknowledge by the Prime Minister of Kurdistan) between these two parties. The sensitive posts of the peshmarga, judiciary and finance ministers could not be united at this stage as there is lack of trust between the KDP and PUK.

Furthermore, power needs to be transferred to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and individual Kurdish political parties are still reluctant to do so. One would expect that the members of politburos of the KDP and PUK and other influential figures within these parties would join the Kurdistan Parliament as ministers and members. However, this has not happened. They have been controlling Kurdish administration behind the scenes. Therefore, there are ministers who hold official portfolios but who have no real power to enact any initiatives without approval from outside sources. This is one of the reasons that the KRG does not have the power and authority it should have.

The KRG is being financed by the KDP and PUK. I am not aware of any such system that exists elsewhere in the world. Kurdistan needs an independent parliament with due powers and responsibilities. Of course, in democratic countries political parties with majority votes rule, however, they rule through the government not separated from it. If they should lose the next election the government is still there to be ruled by another political party. Revenues and other incomes go to a government not political parties.

This is where the problem of corruption exists. I did not hear from any Kurd in South Kurdistan who did not complain about corruption and mismanagement. Many times I was told that if a corrupt official was ‘outed’ publicly he would simply be transferred to another, somethimes higher position instead of being punished. Even if we assume that the majority of these claims are inaccurate or overstated, the fact remains that such a perception exists, and in politics perceptions matter. The Kurdish leadership and administration are responsible for public assets and Kurdistan’s wealth. Responsibilities and accountability are the main criteria for a society’s development and wellbeing. If the current situation continues it is more than probable that Kurdistan will develop as a corrupt society, with corrupt administration and leadership. If a corrupt system is consolidated and becomes a part of the administrative culture even a revolution would be unable to eradicate it. This is a very serious issue the effect of which will be deeply felt in future Kurdistan. Now that a Kurdish entity is being formed it is the responsibility of the Kurdish leadership to build a system that will benefit Kurdish people and which is different from the corrupt governments in neighbouring countries.

Unfortunately, Kurdish leaders have always taken as their guide the leaderships in neighbouring countries. The new role model has become the government of the post-Saddam regime Iraq. At this point in time it is unclear whether the major political powers emerging in the power vacuum in Iraq would be inclusive or even accepting of Kurdish identity and self-determination. Yet, since the invasion of Iraq by the US led coalition the Kurdish leadership has been attempting to lead the Kurds back under Iraqi rule. This is not helpful to Kurdish identity, confidence and future of Kurdistan.

To conclude, Kurdistan is at the cross-roads of history, both internationally and nationally. The region could go in many different directions. Internationally, Kurdistan could be developed into a united and independent state. Alternatively, it could be incorporated under the rule of other states who have a history of oppressing the Kurds for decades. Nationally, it could be developed into a democratic parliamentary entity through which the values of equality, prosperity and the rule of law were promoted. Or it could be developed into a dictatorship whose fundamental characteristics are essentially identical to those of its neighbours. The Kurdish leadership could determine to take the Kurds in any of these directions.

If the Kurdish leadership wants to develop a democratic and independent Kurdistan with a bright future they need to build economic, social, political and cultural infrastructure that would develop Kurdistan into a self-sufficient and self-reliant entity. With the framework of its current developments Kurdistan is doomed to fail and the responsibility for this will be laid at the door of the Kurdish leadership. The KDP and PUK can use their opportunities to utilise the current regional and international development schemes to move Kurdistan towards independence. They can loose their grip over power in order to build a democratic and pluralistic Kurdistan. Otherwise, they may well lose their power altogether. Pertinent lessons in the power plays of HAMAS in Palestine, the unrest in East Timor and the comparison to the recent unrest in Kurdish towns should be a reminder to the KDP and PUK leadership. Therefore, it should be emphasised again: use it, loose it or lose it.

Dr. Hussein Tahiri is an Honourary Research Associate with the School of Social and Political Enquiries, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

The Sunday Times    October 8, 2006

America ponders cutting Iraq in three
Sarah Baxter, Washington

AN independent commission set up by Congress with the approval of President George W Bush may recommend carving up Iraq into three highly autonomous regions, according to well informed sources.

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former US secretary of state, is preparing to report after next month’s congressional elections amid signs that sectarian violence and attacks on coalition forces are spiralling out of control. The conflict is claiming the lives of 100 civilians a day and bombings have reached record levels.

The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls “cutting and running” or “staying the course”.

“The Kurds already effectively have their own area,” said a source close to the group. “The federalisation of Iraq is going to take place one way or another. The challenge for the Iraqis is how to work that through.”

The commission is considered to represent a last chance for fresh thinking on Iraq, where mass kidnappings are increasing and even the police are suspected of being responsible for a growing number of atrocities.

Baker, 76, an old Bush family friend who was secretary of state during the first Gulf war in 1991, said last week that he met the president frequently to discuss “policy and personnel”.

His group will not advise “partition”, but is believed to favour a division of the country that will devolve power and security to the regions, leaving a skeletal national government in Baghdad in charge of foreign affairs, border protection and the distribution of oil revenue.

The Iraqi government will be encouraged to hold a constitutional conference paving the way for greater devolution. Iran and Syria will be urged to back a regional settlement that could be brokered at an international conference.

Baker, a leading exponent of shuttle diplomacy, has already met representatives of the Syrian government and is planning to see the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations in New York. “My view is you don’t just talk to your friends,” he said last week. “You need to talk to your enemies in order to move forward diplomatically towards peace.”

His group has yet to reach a final conclusion, but there is a growing consensus that America can neither pour more soldiers into Iraq nor suffer mounting casualties without any sign of progress. It is thought to support embedding more high-quality American military advisers in the Iraqi security forces rather than maintaining high troop levels in the country indefinitely.

Frustrated by the failure of a recent so-called “battle of Baghdad” to stem violence in the capital, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, said last week that the unity government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, had only two months left to get a grip. Rumours abound that the much-admired ambassador could depart by Christmas.

Khalilzad’s warning was reinforced by John Warner, Republican chairman of the Senate armed services committee, on his return from a visit to Baghdad. “In two to three months’ time, if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and this government (is not) able to function, I think it’s a responsibility of our government internally to determine: is there a change of course we should take?” Warner said.

Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, have resisted the break-up of Iraq on the grounds that it could lead to more violence, but are thought to be reconsidering. “They have finally noticed that the country is being partitioned by civil war and ethnic cleansing is already a daily event,” said Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gelb is the co-author with Senator Joseph Biden, a leading Democrat, of a plan to divide Iraq. “There was almost no support for our idea until very recently, when all the other ideas being advocated failed,” Gelb said.

In Baghdad last week Rice indicated that time was running out for the Iraqi government to resolve the division of oil wealth and changes to the constitution.

Many Kurds are already hoping for their own national state, while the Shi’ite Islamist leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is pressing for regional autonomy. The Sunnis are opposed to a carve-up of Iraq, which would further deprive them of the national power they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein and could leave them with a barren tranche of the country bereft of oil revenue.

Many Middle East experts are horrified by the difficulty of dividing the nation. “Fifty-three per cent of the population of Iraq live in four cities and three of them are mixed,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, who fears a bloody outcome.

Baghdad is a particular jumble, although ethnic cleansing is already dividing the population along the Tigris River, with Shi’ites to the east and Sunnis to the west of the city.

America may have passed the point where it can determine Iraq’s future, according to Cordesman: “The internal politics of Iraq have taken on a momentum of their own.”

Gelb is under no illusions about the prospects of success. “Everything is a long shot at this point,” he said.


October 24, 2006

Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster

No matter what President Bush says, the question is not whether America can win in Iraq. The only question is whether the United States can extricate itself without leaving behind an unending civil war that will spread more chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East, while spawning terrorism across the globe.

The prospect of what happens after an American pullout haunts the debate on Iraq. The administration, for all its hints about new strategies and timetables, is obviously hoping to slog along for two more years and dump the problem on Mr. Bush’s successor. This fall’s election debates have educated very few voters because neither side is prepared to be honest about the terrible consequences of military withdrawal and the very long odds against success if American troops remain.

This page opposed a needlessly hurried and unilateral invasion, even before it became apparent that the Bush administration was unprepared to do the job properly. But after it happened, we believed that America should stay and try to clean up the mess it had made — as long as there was any conceivable road to success.

That road is vanishing. Today we want to describe a strategy for containing the disaster as much as humanly possible. It is hardly a recipe for triumph. Americans can only look back in wonder on the days when the Bush administration believed that success would turn Iraq into a stable, wealthy democracy — a model to strike fear into the region’s autocrats while inspiring a new generation of democrats. Even last fall, the White House was dividing its strategy into a series of victorious outcomes, with the short-term goal of an Iraq “making steady progress in fighting terrorists.” The medium term had Iraq taking the lead in “providing its own security” and “on its way to achieving its economic potential,” with the ultimate outcome being a “peaceful, united, stable and secure” nation.

If an American military occupation could ever have achieved those goals, that opportunity is gone. It is very clear that even with the best American effort, Iraq will remain at war with itself for years to come, its government weak and deeply divided, and its economy battered and still dependent on outside aid. The most the United States can do now is to try to build up Iraq’s security forces so they can contain the fighting — so it neither devours Iraqi society nor spills over to Iraq’s neighbors — and give Iraq’s leaders a start toward the political framework they would need if they chose to try to keep their country whole.

The tragedy is that even this marginal sort of outcome seems nearly unachievable now. But if America is to make one last push, there are steps that might lessen the chance of all-out chaos after the troops withdraw:

Start at Home
For all the talk of timetables for Iraq, there has been little discussion of the timetable that must be handed to George W. Bush. The president cannot leave office with American troops still dying in an Iraq that staggers along just short of civil war, on behalf of no concrete objective other than “get the job done,” which is now Mr. Bush’s rhetorical substitute for “stay the course.” The administration’s current vague talk about behind-the-scenes agreements with Iraqi politicians is next to meaningless. Americans, Iraqis and the rest of the world need clear, public signs of progress.

Mr. Bush can make the first one by firing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There is no chance of switching strategy as long as he is in control of the Pentagon. The administration’s plans have gone woefully wrong, and while the president is unlikely to admit that, he can send a message by removing Mr. Rumsfeld. It would also be a signal to the military commanders in the field that the administration now wants to hear the truth about what they need, what can be salvaged out of this mess, and what cannot.

The president should also make it clear, once and for all, that the United States will not keep permanent bases in Iraq. The people in Iraq and across the Middle East need a strong sign that the troops are not there to further any American imperial agenda.

Demand Reconciliation Talks
Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has indefinitely postponed reconciliation talks among the nation’s top politicians. He must receive an immediate deadline to start the process. Tomorrow would not be too soon; the end of the year would be too late.

Whatever decisions Iraqi leaders reached over the past few years were achieved by pushing aside all the critical questions that were hardest to address. The Bush administration must demand not only that new talks start, but that they continue until some agreement is reached on protecting minority rights, dividing up Iraq’s oil revenues, the role of religion in the state, providing an amnesty for insurgents willing to put down their weapons, and demobilizing and disarming the militias.

More outside aid could increase their incentive to talk. Even then, the threat of an American withdrawal may be the only way to extract real concessions. In parallel with the reconciliation talks, the United States should begin its own negotiations with the Iraqi leadership about a timetable for withdrawing American troops — making clear that America’s willingness to stay longer will depend on the Iraqis’ willingness to make real compromises. Iraqi politicians have to know that they have even more to lose if their country plunges into complete civil war.

We are skeptical of calls to divide the country into three ethnically controlled regions, using the model that finally ended the Bosnian war. Most Iraqis, except for the Kurds, show little enthusiasm for the idea. Clear ethnic boundaries could not be drawn without driving many people from their homes — though an intolerable level of ethnic cleansing is already pushing things in that direction. Any effort at reconciliation will almost certainly require a transfer of power and resources to provincial and local governments. But it must be up to the Iraqis to decide the ultimate shape of their country.

Stabilize Baghdad
Most Iraqis have forgotten what security is — or if they remember, it is an idealized vision of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Since neither the government nor the American occupation is able to provide basic services or safety, it is little wonder that Iraqis have turned to the militias for protection. In such a world, retribution will always take precedence over the uncertainties of political compromise.

American commanders have launched a series of supposedly make-or-break campaigns to take back the streets of Baghdad. The problem is not one of military strategy; their idea of “clearing” out insurgents, “holding” neighborhoods and quickly rebuilding infrastructure is probably the only thing that could work. The problem is that commanders in Baghdad have been given only a fraction of the troops — American and Iraqi — they need.

There have never been enough troops, the result of Mr. Rumsfeld’s negligent decision to use Iraq as a proving ground for his pet military theories, rather than listen to his generals. And since the Army and Marines are already strained to the breaking point, the only hope of restoring even limited sanity to Baghdad would require the transfer of thousands of American troops to the capital from elsewhere in the country. That likely means moving personnel out of the Sunni-dominated west, and more mayhem in a place like Anbar.

But Iraqis need a clear demonstration that security and rebuilding is possible. So long as Baghdad is in chaos they will have no reason to believe in anything but sectarian militias and vigilante justice. Once Washington is making a credible effort to stabilize Baghdad, Iraqi politicians will have more of an incentive to show up for reconciliation talks. No one wants to be a rejectionist if it looks like the tide might be turning.

Convene the Neighbors
America’s closest allies in the region are furious about America’s gross mismanagement of the war. But even Iran and Syria, which are eager to see America bloodied, have a great deal to lose if all-out civil war erupts in Iraq, driving refugees toward their borders. That self-interest could be the start of a discussion about how Iraq’s neighbors might help pressure their clients inside Iraq to step back from the brink. Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich neighbors — whose own stability could be threatened by an Iraqi collapse — need to be pressed into providing major financing to underwrite jobs programs and reconstruction.

Enlightened self-interest is a rarity in the Middle East. The Bush administration will most likely have to go further to elicit real help, showing a serious willingness to expand its dialogue with Damascus and Tehran beyond the issue of Iraq and to be a genuine broker for Middle East peace. That should be the easiest part of the strategy — only this White House regards the willingness to talk to another country as a major concession.

Acknowledge Reality
While the strategy described above seems the best bet to us, the odds are still very much against it working. At this point, all plans to avoid disaster involve the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. In America, almost no one — even the administration’s harshest critics — wants to tell people the bitter truth about how few options remain on the table, and about the mayhem that will almost certainly follow an American withdrawal unless more is done.

Truth will only take us so far, but it is the right way to begin. Americans will probably spend the next generation debating whether the Iraq invasion would have worked under a competent administration. Right now, the best place to express bitterness about what may become the worst foreign policy debacle in American history is at the polls. But anger at a president is not a plan for what happens next.

When it comes to Iraq the choices in the immediate future are scant and ugly. But there are still a few options to pursue, and the alternatives are so horrible that it is worth trying once again — as long as everyone understands that there is little time left and the odds are very long.

The Economist    Dec 13th 2006

Kurdistan: America between the Turks and Kurds
As tension rises between the Turkish government and Kurds
in Turkey and Iraq, the Americans are in a quandary

IT IS looking ever more awkward for the Americans to keep two of their closest allies in the Middle East simultaneously sweet: Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, who enjoy extreme autonomy in what is now the only stable part of Iraq. Kurds there are particularly rattled by several of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by a former secretary of state, James Baker (see article). The Turks, for their part, are increasingly angered by a renewal of attacks in Turkey by guerrillas of the home-grown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Moreover, they have never liked the idea of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, seeing it as a magnet for Kurdish nationalism in the region—especially in Turkey itself.

Indeed, there is a growing chance that the Turkish army will, perhaps as the snows melt next spring, invade northern Iraq in an effort to clobber the PKK in its safe haven just inside Iraq (see next article). The Iraqi Kurds might then feel obliged to help their ethnic kinsmen fight back against the Turks. At that point, it is unclear what the Americans would do, for they deem it vital to stay friends with both the Turks, who are members of NATO, and the Iraqi Kurds, who have hitherto been by far the most pro-American group in Iraq.

Iraq's Kurds disliked the Study Group's suggestion that Iraq's central government should tighten its control over Iraq's provinces. They hated a recommendation that a promised referendum on Iraq's disputed oil-rich province, Kirkuk, be postponed. And they were horrified by the report's call for America to improve relations with Syria and Iran, which have both long suppressed Kurdish nationalism.

The Iraqi Kurds' biggest worry now is that an American wobble might hasten the feared Turkish invasion of their enclave. The Turks would argue that they merely wish to knock out some 5,000-odd PKK rebels in the mountains close to the border, then withdraw. But Iraq's 4m-5m Kurds fear that the Turks' true aim would be to ruin their successful experiment in self-rule, which has been inspiring Turkey's own restive Kurds, some 14m-strong.

“It's no longer a matter of if they [the Turks] invade but how America responds when they do,” says a seasoned NATO military observer. America would be loth to let the Iraqi Kurds help their PKK kinsmen fight back, since Turkey is a cherished NATO ally and a pivotal Muslim state in the region. Turkey's airbase at Incirlik, in southern Turkey, is a hub for non-combat materiel flown in for American and allied troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The increasingly confident Iraqi Kurds sometimes helped Turkey fight against the PKK in the 1990s, but now they say they will no longer kill fellow Kurds. Instead, they have been strengthening links with their Turkish cousins, offering jobs and scholarships in northern Iraq. The Americans have been telling the Turks to stay out of Iraq, despite the PKK's provocations.

So far Turkey has obeyed, hoping that America would deal with the PKK itself. Its failure to do so is perhaps the biggest cause of rampant anti-American feeling in Turkey. In July Turkey's mildly Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is said to have warned President George Bush, in several telephone calls, that he might be unable to restrain his hawkish generals after 15 Turkish soldiers were killed in PKK attacks in a single week. Some 250,000 Turkish troops then briefly massed on the Iraqi border, jolting the Americans into naming a former NATO commander, Joseph Ralston, as a “special envoy for countering the PKK” (his own description). But the PKK's attacks went on, despite its proclaimed ceasefire in September.

One big reason for Turkish restraint against the PKK in Iraq has been repeated warnings from the European Union, which Turkey has been bent on joining. But that restraint may weaken as the EU, or at least some of its leading members, continues to snub Turkey in its efforts to obtain membership.

If Turkish forces do invade Iraq, America's response will depend largely on the scope and scale. Most probably, they would not penetrate far into the country. “If they did, they would find themselves in the position that we do in Iraq, bogged down in a guerrilla insurgency,” says Henri Barkey, an American expert on the Kurds who served in the State Department during the Clinton administration.

Plainly, it is in America's interest to cut a deal between the Turks and the Kurds, including a plan to disarm the PKK for good, in return for wider cultural and political rights for Kurds in Turkey. Conceivably, Turkey might then be persuaded to accept the reality of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan; optimists point to burgeoning trade links across the border. But pessimists, especially in Turkey, say the Turks (as well as the Iranians) will never tolerate Kurdish independence, which is how they see the Iraqi Kurds' present extreme autonomy.

If it comes to a stark choice, it is hard to say which way the Americans would tilt. A vigorous debate is taking place in Washington. The self-described realists favour Turkey: the country is a tested ally and far bigger, richer and more powerful than today's fledgling Iraqi Kurdistan. The neoconservatives may favour holding on, at all costs, to the only solid ally within a federal Iraq, namely the Kurdish regional government. But the mood may recently have shifted in favour of the Turks. “The Iraqi Kurds are not the angels they were made out to be,” says an American official.

With Turks and Kurds digging their heels in, the Americans hint that they may be resigned to a limited Turkish operation that aims at PKK bases close to the Turkish border; and they would tell the Iraqi Kurds to stay put. But some in the Bush administration say the Americans should actually help Turkey swat the PKK in Iraq. “At this rate,” says another American official, “we're not only going to lose Iraq but Turkey too.” That, for America, is a prospect too ghastly to contemplate.

The Economist    Dec 13th 2006

Turkish Kurds in Iraq: Lonesome rebels
Turkey's Kurdish guerrillas may feel a cold wind of isolation

IN A chilly mountainside hut, near the spot where Iraq's Kandil mountains meet Turkey and Iran, Murat Karayilan, a guerrilla leader, is watching the news. Snacking on sunflower seeds, he flicks from Roj TV, a Denmark-based satellite station that backs his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in its revolt against the Turkish state, to the mainstream channels beamed from Istanbul. The reception is excellent, the news less so. A year since—according to Kurds—Turkish agents firebombed a bookshop owned by a Kurdish nationalist in a mainly Kurdish town, Semdinli, attempts to find the culprits have come to nought. “Some people in Turkey”, he sighs, “don't want peace.”

Karayilan says he wants peace too
To many Turks, especially those who have lost family members to PKK bullets since the rebellion started in 1984, Mr Karayilan's peacenik patter is a bit rich. Three months have elapsed since he announced the ceasefire that the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, had urged from his Turkish prison cell, where he has been locked up since 1999, yet fighting between his Kurdish guerrillas and Turkey's army goes on, albeit a bit less fiercely than in the summer.

Mr Karayilan insists that his men (and women, for the PKK prides itself on its commitment to sexual equality) are only replying to Turkish attacks. But, he hints, unless peace-seekers in Turkey's government soon “show their hand”—by giving the Kurds more cultural freedoms, ending Mr Ocalan's solitary confinement and announcing an amnesty for Kurdish militants in Turkey—the PKK may go on the offensive again next spring.

The PKK has dropped its demand for an independent country in Turkey's Kurdish-majority south-east, but it remains, as Mr Karayilan boasts, the “ultimate force” in the region. After a modest relaxation earlier this decade, Turkey's policy towards Kurdish nationalists and their aspirations is tightening again—and breeding discontent. Friend and foe acknowledge that the PKK could easily add to the 5,000-plus guerrillas it has, scattered across the border zone and operating in Turkey.

For all that, the group is not prospering as Mr Karayilan suggests; it is being squeezed by events beyond its control. Gone is the time when the PKK could successfully manipulate rivalries between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria (countries that have, between them, parcelled out the historic region of Kurdistan) and move fighters with impunity between the four.

Iraq's current wobbly overlord, America, considers the PKK a terrorist organisation. Syria and Iran, fearing American hostility and apprehensive lest the autonomy enjoyed by Iraq's Kurds prove contagious, have cosied up to their former rival, Turkey. Mr Karayilan laments that both countries have got into the habit of handing over PKK militants to the Turks.

In Iran's case, at least, the PKK senses an opportunity. The defeat of Iran's own reform movement has reopened old divisions between the Shia Islamic Republic and its mostly Sunni Kurdish minority. Step forward the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, better known as PJAK, the PKK's Kandil-based Iranian affiliate, which began attacking Iranian forces in 2004 and claims to have more than 2,000 members.

Guerrillas without a proper war; a personality cult whose object is incarcerated; a revolutionary force that has renounced revolution: to the uninitiated, Kandil resembles a never-never land whose inhabitants eagerly imbibe Mr Ocalan's “democratic-ecological paradigm” in timber schoolrooms and extol the virtues of sexual abstinence, the better to prosecute a cause whose ultimate goal has been lost from view. But no amount of fresh-faced zealots can conceal the PKK's quandary.

Fight or die?
Unless it fights, suggests a former PKK militant in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, the group will unravel, as it nearly did in 2003, before defectors were assassinated or silenced. But if the PKK returns to full-scale war, America and the Iraqi Kurds will find it harder to resist, as they do at present, Turkey's demands that they act against it—though senior Iraqi Kurds are wary of challenging fellow Kurds. That need not take the form of a military assault; an embargo on food, fuel and arms may be as effective. In any event, it may have been Iraq's Kurdish leaders who persuaded the PKK to announce a ceasefire.

For its part, America wants to keep Iraqi Kurdistan, the lone bright spot in its long Iraqi night, at peace. But “no country has ever been able to secure these mountains,” smiles Mr Karayilan. “How are the Americans going to do what the Turks have struggled for years to achieve?”

The Washington Times    December 21, 2006

Avoiding a Thirty Years War

By Richard W. Rahn

Will the entire Middle East descend into chaos? On Dec. 16, David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, presented a scenario whereby the Middle East became engulfed in a series of regional wars, resulting in the fall of most of the existing states and something close to anarchy in much of the region. His column has caused considerable comment because the destructive unwinding of the existing order he describes seems totally plausible and, perhaps, even probable -- hence the analogy to the Thirty Years War.

First, a little history. The Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648) was caused by conflict among various Christian groups, notably the Catholics, the Lutherans and the Calvinists, and rival principalities. After considerable blood-letting and economic destruction throughout much of Europe, the War was ended with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, which gave rise to the modern concept of the sovereign state.

To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, it is useful to look at the successes and failures stemming from the Treaty of Westphalia. The efforts of political theorists and diplomats to try to force peoples of differing religions and world views into single strong central governments has often resulted in disaster. One of the successes of the Treaty of Westphalia was Switzerland. There, groups of people with different religions and languages successfully created one country by voluntarily separating themselves into strong regional governmental units (i.e., cantons) bound together by the rule of law, a unified defensive army, under a weak central government. Unlike the rest of Europe, Switzerland has remained at peace with its neighbors for 200 years (Napoleon was the last person to invade) and has grown prosperous, even though the Swiss in one canton may not have a strong liking for the Swiss in some other cantons.

Early in 2003 (before Saddam Hussein was removed), a senior official of the U.S. Treasury invited a few economists -- who had high-level government and/or economic transition experience -- to meet to discuss what should be done during the Iraqi transition. We unanimously recommended the Iraqi oil companies be privatized and the stock distributed to the population on a per capita basis (or at least establishment of an Alaska style oil fund, whose proceeds would be distributed to the people -- an idea also advocated by Sens. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, and John Ensign, Nevada Republican).

Several of us proposed using the Swiss model of strong, local government units, but a weak central government, as I suggested in my July 10, 2003, commentary. Unfortunately (in retrospect), the Defense Department was given the lead on the transition, and ideas stemming from our and other Treasury advisers often were ignored.

However, it is not too late to make some of the changes, given that the distribution of oil revenues still has not been decided in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group concluded that: "Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population." Even more preferable would be to privatize the entire oil industry and make all Iraqis stockholders, thereby putting the whole population behind expanded output and making them hostile to those who blow up pipelines. (If dividend checks were distributed regularly, most citizens would oppose having their incomes reduced by the radicals.)

Iraqis are already self-segregating by religion and ethnic group, so those who said it would be too difficult to divide all of Iraq into largely self-governing provinces are being proved wrong. The Kurdish areas in the north and some of the Shi'ite areas in the south are calm, and their regional economies are growing. The Iraqi constitution calls for a federal structure (like the U.S. and Switzerland), and we should encourage that, rather than centralization. This decentralized approach now is advocated by an increasing number of experts, and several members of Congress including the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat.

The keys to having a successful, decentralized governmental structure are to make sure the Iraqi people can freely move from one local area to another and that there are no barriers to movement of goods and capital within Iraq (again, the U.S. states and the Swiss cantons are the models). Even if a couple of the regional governments became theocratic, it would not be much of a problem, as long as those seeking a more secular government could move elsewhere in Iraq.

Each of the regional governmental units should be allowed to decide whether to have foreign troops for protection. The Kurds would probably request that the foreign forces stay for some period. Perhaps some of the Shi'ite regional governments would request that foreign troops leave.

This model would not immediately end the violence in Baghdad and some of the other areas, but it should be able to contain it while those in Baghdad, either peacefully, or perhaps through some additional local civil strife, finally sort themselves out. Another Thirty Years War will most likely be avoided if our policymakers start looking at history for lessons of what has and has not worked in the past, rather than trying to force a new world order that the people may not want.

Richard W. Rahn is director general of the Center for Global Economic Growth, a project of the FreedomWorks Foundation.

Dear Richard,

Nice try, but will anybody listen (and I'm not even referring to the lost souls, i.e. to those who appear unable to escape their apparent state of denial)?
I seriously doubt it! Just look at the persistent non-response even you've gotten during all these years from among other street-wise and well-travelled co-Americans who have grown up to the fact that the world isn't flat. Think what it really says and means if not only executive officials but US lawmakers and their staff, too systematically shut themselves out of contacts with "non-voters", notably foreign sources. Moreover, you dont even have to look beyond the next mirror. For while it may be ok if, for an apparent lack of a better example, Switzerland is used for illustrating a point, it appears less so if exactly on the point at issue you seem to either be ignorant of or neglect what, repeatedly, came straight from the horse's mouth:¦ .../cherrypicking.htm ¦ .../recres.htm, etc.?

The main reason why I am so gallic about my persistent failure to effectively open the eyes and minds of my American friends on some important Iraqi issues is that the key ingredients for a road-holding solution, i.e. solid and universally recognizable minority and private property rights, have been in place and enshrined in valid instruments of international law - to this day, since day one of Iraq's independence on Oct.3, 1932, and even according to the UN's own report: .../a3a.htm#OWNERSHIP¦ .../assysriansawake.htm. Your idea of private ownership of the oil fields - eventually coupled with a generally supportable, stabilizing and adequately fine-tuned centralised export mechanisms - is thus all but a liberal phantasy unless, of course, ignorant flat earth people continue to be allowed to run the show. In fact, this timely idea "merely" awaits to be re-discovered, hammered into the skull of key decision-makers, supported and implemented. In other words, it is available to all those who wish to be part of the solution, instead of the problem.

The above introductory tangue-in-cheek comment notwithstanding, I have great sympathy for your Westphalian Treaty reference. And since the Iraqi quagmire increasingly seems to take the shape of a religious, even intra-Islam cleavage, next time you may also want to point out Switzerland's noted and long-standing intra-Christianity cleavage. Over the centuries, this religious cleavage has been overcome organically with a fundamental pact for mutual respect, tolerance and solidarity. Through constant practice, this mutually beneficial pact has been fine-tuned. Essentially, it provides for cantonal fiscal sovereignty, cooperative and genuinely power-sharing institutions, strong minority protection, and other characteristical decentralization features. And though this formula is not seen to be automatically transferable, it certainly avail itself for adaption even in totally different environments and for people not blessed with a monopoly for good ideas it may serve at least as a source of inspiration.

In this Christmas-compatible sense, I look forward to hear of your plans on how to get there, and remain with my best wishes and Season's Greeting. Salve!


PS:  On a somewhat related story, I'm not sure even instant historians will agree with you that "Napoleon was the last person to invade" Switzerland. At least not if they take into consideration that even before, but most blatantly and recklessly after 9/11, this secretly but de facto 54th State has incessingly been invaded by droves of CIA, FBI and other black hat fellows on ever more flimsy legal grounds, notwithstanding the latest US-Swiss treaty, MOU, administrative or - like the QI agreement between the Treasury and UBS & CS - even private-level agreement: .../finma.htm ¦ .../diamantball.htm.

December 23, 2006

Shiites Remake Baghdad in Their Image

BAGHDAD, Dec. 22 — As the United States debates what to do in Iraq, this country’s Shiite majority has been moving toward its own solution: making the capital its own. Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials.

For the first years of the war, Sunni militants were dominant, forcing Shiites out of neighborhoods and systematically killing bakers, barbers and trash collectors, who were often Shiites. But starting in February, after the bombing of a shrine in the city of Samarra, Shiite militias began to strike back, pushing west from their strongholds and redrawing the sectarian map of the capital, home to a quarter of Iraq’s population. The Shiite-dominated government publicly condemns violence against Sunnis and says it is trying to stop the militias that carry it out. But the attacks have continued unabated, and Sunnis have grown suspicious.

Plans for a new bridge that would bypass a violent Sunni area in the east, and a proposal for land handouts in towns around Baghdad that would bring Shiites into what are now Sunni strongholds underscored these concerns.

Sunni political control in Baghdad is all but nonexistent: Of the 51 members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city’s services, just one is Sunni. In many ways, the changes are a natural development. Shiites, a majority of Iraq’s population, were locked out of the ruling elite under Saddam Hussein and now have power that matches their numbers.

The danger, voiced by Sunni Arabs, is that an emboldened militant fringe will conduct broader killings without being stopped by the government, or, some fear, with its help. That could, in turn, draw Sunni countries into the fight and lead to a protracted regional war, precisely the outcome that Americans most fear. “They say they’re against this, but on the ground they do nothing,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker of Parliament, a Sunni. He moved his family to the better-protected Green Zone in October.

The debate reaches to the heart of the American enterprise here. While President Bush is considering more troops, some in the Shiite-dominated government say the Americans should stay out of the sectarian fight in Baghdad and let the battle run its course. Getting involved would simply prolong the fight, they say.

At an army base in northern Baghdad, an Iraqi general moved his hand across a map of the capital. The city is dividing fast, he said, writing, “Sunni” and “Shiite” in graceful Arabic script across each neighborhood. “Now we face a new style of splitting the neighborhoods,” said the general, a Shiite. “The politicians are doing this.”

Neighborhoods in the east — most vulnerable to Shiite militias from Sadr City, the largest eastern district and one of its poorest — have lost much of their minority Sunni populations since February. Even the solidly middle-class neighborhoods of Zayuna and Ghadier, very mixed as little as six months ago, are starting to lose Sunnis.

In Baladiyad, a once-mixed area of eastern Baghdad, workers smoothed mortar onto brick. A Shiite mosque was taking shape. On the same block, a half-finished Sunni mosque stood deserted, its facade hung with peeling posters of last year’s leaders. Less than a mile away, another mosque has never been used. “They can’t come here now,” a Shiite worker said. “They are Sunni.”

Further south, in the neighborhood of Naariya, a Shiite refugee family sat in a darkened living room in a house they recently occupied. The house belonged to a Sunni family, but they had fled after a spate of killings, and the local office of Moktada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, had arranged for Shiites to move in.

The new family’s scant belongings hung on the wall: a portrait of the father, now dead, and a broken revolver. Somebody else’s clock chimed. Mattresses and couches of the previous owners packed the room. “They told us it’s safe here, it’s a Shiite neighborhood,” said Mustafa, one of the sons. “The Mahdi Army is protecting the area,” he said, referring to Mr. Sadr’s militia. Family members declined to give their name for safety reasons.

The family has no sympathy for the Sunnis. They fled Baquba, a relentlessly violent town north of Baghdad, after Sunni militants killed their father, a man in his 70’s; kidnapped a brother; and shot another brother dead.

Around 400 Shiite families have fled from Baquba to Naariya and a nearby neighborhood, Baghdad Jedidah, over the past few months, said Mustafa, citing local officials in Mr. Sadr’s office. “We are a ship that sank under the ocean,” said his mother, Aziza, 46. Besides, Mustafa said, Shiite militias pursue only Sunnis with suspicious affiliations. The Sunni militias, on the other hand, “are killing anyone who is Shiite,” Aziza said. (A relative in a separate conversation said one of Aziza’s sons had killed more than 10 Sunnis since coming to Baghdad this fall. The family denied any involvement in militias.) Aziza added, “My husband was an ordinary man.”

But a divided Iraq can destroy ordinary people. A Sunni man named Bassim, his Shiite wife and their three small children said Shiite militiamen forced them to leave their home in Huriya, west of the Tigris, one chilly afternoon this month. Bassim left two jobs as a butcher and a hospital cleaner because they were in very Shiite neighborhoods. “My husband is a Sunni, but he has nothing to do with insurgents,” said his wife, Zahra Kareem Alwan, holding her sobbing daughter on her hip in a school in Adel, a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad where families took temporary refuge. Boxes of water were stacked in a corner. Last week, the family was moved to an empty house farther west. They did not know the owner.

Shiite leaders argue that the Iraqi Army would not allow massacres. They say Americans will be embedded with units as a safety check. In Huriya, it was an Iraqi Army unit that helped Ms. Alwan and other families into trucks and brought them to Adel. An American colonel advising the Iraqi Army unit that controls the area said that Shiites occupied the houses within 48 hours. Americans counted about 180 families who had fled. The Iraqi general said it was 50.

Shiite political leaders were skeptical. “These are lies,” said Hadi al-Amiri, head of the security committee in Parliament and of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite parties. “It’s merely propaganda to create fears among Arabs,” he added, a reference to Sunni Arab countries. The main problem, Mr. Amiri said, was Sunni insurgents and their suicide bombs. “They want to go back to the old equation, when they were the officers and the Shia were just soldiers and slaves,” Mr. Amiri said, with an intensity that spoke of deep scars inflicted by the past government, referring to the loyalists to Saddam Hussein. “This will never happen again. They should believe in the new equation.”

Using the unlikely analogy of Mr. Hussein draining the marshes in southern Iraq to destroy the marsh Arabs, Mr. Amiri talked about ways that Baghdad could be encircled to choke off the supply lines of Sunni militants, for instance, by fortifying a network of rivers, a dam, and several highways. “He divided it, drained the water, and within two to three years it was a desert,” he said. “I believe Baghdad will be like this.”

Militias are already doing their part to defend Shiites. In a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad, refugees from the embattled northern village of Sabaa al-Bour, many of them women in black abayas, gathered in October asking for food and shelter.

Killings of Shiites in the town had enraged leaders in Baghdad. But weeks had dragged on, and one morning in October, a volunteer walked through the refugees telling them to go back home. The Mahdi Army was there now, she said. The town was now safe for Shiites.

Shiites are also making inroads on local and federal levels. Baghdad’s municipal government is taking bids for designs of a bridge that would connect Greyat with Kadhimiya, two major Shiite areas in northern Baghdad on opposite sides of the Tigris River. Adhamiya, a Sunni area where the bridge is now and where it has been closed, would be bypassed altogether. “The former regime refused to make the connection because it would strengthen the Shia,” said Naem al-Kaabi, a deputy mayor of Baghdad.

In another plan that appears intended to repopulate heavily Sunni-controlled areas with Shiites, the Ministry of Public Works has proposed giving land to victims of violence inflicted by Mr. Hussein and by insurgents since 2003. The plots would be in six towns outside Baghdad — Abu Ghraib, Taji, Salman Pak, Husseiniya, Mahmudiya and Latifiya, according to a local official familiar with the plan.

Sunni militants now control the towns and have conducted brutal campaigns to eliminate Shiites. Mr. Hussein gave favors to Sunni tribes there to protect against Shiites from the south. Few Sunnis claim compensation as victims of violence, since the application requires visits to police stations and hospitals, places no longer safe for Sunnis. It was not clear how soon the plan would be carried out. A previous proposal, made by the Iraqi cabinet last year, would give some land in heavily Sunni west Baghdad to about 3,000 families, but names are still being registered.

In another indication of the current mood, a popular cellphone ring in eastern Baghdad, now largely Shiite, is a tune with the words: “If you can’t beat me, don’t fight me.”

The Sunni houses in Naariya did not empty easily. A college student with a Sunni name said he hid in his house, as Shiite militiamen went into homes on his block in late September and marched people away. A few days later, his uncle, a 35-year-old refrigerator repairman, was taken. The body was found in Ur, a Shiite stronghold in north Baghdad.

But unlike a bomb blast, where everybody remembers how someone died, the Sunnis’ losses seems to melt away. The Mahdi Army-controlled police station had no record of them. Terrified, the men of the family scattered, settling on couches and in a garage of friends and family. The student, Omar, is keeping a diary. “One day I’ll be a teacher,” he said. “I should teach children what we passed through.”

Qais Mizher and Hosham Hussein contributed reporting.

Washington Post    April 23, 2007

Kurds Cultivating Their Own Bonds With U.S.

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran

The 30-second television commercial features stirring scenes of a young Iraqi boy high-fiving a U.S. soldier, a Westerner dining alfresco, and men and women dancing together. "Have you seen the other Iraq?" the narrator asks. "It's spectacular. It's joyful." "Welcome to Iraqi Kurdistan!" the narrator continues. "It's not a dream. It's the other Iraq."

With Sunni and Shiite Arabs locked in a bloody sectarian war, Iraq's Kurds are promoting their interests through an influence-buying campaign in the United States that includes airing nationwide television advertisements, hiring powerful Washington lobbyists and playing parts of the U.S. government against each other. A former car mechanic who happens to be the son of Iraq's president is at the center of Kurdish efforts to cultivate support for their semi-independent enclave, but the cast of Kurdish proponents also includes evangelical Christians, Israeli operatives and Republican political consultants.

In the past year, the Kurds have spent more than $3 million to retain lobbyists and set up a diplomatic office in Washington. They are cultivating grass-roots advocates among supporters of President Bush's war policy and evangelicals who believe that many key figures in the Bible lived in Kurdistan. And they are seeking to build an emotional bond with ordinary Americans, like those forged by Israel and Taiwan, by running commercials on national cable news channels to assert that even as Iraq teeters toward a full-blown civil war, one corner of the country, at least, has fulfilled the Bush administration's ambition of a peaceful, democratic, pro-Western beachhead in the Middle East.

But elements of the Kurds' campaign run counter to the policy of a unified Iraq espoused by the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Some senior U.S. officials contend that yielding to Kurdish demands for increased autonomy could break up Iraq and destabilize Turkey, a NATO ally that is fighting a guerrilla war with Kurdish separatists -- some of whom have taken sanctuary in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdish leaders cast their self-promotion initiative as a bulwark against attempts to restrict their federal rights. With only 40,000 or so Kurds living in the United States, Kurdish officials insist they have no choice but to pursue the dual strategy of wooing non-Kurdish constituencies and lobbying in Washington. "We have to use all the tools at our disposal to help ourselves," said Qubad Talabani, the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, sent here as the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative in Washington.

Kurds want the sort of "strategic and institutional relationship" that Israel and Taiwan have with the United States, Talabani, 29, said. "It doesn't matter which party is in power in Washington -- the U.S. government isn't going to abandon either of those countries," he added. "We are seeking the same protection."

Talabani, a former Maserati repairman, was raised by his grandparents in Britain and moved to Washington in 2000 knowing nothing about power politics. He soon began dating -- and later married -- a State Department staffer working on Iraq policy. He wears French-cuff shirts and Windsor-knotted ties with pinstripe suits. He lunches at the Bombay Club and works two blocks from the White House.

He has more clout than any other Iraqi in Washington because of his ability to call his father directly and because he represents the collective view of an influential minority -- one that holds enough seats in Iraq's parliament to wield effective veto power over a proposed law to distribute national oil revenue to Iraqis, as well as other legislation sought by the United States. By contrast, Baghdad's ambassador to Washington is a secular Sunni Arab who has limited sway with his Shiite-dominated government.

Talabani is in regular contact with senior officials in the White House. He drops in on members of Congress, and he has met with four of the presidential candidates: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "We've been on the fringes for too long," Talabani said.

Lobbying for Support
Making friends in the United States is crucial for Iraq's 5 million ethnic Kurds, most of whom live in three mountainous northern provinces that are administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government, effectively a state within a state. The regional government has the power to pass its own laws, maintain its own internal security force and even bar the entry of the Iraqi army. Iraq's national flag is nonexistent in Kurdistan -- every government building is adorned with the red, white and green Kurdish flag -- and foreign visitors who fly into Irbil, the regional capital, receive a visa to Kurdistan, not Iraq.

Although the regional government was enshrined by Iraq's constitution in 2005, it remains a point of tension with Arab Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite, who live to the south. Sunni Arabs have argued that national reconciliation is impossible without revoking many of the concessions given to the Kurds, particularly a promise to hold a referendum this year on whether the oil-rich city of Kirkuk -- home to Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds -- will become part of Kurdistan.

The three nations that border Iraqi Kurdistan -- Turkey, Iran and Syria, all of which have significant populations of ethnic Kurds -- also remain deeply vexed by Kurdish autonomy in Iraq.

Most worrisome to Kurdish leaders, however, is their relationship with Washington. The Kurds believe they should be recognized as a certifiable success story in a war that has lasted more than four years: They're largely secular, no U.S. military personnel have been killed in Kurdistan since the March 2003 invasion, and business is booming in Irbil and other Kurdish cities because Kurdish militias, known as peshmerga, have managed to keep out Sunni Arab insurgents.

But Kurdish officials contend that the U.S. government has done little to reward these achievements. The State Department acknowledges spending 3 percent of its reconstruction funds on the Kurds since 2003, even though they make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population. Kurdish leaders also argue that U.S. diplomats have been pushing them to make concessions that would weaken the regional government in an attempt to placate Sunni Arabs.

"If they think that the Kurds are going to roll over like lame puppies, and have the power that they have earned taken away from them and given to those who have done nothing but kill Americans, then they have a shocking surprise awaiting them," Talabani said over a gin and tonic at the Hay-Adams Hotel bar. "We exist on the map, whether they like it or not."

The Kurds' lobbying activities in the post-Saddam Hussein era began with a quest for $4 billion.

Kurdish leaders believed they were owed at least that much from the United Nations' corruption-tainted oil-for-food program, which regulated the sale of Iraqi oil from 1995 to 2003. Because the money was transferred to a trust fund controlled by the United States shortly after the invasion, the Kurds set their sights on Washington.

Back then, the two principal Kurdish political organizations -- Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- had separate representatives in Washington. Talabani's man was Barham Salih, who now is Iraq's deputy prime minister and who became Qubad Talabani's mentor.

The task of chasing down the money, however, fell to Barzani's representative, Farhad Barzani. Seeking help to navigate Washington, Farhad Barzani turned to Danny Yatom, a former director of Israel's spy service, the Mossad, according to senior Kurdish officials and former U.S. government officials familiar with the Kurds' efforts. Yatom's business partner, Shlomi Michaels, who was looking for investments in Kurdistan, agreed to help the Kurds find a lobbyist, the officials said. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Michaels initially sought out Jack Abramoff, then a powerful Republican-connected lobbyist, the officials said. But Abramoff, who was later convicted of bribery and is now in prison, asked for more than the Kurds wanted to pay, the officials said. One American lobbyist said Abramoff wanted the Kurds to pay him $65,000 a month. Michaels did not respond to several phone messages.

Russell Wilson, a former Republican congressional staff member whom Michaels asked for advice, eventually suggested that the Kurds contact Ed Rogers, a GOP political operative and former White House official who runs one of Washington's most influential lobbying firms. On June 3, 2004, Barbour Griffith & Rogers agreed to represent the Kurdistan Democratic Party for $29,000 a month.

Qubad Talabani said the firm lobbied the White House for the $4 billion. Twenty days later, on June 23, the U.S. occupation administration in Iraq gave the Kurds $1.4 billion in cash. The U.S. military flew the money -- brand-new $100 bills in shrink-wrapped bricks -- to Irbil on three helicopters.

Although officials with the occupation authority maintained that the payout was the Kurds' share of Iraq's 2004 capital budget and was unconnected to lobbying, Kurdish leaders insist otherwise.

Barbour, Griffith & Rogers's business with the Kurds has since steadily expanded. The Kurdistan Regional Government paid the firm $869,333 for work performed in the first 11 months of last year, according to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Justice Department.

The firm's lobbying was "very helpful in getting us the oil-for-food money," said Talabani, who now represents both Kurdish parties. "It was a tangible victory for the Kurds."

A Friend in Commerce
Next up was an even bigger prize: the $18.4 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds flowing into Iraq. As with the oil-for-food money, Kurdish leaders believed they deserved at least 20 percent -- their perceived fair share based on Kurds' proportion of Iraq's population.

The State Department had a different view. Kurdistan had been protected from Hussein's army since 1991 by U.S. warplanes enforcing a no-fly zone, and had enjoyed far greater development in the intervening years than Arab-dominated parts of Iraq. Despite Kurdish pleas and vigorous lobbying, the department decided that the vast majority of the reconstruction funds would go elsewhere.

By 2005, Kurdish leaders decided to shift their strategy. Kurdistan was becoming an increasingly popular destination for businessmen who deemed Baghdad too dangerous for visiting or for investment. Rather than argue about aid, the Kurds proposed that the U.S. government encourage American investment in Kurdistan.

Talabani and Ayal Frank, a former congressional staffer and legislative analyst for the Israeli Embassy who was hired as a lobbyist by the Kurdistan Regional Government, sidestepped the State Department in favor of the Commerce Department, which they considered more receptive. "If a door shuts on you," Talabani said, "you go in through the window." After several meetings with Commerce's Iraq task force, Talabani added, "common sense prevailed." "In some quarters at State, there's this zero-sum view: that helping the Kurds means you're hurting the Arabs," he said. "People at Commerce had a different view. They started to realize that developing safer parts of the country is not detrimental to the rest of the country."

Multiple meetings, phone calls and e-mails paid off on Feb. 20 of this year, when Franklin L. Lavin, the undersecretary of commerce for international trade, traveled to Irbil to promote Kurdistan as a "gateway" for U.S. business in Iraq. Lavin said his visit was designed "to encourage companies that are looking at Iraq . . . to think about particular locales that might be more fruitful environments for starting a business." Talabani said he considers Lavin's trip a "big success" because it involved a Cabinet agency "reassessing the way it views doing business in Iraq."

But for Talabani and other Kurdish officials, a major barrier to U.S. investment remains: the State Department's travel warning for Iraq, which cautions that the country is "very dangerous," without distinguishing one region from another.

Talabani has urged the department to change the warning, which he said "tells the potential businessman that all of Iraq is unsafe, and that's not true." Although foreign investment is pouring into Kurdistan, very little is from large U.S. corporations, he added. Lavin declined to comment on the matter, but Kurdish officials said he has also pressed the State Department to amend the warning.

In an April 3 letter to Talabani, Maura Harty, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, said the warning "accurately reflects the current situation" in Iraq. Talabani said he plans to urge members of Congress and business executives to petition the State Department. "We're going to keep up the pressure," he said.

The Minister and the TV Crew
As the Washington campaign unfolded, the other component of the Kurds' influence-building strategy was taking shape three blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Bill Garaway, an evangelical Christian minister, realized that the Kurds had a public-relations problem when he told his neighbors in the seaside town that he was performing missionary work in Kurdistan. "They said, 'Who are the Kurds?' " recalled Garaway. "I said, 'There is nobody like them in the Middle East. They're Muslim, but they hate fundamentalist Islam. They love America.' "

On a trip to Iraq in late 2004, he pitched the idea of airing commercials touting Kurdistan in the United States. The Kurds were intrigued. They told Garaway to produce a few spots.

He began filming in early 2005, with a camera crew that captured children waving flags, shoppers strolling through a new mall and peshmerga soldiers saluting. By the end of the summer, he had created three 30-second commercials.

The first, in which a succession of Kurds look into the camera and thank the United States, aired last summer on cable news stations. It generated immediate buzz.

"Seeing Iraqis say 'thank you' was very powerful," Garaway said. "It's not something most Americans had heard before." Garaway, a rangy 62-year-old with receding silver hair, became enamored with the Kurds more than a decade ago, after concluding that many key events described in the Bible occurred in Kurdistan, including the stories of Noah's ark and Queen Esther. He believes not only that the Kurds are descendants of the ancient Medes people, but also that the three wise men who the Bible says visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem came from Kurdistan.

For Garaway, championing the Kurdish cause has been the latest twist in a life filled with unexpected turns. As he tells it, he protested the Vietnam War as a college student, burning his draft card at a UCLA rally in 1967. He subsequently lived in a commune with 140 others in the hills above Palo Alto, Calif., where he ran a food cooperative, taught yoga, befriended members of the Grateful Dead and hosted poet Allen Ginsberg in his treehouse. One day, a group of friends who had left the commune returned and invited Garaway to join their church. He did, and soon after, he said, "God revealed himself to me."

He and his wife settled in Santa Cruz in the early 1970s, where they opened a church, started to surf and began to raise a family. They had six children, all of whom were home-schooled. Four have become professional surfers.

Garaway, who has served as the president of a Christian aid organization operating in northern Iraq, said the Kurds should have an independent homeland -- a view that goes well beyond the stated positions of Qubad Talabani and other Kurdish leaders. "There's more of the best American values in Kurdistan than anywhere else in the Islamic world," he said. "We should be encouraging them, not standing in their way."

Garaway enlisted Russo Marsh & Rogers, a Republican-oriented political consulting firm in Sacramento, to place the commercials. The firm is closely affiliated with Move America Forward, a conservative advocacy group that has organized rallies in support of continuing military operations in Iraq. Last year, the group invited the director of the Kurdistan Development Corporation, which coordinated payment for the commercials, to speak at a luncheon in San Francisco featuring parents of military personnel who had died in Iraq.

Move America Forward also organized a trip for the parents to visit Kurdistan, where they met with Massoud Barzani and other prominent Kurds. Garaway said he and Salvatore Russo, the chief strategist of Russo Marsh & Rogers, arranged to be there at the same time.

The parents are now "some of the strongest supporters of the Kurds," Russo said. "For them, it's a validation that their child didn't die in vain."

After the trip, Move America Forward and the parents issued a report calling for "developing and maintaining a major U.S. military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan" -- a key goal of Kurdish leaders.

Now Garaway hopes to take his national campaign on behalf of Kurdistan to "the next level" with an influential Washington partner: the mechanic-turned-lobbyist Qubad Talabani. Garaway has encouraged Talabani and other Kurdish leaders to spend several million dollars this year to run all three commercials on prime-time network television. "If more of the American public sees these spots, we can have a more rational approach to dealing with the war," he said.

Getting Americans "to understand our story," Talabani agreed, is essential for the Kurds. "We have a real story of the resilience of the underdog, that shares the values of America, that is succeeding," he added. "It's not unlike the American dream."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


There are two important questions that should have been asked in order for this to be a complete coverage of Iraqi Kurdistans situation and ambitions: 1 A de facto state that is harboring terorists the PKK is on everyones list as one, and why it is not doing a thing about it and why the US is turning a blind eye to it all, and 2 What will the Kurds do about the estimated $5 billion drug trade that is feeding the addicts of Europe and possibly the US? Why are we glorifying this new entity when we would shun others for doing what the Kurds are doing? Clearly they are exploiting the blood of fallen Americans who are being misrepresented as creating/achieving this area, when it was created with no American blood being spilt with the no fly zone. What is next, that our fallen heroes also died for one political party or interest group and against another? How much more mileage domestic and international purveyors of propoganda will get out of American blood? The way our leaders rule us and allow us to be exploited is simply disgusting... missing out of
By btayfun | Apr 23, 2007 12:01:02 AM | Request Removal

Yes, the Kurds are throwing around a lot of money, but they have yet to produce a decent op-ed on the Middle East.
By Scott_Sullivan3946 | Apr 23, 2007 4:18:48 AM | Request Removal

Yonkers, NY, 23 April 2007. There is absolutely no turning back as far as the independence of Kurdistan is concerned. For all practical purposes, an independent Kurdistan is already a reality--and the U.S. knows it but continues to be in denial about it. The problem of an independent Kurdistan is that Turkey opposes the idea because the Kurds now in Turkey could very well entertain the idea of independence themselves. Somebody has to break this Gordian knot of a problem soon. Mariano Patalinjug.
By MarPatalinjug | Apr 23, 2007 5:30:17 AM | Request Removal

History has overtaken the Kurds . Their aspirations for an independent country, not that they dont deserve it, collides with Turkey and Iraq, and indirectly with Iran. Also using Israelis to further their ambitions will make their opponents more determined to make sure they dont succeed.
By cjoy | Apr 23, 2007 5:48:05 AM | Request Removal

Op-Ed Contributor

May 7, 2007

In Iraq, the Play Was the Thing

IN 1982, our second-grade teacher at Baghdad’s Mansour school made the following announcement: “The year-end play is about our war with the Persian enemy. The top 20 students in class will play Iraqis; the bottom 20 will play Persians.”

This was at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, and during our first rehearsal the students assigned to play Persians — that is, Iranians — broke out in tears. Although many of the children were, like me, from Shiite families, they insisted that they were Iraqis first, that they loved their Sunni-led country and did not want to play the role of the enemy.

After some negotiations, the girls were spared and only the boys from the lower half were selected to play the roles of the “soldiers of Khomeini the hypocrite.” Their script was scrapped, and instead they were told simply to run across stage as the rest of us, playing the role of the Iraqi Army, mowed them down in battle.

But the play did not end when the curtain fell. Those of us from the Iraqi cast took to bragging and, in the tradition of schoolchildren everywhere, bullying the “Persians.” With tears in their eyes, they repeatedly had to beg the teacher to make us stop.

Now, a quarter of a century later, I called one of my classmates, Ayad, a Shiite who still lives in Iraq. I reminded him of the play, and of how he and I, the top two students in the class, got to play the roles of the Iraqi generals who would win the war against the Iranians. “It was the good old days,” he told me.

Ayad owns a hotel in the southern city of Karbala, home to two of Shiism’s most important shrines. His wife and two daughters wear veils. He believes that the violence in Iraq is a Sunni and American conspiracy against Shiites, and he argues that Iran is the best ally of Iraqi Shiites.

Ayad has two elder brothers. One was conscripted during the Iran-Iraq war and received medals for his courageous performance in battle. The other ran away when he was drafted and ended up living as a refugee in Iran. However, he was treated poorly there, living in poverty and under permanent suspicion, so after some years he fled to Beirut. After the Americans ousted Saddam Hussein, he returned to Iraq, and now works at Ayad’s hotel.

“We think America did a great thing by toppling Saddam,” Ayad told me, speaking for himself and his family. “But now they should hand us the country and leave.”

I asked him whether he fears that an American withdrawal might allow the Sunni insurgents to strike harder in Shiite areas. “We outnumber them,” he said. “And with the support of our Iranian brothers, we can take the Sunnis.” “And then what?” I replied. “Then the Shiites will rule Iraq.”

Ayad believes that there is no problem in establishing an Islamic government in Baghdad styled after that of the Iranian Republic. The Sunnis, he said, have “oppressed us since the days of the Prophet, and now it is our chance to hit back and rule.”

According to Ayad, a Shiite takeover in Iraq would set a good model for the Shiites of Lebanon, where they number about a third of the population, and Bahrain, where they are a majority. “Perhaps the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia will act too, rid themselves of the Sunni oppression against them, and rule or at least separate themselves from Riyadh and create their own state,” my friend argued.

It is exactly this possibility that has made the Sunni Arab regimes fear a Shiite regional revolt and moved some to support the Sunni insurgency in Iraq or at least to voice their resentment of the Iraqi Shiite government, which is seen as being biased against Iraqi Sunnis. “But we are Iraqis,” I told Ayad. “We are Arabs. We have our cultural differences with the Persians. We don’t even speak the same language.”

Ayad insisted otherwise: “When we fought the Persians during the 1980s, we were wrong. We’re Shiites before being Iraqis. Sunnis invented national identity to rule us.”

At this point, I understood that it was pointless to argue further. When the Baathist regime collapsed, I initially felt that there was a good chance for national unity, that Sunnis and Shiites would band together in the absence of the dictator who had played them against each other. Talking to Ayad, I realized how wrong I had been.

To change the subject, I asked Ayad about his business. He told me he had just erected flags on top of the entrance to his hotel. He chose the flags of Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain. When I asked why he chose the flags of these four nations, he said: “These are the countries where Shiites come from to do their pilgrimage in Karbala,” he said. “It is good for business.”

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a media analyst, is a former reporter for The Daily Star of Lebanon.

May 28, 2007

Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq

Bryan Denton for The New York Times
A suicide attack plot aimed at Queen Alia Airport in Jordan began here in Zarqa, one of the most conservative areas.

When Muhammad al-Darsi got out of prison in Libya last year after serving time for militant activities, he had one goal: killing Americans in Iraq.

A recruiter he found on the Internet arranged to meet him on a bridge in Damascus, Syria. But when he got there, Mr. Darsi, 24, said the recruiter told him he was not needed in Iraq. Instead, he was drafted into the war that is seeping out of Iraq.

A team of militants from Iraq had traveled to Jordan, where they were preparing attacks on Americans and Jews, Mr. Darsi said the recruiter told him. He asked Mr. Darsi to join them and blow himself up in a crowd of tourists at Queen Alia Airport in Amman. “I agreed,” Mr. Darsi said in a nine-page confession to Jordanian authorities after the plot was broken up.

The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond, according to American, European and Middle Eastern government officials and interviews with militant leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and London.

Some of the fighters appear to be leaving as part of the waves of Iraqi refugees crossing borders that government officials acknowledge they struggle to control. But others are dispatched from Iraq for specific missions. In the Jordanian airport plot, the authorities said they believed that the bomb maker flew from Baghdad to prepare the explosives for Mr. Darsi.

Estimating the number of fighters leaving Iraq is at least as difficult as it has been to count foreign militants joining the insurgency. But early signs of an exodus are clear, and officials in the United States and the Middle East say the potential for veterans of the insurgency to spread far beyond Iraq is significant.

Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi of Lebanon warned of the fighters from Iraq, “If any country says it is safe from this, they are putting their heads in the sand.”

Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, general director of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon, said in a recent interview that “if any country says it is safe from this, they are putting their heads in the sand.”

Last week, the Lebanese Army found itself in a furious battle against a militant group, Fatah al Islam, whose ranks included as many as 50 veterans of the war in Iraq, according to General Rifi. More than 30 Lebanese soldiers were killed fighting the group at a refugee camp near Tripoli.

The army called for outside support. By Friday, the first of eight planeloads of military supplies had arrived from the United States, which called Fatah al Islam “a brutal group of violent extremists.”

The group’s leader, Shakir al-Abssi, was an associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia who was killed last summer. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, Mr. Abssi confirmed reports that Syrian government forces had killed his son-in-law as he tried crossing into Iraq to collaborate with insurgents.

A Danger to the Region

Militant leaders warn that the situation in Lebanon is indicative of the spread of fighters. “You have 50 fighters from Iraq in Lebanon now, but with good caution I can say there are a hundred times that many, 5,000 or higher, who are just waiting for the right moment to act,” Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident in Britain who runs the jihadist Internet forum,, said in an interview on Friday. “The flow of fighters is already going back and forth, and the fight will be everywhere until the United States is willing to cease and desist.”

There are signs of that traffic in and out of Iraq in other places. In Saudi Arabia last month, government officials said they had arrested 172 men who had plans to attack oil installations, public officials and military posts, and some of the men appeared to have trained in Iraq.

Officials in Europe have said in interviews that they are trying to monitor small numbers of Muslim men who have returned home after traveling for short periods to Iraq, where they were likely to have fought alongside insurgents.

One of them, an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen, Wesam al-Delaema, was accused by United States prosecutors of making repeated trips to Iraq from his home in the Netherlands to prepare instructional videos on making roadside bombs, charges he denies. He was extradited to the United States in January and charged with conspiring to kill American citizens, possessing a destructive device and teaching the making or use of explosives.

In an April 17 report written for the United States government, Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, said battle-hardened militants from Iraq posed a greater threat to the West than extremists who trained in Afghanistan because Iraq had become a laboratory for urban guerrilla tactics. “There are some operational parallels between the urban terrorist activity in Iraq and the urban environments in Europe and the United States,” Mr. Pluchinsky wrote. “More relevant terrorist skills are transferable from Iraq to Europe than from Afghanistan to Europe,” he went on, citing the use of safe houses, surveillance, bomb making and mortars.

A top American military official who tracks terrorism in Iraq and the surrounding region, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said: “Do I think in the future the jihad will be fueled from the battlefield of Iraq? Yes. More so than the battlefield of Afghanistan.”

Militants in Iraq are turning out instructional videos and electronic newsletters on the Internet that lay out their playbook for a startling array of techniques, from encryption to booby-trapped bombs to surface-to-air missiles, and those manuals are circulating freely in cyberspace.

And tactics common in Iraq are showing up in other parts of the world. In Somalia and Algeria, for example, recent suicide bombings have been accompanied by the release of taped testimonials by the bombers, a longtime terrorist practice embraced by insurgents in Iraq.

Problems in Jordan

It is perhaps not surprising that Jordan, the site of the failed airport plot, would be among the first countries to feel the effect of an expansion of the war beyond Iraq. The countries share a border, and Jordan is an American ally. Mr. Zarqawi, who was Jordanian, is believed to have been behind a failed rocket attack on two United States Navy ships anchored off the coast of Jordan in 2005 and, later that year, suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman that killed 60 people.

Last week, President Bush asserted that in early 2005 Osama bin Laden ordered Mr. Zarqawi, his designate in Iraq, to organize terrorist attacks against the United States and other countries.

Whether the plot against the Amman airport last year was connected to Al Qaeda is not clear. Some of the conspirators who were convicted in Amman in April told Jordanian investigators that Mr. bin Laden’s group sponsored their mission, although the investigation did not confirm any link, according to records of the case obtained by The Times.

But the investigation did establish a connection between the people who planned the attack and militants from Iraq. The plot, pieced together from a 130-page record in Jordan’s secret security court, along with interviews with intelligence officials and defense attorneys, shows why intelligence officials are concerned about the reverberations from Iraq.

The Iraqi identified by authorities as the organizer of the attack, Youssef al-Abidi, moved freely through Iraq, Syria and Jordan, ferrying cash, explosives and conspirators, court records show. He crossed national boundaries that officials concede they cannot control, and although he was convicted in absentia, he remains at large.

The logistics team included at least one recent refugee from Iraq, a 34-year-old former Iraqi Army soldier named Mohsen al-Wissi. He was among the estimated 1.5 million to 2 million Iraqis now living in Jordan and Syria.

The bomb maker, Saad Fakhri al-Naimi, 40, arrived on a commercial flight from Baghdad to prepare a suicide duffel bag for Mr. Darsi, using eight pounds of plastic explosives hidden in a child’s toy.

The airport plot got under way in Zarqa — the birthplace of Mr. Zarqawi — a city north of Amman where community and religious leaders say the growing Islamic conservatism among its mostly Sunni residents has turned hostile toward Shiites as well as the United States.

When the Zarqa police raided a house used by two Iraqis in the plot, they found a computer and 375 CDs filled with anti-Shiite propaganda. But according to Jordanian prosecutors, Mr. Abidi, the organizer, wanted to focus on resort hotels in Jordan “due to the fact that these hotels are resided in by Americans and Jews.” As part of that goal, the prosecutors said, they selected the Queen Alia Airport in Amman.

During one meeting, Mr. Abidi showed Mr. Naimi, the bomb maker, a black sports bag labeled “Polo World” that contained the explosive PE-4A, which is used by insurgents in Iraq. According to court records, he told Mr. Naimi that he would earn $20,000 for wiring it into a bomb that could be carried in the bag.

They needed someone to set off the bomb at the airport, someone willing to kill himself. That is when they found Muhammad al-Darsi, the militant recently released from prison in Libya.

Disrupting a Plot

In his confession, Mr. Darsi said that he had been jailed in Libya for six years for associating with a militant group there, and that when he got out he wanted to rejoin the fight. He found a recruiter and, at the recruiter’s e-mail directions, Mr. Darsi said he flew to Istanbul, then traveled south to Damascus. By prearrangement, he dressed in black pants and a black sweater and met the recruiter on the bridge just after evening prayers. “I told him I want to join the mujahedeen in Iraq,” Mr. Darsi said in his statement, each page of which bears his signature and thumbprint. Through his lawyer, Mr. Darsi agreed to be interviewed in prison, but Jordanian officials declined to make him available.

Mr. Darsi, in his statement, said the recruiter “told me that he will not send me to Iraq, that he will put me in charge of a military operation inside Jordan.” Over the next few days, Mr. Darsi says, he was blindfolded and taken to safe houses in Syria where he was prepared for his mission. To maximize civilian deaths, he was told to survey incoming flights and then detonate his bomb after joining a crowd of arriving tourists as they boarded a bus outside the terminal. In his statement he said he was told that the bag of explosives would have buttons “and that by pressing the buttons, the explosion will take place.” With a Nokia phone and a contact’s phone number in hand, Mr. Darsi drove south to Amman in a borrowed car.

Officials at the General Intelligence Department in Jordan had picked up vague references to the planned attack from sources in Syria. But the investigation was complicated by the fact that the plotters were moving between Jordan and Syria, which have strained relations.

American officials have accused the Syrians of being indifferent to the way militants use their country as a gateway to Iraq. In Damascus, Mounir Ali, a Ministry of Information spokesman, conceded that controlling Syria’s long border with Iraq was difficult and blamed the Americans for not supplying border-control technology. But he said that Syria, too, was apprehensive about militant attacks. “We are very afraid of this problem created in Iraq,” he said. “The religious problem. The sectarian one. It is going to affect everybody and primarily Syria.”

Although the Jordanians identified the safe houses in Syria used by the airport plotters, they could not raid them. Instead, they broke the case when they picked up the two men in Zarqa and then arrested Mr. Naimi as he arrived from Baghdad, according to court records and interviews with government officials.

Those men, in turn, gave up Mr. Darsi, who was grabbed as he crossed from Syria into Jordan. The Jordanian Security Court acquitted one man and convicted six others in connection with the airport plot, three of whom remain fugitives, including a Saudi identified as Turki Nasr Abdellah, who is believed to have helped recruit Mr. Darsi.

Mr. Abidi, whose nickname is the Father of Innocence, is believed to still be in Syria. At the hearing last month, in which he was sentenced to life in prison, Mr. Darsi struck a defiant tone. Although he never made it to Iraq, he said he had pursued his vision of jihad, according to his lawyer, Abdel Rahman al-Majali.

Mr. Darsi stood at the barred wooden defendant’s box, shouted “God is great!” and recited verses from the Koran aimed at justifying violent jihad, according to Mr. Majali. Before being led away, Mr. Darsi told the court, “I came here to fight against Zionists and occupiers.”

Margot Williams contributed reporting.

May 30, 2007

Strife in North Iraq as Sunni Arabs Drive Out Kurds

Mustafa Abu Bakr Muhammad moved from Mosul to the nearby town of Khabat after receiving a death threat. He lives in a scorpion-infested cinderblock house.
Michael Kamber for The New York Times

MOSUL, Iraq — The letter tossed into Mustafa Abu Bakr Muhammad’s front yard got right to the point. “You will be killed,” it read, for collaborating with the Kurdish militias. Then came the bullet through a window at night.

A cousin had already been gunned down. So Mr. Muhammad and three generations of his family joined tens of thousands of other Kurds who have fled growing ethnic violence by Sunni Arab insurgents here and moved east, to the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan. “We had our home in Mosul and it was good there, but things are now very bad between Arabs and Kurds,” said Mr. Muhammad, 70, standing outside his new, scorpion-infested cinderblock house in the nearby town of Khabat.

While the American military is trying to tamp down the vicious fighting between rival Arab sects in Baghdad, conflict between Arabs and Kurds is intensifying here, adding another dimension to Iraq’s civil war. Sunni Arab militants, reinforced by insurgents fleeing the new security plan in Baghdad, are trying to rid Mosul of its Kurdish population through violence and intimidation, Kurdish officials said.

Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, with a population of 1.8 million, straddles the Tigris River on a grassy, windswept plain in the country’s north. It was recently estimated to be about a quarter Kurdish, but Sunni Arabs have already driven out at least 70,000 Kurds and virtually erased the Kurdish presence from the city’s western half, said Khasro Goran, the deputy governor of surrounding Nineveh Province and a Kurd.

A Kurdish family forced to leave Mosul. Sunni Arab insurgents have driven 70,000 Kurds from the city.
Michael Kamber for The New York Times

The militants “view this as a Sunni-dominated town, and they view the Kurds as encroaching on Mosul,” said Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the Fourth Brigade, First Cavalry Division, which is deployed in Nineveh. Some Kurdish and Christian enclaves remain on the east side, though their numbers are dwindling. Kurdish officials say the flight has accelerated in recent months, contributing to the wider ethnic and religious partitioning that is taking place all over Iraq.

Nineveh is Iraq’s most diverse province, with a dizzying array of ethnic and religious groups woven into an area about the size of Maryland. For centuries, Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Turkmens, Yezidis and Shabaks lived side by side in these verdant hills, going to the same schools, bartering in the same markets, even intermarrying on occasion.

But what took generations to build is starting to unravel in the shadow of the Sunni Arab insurgency, which is tapping into several wells of ethnic resentment.

Already embittered at the toppling of the Sunni Arab government of Saddam Hussein, insurgents here have been further enraged by their current political disenfranchisement, a result of their boycotting the 2005 elections. The main Kurdish coalition now holds 31 of 41 seats on the provincial council and all the top executive positions, even though Kurds make up only 35 percent of the province. Most Kurds are of the Sunni sect, but they have little in common with the Arabs.

Sunni Arabs have asked for new provincial elections and are growing frustrated that the Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated national government seems to be ignoring their requests.

“We demanded elections a year ago, but it never happened,” said Muhammad Shakir, the local leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the province’s most prominent Sunni Arab political group. “The current council does not represent the governorate.”


Some officials in the national government say conditions will not permit provincial elections until next year.

Just as worrisome for the Arabs is a growing push by the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to annex large swaths of eastern and northern Nineveh. A contentious measure in the Constitution gives the regional Kurdish government the right to take the land by the end of 2007 through a popular referendum.

The parts of the province that Iraqi Kurdistan wants are called the “disputed territories” along its border, areas that were historically Kurdish until Saddam Hussein moved in Arabs and forced out half a million Kurds to strengthen Arab control, Kurdish officials say.

Mr. Goran, the deputy governor, said six of Nineveh’s nine districts — with at least 30 percent of the province’s 2.7 million people — could vote to join Iraqi Kurdistan. Before the vote is held, however, the Iraqi government must find a way to move out the Arab settlers and move back the original Kurdish residents. Some of this relocation has already taken place, but many more original residents still need to return, Mr. Goran said.

If the vote is put off, he said, violence will soar even further between Kurds and Arabs as each group struggles for the land. “This is a good time to solve the problem,” he said, “because if not, we will open another front in the north between Kurds and Arabs.”

A Kurdish family forced to leave Mosul. Sunni Arab insurgents have driven 70,000 Kurds from the city.

To ensure control of the lands, the Kurdish parties are encouraging settlers to move to eastern Nineveh, just as they have been doing in disputed areas in Diyala Province and around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Kurdish militias have also been operating in Nineveh and the streets of Mosul, stoking Sunni Arab fears of Kurdish domination, Colonel Twitty said.

The violence here against the Kurds and other minorities is vicious and unrelenting, Kurdish and American officials say. More than 1,000 Kurdish civilians have recently been killed in Mosul, and at least two or three are gunned down each day now, Mr. Goran said. One well-known Kurdish singer was murdered because he had the same last name as Mr. Goran. “Everyone gets threats or can feel threatened here,” said James Knight, the head of the State Department’s provincial reconstruction team in Nineveh. “The intimidation of people is one of the dramatic ongoing problems we have.”

Mr. Knight said 70,000 was a reasonable estimate for the number of people who have fled Mosul, but he did not know how many were Kurds. [On May 13, in the mostly Kurdish district of Makhmur, a suicide truck bomber rammed into the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, killing at least 50 people and wounding at least 115. On May 9, a truck bomb exploded in front of Kurdish government offices in Erbil, the relatively secure capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, killing at least 19 and wounding at least 70.]

While the Americans are fighting the Sunni Arab insurgency, they are also vigorously supporting what they say are legitimate Sunni Arab demands, like the call for provincial elections. The Arabs and Kurds have to reach a power-sharing arrangement, American officials say.

But the surge in ethnic violence has sharpened the animosity of Kurds toward Arabs, and few Kurds are ready to forgive the atrocities committed by Mr. Hussein’s Sunni Arab government. “I compare the Sunni Arabs to Bosnian Serbs: their behavior, their way of thinking, their way of acting,” Mr. Goran said in an interview at the fortified government center downtown. “They are for killings, they are for mass graves. Not all of them, but the majority of them.”

So far, Kurdish militias have refrained from engaging in the kind of wide-scale reprisals against Sunni Arabs that Shiite militias have carried out in Baghdad. But the Kurds are capable, Mr. Goran warned. “We can kill every day 50 Arabs in the streets,” Mr. Goran said with a quick smile. “Every day, everywhere, in Mosul and outside of Mosul. But we don’t do that, because we know they want us to do that.”

The insurgency here is a caldron of prominent Sunni Arab groups that include Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Ansar al-Sunna. The city was a recruitment base for commanders of the old Iraqi Army, and former officers are now among the leaders of the local guerrilla movement.

During a November 2004 uprising, much of the Mosul police force defected to the insurgency, and Mr. Goran said he suspects that a third to half of the existing police force still aids or sympathizes with the insurgency. After the execution of Saddam Hussein in December, he said, some policemen put Mr. Hussein’s picture in their cars. A new police chief who is a Sunni Arab, Maj. Gen. Wathiq Muhammad al-Hamdani, is trying to clean house, he said.

There are some positive signs, American commanders say. As in Anbar Province, some Sunni militants are chafing at the Islamist agenda of Al Qaeda, said Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, leader of the Second Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, the single American combat battalion in Mosul.

And one of the two, mostly Kurdish, Iraqi Army divisions in Nineveh has been working well under a respected Sunni Arab general, Brig. Gen. Moutaa Jassim Habeeb, Mr. Goran said. But conservative Sunni Arab politicians in Baghdad are pushing to replace him with a hard-line commander, Mr. Goran added. If that happens, he said, “no Kurdish soldier will remain in the division.”

Despite their heavy presence in the army, Kurdish soldiers have been unable to end the violence that is driving so many Kurds from Mosul.

Sanaa Saadan and her husband are known as “Mosulis.” They were born and raised there, but they could be the last in their families to lay claim to that title. Last year, Ms. Saadan and her husband moved with their three sons into the home of her older sister in Khabat, 30 miles to the east. The two said they knew at least seven Kurds who had been murdered in Mosul.

Khabat, just inside Iraqi Kurdistan, has become a place of refuge. Rents have skyrocketed, said the mayor, Rizgar Mustafa Muhammad. At least 1,300 families have moved there from Mosul. More than 120 came in April alone, the most of any month, he said. Soon, he said, tent camps will be needed. “We were unhappy to leave Mosul,” said Ms. Saadan, 28, as she watched over her youngest son in his crib. Her husband, a wedding singer, finds work scarce in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their two oldest sons had a tough time adjusting to school lessons in Kurdish rather than Arabic.

The highway from Khabat to Mosul runs past Ms. Saadan’s home and through a checkpoint a mile to the west, on a concrete bridge spanning a river that marks the border with Nineveh. Kurdish soldiers check the identification cards of people driving in. They say Kurds arrive regularly in cars packed with furniture and household goods.

“If we’re ordered to go protect residents of Mosul, we’ll do it,” said the commander, Maj. Ghafour Ahmed Hussein.

He stared out at the green hills to the west. Beyond lay the city and its newly emptied houses.

Yerevan Adham contributed from Erbil, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Mosul.

Op-Ed Contributor

June 3, 2007

An Enemy We Can Work With

WHEN the populist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr emerged from 14 weeks of invisibility on May 25, it was hard not to focus on his typically passionate anti-Coalition rhetoric: “No, no to America; no, no to occupation,” he thundered from the mosque at Kufa, Iraq, a ragged town a few miles north of rich holy city of Najaf.

It reminded me of my first visit to the Kufa mosque, in August 2004. I had just walked and driven up from Najaf, where Mr. Sadr’s second great uprising against Coalition troops was in its dying stages after more than three weeks. I was the only visible foreigner in the mosque for an unusually packed and angry Friday prayers.

The mosque, which Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army was using as a hospital of sorts, had just been hit by something that everyone said was an American rocket. The shoes of dead fighters lay in piles inside the entrance. Outside, thick, angry crowds milled around.

That was almost three years ago. Mr. Sadr’s re-emergence — American officials say he had been hiding in Iran, while his followers say he was lying low around Najaf — in such a suggestive place was undoubtedly meant to be a reminder of the young cleric’s disruptive potential. But I think the real lesson about Mr. Sadr’s return is subtler, and far more positive.

It is no accident that he preaches from the Kufa mosque rather than the more prestigious one at Najaf. As the site of the tomb of Imam Ali, the great martyr of Shiism, Najaf is the center of the Shiite clerical hierarchy, a Vatican of sorts for the faith. It is a rich city.

But Moktada al-Sadr leads a movement of the poor, inherited from his father, who inherited it from an uncle. His singsong exhortation in Kufa last week was a direct reference to the most famous cry from his father’s epic, and ultimately suicidal, sermons under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s: “Yes, yes, to electricity. Yes, yes, to water.” Young Mr. Sadr speaks not for the elites but for the biggest and most deprived group of people in Iraq: the Shiite lower orders.

And this is why if he really wanted the Americans to leave tomorrow, we would know about it. He is the only Iraqi religious leader to have militarily stood up to the Coalition in the four years since the invasion (he did so twice, first in the spring and then in the late summer of 2004). When Mr. Sadr fights, he fights. His followers may continue to participate in a few freelance kidnappings and homemade bomb attacks, but a true Sadrist uprising is more like an earthquake.

Fortunately, Mr. Sadr is supporting what remains of hope in Iraq far more actively than it appears. For example, when the current security plan began in Baghdad in January, one of the first moves was the setting up of a joint American-Iraqi outpost in the slum of Sadr City, the young cleric’s “back yard.”

I remember being in Sadr City during one of the 2004 uprisings. I watched as Iraqis tied an American soldier’s boot to a balcony, a gruesome trophy. A year later I saw the same boot in the same place. It was a warning symbol: the area was essentially no-go for the Americans. During the long spells of relative peace American platoons would roll through on quick patrols or stop on a street corner to oversee distribution of gasoline for maybe half a day. But they wouldn’t linger.

Sadr City is Moktada al-Sadr’s place, and the Americans have never come close to subduing it. There would not be an American forward outpost permanently stationed there, with patrols going out every day, if Mr. Sadr didn’t want it. The fact is that back in January, the whole thing was closely and specifically negotiated between the Americans, the Iraqi government and Mr. Sadr’s people.

Likewise, when Mr. Sadr withdrew all six ministers of his party from the cabinet in April, it was greeted by the press as a prelude to Iraq’s next great cataclysm. Few recalled that he had done more or less the same last fall, in protest at Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s meeting in Jordan with President Bush. That gesture, greeted with similar alarmism, was followed two months later, as this one will be, by a return of the Sadrists to their posts.

Nor did most commentators note that even as he pulled out of the cabinet, Mr. Sadr was keeping his 30 members in Parliament, or that the ministries he was given sway over in the power-sharing agreement were still being run by their Sadrist appointees.

The Sadrists’ cooperation with their own government gets ever deeper. An Iraqi friend of mine in Baghdad recently tagged along with a Mahdi Army element on a mission to Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, a particularly bloody place where the Mahdi Army used to play an active role in protecting Shiites from Sunni “cleansing.” My friend and the Sadrists drove to Dora at midnight, confirmed that the Iraqi Army was there and keeping the Shiite families safe, and went home.

There is also much concern in Washington and elsewhere that Mr. Sadr may be a pawn of the Iranians. This notion ignores the history of his movement and the essential nationalism underlying his project. By allying themselves with and speaking for the Shiite poor, Mr. Sadr and his father have long differentiated themselves from the traditional Shiite hierarchy in Najaf, with its great wealth and its ties to Iran.

The Sadrist movement has always been about Iraq for the Iraqis. They might accept help from Iran — and I saw Iranian supplies in their compounds in Najaf in 2004 — but the movement is not for sale. Mr. Sadr gets his strength from the street. And the Arabs of the Iraqi street have no time for Persian bosses.

Nor do they seem to want to foment an all-out civil war. For all the time I have spent with Sadrist death-squad leaders who focus on killing former Baathists and Al Qaeda’s supporters (Sunnis all), I have spent just as much time with Mahdi men who have been sent by their leaders to protect Sunni mosques after Sunni provocations, lest Shiites retaliate too broadly.

It was no coincidence that in February, a few weeks after the Baghdad security plan started, a Sunni mosque was reopened in Sadr City. Nor is it a coincidence that the current plan, while it has largely failed to stop car bombs, which are primarily a Sunni phenomenon, has for the moment more or less ended the type of violence in which the Mahdi Army participated most: roving death squads.

Why would Mr. Sadr cooperate with the Americans and Mr. Maliki’s government? While he runs the biggest popular movement in the country, his followers are far from a majority. He is doing exactly what any other rational actor would do: He keeps up the angry rhetoric, and he plays ball with the democratic project.

For proof, look back to the key political event in post-invasion Iraq: the December 2005 elections. For months beforehand, Mr. Sadr railed against the legitimacy of elections held under foreign occupation. The press salivated over the coming apocalypse. But I spent several weeks at that time living with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. Behind the scenes, they were committed to full, active and peaceful participation. Eventually Mr. Sadr joined the main Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, and placed 29 of his candidates in Parliament, the second-largest among the Shiite bloc.

The real story about Moktada al-Sadr is not his exciting sermons but his broad underwriting, both passive and active, of the official project in Iraq. Since he stood down his forces in August 2004, he has provided the same narrative time and again. It is what we should expect from the canniest politician in Iraq: the rhetoric of the dispossessed, and the actions of an heir to power.

Bartle Breese Bull is the foreign editor of Prospect magazine.

Informed Comment    5 June 2007

Then there is Plan "MC."

The "Model Communities" approach is indifferent to the questions of national governance, national unity, national reconciliation or national disintegration.
Plans A, B and C are about finding a way to “save” Iraq. Bad news: Iraq is gone.

Something else will rise out of the ashes, sooner or later. It might be interesting to speculate about what that might be, but at this point the speculation would be entirely unproductive.

Taking a cue from Strategic Planning methodology, the starting point for asking what to do about Iraq should be to examine what can be done, in light of where we are at. There is no action that the USA can take now that would produce a coherent state of Iraq. As even President Bush has stated, the way forward (toward a functioning state) is up to the Iraqis. It must be a political solution worked out by the Iraqis, and the most that the President thought he could achieve through the application of a surge in military force was to create “breathing space” for the Iraqis to forge compromises.

It is now plain in June that the “Baghdad Security Plan” failed to create that breathing space, and that the Iraqi politicians he was counting on failed to make the needed compromises. Those politicians will leave Baghdad for recess through the unbearable months of July and August, and Ambassador Crocker will report the progress of the Surge in September.

If the US cannot foster a national reconciliation process that the Iraqis are unwilling or unable to implement, we still have the capacity to create pockets of stability and security all across Iraq. If you believe the USAID orthodoxy that stability is a national challenge to be met head-on all across the country, all at once, you keep hoping for peace to spontaneously break out, once we have surpassed some inflection threshold of action or commitment or wishful thinking. Been there, done that for 4 agonizing years.

But we can make any single community, village or neighborhood in Iraq stable and secure. And if we can secure one, than we can secure as many as the available resources allow. The only constraint is that we only have the capacity stabilize discrete, identifiable units of limited size.

As I describe the "Model Communities” approach, some readers may recognize that one part of the intellectual foundation of the approach presented below has been misunderstood, and then misappropriated, to form part of the intellectual underpinnings of the Kagan strategy now playing out. I suspect that Dr. Kagan got a bootleg copy of the June 2004 restricted proposal sent to the CPA that first laid out the “Model Communities” approach, and he simply expropriated the part that he thought supported his genocidal thinking. For that inadvertent contribution to the philosophy behind the Surge, I apologize to the Iraqi people.

The Surge was known as the “Gated Communities” approach in 2006, when it was tested in a couple variations, such as the experiment that included the construction of a 12’ tall, 6-mile long earthen berm surrounding Samarra. Colonel McMaster’s ethnic cleansing of Tall ‘Afar is another example. With Kagan, the concept was to physically isolate a troublesome Sunni community and then saturate it with Coalition forces, who then relied on anonymous Shi’a informers to point out the enemy. This would precipitate a high level of violent encounters, and any Iraqis killed defending their homes, families or honor would, through the act of resisting occupation, reveal themselves to be terrorists. Within a couple of months, the only residents left would be compliant and happy to grovel under the jackboots of whatever occupation force, US, Kurdish or Shi’a, favored them by letting them live another day. It is reminiscent of the “pacification” of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.
I apologize for providing a key pillar of the Kagan strategy, but my intellectual property was supposed to be secure in the hands of Government evaluators, and he should never have seen it. In order to properly use the powerful tool that the approach represents, one must have an appreciation of the value of human life, the importance of treating people with dignity, and a sincere desire to advance the security interests of the USA and Iraq. Alas, Dr. Kagan failed on all counts.

Here’s how it should have been done. The first step is to identify a community to be stabilized. It must be compact enough that its perimeters can be easily defended. Geography, improvements and linear terrain features must permit isolation of the community. Initially, I believe that pilot implementations should only be attempted in communities with populations of 10,000 or less.
Next, there must be an identifiable authentic indigenous local leader who has the consent of the community to govern it. Considering the cultural context, this leader is more likely to be selected through tribal custom than by election.
Then the US must negotiate with this leader. In Sunni areas, this leader will have been a leader of the resistance to our occupation. We must allow a general Amnesty for Resistance fighters for this to work. We must ask this leader to take responsibility for local security and governance, and we must offer to help him meet these responsibilities. Now, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion this will work. Recall that in December 2005 General Casey met with the authentic community leaders of ar-Ramadi in Jordan, and they asked for this sort of partnership.
Then we help him form his local security forces, help arm and equip them, and conduct formal training of these forces. We give the local leader the money to pay these forces, while we exercise prudent controls over the money so that it is spent in the manner agreed to mutually. US forces will conduct some joint patrols with these former adversaries, and we will formally turn over responsibility and control in a public ceremony. These forces, the neighbors of the community residents, then establish the cordon around their community, and these indigenous security forces control access and egress into their communities.
At the same time, this leader guarantees safe passage to our convoys transiting his zone of control. He provides military escorts for our convoys. He secures any pipelines, electrical transmission lines, or other infrastructure assets in his zone.
Another benefit of this approach to local security is that there is now a security force that is willing and able to root out foreign Jihadists. US forces can’t do it, because we can’t tell who they are. While US Special Forces have made some progress in this area lately, it is insufficient. The locals have been too busy fighting our forces to go after the foreign Arabs and foreign Muslims. Honor demands that they fight against foreign non-Muslim (US) occupiers first. But if we turn ourselves into their allies, they are free to go after our mutual enemy.

Once there is a base level of stability, programs for aid, reconstruction and development begin in earnest. But instead of having US expatriates run these programs, because we used to believe Iraqis were incapable of such things, we let the local leader manage these programs, hire the program staff, and manage the US appropriated dollars that fund them.
Yes, there will be some amount of inefficiency and some petty corruption, but the US will still steward those resources and ensure transparency and accountability by using financial controls like preparing a budget in advance, analyzing variances, and providing local citizens with access to full details.

So, we can withdraw US troops from that community, regardless of whether we cut and run or stay the course or partition the country. It will cost about $1,500 per capita for the first year of transition to a sort of municipal home rule. If we cut back on the payments the Army makes to Private Military Companies to pacify these same communities through the technique formerly known as “recon by fire,” and cut back on the USAID programs designed to teach the Iraqis how incompetent they are and how bad their culture and values are, I estimate that we would have enough money (roughly $1 Billion) to help local leaders isolate and stabilize about 100 communities in the al-Anbar Governate, accounting for about half of the population that remains there.

One apparent downside of this approach is that it could draw refugees back from Syria and Jordan, requiring a greater investment to keep the program working. But that is actually a benefit, and these people returning will accelerate the economic revival crucial for the communities to remain stable.

It needs to be said that the structure of the Iraqi economy is such that there will need to be a continuing subsidy to the stabilized communities from national oil revenues for this stability to endure.

The criticism that this approach creates a patchwork of little feudal city-states is valid. But the approach creates the opportunity for these stable communities to work out among themselves whether and how they are going to get along. In a way, this is similar to the “oil spot” strategy popularized in 2005 in that, if people adjacent to a stable community like what they see, they can imitate it on their own, or try to glom on to their neighbor.

We are powerless to force any accommodation, one way or the other. But up to now our efforts at stabilizing Iraq have been top-down, trying to impose peace from Baghdad, nominally driven by the non-existent central national government, backed up by a foreign army. Pipe dream. Just as community stability requires a foundation of family stability, so regional stability must be built on a foundation of stable communities, relying on themselves for security.

Isn’t this more like how you would want to be treated, if you were in their position ?

An Avid Student of Professor Cole, and fan of this Blog


June 8, 2007

A New Danger in Iraq

Absolutely the last thing Iraq needs right now is to have thousands of Turkish troops pour across the border into the country’s one relatively peaceful region — the Kurdish-administered northeast. Turkey’s government needs to know that it will reap nothing but disaster if that happens.

A huge military buildup is already under way on the Turkish side of the border, and Ankara has been issuing a flurry of angry charges that the Iraqi Kurds are providing sanctuary to murderous anti-Turkish guerrillas.

The Bush administration has rightly stepped up its warnings to Turkey not to attack. A Turkish invasion would not only embarrass the United States, which numbers the Kurds among its few allies in Iraq. It would add a whole new and even more dangerous dimension to the mess in Iraq.

It would infuriate Arabs, who would resent any Turkish return to areas once ruled by the Ottoman Empire. It would finish off any remaining hope of Turkey joining the European Union. And it would put a huge strain on Turkey’s fragile democratic politics. In short, it would be a disaster.

Turkey does have a real problem. Guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the P.K.K., have been striking into Turkey from their bases in Iraqi Kurdistan with growing impunity and effect, using plastic explosives, mines and arms that are readily accessible in Iraq.

These strikes have roused powerful passions in Turkey, stoked by generals eager to regain their primacy over the civilian government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which military leaders loathe for its roots in Islamic politics. So far, Turkish forces have occasionally chased P.K.K. rebels into Iraq, but they have always withdrawn.

Turkey’s feud with the P.K.K. is inextricably tied to other conflicts and rivalries inside Iraq. The most directly relevant is the tug of war between the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens over the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Ankara’s fear of fears is that a quasi-independent, Kurdish statelet on its borders could embolden Turkey’s 15 million-strong Kurdish minority to demand autonomy or independence.

Reining in the Turkish Army will take more than the warnings already issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Turkey’s leaders must understand that a major military operation in Iraq could touch off a series of regional wars and realignments that would harm Turkey far more than anything the P.K.K. could possibly cook up.

Washington Post     June 11, 2007

Tribal Coalition in Anbar Said to Be Crumbling
U.S.-Backed Group Has Fought Al-Qaeda in Iraq
By Joshua Partlow and John Ward Anderson

BAGHDAD, June 10 -- A tribal coalition formed to oppose the extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, a development that U.S. officials say has reduced violence in Iraq's troubled Anbar province, is beginning to splinter, according to an Anbar tribal leader and a U.S. military official familiar with tribal politics.

In an interview in his Baghdad office, Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, 35, a leader of the Dulaim confederation, the largest tribal organization in Anbar, said that the Anbar Salvation Council would be dissolved because of growing internal dissatisfaction over its cooperation with U.S. soldiers and the behavior of the council's most prominent member, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Suleiman called Abu Risha a "traitor" who "sells his beliefs, his religion and his people for money."

Abu Risha, who enjoys the support of U.S. military commanders, denied the allegations and said the council is not at risk of breaking apart. "There is no such thing going on," he said in a telephone interview from Jordan.

Lt. Col. Richard D. Welch, a U.S. military official who works closely with the tribal leaders in Iraq, said that relations inside the group were strained and that he expected a complete overhaul of the coalition in coming days.

U.S. military leaders hailed the creation of the nearly nine-month-old Anbar Salvation Council, first known as the Awakening, as one of the most important developments in the four-year war, signaling that insurgents and the local population in Anbar, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, have begun to see al-Qaeda in Iraq as their worst enemy, rather than the United States and its allies.

Since the tribes began working with U.S. forces to resist al-Qaeda in Iraq -- and since they began receiving significant amounts of weapons and vehicles -- violence in the province and deaths of U.S. soldiers there have fallen dramatically.

But the divisions within the coalition underscore what many see as a central dilemma: Should the United States be sponsoring profit-oriented tribal groups that involve themselves in sometimes fragile alliances and that could turn against U.S. troops?

"The question with a group like this always is, does it stay bought?" said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, referring to suggestions that the United States is paying for loyalty from the tribes.

Although backing the tribal coalition looks like "the least bad option" under the current circumstances, he said, "The key is, what can the Iraqi government offer them over time, and is it enough for them to stay with the bargain?"

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, has disputed the notion that U.S. forces were buying the loyalty of the tribes, saying that they opposed al-Qaeda in Iraq on ideological grounds and noting that many tribal leaders had been killed by the extremist group.

"I think they've done this for their lives," Petraeus said during a recent briefing on Anbar. "This is not just a business deal they've struck. When you oppose al-Qaeda, you are putting it all on the line. This is not an economic issue."

Tribal relations are notoriously fickle and fluid, and recent tensions within the Anbar Salvation Council bear some hallmarks of a power struggle that could signal either its evolution or its collapse.

Welch, a U.S. Army Reserve officer in Baghdad who specializes in tribal and religious affairs, said that "you will see, I think, in the next few days a complete severing" of relations between Abu Risha and other members of the council, and the formation of a new group.

Suleiman said 12 Anbar tribal leaders have signed an agreement to form a new coalition that would result in the dissolution of the Anbar Salvation Council and the purging of Abu Risha. "Those people have thrown themselves in the arms of the U.S. forces for their own benefit," he said.

Suleiman and Welch alleged that Abu Risha runs an oil smuggling ring and that his followers have worked as highway bandits on Anbar's roads, activities in which many tribal groups engage.

Abu Risha "made his living running a band of thieves who kidnapped and stopped and robbed people on the road between Baghdad and Jordan. That's how he made his fortune," Welch said. Tribesmen accuse Abu Risha of passing false information to U.S. forces about other tribal leaders in order to eliminate business rivals, Welch said.

Abu Risha denied these allegations and said Suleiman's work in Baghdad left him out of touch with day-to-day affairs in the province.

"I am in Anbar and I am the first fighter in Anbar. And what they are saying about it is jealousy and no more than jealousy. They are the enemies of success," he said.

Another member of the council, Raad Sabah al-Alwani, said he had not heard about Suleiman's complaints about the council or plans to dissolve it. "Impossible -- I am the head of the council for Ramadi," he said, referring to Anbar's provincial capital. "The Salvation is like one family. There are no problems between us and the members."

A U.S. Marine spokesman in Anbar, Maj. Jeffrey Pool, said that "we are not detecting any of the indicators of a major restructuring in Sahawa al-Iraq," using another name for the group. "The view from Baghdad will differ from the view from Ramadi."

The dangers of embracing tribal groups are perhaps most vividly illustrated by the U.S. experience in Afghanistan. There, the United States and its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, armed Afghan mujaheddin groups, often organized along tribal lines, in their fight against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, those weapons helped fuel a civil war and subsequently became part of the arsenal used by the Taliban, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and other groups in the current fight against U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan.

Eight policemen loyal to tribal leaders in the Anbar Salvation Council said in interviews that the U.S. military was giving them weapons, money and other materials such as uniforms, body armor, helmets and pickup trucks. In addition, the United States was paying salaries of up to $900 a month to tribal fighters, they said.

Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for Petraeus, said that supplies and funding for the police force came from the Iraqi government's Interior Ministry. "They may think they're getting paid by us because we're working with them so heavily," he said.

Abu Risha said that the U.S. military has given the police pickup trucks, Russian-made machine guns and pistols, and that salaries were paid by the Interior Ministry.

But police officials in Ramadi said they were getting very little from the central government.

"The Iraqi government has abandoned us, and we have received nothing from them except promises," said Col. Abdul Salam al-Reeshawi, head of a neighborhood police center. "More than 90 percent of the weapons and supplies come from the American forces, beginning with personal pistols and ending with medium machine guns and rocket launchers."

"When the Americans were sure of our intentions in exterminating al-Qaeda terrorists, they backed us up with weapons, cars and money," said Col. Ahmad Hamad al-Dulaimi, another top police officer in Ramadi. "Without the American forces, we couldn't do anything worth mentioning."

U.S. military officials said that virtually everyone in Anbar belongs to a tribe and that rather than ignore that fact, they were trying to exploit it. "There is an overlay of governmental structure and tribal structure, and the two, when they work well, mesh and, in a sense, complement each other in Anbar," Petraeus said.

But while the provincial police force is technically under Interior Ministry command, it is less certain whose orders police officers follow when they are out on operations.

"We take our current orders from the American Army, and we are connected to them by a center well known as the JCC," said Dulaimi, the senior police official in Ramadi. He was referring to joint coordination centers, which are U.S.-Iraqi military groups set up at the local level to monitor Iraqi security forces.

But lower-ranking members said they took their orders from tribal leaders, saying that was where their loyalties lie.

"We hate al-Qaeda, but at the same time we don't like the Americans," said Emad Jasem, 23, from the Soufiya district, north of Ramadi. Although they were cooperating with U.S. troops because of "overlapping interests," he said, "no one should jump to the conclusion that we are on the side of the Americans and support them. Our loyalty is to our community and our city."

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

The Other Iraq (slide show)

June 27, 2007

Pointing to Stability, Kurds in Iraq Lure Investors

ERBIL, Iraq — It is a measure of soaring Kurdish optimism that government officials here talk seriously about one day challenging Dubai as the Middle East’s main transportation and business hub.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is betting that it can, investing $325 million in a modern terminal at the Erbil International Airport to handle, officials hope, millions of passengers a year, and a three-mile runway that will be big enough for the new double-decker Airbus A380.

“We’re not saying Kurdistan is heaven,” said Herish Muharam, chairman of the Kurdish government’s Board of Investment. “But we’re telling investors that Kurdistan can be that heaven.”

As the rest of Iraq has plunged into a downward spiral, Kurdistan has enjoyed relative political stability and suffered limited violence, in part owing to a sectarian and political homogeneity lacking elsewhere in the country. The Kurdish region has enjoyed de facto autonomy since 1991, when the American military established a no-flight zone there, a status formalized by the new Iraqi Constitution. Although many Kurds would prefer to secede, Kurdistan, with a population of about 4.2 million, has its own army and virtually total control of its territory.

Kurdistan’s rising fortunes have been nowhere more apparent than in the wave of building and investment that has swept the region in the past four years. Iraqis and foreigners alike have poured in billions of dollars, defiantly wagering that the region will remain relatively peaceful, even as the rest of Iraq slips deeper into civil war.

Where explosions and bomb-scarred buildings have been a defining symbol elsewhere in Iraq, construction cranes are now a common feature on the Kurdish landscape, tugging hotels, shopping centers and office and housing complexes from the ground.

While public infrastructure is still suffering from chronic underinvestment, the regional government has approved more than $4 billion worth of mostly private development projects since August, when the Board of Investment was created. Billions of dollars worth of other projects were already under way.

Much of the money is coming from overseas, including the United States, Europe, the Persian Gulf countries, Iran and Turkey, officials say.

The Kurdistan government has placed special emphasis on attracting investors from the United States and Britain, unleashing a slick advertising campaign in English called “The Other Iraq,” which includes television commercials featuring romantic shots of Kurdistan’s mountains and waving, cherubic children. “It’s spectacular, it’s joyful,” intones a narrator in one 30-second spot. “It’s not a dream. It’s the other Iraq.”

The government has also hired lobbyists in Washington to help promote its development agenda, urging the State Department to change its travel warning for Iraq to distinguish Kurdistan from the rest of the country. Iraqi officials regard the travel warning as an impediment to investment and tourism.

Even with the negative travel advisory, development has been booming. Contractors have been clearing savanna and brush here in the capital of Kurdistan to build suburban residential complexes that go by names like English Village Five.

One development — Dream City, advertised as “the most elegant square kilometer in Iraq” — will include about 1,200 houses priced $180,000 to $700,000, as well as three schools, a supermarket, a restaurant, recreation areas, a casino and a mosque, according to Amer Ibrahim, the project’s manager and architect.

The principal partner in the Dream City project is also building an American-style megamall and four office towers downtown. It is a few blocks away from the ancient citadel, one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world.

Several luxury hotels are under construction, including one by the Kempinski hotel chain. A joint venture by Austrian, Turkish and Kurdish investors is developing a 500-bed hospital.

There is even talk of a Burger King franchise and a ski resort.

Asked about the most compelling ideas circulating in the investor community here, Mr. Ibrahim responded, “Everything, everything, everything.” He went on: “There’s a big lack of everything. There are no services, no infrastructure.”

For all the shiny new construction in Kurdistan, there are glaring deficiencies in the public sector. Kurdistan’s residents who rely on the public system receive at most about three hours of electricity a day, although many businesses and affluent people have their own generators. Not all areas of the region have access to clean drinking water, and the health care and education sectors are anemic. There are no wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems are inadequate: even a moderate rainfall turns the streets into foul rivers.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 American invasion, Kurdistan’s officials were so desperate for any kind of investment that they signed off on numerous projects with only limited concern for the essential needs of the population. “The government built like mad,” said Douglas Layton, director of the Erbil office of the Kurdistan Development Corporation, a public-private partnership promoting investment in the region. “There was no master plan.”

To make matters worse, government graft went unchecked. “The corruption was happening because of the rushing we were doing in nearly everything in a limited amount of time,” Mr. Muharam, of the Board of Investment, said in an interview here in May. “It caused misuse, lack of transparency.”

Many projects foundered for lack of capital. Erbil, for instance, is dotted with half-finished buildings, roadways and overpasses.

The government is now implementing a more transparent contracting system and is trying to rectify the imbalance between public and private sector development. Mr. Muharam said the government was also trying to strengthen the banking system and insurance laws to provide a more attractive environment for investors.

The government passed an investment law last year that offers generous incentives to outside investors, including the right of full ownership of property, tax and customs duty exemptions, repatriation of earnings and partnerships. The government has also been providing free land to developers to stimulate construction.

Officials and investors argue that Kurdistan offers the opportunity for businesses to establish a foothold with an eye toward a more peaceful future when development in the rest of Iraq will be possible.

“You can do business here today and as the situation stabilizes down south — and I hope it will; it’s not looking too good right now — you can move down south,” Mr. Layton said.

Last December, Austrian Airlines began twice-weekly flights between Vienna and Erbil, becoming the first European commercial airline to fly into Iraq since 2003. Taher Horami, the airport’s director general, said he is in discussion with other major international airlines on opening routes into Kurdistan.

But hovering above the development boom is a dark question: if the situation in the rest of Iraq continues to worsen, will Kurdistan’s relative tranquillity hold? And if not, will all this investment be lost?

Two truck-bomb attacks by Sunni Arab insurgents in May against Kurdish government targets, including one in the center of Erbil, severely unnerved residents and the elected leadership, not only because they were so deadly — at least 69 people were killed — but because the last major suicide attack in the region happened two years ago.

Harry J. Schute Jr., an American security adviser to the Kurdistan government, said the attacks may have been intended to punish the government for sending its pesh merga militia to help with the Baghdad security plan. In addition, he said, insurgent groups have repeatedly criticized the Kurdish authorities for their secularism and cooperation with the West.

The Kurds are anticipating an increase in insurgent activity as the country approaches a referendum on the question of whether Kurdistan can annex oil-rich Kirkuk and a swath of disputed territory in northern Iraq, a move opposed by many Sunni Arabs and Shiites. The Constitution calls for a vote by the end of the year, but no date has been set yet.

As jarring as the latest attacks may have been, they did not appear to derail any development projects, according to several government officials and private investors.

Kurdistan’s boosters point to the region’s homogeneity, as well as a strong military and a well-developed intelligence network as effective buttresses against rampant violence. “It’s relatively secure,” said Mr. Layton, an American who has worked for many years in Kurdistan. “It’s not perfect, but I’d much rather walk down the streets of Erbil than walk down the streets of Detroit, New York, Washington and Chicago.”

Still, he is not taking any chances. As he spoke, bodyguards were posted outside his office. And behind his desk chair, next to an umbrella, a Kalashnikov leaned against the wall.

Alan Attoof contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya.

Washington Post     July 17, 2007

Exit Strategies
Would Iran Take Over Iraq? Would Al-Qaeda? The Debate About How
and When to Leave Centers on What Might Happen After the U.S. Goes.

By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks

    If U.S. combat forces withdraw from Iraq in the near future, three developments would be likely to unfold. Majority Shiites would drive Sunnis out of ethnically mixed areas west to Anbar province. Southern Iraq would erupt in civil war between Shiite groups. And the Kurdish north would solidify its borders and invite a U.S. troop presence there. In short, Iraq would effectively become three separate nations.
    That was the conclusion reached in recent "war games" exercises conducted for the U.S. military by retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson. "I honestly don't think it will be apocalyptic," said Anderson, who has served in Iraq and now works for a major defense contractor. But "it will be ugly."
    In making the case for a continued U.S. troop presence, President Bush has offered far more dire forecasts, arguing that al-Qaeda or Iran -- or both -- would take over Iraq after a "precipitous withdrawal" of U.S. forces. Al-Qaeda, he said recently, would "be able to recruit better and raise more money from which to launch their objectives" of attacking the U.S. homeland. War opponents in Congress counter that Bush's talk about al-Qaeda is overblown fear-mongering and that nothing could be worse than the present situation.
    Increasingly, the Washington debate over when U.S. forces should leave is centering on what would happen once they do. The U.S. military, aware of this political battlefield, has been quietly exploring scenarios of a reduced troop presence, performing role-playing exercises and studying historical parallels. Would the Iraqi government find its way, or would the country divide along sectarian lines? Would al-Qaeda take over? Would Iran? Would U.S. security improve or deteriorate? Does the answer depend on when, how and how many U.S. troops depart?
    Some military officers contend that, regardless of whether Iraq breaks apart or outside actors seek to take over after a U.S. pullout, ever greater carnage is inevitable. "The water-cooler chat I hear most often . . . is that there is going to be an outbreak of violence when we leave that makes the [current] instability look like a church picnic," said an officer who has served in Iraq.
    However, just as few envisioned the long Iraq war, now in its fifth year, or the many setbacks along the way, there are no firm conclusions regarding the consequences of a reduction in U.S. troops. A senior administration official closely involved in Iraq policy imagines a vast internecine slaughter as Iraq descends into chaos but cautions that it is impossible to know the outcome. "We've got to be very modest about our predictive capabilities," the official said.

Mistakes of the Past
    In April of last year, the Army and Joint Forces Command sponsored a war game called Unified Quest 2007 at the Army War College in Pennsylvania. It assumed the partition of an "Iraq-like" country, said one player, retired Army Col. Richard Sinnreich, with U.S. troops moving quickly out of the capital to redeploy in the far north and south. "We have obligations to the Kurds and the Kuwaitis, and they also offer the most stable and secure locations from which to continue," he said. "Even then, the end-of-game assessment wasn't very favorable" to the United States, he said.
    Anderson, the retired Marine, has conducted nearly a dozen Iraq-related war games for the military over the past two years, many premised on a U.S. combat pullout by a set date -- leaving only advisers and support units -- and concluded that partition would result. The games also predicted that Iran would intervene on one side of a Shiite civil war and would become bogged down in southern Iraq.
    T.X. Hammes, another retired Marine colonel, said that an extended Iranian presence in Iraq could lead to increased intervention by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states on the other side. "If that happens," Hammes said, "I worry that the Iranians come to the conclusion they have to do something to undercut . . . the Saudis." Their best strategy, he said, "would be to stimulate insurgency among the Shiites in Saudi Arabia."
    In a secret war game conducted in December at an office building near the Pentagon, more than 20 participants from the military, the CIA, the State Department and the private sector spent three days examining what might unfold if the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group were implemented.
    One question involved how Syria and Iran might respond to the U.S. diplomatic outreach proposed by the bipartisan group, headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). The gamers concluded that Iran would be difficult to engage because its divided government is incapable of delivering on its promises. Role-players representing Syria did engage with the U.S. diplomats, but linked helping out in Baghdad to a lessening of U.S. pressure in Lebanon.
    The bottom line, one participant said, was "pretty much what we are seeing" since the Bush administration began intermittent talks with Damascus and Tehran: not much progress or tangible results.
    Amid political arguments in Washington over troop departures, U.S. military commanders on the ground stress the importance of developing a careful and thorough withdrawal plan. Whatever the politicians decide, "it needs to be well-thought-out and it cannot be a strategy that is based on 'Well, we need to leave,' " Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, a top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Friday from his base near Tikrit.
    History is replete with bad withdrawal outcomes. Among the most horrific was the British departure from Afghanistan in 1842, when 16,500 active troops and civilians left Kabul thinking they had safe passage to India. Two weeks later, only one European arrived alive in Jalalabad, near the Afghan-Indian border.
    The Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan, which began in May 1988 after a decade of occupation, reveals other mistakes to avoid. Like the U.S. troops who arrived in Iraq in 2003, the Soviet force in Afghanistan was overwhelmingly conventional, heavy with tanks and other armored vehicles. Once Moscow made public its plans to leave, the political and security situations unraveled much faster than anticipated. "The Soviet Army actually had to fight out of certain areas," said Army Maj. Daniel Morgan, a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war who has been studying the Soviet pullout at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., with an eye toward gleaning lessons for Iraq. "As a matter of fact, they had to airlift out of Kandahar, the fighting was so bad."
    War supporters and opponents in Washington disagree on the lessons of the departure most deeply imprinted on the American psyche: the U.S. exit from Vietnam. "I saw it once before, a long time ago," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam veteran and presidential candidate, said last week of an early Iraq withdrawal. "I saw a defeated military, and I saw how long it took a military that was defeated to recover."
    Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), also a White House hopeful, finds a different message in the Vietnam retreat. Saying that Baghdad would become "Saigon revisited," he warned that "we will be lifting American personnel off the roofs of buildings in the Green Zone if we do not change policy, and pretty drastically."

The Al-Qaeda Threat
    What is perhaps most striking about the military's simulations is that its post-drawdown scenarios focus on civil war and regional intervention and upheaval rather than the establishment of an al-Qaeda sanctuary in Iraq.
    For Bush, however, that is the primary risk of withdrawal. "It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda," he said in a news conference last week. "It would mean that we'd be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we'd allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan." If U.S. troops leave too soon, Bush said, they would probably "have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous."
    Withdrawal would also "confuse and frighten friends and allies in the region and embolden Syria and especially Iran, which would then exert its influence throughout the Middle East," the president said.
    Bush is not alone in his description of the al-Qaeda threat should the United States leave Iraq too soon. "There's not a doubt in my mind that Osama bin Laden's one goal is to take over the Kingdom of the Two Mosques [Saudi Arabia] and reestablish the caliphate" that ended with the Ottoman Empire, said a former senior military official now at a Washington think tank. "It would be very easy for them to set up camps and run them in Anbar and Najaf" provinces in Iraq.
    U.S. intelligence analysts, however, have a somewhat different view of al-Qaeda's presence in Iraq, noting that the local branch takes its inspiration but not its orders from bin Laden. Its enemies -- the overwhelming majority of whom are Iraqis -- reside in Baghdad and Shiite-majority areas of Iraq, not in Saudi Arabia or the United States. While intelligence officials have described the Sunni insurgent group calling itself al-Qaeda in Iraq as an "accelerant" for violence, they have cited domestic sectarian divisions as the main impediment to peace.
    In a report released yesterday, Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that al-Qaeda is "only one part" of a spectrum of Sunni extremist groups and is far from the largest or most active. Military officials have said in background briefings that al-Qaeda is responsible for about 15 percent of the attacks, Cordesman said, although the group is "highly effective" and probably does "the most damage in pushing Iraq towards civil war." But its activities "must be kept in careful perspective, and it does not dominate the Sunni insurgency," he said.

'Serious Consequences'
    Moderate lawmakers such as Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) have concluded that a unified Iraqi government is not on the near horizon and have called for redeployment, change of mission and a phased drawdown of U.S. forces. Far from protecting U.S. interests, Lugar said in a recent speech, the continuation of Bush's policy poses "extreme risks for U.S. national security."
    Critics of complete withdrawal often charge that "those advocating [it] just don't understand the serious consequences of doing so," said Wayne White, a former deputy director of Near East division of the State Department's Intelligence and Research Bureau. "Unfortunately, most of us old Middle East hands understand all too well some of the consequences."
    White is among many Middle East experts who think that the United States should leave Iraq sooner rather than later, but differ on when, how and what would happen next. Most agree that either an al-Qaeda or Iranian takeover would be unlikely, and say that Washington should step up its regional diplomacy, putting more pressure on regional actors such as Saudi Arabia to take responsibility for what is happening in their back yards.
    Many regional experts within and outside the administration note that while there is a range of truly awful possibilities, it is impossible to predict what will happen in Iraq -- with or without U.S. troops.
    "Say the Shiites drive the Sunnis into Anbar," one expert said of Anderson's war-game scenario. "Well, what does that really mean? How many tens of thousands of people are going to get killed before all the surviving Sunnis are in Anbar?" He questioned whether that result would prove acceptable to a pro-withdrawal U.S. public.
    White, speaking at a recent symposium on Iraq, addressed the possibility of unpalatable withdrawal consequences by paraphrasing Winston Churchill's famous statement about democracy. "I posit that withdrawal from Iraq is the worst possible option, except for all the others."

solami wrote:
Turkey is about to go to the polls, its soldiers were moved and are now on stand-by at the Turkish-Iraqi borders, yesterday's and tomorrow's events on and in Kirkuk - the Kurdish-Turkoman flashpoint - are bad omens, and a withdrawal of US troop from Iraq is projected to unleash spreading hell in that part of the world. As pointed out in the Turkish newpaper EKOPOLITIK ( it aint necessarily so, for an alternative to this flat earth mess, called the Mosul Vilayet project, has been in the making! (there is an English version:
7/17/2007 7:50:00 AM

Op-Ed Contributor

July 20, 2007

Why the United Nations Belongs in Iraq

AFTER meeting with President Bush on Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Iraqi situation is “a problem of the whole world” and that the United Nations is prepared to contribute to the “Iraqi government and people to help them overcome this difficulty.”

The United States recognizes the global importance of stabilizing Iraq and supports this forward-leaning approach to enhancing the United Nations’ role. The United Nations possesses certain comparative advantages for undertaking complex internal and regional mediation efforts; it can also help internationalize the effort to stabilize the country.

In coming weeks, the United Nations will appoint a new envoy for Iraq and renew the Security Council mandate for its mission in Baghdad. As special envoy and ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, I saw how the United Nations could play an enormously helpful role when represented by talented envoys who are given the right mandate, and when supported by the major powers. In Iraq, the United States supports a larger United Nations role because we believe that with the right envoy and mandate it is the best vehicle to address the two fundamental issues driving the crisis in Iraq.

First, the United Nations has unmatched convening power that can help Iraq’s principal communities reach a national compact on the distribution of political and economic power. In the role of mediator, it has inherent legitimacy and the flexibility to talk to all parties, including elements outside the political process.

A new United Nations envoy should have a mandate to help Iraqis complete work on a range of issues: the law governing distribution of hydrocarbon revenues, the reform of the de-Baathification law, the review of the Constitution, the plan for demobilization of militias, an agreement for insurgents to give up their armed struggle. The envoy should be empowered to help resolve the status of Kirkuk and disputed internal boundaries and to prepare and monitor provincial elections. Also, the mandate should make it possible for the United Nations to explore potential third-party guarantees that may be needed to induce Iraqi factions to reconcile.

In this role, the United Nations has an added advantage by virtue of its role as co-leader with the Iraqi government of the International Compact for Iraq, an agreement that commits Iraq’s leaders to key political steps and policy reforms in exchange for economic and other support from the international community. The influence that the United Nations has over the release of any assistance will give its envoy significant leverage to encourage compromises among Iraqi leaders.

Second, the United Nations is also uniquely suited to work out a regional framework to stabilize Iraq. Several of Iraq’s neighbors — not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States — are pursuing destabilizing policies. The United States supports a new mandate that creates a United Nations-led multilateral diplomatic process to contain the regional competition that is adding fuel to the fire of Iraq’s internal conflict.

This process should build on the work of the expanded neighbors conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in May, where regional powers, as well as members of the Security Council and the eight industrialized nations, began a dialogue on Iraq and established a set of working groups on security, energy and refugees. Going forward, this dialogue should be institutionalized at the ministerial level under the leadership of the secretary general. Also, the United Nations envoy for Iraq should convene a contact group at the subministerial level that will meet regularly to determine whether specific agreements are being carried out.

To do this work, the United Nations will need additional political, financial, logistical and security support from states with interests in the region. In addition, the coalition will need to maintain forces in Iraq to build on the initial positive security results of our new strategy in Iraq, and to work with the United Nations to ensure that the coalition’s military strategy supports the internal and regional mediation efforts. The United States recognizes its responsibilities and is prepared to do its part.

While reasonable people can differ on whether the coalition should have intervened against Saddam Hussein’s regime, it is clear at this point that the future of Iraq will have a profound effect on the region and, in turn, on peace and stability in the world. The United States endorses Mr. Ban’s call for an expanded United Nations role in Iraq to help Iraq become a peaceful, stable country — one that will be a responsible partner in the international community and a force for moderation in the region.

Zalmay Khalilzad, ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to April, is the United States ambassador to the United Nations.

Op-Ed Contributor
    July 30, 2007

A War We Just Might Win

    VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
    Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
    After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
    Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
    Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.
    In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.
    In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street. The local Sunni militia even had agreed to confine itself to its compound once the Americans and Iraqi units arrived.
    We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq. All across the country, the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark.
    But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).
    In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.
    In the past, few Iraqi units could do more than provide a few “jundis” (soldiers) to put a thin Iraqi face on largely American operations. Today, in only a few sectors did we find American commanders complaining that their Iraqi formations were useless — something that was the rule, not the exception, on a previous trip to Iraq in late 2005.
    The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.
    In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
    These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.
    Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.
    In some places where we have failed to provide the civilian manpower to fill out the reconstruction teams, the surge has still allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. We talked to dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business but were now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.
    Outside Baghdad, one of the biggest factors in the progress so far has been the efforts to decentralize power to the provinces and local governments. But more must be done. For example, the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian. The coalition has to force the warlords in Baghdad to allow the creation of neutral security forces beyond their control.
    In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.
    How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

    Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

Washington Post    August 4, 2007

In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies

By Sudarsan Raghavan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKAN, Iraq -- Inside a brightly lit room, the walls adorned with memorials to 23 dead American soldiers, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage stared at the three Sunni tribal leaders he wanted to recruit.

Their fighters had battled U.S. troops. Balcavage suspected they might have attacked some of his own men. The trio accused another sheik of having links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. That sheik, four days earlier, had promised the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and protect a strategic road.

"Who do you trust? Who do you not trust?" said Balcavage, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, his voice dipping out of earshot.

An hour later, he signed up some of America's newest allies.

U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.

American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.

But interviews with ground commanders and tribal leaders offer a window into how the United States is financing a new constellation of mostly Sunni armed groups with murky allegiances and shady pasts.

The two-week-old initiative, inspired by similar efforts underway in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala provinces, has more than halved attacks here against American troops, from 19 a day to seven, U.S. commanders said. But in a land of sectarian fault lines and shifting tribal loyalties, the strategy raises concerns about the long-term implications of empowering groups that steadfastly oppose the Shiite-led government.

Shiite leaders fear that the United States is financing highly trained and well-armed militias that could undermine the government after American troops withdraw. Shiites worry such groups could weaken central authority and challenge democratic institutions that many would like to see take root.

U.S. generals said they vet the backgrounds of every recruit, but ground commanders here said that is all but an impossible task.

"Officially, we will not deal with those who have American blood on their hands," said Balcavage, 42. "But how do you know? You don't. There's a degree of risk involved. A lot of it is gut instinct. That's what I'm going on. They didn't teach me how to do this at West Point."

'It's Like Rent-a-Cop'

In this fertile region, divided by the Euphrates River and torn by violence, U.S. soldiers are overstretched and Iraqi troops are in short supply. Isolated Sunni tribal lands have provided extremists with havens that are off-limits to U.S. patrols and Iraq's mostly Shiite security forces.

"We've done nothing in this area, because we could not get in there," said Col. Michael Garrett, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, adding that the tribal strategy will "buy time and access."

The sheiks are promised reconstruction projects in their strongholds and jobs for their fighters in Iraq's security forces. In return, they pledge to patrol their lands, battle al-Qaeda in Iraq and dismantle roadside bombs, the main killer of U.S. soldiers.

The sheiks commit to securing oil pipelines and U.S. military supply routes, taking over some of the duties of Iraq's army and police. The fighters are provided with badges, yellow reflective belts and arrest powers.

"It's like rent-a-cop," said Maj. Rick Williams, a Tulsa native who is a liaison to tribal leaders in the region.

The goal is to mimic the successes unfolding in the Sunni heartland of Anbar, where U.S-backed sheiks have fought al-Qaeda in Iraq for months. There, insurgent attacks have dropped dramatically.

But in this patch of north Babil province, colored in green hues and crisscrossed with irrigation canals, marshes and fish farms, the tribal and sectarian landscape is more complex than in Anbar, which is homogenously Sunni. Babil's battle lines blur easily.

Hundreds of local Sunni tribesmen have aligned themselves with al-Qaeda in Iraq or other Sunni insurgent groups, such as the Islamic Army. Shiite tribes are weak because loyalties to clerics are stronger than allegiances to sheiks.

'They Took Everything'

Most of the new recruits hail from the Jenabi, the largest and most influential tribe. Under Saddam Hussein, the Jenabi were considered a "golden tribe," filling the ranks of his elite Republican Guard and army. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Jenabi, like so many other Sunni tribes, joined the insurgency.

Ahmed Rasheed Khadr, 38, was among them. He and his fighters fought U.S. forces with a vengeance, he said. But by 2005, Khadr was facing a new threat. Extremists linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq overran Howija, where his family owned 700 acres, and imposed strict interpretations of Islamic laws. And like Afghanistan's Taliban, they banned smoking, television, even cellphones with video cameras, Khadr said.

The Jenabi splintered. Some sided with the al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters out of fear. Others joined because they wanted to isolate themselves from the region's Shiites and their militias. Those who refused to align were targeted, often by their own tribesmen.

"The Jenabi tribe, the problem they're having is that the al-Qaeda is them," Balcavage said.

Galib Youssef Fahad, Khadr's cousin, can't forget Nov. 12, 2005.

"Al-Qaeda attacked our area of Howija. They slaughtered 15 of our men, some our sons, uncles and brothers," said Fahad, his eyes dull with sorrow. "After the massacre, they burned our houses and stole our cars. They took everything."

He and his tribesmen fled to Hay al-Askari, where they live today.

Sensing an opportunity, both Fahad and Khadr say they now want to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. After years of feeling disenfranchised, they seek legitimacy. They want their lands back and money that will strengthen their control over their tribe. They hope for political empowerment and a stronger position after an American withdrawal.

But the main reason they visited the U.S. military base last week was this: They had heard that another Jenabi leader, known as Sheik Sabah, was working with the Americans.

An Offer to the Sheiks

It was 5.20 p.m. one day last week. First Sgt. James McGann told Balcavage that some sheiks from Howija were at the gate of the base. They wanted to see him.

"Maybe they're al-Qaeda," Balcavage quipped. His face turned serious.

"Are they enemy?" he asked, recalling attacks on Americans in Howija. McGann shrugged.

A half-hour later, after the visitors had been frisked and relieved of their weapons, they were taken to the Bastogne Room, named for the town in Belgium where a previous generation of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment fought during World War II.

Outside the conference room are four photos, in elegant wooden frames, of comrades killed in this war. Nearby is a wall covered with photos of armaments, bombs and other reminders of the perils outside.

Balcavage stared around the room. Fahad, Khadr and a third Jenabi leader, Falah Khadr Muhammad, sat on one side along with three other tribesmen. Farther down the table was a thick-bearded American civilian and former Special Forces soldier.

And next to Balcavage: Fadhil Youssef, a former Sunni insurgent who had spent six months in a U.S. military detention center. He was Balcavage's conduit into the arcane world of Iraq's tribes. Balcavage said he trusted him.

Speaking through an interpreter, the commander made his offer to the sheiks. Each of their men would receive about $350 a month. That pay would create an incentive to join the Iraqi police, whose salary is roughly $500, when it was possible, he said. The military would also pay the sheiks $100 for every bomb plucked off the roadside.

They would need to sign an interim contract, and if they properly secured the area they would be paid in 30 days. The money, he said, would be paid to the sheiks, and they could divide it up any way they chose.

He urged them to stay united.

"If we are going to work with Jenabis, we're going to work with all the Jenabi tribes," Balcavage said.

'We Will Support You'

It was the sheiks' turn to speak.

They immediately accused Sheik Sabah of having links to al-Qaeda in Iraq and of playing a role in driving them off their lands.

"Sheik Sabah represents the leaders of al-Qaeda who did the killing," Fahad said.

Balcavage asked Fahad whether Sabah belonged to the Islamic Army, which is fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, or to al-Qaeda in Iraq itself.

"Al-Qaeda," Fahad replied. Sabah, he alleged, claimed to have switched allegiances to the Islamic Army as a way to make himself more attractive to the Americans.

Perplexed, Balcavage looked at Youssef. It had been less than two weeks, but two rival factions already had arisen within the "concerned citizens." Sabah had formed a group called the VIP Council. Youssef's was called the Iraq Rescue Council.

Later, Youssef told Balcavage that Sabah had been trying to force other sheiks to join his faction. "They take their guns and wave the American flag in the air," Youssef said. "No one can say no."

Meanwhile, Fahad was speaking with the former Special Forces soldier, known as JR. For security reasons, U.S. commanders here declined to provide JR's name or affiliation.

"We have a lot of men. We want to fight and chase al-Qaeda out of the area," Fahad said. "We are ready."

"They want to go home, and they want to control the area," JR said. "So with our help, you'll bring your people back into this area?"

Fahad and the other sheiks nodded. They told him they have about 90 fighters.

JR, asserting control, pored over a map of the area.

"It will be an honor to retake the lands al-Qaeda has taken from you, and we will support you," he said.

Balcavage asked Youssef to start preparing a contract for the sheiks, who then had their photos and fingerprints taken in the conference room. Their retinas were scanned and their weapons registered.

'I Can Do a Better Job'

Khadr said he planned to use the U.S. money to buy more arms on the black market. "We have some personal protection arms, but if we want to really fight al-Qaeda and destroy them, we need more weapons," said Khadr, with a faint smile.

But he's not holding out hope that his tribesmen will be allowed to join Iraq's Shiite-dominated army and police. So far, he and other tribal leaders have dispatched their men to three separate military recruiting drives. At each, the government refused to let them join the army, U.S. commanders and tribal leaders said.

The government, Khadr said, is inefficient. Officials "have failed to pull the people towards them. They have failed to fight militias and insurgents. They have failed in running the whole country," he said.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top U.S. commander in Babil and other areas south of Baghdad, said last month: "If these 'concerned citizens' don't get a sense that the government of Iraq is going to embrace them and allow them to be legitimate, this is all for nothing."

But in some cases, the sheiks are signing up to replace the Iraqi government in their areas. Williams, the tribal liaison, recalled how a man named Sheik Abdullah approached him one day and told him that Sunni tribal leaders didn't want the Iraqi army to control a pipeline that ran through their land.

"I can do a better job protecting the pipeline," he told Williams, promising to use his 300 fighters if the Americans called off Iraqi soldiers and awarded him a security contract.

Williams said Abdullah would soon get his contract.

'I Could Be Horribly Wrong'

After the meeting, Balcavage discussed with another commander whether they should give a cache of weapons to help the sheiks retake their lands in Howija from al-Qaeda in Iraq. They quickly decided against it.

Balcavage said he didn't know whether Youssef and other sheiks were trying to poison the military's relationship with Sabah. On July 23, Sabah signed an initial contract to provide 300 men and guard a key supply route to Fallujah and Baghdad.

"The only thing I know is my experience with Fadhil," said Balcavage, referring to Youssef. "I'm trusting my gut. I could be horribly wrong in this situation."

And what about Sabah? Was Balcavage worried about the al-Qaeda in Iraq allegations?

"I'm going to reel him in," Balcavage said. "To keep your enemy close type of thing. Feel him out. I'm going to see how many contacts, how much information I can find out from him. I'll bring his tribe in, if nothing else, and make sure all the agreements get signed."

On Thursday, a group of senior-ranking sheiks made contact with U.S. commanders to become "concerned citizens."

Sabah is their representative.

Washington Post    August 8, 2007

Pressed by U.S., a Wary U.N. Now Plans Larger Iraq Role

By Colum Lynch

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 7 -- The United Nations has offered to increase its presence in Baghdad for the first time in more than three years, after repeated appeals from the Bush administration for the world body to play a more active role in mediating Iraq's sectarian disputes.

B. Lynn Pascoe, the top political adviser to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that the United Nations was prepared to boost its personnel in Iraq over the coming months. The organization is also seeking $130 million to build a heavily reinforced compound in Baghdad to house the growing U.N. mission.

The U.S. push for a broader U.N. role in Iraq underscores Washington's reliance on the United Nations to strengthen international support for the war. The move also reflects a commitment by Ban, who took over as U.N. chief in January, to overcome the institution's deep aversion to aiding the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Ban has vowed to do more than his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who opposed the U.S. invasion, but he faces a backlash from U.N. officials who fear inheriting the Iraqi mess and from Iraqi leaders who worry that U.N. peacekeeping efforts could diminish their power.

"There is an effort by the United States to try re-internationalize the Iraq venture," said Qubad Talabani, a Kurdish representative in Washington and the son of President Jalal Talabani of Iraq. "I think there would be widespread opposition to the U.N. freelancing in Iraq. Any involvement by the United Nations has to be in very close coordination with the Iraqi government."

The United States and Britain are pressing for a vote Thursday on a Security Council resolution calling on the United Nations to promote talks on national reconciliation and to marshal regional and international support for Iraq. The resolution also instructs the United Nations to help resolve territorial disputes, particularly in the northern Kurdish territory, where Iraqis are preparing for a referendum on the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"What is driving the conflict now is largely disagreement among the different Iraqi groups on political, economic distribution of power and to prevent unhelpful regional interference," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"The U.N. needs to play a bigger role that can help the Iraqis overcome these difficulties. . . . One of the advantages of the U.N. is that it can reach out to many groups and some groups that do not want to talk to other external players," he said, referring to the United States and Britain.

Pascoe told the Security Council on Tuesday that the U.N. staff in Baghdad could grow by nearly 50 percent, with the ceiling on workers in the capital rising from 65 to 95 by October.

Khalilzad also has pressed the United Nations to name a dynamic new special envoy to head the U.N. mission in Baghdad, replacing Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, who will step down in the coming months. Front-runners include Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, a former deputy U.N. envoy in Iraq; and Jean Arnault, a Frenchman who ran U.N. operations in Afghanistan, Guatemala and Georgia.

The Bush administration's overtures to the United Nations -- including two visits by Ban to the White House since January -- contrast with the disdain it held for the organization in past years. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President Bush predicted that the United Nations would meet the fate of the defunct League of Nations if it failed to confront Saddam Hussein. And the Pentagon sought to exclude the United Nations from any involvement in Iraq's reconstruction.

In the months following Hussein's fall, however, the Bush administration turned to the Security Council for endorsement of the U.S. occupation. U.N. officials in Iraq eventually helped stand up a transitional government, organize elections and negotiate a constitution.

But the institution has become a spectator as Iraq has slid deeper into chaos. The drawdown of British troops in the south has forced the United Nations to withdraw its staff from Basra, one of three U.N. headquarters in the country. Pascoe said that a spike in suicide bombings in Irbil -- where the United Nations has a small mission -- has made it difficult to expand its operations there. The U.N. mission in Baghdad has been largely restricted to the coalition-controlled Green Zone, limiting the United Nations' ability to reach out to Iraq's disparate political players.

U.N. officials have grown increasingly concerned about shielding its quarters from mortar and rocket attacks even in the protected area. In a reminder of the risks, a mortar shell exploded outside a room where Ban and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq addressed reporters in March.

Many U.N. staff members still harbor resentment against the United States over the 2003 suicide bombing that killed U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other U.N. workers who were serving in Iraq, supporting a U.S. military mission the organization had opposed.

Some senior U.N. officials, including peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France and the human rights commissioner, Louise Arbour of Canada, have privately voiced concern about the United Nations being left with responsibility for Iraq, according to other U.N. officials. But even some officials who previously opposed a U.N. return to Iraq now argue that a U.N. mediation role could prove vital in breaking the political deadlock among the Iraqi factions.

"I think the worst thing of all would be for Washington to come to the U.N., ask the U.N. to do it, and the U.N. either to refuse to do it or to be unable to do it," said Kieran Prendergast, a former British diplomat who served as Annan's top political adviser. "I felt in my old job that the U.N. could have helped prevent some of the more egregious mistakes that were made, but you remember no one was listening to us."

Ban and Pascoe, a former U.S. diplomat, have been keen on carving out a more active role for the institution in Iraq. Pascoe has been seeking to head off a bureaucratic insurrection after the publication of an op-ed article by Khalilzad in the New York Times late last month outlining an expansive new role for the United Nations in Iraq.

At a recent meeting, Pascoe urged his top advisers to tell their staff members that the United Nations has no intention of inheriting the mission in Iraq and that the United Nations would simply expand the role it is already playing there. "The subject of cut-and-run, dump, all that stuff, it's not even out there," Pascoe said in an interview describing Ban's meetings with Bush and other administration officials.

"We were talking about areas where we might be able to be of some help. Clearly, the Americans were saying they'd like to have the help," Pascoe added. "We are, I think, seen as more neutral, maybe, in this process than others. We not only have the contacts, but we could talk to everybody." A meaningful role for the United Nations, however, will depend on "what the Iraqis writ large want to do, not only the government, but the other groups."

August 10, 2007

Jordan Yields Poverty and Pain for the Well-Off Fleeing Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan, Aug. 9 — After her husband’s killing, Amira sold a generation of her family’s belongings, packed up her children and left behind their large house in Baghdad, with its gardener and maid.

Now, a year later, she is making meat fritters for money in this sand-colored capital, unable to afford glasses for her son, and in the quiet moments, choking on the bitterness of loss.

The war has scattered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis throughout the Middle East, but those who came here tended to be the most affluent. Most lacked residency status and were not allowed to work, but as former bank managers, social club directors and business owners, they thought their money would last.

It has not. Rents are high, schools cost money, and under-the-table jobs pay little. A survey of 100 Iraqi families found that 64 were surviving by selling their assets.

Now, as a new school year begins, many Iraqis here say they can no longer afford some of life’s basic requirements — education for their children and hospital visits for their families. Teeth are pulled instead of filled. Shampoo is no longer on the grocery list. “My savings are finished,” said Amira, who is 50. “My kids won’t be in school this year.”

It is a painful new reality for an important part of Iraq’s population, the educated, secular center. They refused to take sides as the violence got worse. And their suffering augurs something larger for Iraq. The poorer they grow and the longer they stay away, the more crippled Iraq becomes. “The binding section of the population does not exist anymore,” said Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, who now spends most of his time in Jordan. “The middle class has left Iraq.”

Iraqis streamed into Jordan and Syria in 2005 and 2006, with the professional class picking Jordan. The signs on the second floor of Al Essra Hospital, a private hospital in central Amman, display only Iraqi doctors’ names. The Jordanians have been relatively lenient, registering doctors in their medical unions and allowing the vast majority to live in their country without residency permits.

But by early this year Iraqis were weighing so heavily on this small country that the Jordanian authorities sharply reduced the numbers they accepted. (Rejections became so common that Iraqi Airways now offers a 30 percent discount to returning passengers who have been turned away.)

Many thought Jordan would be a stop on the way to Australia or Sweden, or a brief vacation from Baghdad’s inferno. But as the months wore on, it became clear that most countries were closed to Iraqis, the war was only getting worse, and families were left stranded, burning through their savings. The Australian authorities twice rejected Hassan Jabr, a Spanish teacher who left his elegant home and garden in Baghdad after his 12-year-old son was kidnapped and killed last year. Now, with his savings gone, badly dented before he left by a $10,000 ransom that he paid to try to get his son back, he is living off his family’s food ration cards that his mother sells in Baghdad. “We saw reality in Amman and we were shocked,” he said, sitting in his spare one-room apartment in eastern Amman. “We planned for two months.”

Iraqis here have never been formally counted. A survey by a Norwegian group, Fafo, which has not been made public, is expected to report there are less than half of the 750,000 commonly estimated to be in Jordan.

But that is still 10 percent of the population of two million in Amman, where most of the Iraqis live, and aid agencies have stepped up activities.

This month the Jordanian government, under pressure from the United States, agreed to let Iraqi children without residency attend public schools, a right not extended to any other foreigners.

But the schools are crowded and the government has not yet prepared for the change, arguing that it should receive aid to accommodate it. United Nations agencies are asking for extra money to expand, at first by adding new shifts to existing schools.

Save the Children, a humanitarian group, says it has referred 4,000 Iraqis to schools recently, but the referrals do not guarantee acceptance. Amira went to the public school in her neighborhood, but was told that there was no room for her children. Private school cost her $5,000 last year, a third of her savings.

As the middle class becomes poor, new patterns form. Zeinab Majid’s okra stew no longer has meat. She buys her vegetables just before sunset, when the prices are the lowest. A stranger offered her the use of a washing machine, a gesture that nearly brought her to tears.

She came to Amman last September after her husband, a painter, had received two threats, and the studio he used had been bombed. They sold everything. Now her husband, a quiet man in small round glasses, spends his days jabbing paint onto small canvases while their boys, ages 7 and 4, watch cartoons on an old TV. “There are days when I’m penniless completely,” she said, serving juice to visitors. A Catholic relief organization, Caritas, helped pay for first grade for her older son last year.

The pain of the war closes people, and recent arrivals tend to live isolated lives, dividing the community into small, sad pockets. Amira moves mechanically through her days like a stunned survivor of a shipwreck. Tears come easily when she remembers the belongings she sold, the photo albums she did not take. Her husband, a Sunni, died five days after men in police uniforms took him from his shop last year. His face was bruised and his body broken. It was 22 years to the day since they first met. “They were after the happiness,” she said, her face wet with tears. “They wanted to kill the happiness.”

The United States promised to increase the number of Iraqi refugees it takes, and the United Nations has referred 9,100 Iraqis to it this year. But so far fewer than 200 have arrived, according to the State Department. Several hundred more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

Running out of money is frightening, and some families choose to move to Syria, where things are cheaper, or, in some cases, back to Baghdad and the war.

Aseel Qaradaghi, a 25-year-old software engineer, was pregnant when she brought her small daughter here last summer after receiving threats from Islamic extremists. Her husband, a translator for a South African security firm, stayed in Baghdad to earn money. But when he did not call on her birthday, she knew something was wrong, and only after pressing his friends on a crackling phone line did she learn that he had been kidnapped.

Now, eight months later, she is earning a small wage at a nursery, but without his salary it is not enough, and she has applied for refugee status. If she is rejected, she will have to return to Baghdad. She does not know her husband’s fate, but worries that it will be the same as her brother’s, killed for working as a translator for the American military. “I cannot allow myself to think about him,” she said, bouncing her baby boy on her lap. “The moment I start to allow feelings, my life will stop. I’m afraid of the moment that I collapse.”

Last week, Amira had a guest. Nada, a mother of three, whose husband worked as a deputy director of a prestigious social club in Baghdad, was preparing to move to Syria. The thousands of dollars from the sale of several cars and a house are almost gone. “My daughter was second in her class,” Amira said, her words coming hard and fast. “I traveled all over the world. I want to tell the Americans what has happened to us.”

Yusra al-Hakeem contributed reporting.

Washington Post    August 10, 2007

U.S. Seeks U.N. Help With Talks On Iraq
Aim Is to Muster Regional Support

By Colum Lynch and Robin Wright

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 9 -- The Bush administration is proposing a series of U.N.-brokered talks in Baghdad between the United States and Iraq's neighbors in an effort to rally support for the beleaguered Iraqi government.

The initiative, outlined in an interview with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, comes as American diplomats have struggled to gain regional backing for U.S. policies in Iraq. After a high-profile trip to the Middle East last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yielded few results, the administration is turning to the United Nations to help enlist Iraq's most influential neighbors, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in stabilizing the country.

"I think you need regional help to get the Iraqis to come together," Khalilzad said. "For us, it's so hard to do this."

The evolving U.S. strategy is modeled on the approach used several years ago to build a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. With backing from Washington, the United Nations shored up support from Afghanistan's most powerful neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan. The resurgence of this approach underscores the rising influence of pragmatic U.S. diplomats who believe it is necessary to engage some of America's bitterest enemies in the Middle East.

The move comes as the U.N. Security Council prepares for a vote Friday on a resolution expanding the United Nations' mediation role in Iraq. The resolution would grant the global body a clearer mandate to promote such international talks and to lead diplomatic efforts aimed at uniting Iraq's rival factions.

After reviewing its Iraq policy last winter, the White House committed to boosting diplomatic efforts in the region. But Washington has failed to win significant new cooperation from any of the countries bordering Iraq -- Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. In Egypt last week, Rice met with the "six plus two" nations, an informal alliance of the six sheikdoms in the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt and Jordan, but the only tangible result was a Saudi offer to explore opening an embassy in Baghdad.

"Regional diplomacy has turned out to be only lip service," said Chas Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. "We have failed to create circumstances for political reconciliation and unity in Iraq. And we have not taken the next step to engage with Iraq's neighbors to support a process that produces that result."

U.S. efforts to directly enlist Iranian support in Iraq have also suffered setbacks. Since May, Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has twice held formal talks with Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi in Baghdad, but State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday that this new dialogue -- the first public contact between the two nations in 28 years -- has so far yielded no positive results.

At a news conference Thursday, President Bush cautioned, "The American people should be concerned about Iran," adding, "They should be concerned about Iran's activity in Iraq, and they ought to be concerned about Iran's activity around the world."

After the 2003 invasion, many of Iraq's neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, called for a regional forum under U.S. or U.N. auspices. But Washington did not want to legitimize Tehran and Damascus by engaging in diplomatic talks, Arab officials said. More recently, the Bush administration has sought to tap regional assistance and resources, they added, but with too little credibility and limited time left in Bush's term to meet critical goals.

Khalilzad said the new initiative would benefit from the United Nations' experience in international political negotiations. He added that he believes the expanded U.N. mission would be led by Staffan De Mistura, a Swedish national who has served with the United Nations in Lebanon, Iraq and other trouble spots. A more prominent international figure could be invited to lead the Iraq talks in the future, Khalilzad added.

But De Mistura's appointment is facing stiff opposition from Baghdad, which favors Radu Onofrei, a former Romanian envoy to Iraq, to head the U.N. mission. "With all due respect to Ambassador Khalilzad, the decision will be taken by the secretary general, and the views of the government of Iraq have to be taken very seriously," said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, Iraq's deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

Khalilzad said the new diplomatic initiative would provide a permanent forum for the various sides to hammer out compromises and would permit Crocker and other U.S. officials to hold regular meetings with the key regional powers. The "beauty" of the strategy, Khalilzad said, is that it puts the United Nations in the lead, but with strong political support from the United States.

"Without U.S. backing, their contacts won't carry much weight," Khalilzad said, "because people will say, 'What can you do for me?' "

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has drafted a letter in support of the Security Council resolution expanding the U.N. role in Iraq. But the letter requires that all U.N. diplomatic activities receive "prior consent" from the Iraqi government, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. The letter reflects Iraqi fears that any U.N.-brokered deals could diminish the government's power, according to a U.N. official.

The resolution also calls on the United Nations to play a more active role in addressing Iraq's growing humanitarian crisis. The body currently has about 200 international staff members in Jordan, and it channels aid into Iraq through a network of Iraqi nationals and nongovernmental organizations. But the United Nations is providing support for only a small fraction of the nearly 2 million Iraqis displaced inside their country.

U.N. officials said they are exploring "creative ways" to meet the needs of Iraqis who have been forced from their homes by the violence, but they are constrained by the scope of the humanitarian challenge and by the dangers of operating outside the heavily guarded U.N. compound in the Green Zone. "No one should underestimate the difficulties of operating in Iraq," a U.N. relief official said. "People are scared of their lives to go back there."

Khalilzad said the United Nations would appoint David Shearer, an Australian relief official currently serving in Jerusalem, to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq.

"We want to be more helpful," said B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs. "But nobody is charging off to either make the Americans happy or to do something else. What we're trying to do is be as helpful as we can for the Iraqis."

Wright reported from Washington.

solami wrote:
As it stands, chances for the free flow of things to get us out of this mess are zil, and since the powers that be seem uncapable to even become aware of the state of denial they are in, the proposed re-enlistment of the United Nations isn't seen to be helpful either. Yet, there is a more promising UN pathway, as discussed at Is anybody listening or is it also falling victim to the "not-invented-here" syndrome?
8/10/2007 6:20:45 AM

August 20, 2007

You don't need an expert to tell you if the surge is working.
Seeing is believing
Thomas L. Friedman

    Is the surge in Iraq working? That is the question that General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will answer for us next month. I, alas, am not interested in their opinions.
    It is not because I don't hold both men in high regard. I do. But I'm still not interested in their opinions. I'm only interested in yours. Yes, you — the person reading this column. You know more than you think.
    You see, I have a simple view about both Arab-Israeli peace-making and Iraqi surge-making, and it goes like this: Any Arab-Israeli peace overture that requires a Middle Fast expert to explain to you is not worth considering. It's going nowhere.
    Either a peace overture is so obvious and grabs you in the gut — Anwar Sadat's trip to Israel — or it's going nowhere. That is why the Saudi-Arab League peace overture is going nowhere. No emotional content. It was basically faxed to the Israeli people, and people don't give up land for peace in a deal that comes over the fax.
    Ditto with Iraqi surges. If it takes a Middle East ex-pert to explain to you why it is working, it's not working. To be sure, it is good news if the number of Iraqis found dead in Baghdad each night is diminishing. Indeed, it is good news if casualties are down everywhere that U.S. troops have made their presence felt. But all that tells me is something that was obvious from the start, which Donald Rumsfeld ignored: Where you put in large numbers of U.S. troops you get security, and where you don't you get insecurity.
    There's only one thing at this stage that wpuld truly impress me, and it is this: proof that there is an Iraq, proof that there is a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who share our vision of a unified, multi-party, power-sharing, democratizing Iraq and who are willing to forge a social contract that will allow them to maintain such an Iraq - without U.S. troops.
    Because if that is not the case, even if U.S. troops create more pockets of security via the surge, they will have no one to hand these pockets to who can maintain them without us. In other words, the only people who can prove that the surge is
working are the Iraqis, and the way they prove that is by showing that violence is down in areas where there are no U.S. troops or where U.S. troops have come and gone.
    Because many Americans no longer believe anything President George W. Bush says about Iraq, he has outsourced the assessment of the surge to the firm of Petraeus & Crocker. But this puts them in an impossible position. I admire their efforts, and those of their soldiers, to try to salvage something decent in Iraq, especially when you see who we are losing to Sunni suicide jihadists and Shiite militants who murder fellow Muslims by the dozen and whose retrograde visions offer Iraqis only a future of tears. But we could never defeat them on our own. It takes a village, and right now too many of the Iraqi villagers
won't work together.
    Most likely the Bush team will say the surge is a "partial" success and needs more time. But that is like your contractor telling you that your home is almost finished — but there's no cement. Thanks a lot.
The Democrats should not fight Petraeus & Crocker over their answer. They should redefine the question. They should say: "My fellow Americans, ask yourselves this: What will convey to you, in your gut — without anyone interpreting it — that the surge is working and worth sustaining?"
    My answer: If I saw something with my own eyes that I hadn't seen before — Iraq's Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline and publicly asking us to stay until they do. That's the only thing worth giving more time to develop.
    But it may just be too late. Had the surge happened in 2003, when it should have, it might have prevented the kindling of all of Iraq's sectarian passions. But now that those fires have been set, trying to unify Iraq feels like doing carpentry on a burning house.
    I've been thinking about Iraq's multi-religious soccer team, which just won the Asian Cup. The team was assembled from Iraqis who play for other pro teams outside Iraq. In fact, it was repörted that the Iraqi soccer team hadn't played a home game in 17 years because of violence or UN sanctions. In short, it's a real team with a virtual country. That's what I fear the surge is trying to protect: a unified Iraq that exists only in the Imagination and on foreign soccer f ields.
Only Iraqis living in Iraq can prove otherwise. So far, I don't see it.

August 31, 2007

Shiite’s Tale: How Gulf With Sunnis Widened

BAGHDAD, Aug. 30 — Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite member of Parliament, first encountered the Sunni-Shiite divide on the day the Americans captured Saddam Hussein. Hearing the news with a close Sunni friend named Sahira, Ms. Musawi erupted like a child. “I jumped, I shouted, I came directly to Sahira and I hugged her,” Ms. Musawi said. “I was crying, and I said, ‘Sahira, this is the moment we waited for.’ ”

At least it should have been: Mr. Hussein’s henchmen killed Ms. Musawi’s father when she was only 13; Sahira, too, was a victim, losing her closest uncle to the Hussein government.

But instead of celebrating, Sahira stood stiffly. A day later, Ms. Musawi said, Sahira’s eyes were red from crying. And before long, like so many Sunnis and Shiites here, the two stopped talking.

Sectarianism, the issue Ms. Musawi said she had wanted to avoid, has instead come to haunt her. She entered politics four years ago, flush with idealism, working closely with Sunnis on Iraq’s Constitution and a draft law that would compensate victims of Mr. Hussein.

Now, even for her, one of Parliament’s most independent figures, the urge to reconcile is being blacked out by distrust, disappointment and visceral anger.

Her disillusionment helps explain why the Iraqi government has missed most of the political benchmarks laid down by Congress, as the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report to be released in coming days.

And her reasons — for defending Shiite militias as a necessary response to Sunni Arab violence, for example — are personal. As with many of Iraq’s leaders, her life has been rubbed raw. After seeing Sunni neighbors kill Shiite friends, and after being pushed out of her own home by violence, Ms. Musawi has struggled to move beyond the pain and anger.

“Many Iraqis are still living in the past, and she too is affected with this predicament,” said Mohammed Mahmoud Ahmad, chairman of the victims compensation committee, where Ms. Musawi is a deputy. For Iraqis of all sects, old offenses linger for decades. And at the simple apartment in the Green Zone that she shares with her second husband (a Sunni Kurd), Ms. Musawi, 40, described a score of abuses.

She grew up in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, sharing a large comfortable house with six siblings, uncles, aunts and a brood of cousins.

Then one day in 1980 her father went to work and never came home. She later discovered he had been hit by a car belonging to a government official he had argued with.

Only 13, Ms. Musawi was devastated. One of her prized possessions is a photo album of faded pictures beneath sticky plastic, showing her father happy, with wavy long hair and a child in each arm. “He was a poet, a great man,” she said. “I loved him and I was really very attached to him,” she said. “His loss made me unbalanced.”

Two years later, with the family living in a smaller house, the government struck again. On Aug. 15, 1982, the police arrested her relatives and threw them in prison because their names appeared on a list of “undesirables.”

Ms. Musawi said she ended up in a dirty cell with her relatives and other women and children. Over the next 38 days, she saw a woman give birth beside her; she heard children promising to kill Mr. Hussein. At one point, the police took Ms. Musawi’s mother away and threw ripped pieces of her son’s shirt on the floor to suggest (falsely) that he had been killed.

Captivity shook Ms. Musawi to the core. She did not want to leave when the police tried to release her because “I didn’t think life was a secure place,” she said.

Eventually, she said, she moved on through her faith and obtained a college degree after marriage, divorce and three daughters. When she and Sahira found out about Mr. Hussein’s capture, they were waiting for class at Baghdad University.

At the time, she was hopeful. “Mr. Bush promised Iraq would be a democratic and free country,” she said. “And we believed that.” Then she laughed. It did not take long, she said, before Iraq started to fracture. In Ms. Musawi’s mixed neighborhood of Adel, Shiite mosques and religious schools closed by the Sunni-dominated government began to reopen immediately after Mr. Hussein’s fall.

Some Sunni Arabs, she said, felt threatened. Soon, Sunni customers at the tailor’s shop where she worked stopped visiting. Her own dinner guests, she acknowledged, were mostly Shiite.

Violence followed. In late 2003, Ms. Musawi said, she saw two cars of men abduct an official at a Shiite mosque near her home, tie him to a car and drag him through the streets. Some of the attackers were young men she had known as boys. “Are you crazy?” she shouted. “Have you lost your mind?”

She began looking to politics “as a way to restore some sanity,” she said. After starting a popular women’s group, she became one of only two women elected to her neighborhood’s district council. She said she enjoyed the work — until her Shiite colleagues started to die. In 2004 and 2005, five Shiite council members were killed, most of them assassinated.

Around the same time, gunmen killed the Shiite mayor of Baghdad, Haider Ali, who lived two houses away from her. She said another neighbor, a Sunni and one of Mr. Ali’s guards, was probably responsible. “We were shocked, really,” she said. “We used to have friends, neighbors. In every moment, when you met a person, you didn’t think: Is he Shia or Sunni? Of course you’d notice, but it didn’t matter.”

Then at some point, she said, it switched; sect became the defining characteristic for Iraqis. Her Sunni friends told her she did not understand. Being Sunni used to count for something, they said.

But what, Ms. Musawi thought, of the Shiites, who never counted before and were viciously oppressed?

Ms. Musawi said she left Adel secretly in 2005, when she joined the National Assembly, the precursor to the Parliament. One of her daughters was still in high school, and she feared an attack.

Despite such concerns, she resisted the more extreme elements in Iraqi politics. Turning down invitations from other Shiite parties, she joined a group of moderates in the Solidarity bloc and was elected to Parliament in 2005.

Only one Sunni sits with Ms. Musawi on the victims committee, Khalaf al-Maula. In an interview, he described Ms. Musawi as open-minded. “She respects other people’s opinions and listens to them even though she has a different viewpoint,” he said.

Ms. Musawi says she shares the Sunnis’ opposition to splitting the country into autonomous sectarian regions, and understands elements of the Sunni position. “Some of it is this feeling of patriotism, and a sense of how you should act in a fight against occupation and foreign forces on your land,” she said.

But her own positions and comments are now cut with a sharper sectarian edge. In Parliament three months ago, she shouted down her colleagues for standing by as Sunni extremists in Diyala Province killed hundreds of Shiites. When the speaker, a Sunni, smirked, she screamed: “Why are you laughing, Mr. Speaker? I want to know why you’re laughing.” (He waved her away: “Leave it to the women,” he said.)

Ms. Musawi, though loyal to the more moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also now defends some actions of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, saying that it has filled a necessary void. “The government couldn’t protect the people,” she said. “They couldn’t save them. The Sadrists did that.”

When asked about accusations that the Mahdi Army forced innocent Sunnis out of the Hurriya neighborhood, which borders Adel, she said Shiites had no time to sift the innocent from the guilty because Sunnis were killing Shiites.

She says the basic problem is that too many Sunnis will never accept Shiite rule. Just as galling, she said, they refuse to accept responsibility for the sins of Mr. Hussein, the Baath party or today’s extremists. “The Sunnis never felt how much we suffered,” she said.

Sunnis say they, too, were victims of Mr. Hussein’s tyranny and are even now being pummeled by Shiite death squads or American soldiers. Asmaa al-Dulaimi, a member of Parliament and the daughter of Adnan al-Dulaimi, who leads the main Sunni bloc, said Ms. Musawi and her Shiite colleagues exaggerated their own victimhood for political gain. “All of these claims are part of the fake oppression they pretend they endured,” she said.

Statements like these leave Ms. Musawi seething, and she says she has come close to quitting several times. When she is asked what it would take for Shiites to reconcile with Sunnis in government, a mix of anger and hurt can be heard as the current leaders suddenly seem to merge in her mind with the Baathists of old. “I can’t stand seeing them controlling things again,” she said. “I can’t stand seeing them in power.”

If her opponents reach out a hand to shake on a deal, she said, “I think the other hand is hiding a dagger.”

Diana Oliva Cave, Wisam A. Habeeb and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting.

Op-Ed Contributor

August 31, 2007

Abandoned at the Border

FOR more than a year, men and women in our armed forces have been urging the United States to bring to safety the Iraqi translators and others who have worked beside them and are now the victims of retaliation. A Marine captain, Zachary Iscol, said he owed his life and the lives of his men to his Iraqi translator. “Just coming to work was an act of heroism and courage on his part,” Captain Iscol said.

On July 7, the administration received another urgent call to action on this issue, this time from Ambassador Ryan Crocker. In a cable to Washington, he laid out the dangers his Iraqi employees faced. “Just last week we recovered and identified the bodies of two ... who were kidnapped in May,” he wrote. Mr. Crocker wanted to be able to assure the Iraqis on his staff that they had some hope of receiving refuge in the United States.

It is shameful that more than four years into this war, Iraqis working at our embassy cannot count on the United States to protect them or to help them find a new home when their work with us has made it impossible to survive in their own country.

Similarly, it is both cruel and foolish for the United States to ignore the plight of more than two million others who have fled and are struggling to survive in Syria and Jordan. The United States pledge this week of $30 million to help educate Iraqi refugees in the region is dwarfed by the need.

Dealing with the refugee crisis is vital to the national security of the United States. Continuing indifference to suffering that we had a strong hand in causing will turn our Muslim supporters against us. More important, it repudiates the fundamental values of our country and costs Iraqis their lives.

The administration has promised to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees by September. By the beginning of August, it had brought in just 190. Jordan has taken in some 700,000 Iraqi refugees — equivalent to more than 10 percent of its own population. Syria has taken in more than 1.2 million, and significant numbers are in Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and the Persian Gulf states. Unlike the United States, none of these countries are well prepared to integrate refugees. Sectarian fighting has paralyzed the Lebanese government, Jordan is water poor, and Syria struggles with a poor economy and high unemployment. At a recent conference in the region, these countries pleaded for international help to deal with the crisis.

So while tiny Jordan struggles to cope with 700,000 refugees, the United States will not meet a goal of only 7,000. The United States is sending a clear message to the refugees and the countries sheltering them: you are on your own.

Without serious American or other international support, a downward spiral is beginning for the refugees and the Middle East. In Jordan, the cost of living has doubled for all residents, leading to sharp resentment against both the Iraqis and the government. In turn, the Jordanian government has denied most Iraqi refugees the right to work and restricted their access to health care.

Syria, one of the last countries to keep its borders open to the Iraqis, has suggested it cannot continue to do so much longer without some kind of international support. Social services there are collapsing, and poverty has driven many refugees toward desperation.

This strain could all have a terribly destabilizing effect on the Middle East. This year, for the first time, the Jordanian government is giving Iraqi children access to public education — which means keeping 30 schools open for double shifts. By some estimates, half a million Iraqi refugee children are now out of school, and some have missed up to three years of their education. In a region where Al Qaeda is becoming a franchise, ensuring that these children can go to school is as vital to regional security as fighting insurgents in Iraq.

As September comes with no sign of progress in Iraq, momentum is finally building in Congress for a new comprehensive strategy that will at least prevent the instability there from spreading. As a key part of that strategy, the United States must reach out to Iraq’s neighbors — including Syria — and demonstrate a willingness to help support and take in refugees, starting with those who risked their lives to stand with us.

Joseph P. Hoar, a retired Marine general, was commander in chief
of the United States Central Command from 1991 to 1994.

September 1, 2007
The Kurdish Secret

Iraq today is a land of contrasts — mostly black and blacker. Traveling around the central Baghdad area the past few days, I saw little that really gave me hope that the different Iraqi sects can forge a social contract to live together. The only sliver of optimism I find here is in the one region where Iraqis don’t live together: Kurdistan.

Imagine for a moment if one outcome of the U.S. invasion of Iraq had been the creation of an American University of Iraq. Imagine if we had triggered a flood of new investment into Iraq that had gone into new hotels, a big new convention center, office buildings, Internet cafes, two new international airports and Iraqi malls. Imagine if we had paved the way for an explosion of newspapers, even a local Human Rights Watch chapter, and new schools. Imagine if we had created an island of decency in Iraq, with public parks, where women could walk unveiled and not a single American soldier was ever killed — where Americans in fact were popular — and where Islam was practiced in its most tolerant and open manner. Imagine ...

Well, stop imagining. It’s all happening in Kurdistan, the northern Iraqi region, home to four million Kurds. I saw all of the above in Kurdistan’s two biggest towns, Erbil and Sulaimaniya. The Bush team just never told anybody.

No, Kurdistan is not a democracy. It has real Parliamentary elections, but the region’s executive branch is still more “Sopranos” than “West Wing,” more Singapore than Switzerland — dominated by two rival clans, the Talibanis and the Barzanis. It has a vibrant free press, as long as you don’t insult the leadership, and way too much crony-corruption. But it is democratizing, gradually nurturing the civil society and middle class needed for a real democracy.

On Oct. 17, the new American University of Iraq will open classes in Sulaimaniya. “The board wanted three campuses, one in Kurdistan, one in Baghdad and one in Basra, but this is the only part of the country where an American University can open and function safely,” said Owen Cargol, the school’s chancellor.

Iraq is a disaster in so many ways, but at least America’s invasion midwifed something really impressive in Kurdistan. And in the best way: we created the opening and the Kurds did the rest. But while the Kurds liberated their region from Saddam’s army in the 1990s — with U.S. air cover — their current renaissance was only possible, they say, thanks to the overthrow of Saddam, their mortal enemy.

“Saddam’s eyes were always on this region,” said Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government. Once he was toppled, “it gave us psychological hope for the future. Those who had even a limited amount of money started to invest, start small businesses or buy a car, because they thought they could see the future. The uncertainty was removed. ... We have to thank the American people and government. But we are a lover from only one side. We love America, but nothing in response. They don’t want to give the perception that they are helping us.”

Added Hoshyar Omar, a 23-year-old student-translator: “My father was buried alive [by Saddam’s men] when I was 3. I want to thank Mr. George Bush personally. ... He may have made some bad decisions, but freeing Iraq was the best decision he has ever made. ... We had nothing and we built this Kurdistan that you see.”

Why is Kurdistan America’s best-kept secret success? Because the Bush team is afraid the Kurds will break away. But the Kurds have no interest in splitting from Iraq now. Iraq’s borders protect them from Turkey, Iran and Syria.

The Kurdish autonomous zone should be our model for Iraq. Does George Bush or Condi Rice have a better idea? Do they have any idea? Right now, we’re surging aimlessly. Iraq’s only hope is radical federalism — with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds each running their own affairs, and Baghdad serving as an A.T.M., dispensing cash for all three. Let’s get that on the table — now.

Months after Saddam’s capture, a story made the rounds that he was asked, “If you were set free, could you stabilize Iraq again?” He supposedly said it would take him only “one hour and 10 minutes — one hour to go home and shower and 10 minutes to reunify Iraq.” Maybe an iron-fisted dictator could do that. America can’t.

“No one here accepts to be ruled ever again by the other,” Kosrat Ali, Kurdistan’s vice president, told me. “If you get all the American forces to occupy all of the towns and the cities of Iraq, you might be able to centralize Iraq again. That is the only way.” Otherwise, “centralized rule is finished in Iraq.”

Washington Post    September 7, 2007

The Partitioning of Iraq
By Charles Krauthammer

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.
Julius Caesar

It took political Washington a good six months to catch up to the fact that something significant was happening in Iraq's Anbar province, where the former-insurgent Sunni tribes switched sides and joined the fight against al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, Washington has not yet caught up to the next reality: Iraq is being partitioned -- and, like everything else in Iraq today, it is happening from the ground up.

1. The Sunni provinces. The essence of our deal with the Anbar tribes and those in Diyala, Salahuddin and elsewhere is this: You end the insurgency and drive out al-Qaeda, and we assist you in arming and policing yourselves. We'd like you to have an official relationship with the Maliki government, but we're not waiting on Baghdad.

2. The Shiite south. This week the British pulled out of Basra, retired to their air base and essentially left the southern Shiites to their own devices -- meaning domination by the Shiite militias now fighting each other for control.

3. The Kurdish north. Kurdistan has been independent in all but name for a decade and a half.

Baghdad and its immediate surroundings have not yet been defined. Despite some ethnic cleansing, the capital's future is uncertain. It is predominantly Shiite, but with a checkerboard of Sunni neighborhoods. The U.S. troop surge is attempting to stabilize the city with, again, local autonomy and policing.

This radically decentralized rule is partition in embryo. It is by no means final. But the outlines are there.

The critics at home, echoing the Shiite sectarians in Baghdad, complain that an essential part of this strategy -- the "20 percent solution" that allows former-insurgent Sunnis to organize and arm themselves -- is just setting Iraq up for a greater civil war. But this assumes that a Shiite government in Baghdad would march its army into the vast Anbar province, where there are no Shiites and no oil. For what? It seems far more likely that a well-armed and self-governing Anbar would create a balance of power that would encourage hands-off relations with the central government in Baghdad.

As partition proceeds, the central government will necessarily be very weak. Its reach may not extend far beyond Baghdad itself, becoming a kind of de facto fourth region with a mixed Sunni-Shiite population.

Nonetheless, we need some central government. The Iraqi state may be a shell, but it is a necessary one because de jure partition into separate states would invite military intervention by the neighbors -- Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

A weak, partitioned Iraq is not the best outcome. We had hoped for much more. Our original objective was a democratic and unified post-Hussein Iraq. But it has turned out to be a bridge too far. We tried to give the Iraqis a republic, but their leaders turned out to be, tragically, too driven by sectarian sentiment, by an absence of national identity, and by the habits of suspicion and maneuver cultivated during decades in the underground of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian state.

All this was exacerbated by post-invasion U.S. strategic errors (most important, eschewing a heavy footprint, not forcibly suppressing the early looting and letting Moqtada al-Sadr escape with his life in August 2004) and by al-Qaeda's barbarous bombing campaign designed explicitly to kindle sectarian strife.

Whatever the reasons, we now have to look for the second-best outcome. A democratic, unified Iraq might someday emerge. Perhaps today's ground-up reconciliation in the provinces will translate into tomorrow's ground-up national reconciliation. Possible, but highly doubtful. What is far more certain is what we are getting: ground-up partition.

Joe Biden, Peter Galbraith, Leslie Gelb and many other thoughtful scholars and politicians have long been calling for partition. The problem is how to make it happen. Top-down partition by some new constitutional arrangement ratified on parchment is swell, but how does that get enforced any more than the other constitutional dreams that were supposed to have come about in Iraq?

What's happening today is not geographical line-drawing, colonial-style. We do not have a Mr. Sykes and a Mr. Picot sitting down to a map of Mesopotamia in a World War I carving exercise. The lines today are being drawn organically by self-identified communities and tribes. Which makes the new arrangement more likely to last.

This is not the best outcome, but it is far better than the savage and dangerous dictatorship we overthrew. And infinitely better than what will follow if we give up in mid-surge and withdraw -- and allow the partitioning of Iraq to dissolve into chaos.

September 10, 2007

Dallas Oil Company Approved to Drill in Kurdistan

The Hunt Oil Company of Dallas has become the first international company to receive permission to drill for oil in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq since the local government issued an oil-and-gas law last month.

Under its contract with the Kurdistan regional government, Hunt, a closely held company, will join the Impulse Energy Corporation to survey for oil in the Dihok district this year before drilling its first well in 2008. The information was contained in a Hunt Oil statement posted yesterday on Ame Info, a business Web site based in Dubai.

The Kurdistan region has pursued an energy policy independent of Iraq's national government since 2003, when the United States led an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Jeanne Phillips, a spokeswoman for Hunt Oil, said it could not discuss the terms of the deal.

The regional government said in June that it would offer 40 oil-and-gas blocks for exploration as part of a plan to increase daily production to a million barrels in the next five years.

Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third largest in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to BP. A sizable portion of the country's oil reserves are in the north.

September 13, 2007

The Ottoman Swede

As members of Congress mull what to do next in Iraq, they might glance at a League of Nations report of July 16, 1925, on the new Middle Eastern state then being carved by the British from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire.

The report said that despite “the good intentions of the statesmen of Iraq, whose political experience is necessarily small, it is to be feared that serious difficulties may arise out of the differences which in some cases exist in regard to political ideas between the Shiites of the South and the Sunnites of the North, the racial differences between Arabs and Kurds, and the necessity of keeping the turbulent tribes under control.”

And it warned: “These difficulties might be fatal to the very existence of the State if it were left without support and guidance.”

So much for things changing. They don’t, or only slowly, when attempts are made to carve sustainable nation states from multiethnic empires.

This 82-year-old document was handed to me by Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, a man of dry humor and quick tongue who can claim to be the world’s authority on messes in post-Ottoman areas. “From Bihac to Basra,” he said, referring to towns in western Bosnia and Southern Iraq, “these things take time and benchmarks don’t count for much.”

Bildt recently returned from Baghdad where Sweden has much to discuss given that 20,000 Iraqi refugees are expected to arrive here this year, a number that dwarfs the trickle of fleeing Iraqis into the United States. This imbalance is shameful, but that’s another story. Iraqis have no special desire to trade desert for pine forest, but Sweden has the merit of letting them in.

In the Iraqi capital, Bildt heard divergent political visions from Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, and Tariq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president. The notion of give-and-take, of compromise reached rather than domination imposed, is a Middle Eastern novelty.

Give-and-take has not been a big Balkan thing either, and it was in the Balkans, as a special European Union envoy, that Bildt cut his teeth on post-Ottoman mayhem. He sees “massive parallels” between Yugoslavia’s violent dismemberment once dictatorship ended and Iraq’s turbulent deliverance from tyranny.

Both states were invented in the post-World War I years in areas long under complete or partial Ottoman dominion. Both were beautiful inventions, bridges between divergent cultures and religions and ethnic groups, mosaics beneath a national flag. Both had the drawback of tending toward their own self-destruction in the absence of a strongman to resolve contradiction through force.

Freedom is a funny thing. Life without it is misery. But a glance at the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia or now Iraq is a sufficient reminder that distinct peoples forcefully gathered into a dictatorial state will react in the first instance to liberty by trying to get free of each other rather than trying to imagine a liberal democracy.

As Miroslav Hroch, the Czech political theorist, has observed, ethnic or religious nationalism easily become the “substitutes for factors of integration in a disintegrating nation.” That’s where we are in Iraq. In plotting a social revolution, the ushering to power of a subjugated Shiite majority through the overthrow of a minority Sunni dictatorship, the Bush administration did not ponder or plan for these realities.

That’s unfortunate, indeed unforgivable, but it’s done.

Bildt, Balkan-hardened, takes the long view. “If you take the Ottoman areas, they were Muslim but tolerant with an array of different cultures and their replacement with different versions of the 19th-century nation state has proved very difficult, be it in the Balkans, in Cyprus or the Middle East.”

He cannot imagine a quick American exit. “Iraqi leaders will want some sort of exit perspective, but a long-term one,” he says. As long as Iran and Saudi Arabia see Iraq as a Shia-Sunni battlefield, peace will be elusive.

The Balkan analogy is interesting. Yugoslavia’s breakup saw four years of war, then another war in Kosovo four years later. Only regional pressure — the bait of European Union membership — and a large European and American military presence have brought calm. The question of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia remains explosive.

This fragile stability is where the 16-year arc from the eruption of the Balkan wars in 1991 has led. Given that regional realities make an Iraqi breakup unthinkable, the architecture of the Yugoslavia-in-miniature in Bosnia is probably the most helpful guide for Baghdad: a fig-leaf national government presiding over a loose federation.

If the United States meets the responsibilities its invasion engaged and the region can be coaxed to help rather than hinder, we may attain such fragile stability 16 years from Saddam’s fall: that would be 2019, just over a century after the Ottoman collapse.

re: No longer tabu: League of Nations' role on Iraq
13 Sep 2007 12:06:35 +0200


You've been on my email list for some time, so I could think that you have no excuse for waiting until Carl Bildt hands some - second- or fifth-hand - document to you with what appears to be a message-wise correct but for a quote unsuitable transcription of a document which I undug on Jan.16 1992 at the League of Nations archive in Geneva (for the corresponding correct quote, see:; for the full document, in pdf format, see: .../Turkey-Iraq.pdf).

As I said, I could think the above, but for this time I let you off the hook with the excuse of saturation, or some other good reason you might think of, and, in return, again request your permission - i.e. your talking your editor into giving me permission - to include your otherwise excellent and certainly most timely piece "The Ottoman Swede" in my related inventory (.../iraqsplit.htm). And since you also were too busy with bubbles and other flat earth policy desasters, you obviously haven't discovered my latest related interview with Murat Sofuoðlu, the Turkish EKOPOLITIK editor, on the Mosul Vilayet ( which is also freely available on the net as an ebook (.../rebirth.htm).

No hard feelings, only good wishes and best regards: salve!

Anton Keller
+4122-7400362    +4179-6047707

September 14, 2007

A Surge, and Then a Stab

To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”

There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.

And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.

All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.

In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.

letter to the editor
International Herald Tribune    15-16 September 2007

The tribal ways of Iraq
Arthur Lieber, Gland, Switzerland

Carl Bildt's Balkan analogy as explained by Roger Cohen in "The Ottoman Swede" (Globalist, Sept. 13 [NYT, Sept.13]) is flawed. There are fondamental historical and cultural differences between the Balkans and Iraq.
The Balkans were a frontier, a barrier to Muslim penetration of Europe. The Serbs and Croats were Christians who maintained their separate national identities, even under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
And here's where Bildt gets it all wrong: Iraq never had a national identity. Before the British got to mucking about in the Middle East after World War I, Iraq was a tribal society split between Shiite and Sunni allegiances with a large Kurdish presence on the Turkish border.
As England learned the hard way — being forced out of Iraq — the tribal societies resisted all British attempts to fuse them into a national entity.
In both areas, dictators managed the trick of temporarily forming nation states that immediately collapsed when the strongmen disappeared. It is indeed "unfortunate" and "unforgivable" that the Bush administration did not ponder or plan for Iraq's realities.

Washington Post    September 24, 2007

Iraq Oil Deal Gets Everybody's Attention

By Michael A. Fletcher

The oil deal signed between Hunt Oil and the government in Iraq's Kurdish region earlier this month has raised eyebrows, in no small part because it appears to undercut President Bush's hope that Iraq could draft national legislation to share revenue from the country's vast oil reserves. Making the deal more curious is that it was crafted by one of the administration's staunchest supporters, Ray Hunt.

Hunt, chief executive of the Dallas-based company, has been a major fundraiser and contributor to Bush's presidential campaigns. He also serves on the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, putting him close to the latest information developed by the nation's intelligence agencies.

If Hunt is signing regional oil deals in Iraq, critics ask, what does he know about the prospects for a long-stalled national oil law that others don't?

Since the deal was made public, it has drawn the ire of the Iraqi national government, which has called the agreement illegal.

"Any oil deal has no standing as far as the government of Iraq is concerned," Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters earlier this month. "All these contracts have to be approved by the federal authority before they are legal. This [contract] was not presented for approval. It has no standing."

It also has caught the eye of maverick Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a presidential candidate. He has called for a congressional investigation to probe the Bush administration's role in the deal as well as the implications for a national oil law in Iraq.

"As I have said for five years, this war is about oil. The Bush administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up their oil," Kucinich said. "We have no right to set preconditions for Iraq which lead Iraq to giving up control of their oil. The constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property of all Iraqi people."

The deal signed by Hunt is a production-sharing contract for petroleum exploration in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. It is one of several the Kurds have signed with foreign oil companies in recent years and the first since they enacted a regional oil law last month. Kurdish officials have said that the deal would benefit all Iraqis through a revenue-sharing agreement.

Whatever people suspect, Bush says he did not know about the deal before it happened. But, he acknowledged, he has some concerns.

"Our embassy also expressed concern about it," Bush said. "I knew nothing about the deal. I need to know exactly how it happened. To the extent that it does undermine the ability for the government to come up with an oil-revenue-sharing plan that unifies the country, obviously I'm -- if it undermines that, I'm concerned."

September 28, 2007

Official Calls Kurd Oil Deal at Odds With Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 — A senior State Department official in Baghdad acknowledged Thursday that the first American oil contract in Iraq, that of the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas with the Kurdistan Regional Government, was at cross purposes with the stated United States foreign policy of strengthening the country’s central government.

“We believe these contracts have needlessly elevated tensions between the K.R.G. and the national government of Iraq,” the official said, referring to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The official was not authorized to speak for attribution on the oil contract.

The tensions between Kurdistan and the central government go well beyond the oil law. Already a semiautonomous region for more than 15 years, Kurdistan in many respects functions as independent state and wants as much latitude as possible to run its region. Recently, the Kurdistan government has pushed to extend its borders to include nearby areas that have sizable Kurdish populations.

Hunt Oil, a closely held company, signed a production-sharing agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government this month. The company’s chief executive and president, Ray L. Hunt, is a close political ally of President Bush and serves on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Hunt Oil and the Kurds signed the contract after the Kurdish government passed a regional oil law in August. But it is unclear how the regional law will interact with a national oil law under discussion in the Iraqi Parliament.

Under draft versions of the national law, the central government would have a say in whether individual oil contracts are legal. The Iraqi national oil law is one of the 18 benchmarks established by the Bush administration to evaluate the Iraqi government’s progress.

The senior official said the State Department had advised Hunt Oil, before the signing, that contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government might contravene Iraqi law once national oil legislation was passed by the Iraqi Parliament. “We think they are legally uncertain,” the official said of Hunt’s contracts with the Kurdistan government.

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has said the Hunt Oil contract is not valid, though there is a provision for reviewing and possibly approving it in the proposed oil law. The intent of that law is to pool oil revenue to distribute it equitably to the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish areas of Iraq.

The embassy official said at least four other American and international oil companies had consulted with the State Department about energy investment in Iraq, and all received the same advice.

Kurdistan faced trouble from neighboring countries on Thursday because of the activities of Kurdish separatists who are using the region as a redoubt from which to launch attacks on Iran and Turkey. Kurdish officials said that Iran shelled two areas along the region’s eastern border on Wednesday evening. Ten Iranian artillery shells struck Rayan, a small village about 15 miles from the Iranian border, destroying four houses and killing villagers’ animals. Twelve Iranian shells also hit the Qandil Mountains close to the border, said Jaza Hussein Ahmed, the mayor of nearby Qalat. There were no casualties reported.

Iraqi Kurdish officials bristled Thursday at word that the Iraqi central government would sign an agreement with Turkey on Friday that Kurds fear might pave the way for Turkish soldiers to cross into Iraq to pursue Turkish Kurdish separatists who take refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey has long been in an armed conflict with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which launches hit-and-run attacks on Turkey from camps in the northern Iraqi mountains. They are fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

American forces said Thursday that they were investigating the deaths of nine civilians in a village about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad. The bodies — five women and four children — were found after a raid in Babahani village by American forces on Tuesday, according to a news release.

“Coalition Forces conducted operations in the area using ground and air assets prior to the discovery of the bodies,” the release said.

According to Iraqi military sources, the American raid began around 11 p.m. when a bomb was dropped on one of the houses in which the women and children apparently were staying. Shortly afterward, a second house was struck, killing two men and wounding two others, according to an officer from the Iraqi Army’s Eighth Division, First Brigade. Soldiers then entered a mosque and detained the imam, Mohammed Hassan al-Janabi, the officer said, and the operation was over by 1 a.m.

Recent intelligence reports suggested that staying in one of the houses was a local leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group whose leadership is foreign, according to Western intelligence sources.

Nine bodies were also found in Baghdad on Thursday, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Sulaimaniya, Hilla and Kirkuk.

U.S. Senate    Sep 26, 2007

Senator Joseph R. Biden's Iraq Amendment SA 2997,
as corrected, is adopted 75 - 23


(a) Findings.--Congress makes the following findings:
   (1) Iraq continues to experience a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence.
   (2) The ongoing sectarian violence presents a threat to regional and world peace, and the longterm security interests of the United States are best served by an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors.
   (3) A central focus of al Qaeda in Iraq has been to turn sectarian divisions in Iraq into sectarian violence through a concentrated series of attacks, the most significant being the destruction of the Golden Dome of the Shia al-Askariyah Mosque in Samarra in February 2006.
  (4) Iraqis must reach a comprehensive and sustainable political settlement in order to achieve stability, and the failure of the Iraqis to reach such a settlement is a primary cause of violence in Iraq.
   (5) Article One of the Constitution of Iraq declares Iraq to be a ``single, independent federal state''.
   (6) Section Five of the Constitution of Iraq declares that the ``federal system in the Republic of Iraq is made up of a decentralized capital, regions, and governorates, and local administrations'' and enumerates the expansive powers of regions and the limited powers of the central government and establishes the mechanisms for the creation of new federal regions.
   (7) The federal system created by the Constitution of Iraq would give Iraqis local control over their police and certain laws, including those related to employment, education, religion, and marriage.
   (8) The Constitution of Iraq recognizes the administrative role of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 3 northern Iraqi provinces, known also as the Kurdistan Region.
   (9) The Kurdistan region, recognized by the Constitution of Iraq, is largely stable and peaceful.
   (10) The Iraqi Parliament approved a federalism law on October 11th, 2006, which establishes procedures for the creation of new federal regions and will go into effect 18 months after approval.
   (11) Iraqis recognize Baghdad as the capital of Iraq, and the Constitution of Iraq stipulates that Baghdad may not merge with any federal region.
   (12) Despite their differences, Iraq's sectarian and ethnic groups support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
   (13) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated on November 27, 2006, ``[t]he crisis is political, and the ones who can stop the cycle of aggravation and bloodletting of innocents are the politicians''.

(b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that--

   (1) the United States should actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders;

   (2) the active support referred to in paragraph (1) should include--
   (A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors--
   (i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;
   (ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and
   (iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council;
   (B) further calling on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to intervene in or destabilize Iraq and to agree to related verification mechanisms; and
   (C) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the federalism law approved by the Iraqi Parliament on October 11, 2006;

   (3) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement based upon federalism;

   (4) the steps described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors; and

   (5) nothing in this Act should be construed in any way to infringe on the sovereign rights of the nation of Iraq.


October 1, 2007

In Iraq, Repeated Support for a Unified State

BAGHDAD, Sept. 30 — The American Embassy on Sunday reiterated its support for a united Iraq as six political parties together voiced their objection to a United States Senate resolution that endorsed partitioning the country into three states.

In a statement released Sunday, the embassy said: “Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself. Attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means into three separate states would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed.”

The statement rebuffs the nonbinding Senate measure, sponsored by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and approved last week, which calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions "consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders," with the likely outcome of separate Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni states. The proposal resembles the power-sharing arrangement used to end the 1990s war in Bosnia among Muslims, Serbs and Croats.

Many Iraqi politicians have reacted angrily to the proposal, suggesting that at the very least they find it presumptuous. Opposition to it has even found currency on the street, where Iraqis have volunteered their opinion to American reporters they encountered. Said one, “So you are going to divide our country?”

At a joint news conference on Sunday, six diverse political parties that are discussing the removal of the current government objected to a divided Iraq.

“We think this would complicate the security problem and Iraq would undertake a long-term war and a civil war more than we have witnessed already,” said Basim Shareef, a member of the Fadhila Party, told reporters.

The Kurdish parties and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by the Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim, however, strongly support an arrangement in which much of the central government’s power is devolved to the regions. The Kurds already run a semiautonomous state in the north, and the Supreme Council hopes to see the nine majority Shiite provinces in the south band together to form a Shiite region.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health announced that the toll from cholera had reached 14 deaths. Its spread is worst in northern Iraq, with the city of Kirkuk and surrounding Tamim Province reporting 2,096 cases of infection. There are also 655 people infected in Sulaimaniya, and 106 in Erbil. In Mosul, Baghdad, Tikrit and Basra the cases are still in the single digits.

There is no information on the provinces of Diyala and Anbar, where the security situation has made it difficult for health workers to reach the areas for testing.

In violence across Iraq, three Sunni imams were assassinated in Mosul on Saturday, and American and Iraqi forces reported clashes with armed insurgents over the past two days that they said they believed killed at least 60 gunmen.

Khalid Ansary and Qais Mizher contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul, Kirkuk and Diyala.

Correction: October 2, 2007

An article yesterday about Iraqi anger over a United States Senate nonbinding resolution on Iraq’s future political structure sponsored by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. referred incorrectly to the measure’s proposal. It calls for the United States to support a political settlement that would create “a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders.” It did not call for doing so along ethnic and sectarian lines so that Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, the three major groups, would each control one region.

Washington Post    October 3, 2007

Federalism, Not Partition

By Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Leslie H. Gelb

The Bush administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki greeted last week's Senate vote on Iraq policy -- based on a plan we proposed in 2006 -- with misrepresentations and untruths. Seventy-five senators, including 26 Republicans, voted to promote a political settlement based on decentralized power-sharing. It was a life raft for an Iraq policy that is adrift.

Instead, Maliki and the administration -- through our embassy in Baghdad -- distorted the Biden-Brownback amendment beyond recognition, charging that we seek to "partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means."

We want to set the record straight. If the United States can't put this federalism idea on track, we will have no chance for a political settlement in Iraq and, without that, no chance for leaving Iraq without leaving chaos behind.

First, our plan is not partition, though even some supporters and the media mistakenly call it that. It would hold Iraq together by bringing to life the federal system enshrined in its constitution. A federal Iraq is a united Iraq but one in which power devolves to regional governments, with a limited central government responsible for common concerns such as protecting borders and distributing oil revenue.

Iraqis have no familiarity with federalism, which, absent an occupier or a dictator, has historically been the only path to keeping disunited countries whole. We can point to our federal system and how it began with most power in the hands of the states. We can point to similar solutions in the United Arab Emirates, Spain and Bosnia. Most Iraqis want to keep their country whole. But if Iraqi leaders keep hearing from U.S. leaders that federalism amounts to or will lead to partition, that's what they will believe.

The Bush administration's quixotic alternative has been to promote a strong central government in Baghdad. That central government doesn't function; it is corrupt and widely regarded as irrelevant. It has not produced political reconciliation -- and there is no evidence it will.

Second, we are not trying to impose our plan. If the Iraqis don't want it, they won't and shouldn't take it, as the Senate amendment makes clear. But Iraqis and the White House might consider the facts. Iraq's constitution already provides for a federal system. As for the regions forming along sectarian lines, the constitution leaves the choice to the people of its 18 provinces.

The White House can hardly complain that we would force unwanted solutions on Iraqis. President Bush did not hesitate to push Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari out of office to make way for Maliki, and he may yet do the same to Maliki.

The United States has responsibilities in Iraq that we cannot run away from. The Iraqis will need our help in explaining and lining up support for a federal solution. With 160,000 Americans at risk in Iraq, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and with more than 3,800 dead and nearly 28,000 wounded, we also have a right to be heard.

Third, our plan would not produce "suffering and bloodshed," as a U.S. Embassy statement irresponsibly suggested. And it is hard to imagine more suffering and bloodshed than we've already seen from government-tolerated militias, jihadists, Baathists and administration ineptitude. More than 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes, most for fear of sectarian violence.

The Bush administration should be helping Iraqis make federalism work -- through an agreement over the fair distribution of oil revenue; the safe return of refugees; integrating militia members into local security forces; leveraging the shared interest of other countries in a stable Iraq; and refocusing capacity-building and aid on the provinces and regions -- not scaring them off by equating federalism to partition, sectarianism and foreign bullying.

To confuse matters more, the administration has conjured a "bottom-up" strategy that looks like federalism and smells like federalism -- but is, in reality, a recipe for chaos.

"Bottom-up" seems to mean that the United States will support any group, anywhere, that will fight al-Qaeda or Shiite extremists. Now, it always made sense to seek allies among tribal chiefs to fight common terrorist enemies. But to simply back these groups as they appear, without any overall political context or purpose, is to invite anarchy. Nothing will fragment Iraq more than a bottom-up approach that pits one group against another and fails to knit these parts into governable wholes.

Federalism is the one formula that fits the seemingly contradictory desires of most Iraqis to remain whole and of various groups to govern themselves for the time being. It also recognizes the reality of the choice we face in Iraq: a managed transition to federalism or actual partition through civil war.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Leslie H. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.


olcopperminer wrote:
The thirteen original colonies wrested their independence from Great Britain with a great regard for the soverignty attached to each. For commerce and mutual defense, they banded together in a loose confederation. We were bound, in this manner, for thirteen years. Our U. S. Constitution created a much stronger central government than would have been possible immediately following hostilities. Despite the efforts of the different parties we were still forced to fight a bloody civil war seventy-four years later to determine that the federal government's authority would supersede states' rights.
The Biden-Brownback amendment is Iraq's best hope for a national resolution and reconciliation which could lead to a stable state in this troubled region.
10/5/2007 1:13:19 PM

baqibarzani wrote:
Readers are welcome to express thier comments but it is ultimately upto us, the Iraqi people to decide. We want Iraq partitioned. The sooner, the better.
Yes to an independent Kurdish state !!
10/5/2007 9:10:09 AM

Steve_Fallon wrote:
You keep them safe while you work on bringing them home. It is not an either/or situation we face in Iraq. An American President must be able to do both.
How do you cut off all funding with 160,000 troops and 185,000 civilian contractors in the middle of a war zone?
I tell you, the abject stupidity so many of my countrymen have been waving about like flags of victory makes me ashamed to be associated with this bunch of yahoos.
Let's go through this nice and easy so the pea-brains will get it this time.
If you just pull out all the troops by cutting off the funding, what happens after that? Don't care? Folks, it doesn't matter whether you care. You can't put a stop to events by turning your back on them. It would be like turning your back on a grizzly bear--you get eaten just the same.
Then, there's question what will happen to our government if such a drastic measure is taken. How will our country function when the war some hoped we left behind now appears in the Houses of Congress?
I have seen the United States nearly shut down. The mood is angry, bitter, and nothing--absolutely nothing--get's done.
Those whose sharp criticisms urge a sudden shift will find themselves wondering how it was things actually grew much worse.
It took 16 years for this country to rebound after Viet Nam. But this round we won't have the luxury of time. The world won't wait. The threats and dangers will only mount. And we will be forced to send ten times as many of our sons and daughters in to the meat grinders that slaughterhouses that will be waiting for them as the Muslim nations rise to call of worldwide jihad.
I say no. Biden's plan is our best shot at avoiding all that.
And for those who refuse to believe that the leaders of Iraq will never accept it, all they need do is pay close attention to this.
Just yesterday, Senator Biden met with Iraqi President Talibani. After the meeting both Talibani and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki stated they supported the plan passed by our senate.
Biden's mastery of foreign relations has placed him in the lead of American foreign policy.
If we don't elect this man President, heaven help us!
10/5/2007 4:07:43 AM

jillcinta wrote:
Thank God we actually have someone with brains running for President.
10/4/2007 10:47:46 PM    Recommend (2)

blue_tarp wrote:
the analogy to our own historical "states-centered power", but "federal centered organization" is tenuous at best when used to describe Iraq's 'best scenario'. If a limited central government responsible for "protecting borders and distributing oil revenues" exists, it means that the kurds in the oil rich north already agree to that, along with other complicated sectarian factors involving the sunnis and shiites as well. the "constitution" replaced the "articles of confereration", but can we "impose that process" on the Iraqis? also, you say that if they don't want to proceed this way, as suggested, then [the iraqis] can reject the option.
through what means? a 'vote'? again, this requires a legitimate structure, which is lacking, and cannot be 'imposed' externally [by us].
you just don't want to use the word "kurdistan", etc., right?
clarification is requested.
10/4/2007 3:31:27 PM

IdahoBoy wrote:
Where do we get off imposing federalism on anyone? What makes any one think that taking a whole country that is used to being led by a dictator, and is in favor of that kind of rule, would benefit from having a foreign idea about how thier government should be ruled forced upon them? If we truly want these people to be free then lets let them choose how to govern themselves and stay out of their business. We seem to have our own problems that we can be pouring money into that would actually benefit our country. Last time I checked we had millions of illegal imigrants in the country and borders that are hardly secure. It's about time to do the right thing.
10/4/2007 10:28:30 AM

robertcogan wrote:
“Soft partition” should mean that U.S. troops, while withdrawing from Iraq's cities, would escort only willing Iraqis to resettle to zones of others of the same sect. What is now happening is hard partition by ethnic cleansing. Under soft partition Iraqis unwilling to move would assume the risk of fighting or making peace. Assumption of risk is a principle of freedom of choice. Door-kickin'-in forcible occupation is a principle of imperialism. Baghdad can be partitioned along the Tigris. The Green Zone goes to Sunni's moving from east to west Baghdad. Make a gift of Bush's embassy to the Iraqis. It's not worth one more American or Iraqi life. The Kurds have their own government. The Sunnis are out of Maliki's government. So we should offer Maliki's government the choice to stay in Baghdad alone or move to a self-defensible base in Shia territory. U.S. troops could be redeployed to underpopulated areas to guard Iraq's oil and distribute its profits equitably. A large U.S. funded but not staffed U.N border force is the only thing that could keep Iraq “one” country, let unarmed refugees return and keep us and the Iranians apart.
It's a fantasy to think the U.S. can democratize Islamic countries by force and then they will automatically be favorable to U.S. -Israeli interests. It's a worse fantasy to think even that we can eliminate all armed groups in Middle East countries that attack us now and then. When Napoleon and Hitler each invaded Russia, a vast, primitive country with difficult terrain and bad weather, their armies were destroyed. The same happened to the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan. We are already just holding on in Afghanistan and Iraq. If we have to fight Iran and help in Pakistan as well, our military and economy will be severely stressed. Even air-delivered hydrogen bombs that modify mountaintops and kill a gaggle of guys armed with Kalashnikovs and RPG's won't do the job. Americans will not tolerate a “two-generation” war for democracy. Antisemitism and isolationism will damage our historic bond with Israel beyond repair. Americans and friends of Israel better step up and vocally and officially support support the measures listed above before it is too late.
10/4/2007 7:39:26 AM    Recommend (3)

bayelevator wrote:
Senator Biden and the rest are wasteing their breath. This is Bush's and the republican congress's war. Let them run it as they please. The democrats have wasted enough time trying to change course, and it hasn't worked. Why would the democrats want to force a change in strategy at this point. Everything that could go wrong, has. To force a change this late in the game, would give Bush, and the reoublicans the ammunition to blame the democrats for their failures.
10/4/2007 6:53:38 AM

craven7391 wrote:
We saw how "sovereign" versus how clone-like and puppet-like the present Iraqi Government is with the Blackwater expulsion order being rescinded with one phone call from Condi. Indeed in the celebrated "free" election that produced all those risked purple thumbs, some political parties were summarily excluded from eligibility to run and compete.
Bottom line: millions of refugees facing execution for working with Americans in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, but less than 1000 admitted to the U.S. less in Saudi Arabia; just like the Vietnamese collaborators were left to face retribution but many ultimately kept out of the U.S. save a few hundred thousand (better than now); 70% of Iraqis think killing Americans is justified kiliing of occupiers according to polls in Iraq that also suggest in America, only 11% or so think the U.s. "should stay in Iraq until the job started is done".
Then the unprecedented red ink imposing serious burdens on future generations and threatening the stability of the whole global economy.
But also, is a war founded and planned, long before Bush stole his first election according to Paul O'Neill and other reputable insiders and not Bush haters,on a body of lies and contrived intelligence to create pretexts for a war and other crimes of the kind 11 Nazis were hanged for at Nuremberg.
When you have a monstrous crime, and other monstrous crimes built upon it, there is no legally and morally justified "exit strategy" except right now, no equivocation, no bs and no evasion or sophistry--right now.
Every rapist when knowing he is about and certain to be caught, wants to try to convince the victim, and later the Court, that what is rape was actually consensual even asked for and ultimately even rewarding in the scheme of things.
10/4/2007 12:46:59 AM

tedvothjr wrote:
The problem with our staying in Iraq to mediate their civil war is that the civil war is only one of at least two wars simultaneously going on in Iraq. The other main war is the patriotic Iraqi war of liberation from the armies of a foreign invader, us.
10/3/2007 11:17:25 PM

aaali1 wrote:
The proposal to divide Iraq along sectarian-ethnic line was first introduced by Israelis in 1982; Israeli Strategies for the Middle East. Leading neoconservatives, Wolfotwiz, Gelb, Feith, Pearl, Reed, Pipes, and Cheney have been working on this scheme for the last 30 years. In their interpretation of Biblical prophecies, Iraq represents a threat to God’s Kingdom on earth. For them, destroying Iraq and murdering its people is a divine mission. It is no wonder that neoconservatives, being Democrats or Republicans supported what they believe is part of God design for the Middle East. The deeper the suffering and more bloodbaths in Iraq, the more satisfied will be their God!
10/3/2007 10:55:34 PM

valheruson wrote:
So nice to read some simple logic.
How unfortunate that such logic will fail to comprehended by those who weakly fall prey to corrupt rhetoric.
10/3/2007 10:50:52 PM

DonCampton wrote:
The Biden-Gelb Plan is the only proposed solution to the Iraq mess that makes any sense. The Administration rejects it because it was not developed within the White House. The press does not cover or promote Biden's candidancy for President because he is the most viable Democratic candidate who appeals to moderate Republicans and Independents. Joe Biden is the real deal who "tells it like it is", the first step at finding solutions to complex problems in any walk of life. The press should be promoting the Biden-Gelb plan, and Congress should use it to directly challenge the President's failed policies and misguided ambitions.
10/3/2007 10:31:01 PM    Recommend (1)

rayblackmansnr wrote:
Excellent reporting,and the best solution for a country which has suffered so much, unfortunately we will have to wait, for a change in leadership in Washington before a decent resolvent of this mess.
Our involvement in Iraq, beyond the need to get rid of a despot, was about oil.
Even if oil security is a legitimate object,with out a thought out exit strategy we hurt the interests of the American people, the lives of decent Iraqis and shame our allies, and strengthen those who work against democracy.
10/3/2007 9:58:29 PM

Euro_BaBii93 wrote:
I believe that federalism will actually be an okay idea for the Iraqis to consider. Federalism puts people and countries together and keeps them united. Some countries which have experienced federalism have come to a partioning conclusion, but those countries still end up being united somehow. This is a dangerous risk for the country, and yes the Iraqis should take it into consideration and make a stable choice, not contribute in "a recipe for chaos."
10/3/2007 9:54:02 PM

MrGWAHND wrote:
Lets wake up people, unless we can unite as a country and get our own house in order.What qualifiy's you or I to mess with Iraq's tribal problems that go back over 2000 years. It seems that time and time again our politics and common sense are worlds apart.
10/3/2007 9:46:56 PM

greg_cunneen wrote:
Federalism, partition, etc. ...
The point that all these pundits still don't get is that Iraq is not your country to determine what happens. By invading, the US broke it, and it doesn't matter what the US does now, it can never be put back together.
10/3/2007 9:16:26 PM

kazimahmood wrote:
A gud idea, well defended...but the Iraqis must decide on it. Referendum anyone?
10/3/2007 8:59:48 PM

infuse wrote:
StarsAndStripesForever wrote:
Word NEOCON has no real meaning. Just a codeword for socialists
The term NEOCON is an invented word with a purpose designed by kooky far left socialist liberals to denigrate anything based on principle or fact...
One should know something about etymology before one attempts to engage it. So chalk this stupidity up to another wannabe "neocon."
10/3/2007 7:56:58 PM
Recommend (1)

caple3215 wrote:
Joe Bidden.
Why do you think, federalsm will work in Iraq, hasen't work here, Lincoln deleted the tenth amendment.
Paul Caple
10/3/2007 7:10:23 PM

um1967 wrote:
"we are not trying to impose our plan. If the Iraqis don't want it, they won't and shouldn't take it, as the Senate amendment makes clear." I am confused about what Mr. Biden's complaint is. He appears to be self-contradictory at best.
10/3/2007 6:29:36 PM

va_world wrote:
Just wondering how did Iraq survive as a state and a member of the UN before Saddam and during his rule. An occupier should not impose or think of models of other political system that Iraq never knew. Yes, 3,800 Americans died and 28,000 wounded. What is the toll on Iraqi lives let alone the irreparable damage in Iraq? Can Federalism or partition resolve it?
10/3/2007 6:16:05 PM    Recommend (1)

Cdalealden wrote:
Mr. Biden, I think about you and how serious you were when you commented on video about the racial makeup of the people working in the 7-Elevens.
The fact that you were adamantly serious at the time of the statement, but found it to be more of a joke later will always be significant in how I view you in the way that you practice your politics.
It helps me to establish the type of credibility that I lend to the words spoken by a man of your stature and the birds of a feather that flock together with you.
As a youth growning up in Compton, California we dealt with many political operatives such as yourself, who made many promises for political expedience. I later found that the words of those operatives didn't really mean anything; they were simply saying what they thought the voting constituents wanted to hear. And Compton is still an eye sore fifty years later.
Your belief system goes to the heart of your politics, and we have come to a point where you cannot disappoint us anymore because we have developed thick skin and low expectations. We have found the most base of operators usually know how to behave for the cameras.
10/3/2007 5:53:12 PM    Recommend (3)

speedyo wrote:
Hey Joe,
We don't belong in Iraq! It's that simple! Stop trying to stick our nose into Iraqis' business. We don't need to do anything but bring the troops home and pay off the government debt.
Let's move to get terrorists off American Streets, first, and when that is accomplished you can have your Crusade!
10/3/2007 5:39:14 PM    Recommend (5)

cbarrett49er wrote:
druvas posed a good question: "The Federalists were basically for a strong central gov't where as the anti-federalists had more of a decentralized 'States have the power' idea. Which is it that you would like for Iraq?" The concern that Madison had was tribalization; Balkanization of what promised to be a strong nation. Federalism, with a bicameral legislature and the Bill of Rights was the resolution arrived at, not without strong debate, for peacefully dealing with the dangers of faction. But the Founding Fathers could not achieve this without leaving in place slavery. It took a massive Civil War to resolve that and then many more years until true Civil rights; and these must still be toughly guarded. One respondent claims that the Iraqi actually want tribalist government in the form of three smaller states. And that may well be the only options when the US leaves. This resolution will of course please Iran but not Arab states. And it may well be that only a deeper civil war, uncorked when the dictatorship of Saddam was removed, will bring resolution of a former Iraq into separate states. The Sunni will not have such a strong economic foundation in such a case and most likely will prod the Saudi Kingdom to assist it. Biden and Gelb both are clear: Federalism is the only manner in which the deadly factionialism of religious hate and political revenge can be over come and fashion a new Iraqi nation. Civil war and factionalism is the more likely path and one that better fits the history of that region.
10/3/2007 5:27:38 PM    Recommend (3)

cbarrett49er wrote:
The Biden-Gelb plan is the only plan on the table that offers a path through cooperative politics and economic fairness to a nation that has long been held together through power politics - which has reaped economic waste and a culture of fragmented, vicious murder. Why would Bush [and I refuse to call him President since you have to have proven statesmanship and be a servant to all the people and not just corporate robber barons] distort the Federal idea? It is at the core of our own Republic. Bush needs to have someone explain the application of James Madison's Federalist essay #10. Let the little mind be opened a crack.
10/3/2007 4:29:23 PM    Recommend (2)

dmwideman wrote:
Thank you, Senator Biden, for your wisdom and common sense! Hang in there! Don Wideman, Liberty, Mo
10/3/2007 4:28:48 PM    Recommend (1)

MrSmooth wrote:
Iraq was, under Saddam, and remains, under the current government, essentially a feudal state. Saddam governed through a combination of corruption and terror designed to generate sufficient support among local rulers (like tribal leaders) to keep the country under his control. We see the same business of local leaders and their militias being formed into coalitions to bring order and rule the country under the current regime. This is feudalism, not proto-federalism.
In order to create a federal system, someone will have to convince local tribal leaders and mullahs to surrender their militias and their power to elected leaders, which won't be easy.
Further, the history of confederations tells us that, unless the central government has the power to directly raise an army and collect revenue, any federal system will be short-lived. The Iranian constitution does provide for these powers, but they have to be used effectively, as Senator Biden and Mr. Gelb suggest.
10/3/2007 4:14:58 PM

f16poor wrote:
Wake Up America, Let’s get the FACT straight here!
Separatist Kurds didn’t fly Professor Cole to the Northern Iraq (Kurdish area) before the invasion of Iraq, and I don’t think Professor Cole has a secret Swiss account; therefore, I encourage Americans to read Professor Cole’s unbiased Blog, dated Sunday, September 30, 2007, title: Iraq Preachers Lambaste Senate.
If you don’t have time to read his Blog, here is the summation of both Shiites and Sunni Imams’ sermons after Ignorant American Senates voted to partition another country: “Hell, NO!”
By the way, the upper- and middle-class Iraqi exiles and Sunni insurgents’ TV station in Cario, Egypt, Al-Baghdadiy” also shouted: “Hell, NO!”
p.s. I grew up learning that “Honesty is the Best Policy”. That’s why I am so, so ANGRY and my blood is at the boiling point whenever politicians say: Iraqis voted for the Federalism. No, 5,000,000 (FIVE MILLIONS) Sunnis are AGAINST the Federalism. No, many millions of al-Sadr’s followers are AGAINST the Federalism. In fact, there is a clause in the Constitution calling for the Constitutional Amendment on Federalism.
P.P.S. If anyone is following the war in Iraq, you will remember that in 2006 when Separatists Kurds and Pro-Iranian Harkim forced the Federalism legislation through by a small majority (while ALL Sunnis and al-Sadr Parliamentary members WALKED OFF the Parliamentary Hall).
Afterwards, the HELL broke lose in Iraq, big fighting broke out and people have been dying in LARGE numbers since then….
P.P.P.S. If Kurds want to be independent and take control of the Northern oil fields, they can fight Sunnis and Shiites own their own. I am AGAINST our BRAVE sons and daughters fighting for the dis-Unity of Iraq.
10/3/2007 4:01:48 PM    Recommend (2)

reb2861 wrote:
I feel bad for Senator Biden. I also feel ashamed of my fellow Americans for not paying more attention to him. I believe he has the best solution to the Iraq problem. I recognized his Federalism solution as the best plan when he first introduced it a couple of years ago and I am mystified and frustrated because so few of us seem to care enough to even discuss it seriously. It should be on the top of the agenda for debate and discussion. I have no doubt that Iraq will end up (if it stays together as one country) adopting a form of Biden's plan in order to survive as one country. It seems obvious to me. In order to see Federalism as a workable solution one must first discount Bush's force-fed diet of BS regarding his version of the Iraq situation. Bush is willing to hold America hostage to his view in order to save his historical reputation, planning on the next president to take care of the problem and his selfish and tragic policies will be muted. He will then be able to twist the facts in order to gain some advantage to his reputation. We and the military are paying a steep price to pay for his vanity. He is unable to admit that it is too late to actually save his reputation, and he should have the courage now to put the Iraq war to rest and admit his mistakes. Of course, such an act of courage is far beyond his meager capacity for personal courage. Under a microscope he will be remembered as President Bushwhacker for the way he has selfishly ambushed our country from behind the White House.
10/3/2007 3:46:26 PM    Recommend (1)

BookMan4848 wrote:
I wonder what in the world we are doing trying to settle a conflict between tribes that has been on going for thousands of years. After WWI the British and French took a map and drew lines on it making the various counties and "forcing" these warring tribes into one nation subjected to a government which was/is controlled by a small tribe which is the manority.
10/3/2007 3:45:38 PM    Recommend (1)

baqibarzani wrote:
This article is totally distorted and concocted. The people of Iraq are 1000% pro-partition, not federalism. Iraq is already federalized. I am from Iraq and I know for fact that most of what is being told and written about Iraq is totally fabricated and misrepresented.
The people of Iraq are fed up with the status quo. The ethnic and sectarian war is irrepressible and the last and only workable solution is dividing Iraq up into three mini-states.
We had legitimate referendums held through Kurdistan and 98% of the people voted in support of an independent Kurdish state. Partitioning Iraq is what we, the Iraqi people want, not federalism.
10/3/2007 3:40:15 PM    Recommend (4)

druvas wrote:
I love the casual tossing around of "the Federalist Papers" and Federalism in general. The Federalist Papers argued for the ratification of the US Constitution before the Bill of Rights were even added. While the various authors of the "anti-Federalist Papers" eventually won concessions in the Constitution in the form of individual liberties sited in the 1st 10 amendments, there was no provision for those originally (only vague references to freedom). The Federalists were basically for a strong central gov't where as the anti-federalists had more of a decentralized "States have the power" idea. Which is it that you would like for Iraq?
10/3/2007 3:38:24 PM

BearTruth wrote:
Did anybody really think that the avg person in Iraq would vote for George Bush or any of his friends?
We don't get a choice!
10/3/2007 3:28:44 PM    Recommend (1)

RJDestatte wrote:
Senator Biden's shameless effort to gain partisan politican advantage by misreprenting America's true interests in the Middle East is an embarrasment to the traditions of the U.S. Senate.
RJ Destatte    Temecula, CA
10/3/2007 3:25:52 PM    Recommend (2)

coskununal wrote:
I have been reading some excellent comments. Despite some rare arguments that the Biden/Gelb plan has been so misrepresented, most of the readers are coming up with some pretty good points. I would like to remind you a little detail for the sake of readers' efforts and time spent for those good comments.
Now, Biden's pointing out some similar solutions for Federalism, as in the United Arab Emirates and Bosnia??????? I say, he has no idea about what's going on in UAE and Bosnia....I would like to go in to more details but I do not want to be rude...Today's Bosnia, a very poor country suffering from a large variety of problems, used to be a prospherous part of Yugoslavia......
So.....Bosnia and UAE bad example.....Federalism, bad idea......
10/3/2007 3:25:03 PM    Recommend (2)

hatchlaw wrote:
What ever happened to divide and conquer?
Nation building only works when you destroy everything first.
So many humans have died in this conflict, why is it only the sectarian violence that counts?
These factions have been fighting for centuries. If we didn't want the Kurds and Shiites exact revenge on the Sunnis for their political domination, we shoulda stayed home.
10/3/2007 3:21:45 PM

camnan wrote:
This is too sensible, Sen. Biden, for "our leader" to comprehend--especially your comments about the admin's "bottom-up" non-strategy.
10/3/2007 3:19:38 PM

gmayer2 wrote:
Thus far, Biden's idea has the only substantive, potential for saving the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Shame on us if we don't try it!
10/3/2007 3:09:18 PM

rodsuch wrote:
If federalism is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, then why should the U.S. Senate have any need to pass a resolution endorsing it? The only responsibility the U.S. has in Iraq is to pay reparations for the nearly incalculable damage it has done to that country and its people. Then it needs to adopt a foreign policy that pledges respect for the sovereignty of nations and the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own future free of a foreign occupation army and protected from the lust interests of foreign petroleum companies.
10/3/2007 3:08:37 PM

ChosenWorld wrote:
Senator Biden is one US Senator whose comments I often consider as thoughtful and reasoned.
Yet, his view of managing Iraq's 'Federalism' [aka ethnic partition] is offensive.
Why not partition the US so that Mexico gets back its territory?
America has 'won' Iraq by creating permanent military bases, by a defacto ethnic separation and control of its oil and water.
American intends to occupy Iraq for as long as it has Japan, Germany and S. Korea.
It now merely wants to make the partition more manageable and acceptable to the UN.
His country should count the misery and death it has brought to the world and ask if karma has any meaning.
May Iraqi patriots prevail over this Empire.
And may Senator Joe Biden Jr. truly count the bodies and the destruction that his country has brought to the world since 1945.
And, no: this is not the forum to balance these ghastly figures with the undoubted good deeds that is has done. There is no offset for America's evil and for its crime of Iraq as it wages war on Islamic countries that are not its submissive clients.
10/3/2007 3:05:50 PM    Recommend (2)

StarsAndStripesForever wrote:
Word NEOCON has no real meaning. Just a codeword for socialists
The term NEOCON is an invented word with a purpose designed by kooky far left socialist liberals to denigrate anything based on principle or fact. The same deceivers who invented the word "moderate" to describe a political point of view that is neither moderate nor even a defined point of view but rather a view devoid of intellectual thinking based on knowledge or reason, but simply the "feelings" or whims of the moment, preferably as dictated by the wealthy elitist left fringe and their media co-conspirators.
Why would someone who can read, write and comprehend even listen to such rubbish? Oh! I forgot... the Democrat constituency has trouble in these areas because the Democrats are trying to keep them down.
Oh peoples of America look to the light and you will see you can escape the shackles of the Democrat Party, be it Independent, Republican or just plan no political affiliation, tear up your Democrat Voter Registration cards and the TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE!
10/3/2007 2:53:04 PM    Recommend (1)

President_Roslin wrote:
Senator Biden - does Iraq have a democracy or not? Their government says they don't want your fracking partitions. How woul you like some arrogant invader to come to our country and partition it off?
We are the United States of Hipocracy.
Oh, and the Iraqi democratically elected govt wants Bush's SS team, Black (Bloody) Water out too.
Is that ok with you if they excercise some self determination? Or is all of this a big like (get it?).
10/3/2007 2:52:15 PM    Recommend (2)

H5N1 wrote:
Mr. Biden, Mr. Gelb - how would you respond on the floor of the Senate and in the pages of our news media if the Iraqi Parliament voted to allow and encourage full Congressional representation for Washington D.C.?
We have killed (yes, killed) up to 1.2 million Iraqis in our bungled attempt to what, give them Democracy? And now you have the nerve to propose carving them up like a Thanksgiving turkey! That's chutzpah.
10/3/2007 2:51:01 PM    Recommend (3)

diamondjoe wrote:
Let's see this writer is talking about what appears to be a viable solution for the Iraqi people and what could assist us in getting out of Iraq and leaving a stable environment. We need to get on the same page but it certainly appears some of us are reding different books which means the American people wcannot get ont he same page. Federalism is the form of Government used by muslims in turkey before the French raced over to tell them how to live. If we want the Iraqi government to form their own workable government do you not think it wise to support the efforts they are making? How many of our leaders would have run for office if they were in fear of being murdered for their efforts. Some of our leaders need to know what they are talking about before opening their mouths to state their opinion. This article was just more politically correct than me. They are spending more time trying to get elected than doing their jobs.
10/3/2007 2:48:13 PM

janetb1 wrote:
How sad that the Biden/Gelb plan has been so misrepresented. I guess that is the dirty side of politics..............
10/3/2007 2:43:58 PM

asizk wrote:
What right do Biden and this Gelb have to sit in an air-conditioned office in DC with a sharp pencil and a straight edge and draw a new map of an occupied country? The region is still suffering from the colonial partition of the reigon-Sykes-Picott agreement of WW11. Besides being another imperialist treachery, the proposed partition of Iraq-is immoral, unethical and as illegal as the occupation itself which pushed Iraq to the Stone Age: over one million Iraqis are dead, over four million turned into refugees not counting over five thousand Americans dead-including US contractors who are always not counted-and enormous American treasure wasted.
The Iraqi people are not naïve and do understand very well the implications of such dreadful proposal and hiding behind "federalism” won’t fool any one. There was absolutely no sectarian tension or conflict in Iraq's entire history including even under the dictatorship of Saddam which the Iraqis now lament over-when their kids could go to school and come home safely and when they had electricity and clean water and free health care and free education-observe the Cholera outbreak in Iraq now with half of the total Iraqi MD’s already fled Iraq.
May be Senator Biden and this other guy Gelb can partition the US into white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Cathoilc, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu..etc: it has the most extensive mosaic of religions, sects, cultures and races gathered in one place in the history of mankind; otherwise to leave Iraq alone-a partition will further rock the region into a more devastating tsunami and that is not in the interest of any one including America. Partition is not even in the interest of the apartheid israel thou it and its zealot supporters are pushing hard for partion and another war on Iran.
10/3/2007 2:39:34 PM    Recommend (2)

rhinehaj wrote:
I've been reading all the comments on this site, and I'm struck by how different they are. If this represents this country's attitudes toward Iraq, no wonder we're in this mess. Get out, stay in, help them, abandon them, partition them, hold them together.
As for myself, I want to see the damage we did to the Iraqi's fixed before we leave, but I don't think we can impose a political solution on them. Our sheer presence in Iraq is causing them to suffer so the sooner we can get out the better, and Bush's audacity in building the biggest Embassy in the world there while neglecting infrastructure and basic necessities is a whopping statement about his intentions and world-view. I'll be glad when the Bush admin. is gone from this government. But I don't envy what the next government will have to repair.
I'm coming to believe that we need to change to a British-style government in which a bad leader can be pushed out of office before his party's term is over.
10/3/2007 2:38:10 PM    Recommend (2)

coskununal wrote:
Dear sir,
With all due respect, you're on the wrong course. Even if the idea of a Federal Iraq is one of the concrete options on the table, I don't believe it will work. First of all, none will be able to convince Kurds, to share their oil pies with the rest of the Iraq, that this option is you base argument I think....
The path to success in Iraq lies beneath the democracy. And Federalism shall be a method for implementing it, but please don't forget that the Northern Iraq is still controlled by the rich tribe leaders, not elected politicals....At the moment it's not the people of Iraq (Arab,Turkomen,Kurd,Asyrian)but it's the rich family members and their dynasties in power the US should be concerning.
10/3/2007 2:36:29 PM    Recommend (3)

dan10 wrote:
Mr Biden would you take the same devolved status where our Fed govt would protect the borders, maintain the roads and print money?
You could make a case we would be better too. We had 20 yrs to work thru what we are asking a different people group who don't trust their leaders for obvious reasons, to get it very quickly under extreme conditions.
So if you are advocating limited govt. lets try it here first.
10/3/2007 2:21:33 PM

mellowyellow wrote:
I used to like Biden, until I saw him a few weeks ago on "Meet the Press." He was trying to sell his "3-state solution," but when asked if he would ever support cutting funding for the war, he looked into the camera, tried to conjure a tear (but there wasn't so much as a glisten), and proceeded to tell of his last trip to Iraq when he saw young soldiers excited about getting a new armored vehicle. (These 18 to 24 year-olds should be at home excited about getting a new Sony Playstation 3.) After witnessing such a life-changing event, Biden vowed that he would never, ever cut funding for the troops (applause.) This was a worse moment than Nosferatu Giuliani's phone manipulation.
Biden wants the best for our troops, but cutting funding to get them out of harm's way is off the table - for Joe. On the table is everything else.
10/3/2007 2:20:55 PM    Recommend (3)

Steve_Fallon wrote:
The ONLY real "Boulder in the Road" to Iraqi reconcilliation is sitting in the White House with no idea what to do. Biden and Gelb know what they're talking about.
Al-Maliki knows it too. Ignore all his posturing. If he is seen as caving in to the Americans his competitors in Iraq will see to it that he simply goes boom.
Biden's plan to covene an international conference on Iraq provides al-Maliki the precise mechanism he needs to save face (and his very life in all likelihood) as he is seen by the world as a man who is leading his country effectively by embracing the United Nation's efforts to assist Iraq.
Biden and Gelb had this all figured out long ago.
Thank you, future President Biden.
10/3/2007 2:19:39 PM    Recommend (2)

Harry2 wrote:
Turn it all over to the military and blackwater it will all be over in two months, and that will be that.When our boy's and gal's hear that they will come home when it is all over it will be no time till it's conclusion.....
10/3/2007 2:16:54 PM    Recommend (2)

StarsAndStripesForever wrote:
This is the first sensibly written article on Iraq printed in the Washington Post that does not have a kooky fringe left agenda in several months. Thank You! You are now about 984 articles behind based on the fairness doctrine principle.
10/3/2007 2:12:34 PM    Recommend (2)

JAMadison4 wrote:
Sen. Joe Biden's plan is over a year too late. Bush and company are already committed to bombing Iran back to the Stone Age in late January.
Sen. Biden try lining up a new plan too deal with All Hell breaking in the muslim world in 2008.
This Global War willbe worse than anything history has ever seen. Our trained Military has snapped beyond its capabilities. Greater, and more advanced Missles and Nuclear Bombs are both immoral and ineffective. After the dust and smoke settle, the world willbe crazy with wars everwhere!!!
Senator, if civilazation is to be saved a new plan must be in place by December 2007, or God have mercy on us.
10/3/2007 2:11:03 PM    Recommend (1)

Harry2 wrote:
There is no political settlement in Iraq, unless you want to give the entire USA to them.
Let the military end this chaos, keep the politicians out of it and it will all be over in a month or two..
10/3/2007 2:10:18 PM

Steve_Fallon wrote:
Senator Biden's efforts prove he is a man who places country ahead of politics.
Senator Obama, when he was running for the Senate, stated he didn't know how he would have voted on the bill to authorize the President to use force in Iraq. Now he points fingers! Now he makes the false claim that he would never have voted for the authorizaion. This man is a hypocrite of the highest order.
Hillary Clinton hasn't had an original idea that wasn't first directed at promoting herself in the entire time she has been in public life. Where is her list of landmark legislation? Where is her concrete proof or leadership? Where is her proof of the ability to reach out to Republican legislators in order to form the sort of concensus in government that moves this country forward as a people united?
Senator Biden is getting my vote. I am sick of partisan politics ruling the day. This government is dysfunctional, and it is candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who benefit most be keeping it that way.
10/3/2007 2:02:25 PM    Recommend (2)

jackolantyrn356 wrote:
Shucks! I'd be willing to shell out a couple of bucks to have a bunch of The book called The Federalist; printed in what ever the language these ol' boys read in and make it kinda look like the Koran. Heck the boys can now have two books in their Library.............Well, it couldn't hurt.
10/3/2007 1:55:44 PM

infuse wrote:
snelson648 wrote:
Senator Biden is the only Democrat running who has the courage or the knowledge to tell voters the truth about Iraq. If we pull out without leaving any stable structure behind, we leave a continuing bloodbath. If we stay the course, possibly through 2013, we feed our own soldiers into the grinder. These are awful choices.
The people who criticize this plan in the comments do not have a better plan on offer...
And what of the bloodbath taking place now? What makes you think Biden's plan will stop the bloodbath? What makes you believe any plan will prevent a bloodbath once we leave?
Here's a plan I believe will work. Let the bloodbath go forth! At the end of it there will be a "government" that will govern the country. Who's to say that a bloodbath will be any less violent over a year or so instead of dragging it on for ten more years?
Just because Biden "is the only Democrat running who has the courage and knowledge to tell voters the truth" doesn't make his plan viable. What led you to believe that?
10/3/2007 1:51:23 PM

loboforestal wrote:
Are they afraid someone on the Council of Foreign relations might get upset? TFB. Cut the country in three.
10/3/2007 1:50:21 PM

WaPoLies wrote:
Two Jewish neoconservatives try to smash another Arab country into pieces. Surprise! I think we have done enough in Iraq. It doesn't matter that the Baghdad, a city of five million, has 1 million Kurds, 2 million Sunnis and 2 million Shiites. It doesn't matter that there are pockets of Sunnis in the Shiite South or the that the Kurds and Sunnis are mixed in the Northeast. All that matters is what Israel tells our miserable Congress to do. Shame!
10/3/2007 1:43:06 PM    Recommend (7)

AndrewDana wrote:
Sadly, the situation in Iraq is very chaotic and is the result of removing a terrible leader like Saddam Hussein. While we cannot say that Saddam was good for the people, they have had nothing but suffering since he was removed from power. I feel for the people of Iraq and am afraid that nothing we do as a foreign power will solve the problems in Iraq today. We need a solution that empowers the people to work toward their own reconciliation. The current form of government does not. I do not have the answer, and I do not believe anybody does. Biden's suggestions would certainly not solve all the problems but could be a step along the path to reconciliation simply because his suggestions would redistribute power to more in Iraq. The problem is that redistributed power could have the opposite effect and lead to more fighting for complete control of the country. Iraq's political history does not give us much hope. More leaders is not the answer, but more reconciliation amongst the people of Iraq. Iraq has a long road ahead of them, but we are responsible as a leading country of the world to help. Leaving will probably lead to the same type of situation in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban coming to power. I do not know the answer, but it is not to pick up and leave.
10/3/2007 1:27:03 PM    Recommend (1)

mshimazu wrote:
Biden and Gelb sure have one thing right. If a plurality of WaPo reading Americans don't get the difference between Federalism and partition, it is surely something that will be foreign to Iraqis.
10/3/2007 1:25:35 PM    Recommend (2)

f16poor wrote:
I am still wondering how much $$$$$$$"campaign contribution"$$$$$$$$$$Joe Biden has received from separatists Kurds?
10/3/2007 1:17:53 PM   Recommend (1)

snelson648 wrote:
Senator Biden is the only Democrat running who has the courage or the knowledge to tell voters the truth about Iraq. If we pull out without leaving any stable structure behind, we leave a continuing bloodbath. If we stay the course, possibly through 2013, we feed our own soldiers into the grinder. These are awful choices.
The people who criticize this plan in the comments do not have a better plan on offer. Making personal comments about the authors contributes nothing to the debate we should be having as Americans about what to do next. So you don't like them, so what? Are you OK with what the three frontrunners were saying last week? Staying possibly through 2013? How about what the other candidates were saying: pull out now, never mind what happens to those poor people whose country we have broken.
If you have a better idea, put it on the table.
10/3/2007 1:10:48 PM    Recommend (3)

hayes2 wrote:
"Lawrence of Arabia" as he was known said the same thing to the British. The British did not listen then of course we will not listen now. (GREED) Perhap someone ought to ask these people now living in chaos and unable to think what they want? Yea. (A day late and billions of dollars short.) The perfect plan was to keep them in choas unable to think and take everything they have out the back door. Hunt Oil is doing that and others will follow. (ask those from the Sudan about shock and awe while the Chinese take all they have.)
Mr. Biden has as much right to his idea's as the administration and all the bloggers here. Of course it wasn't right to invade a country and then tell them what to do. History shows this as a matter of fact from the begining for these people. The latest invader being the great United States of America. (The "non-nation builder" as Mr. Bush liked to campaign on.) These people are in a hell at our making. Someone with a brain has GOT to do something!
Forget Sadamm, our first "pick" for Iraq, he is DEAD! The State department has not and will not do anything. (COMPLETELY INEPT!) The Defense department stands to loose money if they do anything and the White House is winning through chaos. Get a grip.
Mr. Malaki may be right in not trusting our Senate but really has NO senate of his own and has alot to loose if he even appears to hear what other's think. (HIS time is numbered.) He has taken his marching orders from the beginning from our State Deaprtment and continues in lock step to everything they say. Of course he would distort Mr. Bidens idea's as he's an enemy of the great Mr. Bush and Miss Rice. He is an extension of the republicn agenda and must march to the drum beat. To think we are not dictating policy in Iraq is to be completely out of the loop on this. Everyone has an agenda.
The other point Mr. Biden presents is the very real and very scary "bottoms up". WE ARE ARMING GROUPS AGAINST EACH OTHER! THAT IS THE REALITY! This is the military's plan for departure. The General's plan. (It's always some shadowy idiots plan.) WHAT COULD BE WORSE?
Can we at least listen to idea's and start a differnt approach? This one is clearly a disaster. How long do we have to wait? Read "Lawrence of Arabias's" idea's. At the time that was what the people wanted before they were thrown into the cruelty of dictatorship and finally our shock and awe. They have never been in charge of thier own destiny.
Certainly Mr. Malaki doesn't believe democracy and a strong central government was his idea? Does anyone reading this blog believe that? We scream change and then beat the guys up that have a different solution. Typical. No wonder the Congress can't get anything right. The people themselves don't know what thy want. Get educated about this region and then make a determination. Standing around watching the choas doesn't work at the level they wanted and is certainly not the solution for all us unwashed anymore. It is THEIR COUNTRY, let them have it back through Mr. Biden's idea's and for God's sake, keep OUR hands off their oil and assetts. (THATS WHY BUSH HATES THIS IDEA, SOMEONE ELES WIH ONLY THAT JOB WOULD BE IN CHARGE OF THE OIL!!!!!) Mr. Bush and team really screwed this up.
10/3/2007 1:02:58 PM    Recommend (4)

mellowyellow wrote:
Biden and Gelb say if the U.S. can't sell their federalism idea, we'll have no chance for political settlement and no chance for leaving Iraq without chaos. I guess it doesn't matter that our occupation is the high octane that fuels and drives the insurgency. Biden and Gelb need to believe that given Iraq's strong tribal system, they will be able to figure things out on their own. The time to leave Iraq is now. No one will know what will happen until then. Everything else is hypothetical. Most disturbing about this article was the line: "With 160,000 Americans at risk in Iraq, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and with more than 3,800 dead and nearly 28,000 wounded, we also have a right to be heard."
10/3/2007 12:44:57 PM    Recommend (1)

infuse wrote:
"The Bush administration should be helping Iraqis make federalism work -- through an agreement over the fair distribution of oil revenue; the safe return of refugees; integrating militia members into local security forces; leveraging the shared interest of other countries in a stable Iraq; and refocusing capacity-building and aid on the provinces and regions -- not scaring them off by equating federalism to partition, sectarianism and foreign bullying."..
And if we knew how to accomplish all that there would be no war today! Those are the same "intractable" problems confronting a "unity" government. What makes Biden/Gelb believe a federation would make the solutions easier?
Any attempt to TELL the Iraqis how they should govern themselves will fail. How hard is that concept? Biden has joined the imperialists who want to dictate everything!
10/3/2007 12:13:08 PM    Recommend (3)

w04equals666 wrote:
if ever something showed how unqualified someone is to be president, this is it..biden abd gelb would have us believe that just a few more hundreds of billions of dollars spent in iraq..just a few more tens of thousands of americans maimed in iraq..just a few more thousands of americans killed in iraq..and presto change-o et voila..iraq will become the new fairfax county..the sunnis and the shiites and the kurds will forget how cheerfully they have tortured and murdered each other for centuries and will link arms and sing kumbayah..and magically, our allies the turks will lose all desire to cross the iraqi border and utterly slap down our allies the iraqi kurds in order to squelch the concept of a free kurdistan..and our afghani allies the northern alliance will stop setting world records for opium production and defeat the taliban which they allowed to escape into pakistan..biden and gelb need to look at the most recent example of what happens when a strongman in charge of an artificial geopolitical construct yugoslavia and tito to iraq and saddam..yugoslavia and iraq are both artificial constructs, cobbled together by other parties..they both were not held together..they were forced together by their strongman leaders..and when the strongman died..both sunk into chaos as the citizens sought out their historical groupings..another thought for biden and gelb.the us military is no longer of strategic is worn out, and stretched too thin..we now are relying on nuclear deterence elsewhere in the world because we do not have the forces to take on north korea or iran or anyone except perhaps curacao..we need to withdraw and rebuild our forces..there is no way the iraqis are going to allow federalism to take roots..the shiite sponsers in iran will not allow any power to the kurds or the sunnis..the sunnis sponsers in saudi arabia will not allow any power to the shiites or the kurds..this is not a feasible solution..
10/3/2007 12:05:13 PM    Recommend (2)

Issa1 wrote:
You provide things and ideas that neocons destroy..HOPE!
10/3/2007 11:55:45 AM    Recommend (1)

hayes2 wrote:
10/3/2007 11:51:13 AM    Recommend (2)

CardFan wrote:
4 years later and Joe Biden's idea is still the best one I've ever seen for Iraq. But forget about it. Bush's strategy is simple and clear... stall, stall and stall some more to leave this mess for the next poor slob to resolve. That it costs more lives is apparently irrelevant to him and his cronies who have no one at risk.
474 days till the end of the Bush administration.
10/3/2007 11:45:23 AM    Recommend (5)

crenza wrote:
Joe Biden is the ONLY presidential candidate with a plan for Iraq that makes any sense.
His foreign policy experience and analysis of Iraq puts him miles ahead of the other candidates who lack any plan to get us out of Iraq while maintaining the peace.
10/3/2007 11:24:30 AM    Recommend (5)

dsar wrote:
It is true that federalism is not a partition. On analogy, consider British Isle- which heading to word true federalism. Example- UK has Scottish, N.Iarland and Welsh regional parliaments, and they function as semi autonomous regions to govern their local day to day activities, but connected [ accountable for] to central Government at London, Headed by constitutional Monarch the Queen [ She is the same like President. bush and President. Putin but enjoys permanent post for life]. And this arrangement works well for the British subjects.
Both America and Russia are functioning as Federal states.
Question now whether the Iraqi people will going to accept this federalism in their country?
I personally believe that Islamic Arab States and their subjects are not mature enough to grasp the concept of new trend of a democratic federal state.
Therefor this hypothetical superimposing of new federalism on Iraqi's heads may not produce expected result, even it can back fire.
10/3/2007 11:23:13 AM    Recommend (3)

negotiator6 wrote:
If the Iraqi's wish to Federalize their country..then let them do it. It is not for us to mandate suggestion or recommendations. This will only extend our presence-the retrograde operations-withdrawl should begin now.
PS: I worked the mission in BiH in 12/95 to 9/96; plus another few years on contract...Bosnia is a political and economic disaster..there is talk now of "recouping" the Serb Republic (RS). The country is divided and remains dysfunctional..Just ask anyone from the Bosnia Croat Federation....
10/3/2007 10:58:09 AM    Recommend (1)

marknesop wrote:
You're missing the point, Mr. Biden - the choice is not yours to make, or even to offer. Interference by the U.S. government is a continuing thorn in the side of the perception of independence, and reinforces the concept of occupation. Remember, you went in there to free the Iraqis. There was no mention of remaking their country into easily-controlled bits, and I don't think the Iraqis believe such a solution would be for their benefit. The Sunnis, for example, know well that a central portion without any oil would not survive long, and would be gobbled up by a stronger and wealthier neighbour - or conquered by Shiite Iran.
Face it. You messed up. The country was infinitely better off before you wrecked it.
10/3/2007 10:49:03 AM    Recommend (3)

steveandjanereed wrote:
Not much in the article about whether this federalism is likely to be achieved or even supported by the Iraqis. Would not the likelihood of success or failure be important here ? IF we are to continue staying there, a federalist approach looks like little to lose unless it lengthens our involvement.
10/3/2007 10:30:33 AM    Recommend (1)

Garak wrote:
Gelb has a lot of nerve saying the US deserves to have a say in internal Iraqi political decisions. He denies the US public the right to even discuss our policy towards Israel. Gelb authored a hatchet-job review in the NY Times of Walt and Mearsheimer's new book, "The Israel Lobby." He failed to address the merits of the book (not that he could, as their arguments are ironclad). The regular book reviewer gave it the favorable review it deserves, of course. Instead, Gelb joins the rest of the Israel Lobby in smearing these 2 respected patriots for daring to criticize Israel. This smear has one purpose only, to stifle debate in the US. Israel owes its very existence to the American taxpayer. Yet Gelb says Israel is off limits to the American public, while Iraq is open to debate. Gelb needs to rediscover intellectual integrity. He's lost whatever he had.
10/3/2007 10:18:04 AM    Recommend (6)

realist4 wrote:
Joe Biden said" that central government (in Baghdad) doesn't function,is corrupt and regarded as irrelevent and has not provided political reconciliation"
COULD HE ALSO BE REFERING TO WASHINGTON???? Sounds just like Washington!
"...Federal system enshrined in its constitution." A federal Iraq is a United Iraq" MAYBE THEY ARE LOOKING AT OUR GOVERNMENT AND SHAKING THEIR HEADS TOO!
"The U.S. has a responsiblity in Iraq that "we cannot run away from" FINALLY HE HAS IT RIGHT.
Could he see the fact that we WILL be attacked again!
Look at Jimmy Carter in Darfur.The Elders would not meet with him but Carter said
"The Elders trip is proving effective...considering the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (that ended 21 years of civil war between Sudan's Muslim government in the North and the Christian and Animist rebels in the South)
J. Carter said "If CPA fails to fulfill its commitment to free and fair election and democracy in this country all other efforts will be futile"
Looks just like the Iraq picture.
If Sudan can fix their problems of 21 years with a nice man like Jimmy Carter why do so many people say Iraq has no solution?
Too many in Washington say there is no end to the war and there are no solutions...
Well, send them the government check. That's how they take care of the people with the same mindset over here?
10/3/2007 9:59:35 AM

BurfordHolly wrote:
Oh, this about Iraq! I thought it was about America and Bush's 27% dead-enders. I say give them central Texas, Colorado, and Utah. Let partition be the answer.
10/3/2007 9:55:55 AM    Recommend (3)

sgttripod wrote:
Sirs: You write that with US deaths and wounded in Iraq, with the hundred of billions spent on the "war," you too have a right to a voice in Iraq's future. Anmazing, really. You invaded and destroyed a country and now want to take the next step, "restructure" that country as you see fit. The simple questions are: Who asked you to go to Iraq, how many Iraqis have died as a result of your invasion? Who gives you the right to destroy and determine a country's future? who made you God? One answer suffices. You have the military power, matched by a clearly limited sense of moral principles and because you could, as Thomas Friedman of the NY once said, over and over again. You likely will get your wish of a "decentralized Iraq" but the iraqis will pay the price in blood for the next decades. Congratulations, Sirs, you have created and insist in compounding a horror that will go down in history as the ultimate in immoral hubris.
10/3/2007 9:54:43 AM    Recommend (6)

Khalij wrote:
childressp    My name indicates where I am from. I personally know some of the people who were in the first "government". And some I know by their reputations and statements from others. Some of them are criminals (Chalabi), some CIA stooges (Allawi). Otheres are various crooks. True patriots are scarce as seems to be the case in your country. The first government was no more than a creation of your government. And if you think about it, the fact that the government of Iraq lives inside a military base run by your army should tell you who runs the country.
It is very sad to lose someone from your family. In wars the small person who is the soldier is used by the big person who is the president or king. In the time of Sadddam many young Iraqi kids were taken into the army. They had no choices. Then comes a war and they are killed by your young kids and kill your young kids. It is a pity that the small persons of the world do not see that they are brothers and that the bad men are truly the bad leaders.
I am sure we pray to the same God even if we have different religions. And I will say a prayer today for your loss. This is a small thing for me to do because I am sure the loss is great - especially if it is a child.
We have a verse in the Quran
that says that to kill one person is like killing the world.
Peace is best.
10/3/2007 9:44:26 AM    Recommend (12)

donnasaggia wrote:
What Biden and Gelb just don't get is that Iraq is not "ours" to partition. The Iraqis are totally opposed to this plan and, after all, they are a "sovereign democracy," aren't they?
10/3/2007 9:33:54 AM    Recommend (2)

childressp wrote:
MohamedMALLECK - Iraq is involved in a civil war. That simply is not U.N.I.T.Y.
People are dying, lets try and stop that with a mechanism to hold the country together. If the violence is not stopped, then Iraq will not be whole. It's that simple.
10/3/2007 9:29:20 AM    Recommend (3)

childressp wrote:
Khalij, Thank you.
Some food for thought: You believe that occupying powers wrote the constitution, but you have to concede you are speculating. You don't know, and the truth is probably not black and white anyway.
Another thought. The United States lived under the Articles of Confederation for 11 years before our constitution was ratified. Even then it contained repugnant compromises which were later amended out of the document. My point is not to ask Iraq to model us, but to point out that to go from where the Iraqis are now, to what they want is a continuum.
Again, thank you for the kind words.
10/3/2007 9:25:52 AM   Recommend (7)

MohamedMALLECK wrote:
NO, NO, NO! Mr. Biden. Neither federalism nor partition. The people of Iraq can speak for themselves. They have spoken : they want unity -- U. N. I. T. Y. -- unity! It is not YOUR country. Get out, or you'll be driven out with all the ignominy that defeat entails!
10/3/2007 9:12:25 AM    Recommend (3)

jaysonrex wrote:
10/3/2007 9:07:19 AM    Recommend (3)

Khalij wrote:
for childressp
Sorry to hear that you have lost someone from your family in this horrible war.
I believe the occupation powers helped the Iraqis "write" their constitution and then slammed it down their throats.
Please don't forget that it was smart guys like Joe Biden who voted for this war. So maybe he's not so smart after all.
Ask yourself how many family members he's lost in Iraq's sands. Very easy to play with other peoples' lives.
10/3/2007 9:06:57 AM    Recommend (6)

lina63 wrote:
Its a little heartening to see 26 Republicans vote for this measure, just don't ask Senator Brownback or any of the 26 hypocritical Republicans to actually challenge Bush on this. Such apostasy! They love their president above everything, their own jobs, their party, their country, the poor suffering military men in the field and the suffering people of Iraq. These are the courageous leaders who are sticking close to Bush until they can get through the primary season and safely out of the grasp of their base, who presumably they will then betray and begin speaking, politely of course, in terms not necessarily favorable to President Bush's plan, that's about 9 months from now, in simple calculus about 550 dead soldiers and 20,000 maimed for life. Come November 2008, its time to bury this monstrous party and the deeper the better. Charles L. Bland
10/3/2007 9:03:02 AM    Recommend (1)

Khalij wrote:
Somewhere AIPAC is cheering.
Notice who the authors of this piece are.
Notice that they are among the architects of the Iraq war.
Pure coincidence.
10/3/2007 9:02:50 AM    Recommend (4)

GILLGK wrote:
To further confuse the subject Bush has allowed one of his crony buddies, Hunt Oil, from Texas to enter into contract with the Kurds. Doesn’t this seem disingenuous and totally destructive to the entire idea? It irks me to know that Bush provides secret information to friends so that they can use it to their benefit but yet goes around what the government is supposedly trying to accomplish. I'm pissed!
10/3/2007 9:01:00 AM    Recommend (2)

childressp wrote:
I can't get over some of the ill-informed, and short-sighted posts on this blog. The Biden-Gelb plan is not a utopia, it is designed to salvage what we can.
pkusnick - Foreign policy is overwhelmingly the policy of the the commander-in-chief, not the Senate - and especially not an individual Senator.
thmak - If the idea of us supporting a Federal system is 'repugnant' why is it written in the the IRAQI constitution?
errinfamilia - Biden and the Senate cannot change policy by themselves. I'm sick to death of people hanging this debacle on the Democrats. They DO NOT have the votes to change the President's policy -yet. This is Bush's War.
jthandbook - If all you have to contribute to the discussion is negatives, then just shut up.
Joe Biden understands more about this than all of us. We owe future casualties a better policy. Or, as Biden said in the last debate, we get them out because they are just fodder. This ridiculous war has cost my family, and 3800 other families, the ultimate price. That sacrifice demands more respect from us than glib comments from people who don't know what they are talking about.
10/3/2007 8:51:55 AM    Recommend (10)

JEP7 wrote:
"Now if Joe can convince the Sunnis, Shites, and Kurds to leave their homes and move somewhere else."
No, they have alredy done that, and they are getting closer to ethnic equilibrium in the process. Had we actuallly taken some of those relocation initiatives, instead of allowing (Imean that exactly as it is written) the terrorists force their neighbors out, there would be fewer dead and fewer refugees, just a lot more angry displaced people who were still living and breathing.
But we let the death squads do it, first with the Shia under Negraponte then with the Sunni under Petreas.
Cui bono from all of this?
"Not I" said the Iraqi citizens.
"Not I" said the American taxpayer.
"Not I" said the US Soldiers.
Only the profiteers and no-bidders reaped any rewards from this Bush war. And now they hinder any future progress by claiming the Iraqi oil for themsleves.
Until we take theprofit out of this war, we will never see it end, and they have told us as much.
10/3/2007 8:41:06 AM    Recommend (3)

JEP7 wrote:
"Iraqis have no familiarity with federalism," yet they have such distinct divisions among their people, they have the outline for federalism written into their history. However, this observation "with a limited central government responsible for common concerns such as protecting borders and distributing oil revenue." has some obstacles that, as we have learned from the Hunt Oil fiasco with Turkey, might not be in Iraqi hands at all.
Until we control the gluttonous greed of our own misguided moguls, it will be impossible to earn the trust of the Iraqi people, at least enough trust to help them form a more perfect union.
But it is without a doubt the only plan that has potential, everything else is futility.
10/3/2007 8:33:57 AM    Recommend (3)

rowens1 wrote:
Bush will only listen to Barney and Ronald Reagan. As we say around here, he's dumb as a box of rocks (which means he's dumber than a fence post).
The Iraq Study Group was a way to try to convince the stubborn fool-in-chief that he could have a plan that was, at least in part, Republican. He would rather fail than give any Democratic plan any respect. This man seems to hate over half of his countrymen.
10/3/2007 8:19:37 AM    Recommend (2)

chase-truth wrote:
Maybe we need an oil revenue sharing law for the federalist system in the United States too. Texas seems to have more than its share of oil, money, and influence.
10/3/2007 8:09:55 AM    Recommend (5)

thmak wrote:
It is repugnant and insulting to the Iraqi that the fate of their country is decided by USA. This suggestion alarms other countries as well that USA will invade any country not following US likes and dislikes and set up a puppet government. If the puppet government is not successful, USA will provoke the in-fighting among the various groups so as to manipulate the groups and divide up the country for the interest and security of USA only. No wonder 9-11 happened. I sing " God bless America..."
10/3/2007 7:48:56 AM    Recommend (4)

HMichaelH wrote:
The Biden-Brownback amendment for Iraq sounds an awful like what the Founding Fathers of the United States had in mind several centuries ago. How has that worked out for us so far?
10/3/2007 7:45:17 AM

pkusnick wrote:
Now if Joe can convince the Sunnis, Shites, and Kurds to leave their homes and move somewhere else. This sounds like that other solution Palestine. I'll wait for the movie to come out. Amazing the progress we've made over the past two decades with Biden, Leahy etc running things. Good ole' boyz nev'a meanin' no harm. Imagine if they did?
10/3/2007 7:31:40 AM

rdco wrote:
Federalism requires some glue to hold them together. Historically, this is often external military threats, which clearly exist for the Iraqis. So a decentralized form of federalism does not seem to be impossible. The north and south seem to be more or less independently governed already. As argued by Biden and Gelb, however, there are constitutional procedures for this, and if they have simply been ignored, it does not speak well for the future of the current government(s), or for our "helpful" role in reforming Baathist institutions.
The press has done a very poor job of providing informationi about the institutional developments of the post-Baathist Iraq.
10/3/2007 7:03:34 AM   Recommend (1)

errinfamilia wrote:
How much wind has Biden generated at this point regarding Iraq? All talk, no action. Some government we have that has to spend it's time passing non-binding statements rather than laws.
10/3/2007 7:02:12 AM    Recommend (2)

codexjust1 wrote:
The authors write that the Iraqi “central government doesn't function; it is corrupt and widely regarded as irrelevant.” Yet we continue to send young Americans to die for that corrupt, non-functioning, irrelevant government. This is a profoundly immoral policy. Yet Mr. Biden, and the gutless Democrats majority in Congress refuse to live up to their constitutional duty and to cut off funding for this abomination. There are limits to what military power can do. If we cannot convince the Iraqis to form a functioning central government or to resolve their ongoing civil war, we need to pull our troops out and we need to do it now.
10/3/2007 6:59:24 AM   Recommend (6)

Link1 wrote:
NEWS FLASH!,FLASH!,FLASH!If our government does not start paying attention to their work at HOME,they will be facing the same problems here.Civil war and partition.We Americans are in dire need of a strong centralized government.One that is decisive,controlled,and mindfull of the needs of the legal majority population they are sworn to serve.Democracy is to rule by the ruled,majority rule.The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few.Special interests be damned!Get back to basics before we all go to hall in a handbasket."Link 1"
10/3/2007 6:43:30 AM    Recommend (3)

waterbirds wrote:
Yes, the Iraqi people should decide ... but I'm not willing to spill more American blood and spend American treasure while they dither around for the next century!
Bush thinks meeting 3 out of 18 benchmarks is doing great! Must remind him of college transcript!
If the Iraqi government doesn't get their a$$ in gear, if they continue to act like squabbling, they will be treated accordingly and sent to their respective rooms for a time out while the grown-ups decide.
I've seen the purple fingers: it takes more than voting and a paper constitution to make an independent country.
10/3/2007 6:43:20 AM    Recommend (2)

dyinglikeflies wrote:
The federalism idea, given time, could gain traction in Iraq if touted as a way to provide a safe haven for each group while maintaining Iraq as a state. The problem is that the Shia south has most of the oil and it is right next to Iran, the uber-Shia nation on the planet. Is it realistic to think that Iran wouldn't be the de-facto ruler of the Iraqi Shia if the central government is permanently disengaged from control in the south? So this move could turn Iran, the main enemy of the US in the world, into a regional superpower. Here's another solution- let's dig up Saddam's corpse and put him back in charge, ala Weekend at Bernies. Stuff him and sit him up- he'll be no less intelligent at doing his job than the numbskulls who got us into this war in the first place.
10/3/2007 6:39:51 AM    Recommend (2)

brianb1 wrote:
Federalism is a good idea that cannot be implemented. Both Shia and Sunnis want absolute power.
10/3/2007 6:07:53 AM    Recommend (3)

ConsiderThisMyFriend wrote:
".. the White House might consider the facts."
Ha, they don't need no stinkin' facts!
10/3/2007 5:52:24 AM    Recommend (5)

xSamplex wrote:
I hope you guys get some traction with this. The Iraqis are in no shape to willingly live together (the "unity government" fantasy), nor can we force them to live together (that's what Saddam was there for.) Allowing a loose federal system to develop, where relatively save and stable enclaves can be carved out, makes great sense. Plus, it actually gives our soldier a rational mission - to help carve out and secure these regions of safety. Does anyone really know what deliverables their current mission is supposed to deliver? If you do, you get a free pony.
10/3/2007 5:48:51 AM    Recommend (3)

blasmaic wrote:
America could not unite Germany. America could not unite Korea. America could not unite Yugoslavia. America could not divide Vietnam. America could not invade Japan. America cannot create peace where there was a despot who ruled as a tyrant.
The government just wants to partition Iraq into sections based on the 1991 no-fly zones because they screwed up. That however will only lay the foundations for Kurdistania and Ukrania.
10/3/2007 5:29:20 AM    Recommend (3)

MPatalinjug wrote:
A strong central government in Baghdad is clearly out of the question under a democratic regime which belives in individual liberty and in humanitarian values.
A strong central government in Baghdad is only possible under a despotic regime, such as the one under Saddam Hussein.
Remember that the geographic space now called "Iraq" was cobbled hurriedly by the British right after World War I out of the disparate remnants of the Ottoman empire. So Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites occupied that geographic space and was uneasily held together by the glue of force.
Without such a force, "Iraq" would have broken apart as a matter of course long ago.
Federalism under the Bioden-Gelb Plan, which the US Senate supports overwhelmingly, promises to be a practical and realistic solution to the conundrum that is Iraq.
President Bush is wrong to shoot it down and insist on pushing his own idea which has proven to be unworkable.
The least he could do is to give the Biden-Gelb Plan--now the US Senate's Plan--the chance that it deserves.
What is the alternative?
10/3/2007 5:27:05 AM    Recommend (4)

j2hess wrote:
Biden and Gelb recognize the dangers of an entirely botton-up approach.
(This is not what Petraeus and Crocker are attempting, however - they are trying to build connections between local militias and the national level, against the resistance of Shiites in the national government and security forces.)
What are the dangers of federalism as they see it?
The two major Kurdish factions were fighting not so long ago.
Shiite factions are fighting each other in the South,
Are the Sunnis united without the dominance of the Baath party? Greg Palast argues that Risha was regarded as an upstart by the real tribal sheiks of al Anbar and they had a role in his assasination.
In other words, the Iraqi factions are only united when fighting outsiders.
The national government has become a prize to capture because control offers opportunities for patronage and corruption. Regional governments will suffer from the same problem. Rivals who cooperate against the US, AQM, or other sectarian/ethnic factions will contest with each other for control of regional governments.
For all the risks, the only way any kind of representative government in Iraq can be built is from the ground up, as local/rival groups reach accommodations and make alliances based on local institutions and interests.
De-emphasize our reliance on the national government and security forces by all means. Do not, however, make the mistake of assuming that the different regions are natural replacements for an Iraqi nation-state.
10/3/2007 5:21:19 AM    Recommend (2)

rmbus54 wrote:
I wonder if there is some foreign entity that has looked upon the US and (having determined that red and blue states will never produce an effective central government) decided it should "encourage" us to return to our grassroots federalism?
10/3/2007 5:19:37 AM    Recommend (4)

cpwash wrote:
Don't waste your breath and ink trying to debate rationally with Bush - he's a lost cause.
Given a choice, most Americans would rather have the elections tomorrow and just get rid of him.
Too bad another 1,200 Americans will die before Jan 20, 2009, when we can at last have a rational, sane, thought through strategy for Iraq. For this alone, Bush should be impeached and thrown out of office.
10/3/2007 5:09:54 AM    Recommend (7)

BrianX9 wrote:
Ambassador Gelb and Senator Biden,
…You say that, if the United States can't implement our federalism idea, there’s no chance for a political settlement, and no chance for leaving Iraq without leaving chaos behind.
…Self-confidence can be a good thing, but its value might be improved when tempered with a touch of modesty.
…You accuse the Administration of conjuring a "bottom-up" strategy that looks like federalism and smells like federalism -- but is, in your opinion, a recipe for chaos.
…I am embarrassed to defend the Administration on this charge, but they had nothing to do with the development of this approach.
They plagiarized the “bottom-up” approach. From me.
…It is lifted from my June 2004 Unsolicited Proposal to the USAID and the CPA/ PCO entitled “Model Communities.” Updated proposals have also gone to State.
…Most recently, it appears that Dave Kilcullen heard it from Ambassador Satterfield, who rejected it again as late as November 2006, and then shared it with MG Ricky Lynch and the Petraeus brain trust.
…But they only adopted the parts of the approach that they understood, which amounted to less than 30% of it.
…The Administration is locked into a “White Man’s Burden” paradigm, similar to the one framing your Federalism approach.
…While the key to success in “Model Communities” is empowerment of the authentic indigenous local leaders in discrete communities, General Petraeus refuses to empower and trust these leaders to secure and manage their own villages and neighborhoods.
…Therefore, the PRT’s are simply seen by the natives as a new twist on foreign occupation.
…Civilian US bureaucrats work with community “representatives” selected by the senior US military officer in the community,
but that American Colonel remains the power behind the throne.
…And the US military forces do not go away.
…The secret to this “bottom up” approach working is for the US masters to entrust the local leaders with responsibility and authority for their own local security and municipal governance.
…After an orderly transition, withdraw US forces from the community.
…Cut the umbilical cord, EXCEPT –
*maintain the flow of US appropriated funds to pay for:
…local security forces, and
...the range of aid, development and reconstruction programs that USAID is currently paying top dollar for,
but which are producing ABSOLUTELY NO worthwhile benefits.
…The locals can run their own communities better than foreigners who don’t speak the language or understand the culture.
Mr. Ambassador, Senator,
…you are close when you say that this approach, seemingly supporting any group, anywhere, that will fight al-Qaeda or Shiite extremists, could invite anarchy.
…Actually, you are exactly right when you point out it will lead to complete fragmentation of Iraq [into hundreds of little medieval fiefdoms] that pits one group against another, and fails to knit these parts into governable wholes.
….A definite downside, at first blush.
…But this is necessary in order to create stable communities, which are essential before any stable larger social or political unit can be built.
…Once the stable, self-securing communities exist, the leaders of these communities can then work with the leaders of adjacent fiefdoms to work out alliances and reciprocal agreements.
…It will be up to the leaders of stable model Iraqi communities to do the knitting together of towns and neighborhoods into larger governable units.
…You don’t really imagine that you can impose this inter-community cooperation from without.
You can see that this is up to the Iraqis themselves.
Stabilize_Iraq at Yahoo dot com.
10/3/2007 5:01:26 AM    Recommend (4)

apparently from the same blogger, in a live discussion with Thomas E. Ricks of August 21, 2007; 12:00 PM over "The War over the War", Washington Post:
Colorado Springs, Colo.   Back in June 2004, the only way forward -- where the U.S. could optimize U.S. national security -- was to follow the "Model Communities" approach, where we would select and empower authentic, indigenous local leaders to take control of and responsibility for their own communities. The approach would take money away from USAID contractors who were teaching the locals that their values and culture were backward, and put that money in the hands of local leaders.
In November 2006, Dave Petraeus cherry-picked pieces of the "Model Communities" approach, coming up with the current strategy in al-Anbar, which I call "if you can't beat the resistance movement, pay them to stop hurting us." We give them our lunch money. The Resistance fighters didn't flip; our forces did, but still we refuse to allow respect, honor or dignity for the authentic local leaders and their people. This retail acquisition of loyalty is not to be trusted. To folks even a little bit acquainted with Arab culture, we make ourselves a laughingstock. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
So here we are, it's almost September 2007, and the only way forward that optimizes U.S. national interests is, surprise, the "Model Communities" approach. In other words, give Iraq back to the Iraqis, but in a way that provides for security and stability at the village and neighborhood levels. Not cut-and-run, but necessitating drastic troop level reductions. Is the President still holding out for a MacArthur-esque surrender ceremony on an aircraft carrier deck? Would it be too much to admit that folks outside his administration understand the quagmire, and the way out, better than his partisan hacks?
daniel3715 wrote:
Attacking a country on trumped up charges does not give us "the right to be heard".
It entitles our unelected perpetrators to a fair trial at the world court for war crimes. Along with all of their wretched acomplices.
Craven Democratic Senators who mouth platitudes but go along with these war criminals deserve a special place in hell also.
10/3/2007 4:41:41 AM    Recommend (12)

ademirha wrote:
I support your ideas as I have been wrting about this from beginning of the War. A federal pluralistic three state solution in Iraq is still possible and it is currently the best possibility to maintain “united Iraq”. Shiite and Kurds in general have been supportive of this solution. The Sunni should have been given opportunity to choose between independence or federalism, and they should know they will not dominate Iraq any more. This formula would help Sunnis to make a quick choice to be part of Iraq or not. I think they will if they know these are only two choices they have. The three state federal solutions is the best way to protect Kurd and Sunni rights against the majority Shiites and create a balance of power among them. In the absence of this solution, the only solution will be three independent states and the end of Iraq.
Amed demirhan
Hawler (Erbil), Iraq
10/3/2007 4:26:54 AM    Recommend (1)

BrianX9 wrote:
Mr. Rat,
one tiny problem with yur approach:
all those Secularists you are counting on to rebuild a secular Iraq - they are IDP's or in Syria, stuck in refugee camps,and not coming back until the place is stable.
They have already paid too high a price trying to make the new order work.
It didn't.
They will not gamble the children they have left on your experiment.
Otherwise, you make some sense.
10/3/2007 4:13:38 AM    Recommend (4)

BrianX9 wrote:
Which is it, Senator ?
Are you simply reminding the Iraqis of what is already in their Constitution, written by Americans,
that gives them the option of adopting a federal system, orare you interfering with decisions about reconciliation and the form of government that are none of your business?
Because if it was the first, what reason could there possibly be for the Iraqis to object?
No, sir, you are arrogating to yourself that which is none of your business.
Will they end up, eventually,after much pain and suffering, with a federal system like you want to impose?
I think that is likely.
But it is up to them, Mr. Colonial Imperator wanna-be.
10/3/2007 4:08:08 AM    Recommend (7)

talib wrote:
Senator Joe Biden should be ashamed of putting such a resolution. First, Iraq is not a US state so that he resolutes for its people. Second, this action asserts a widely held view in Arab and Muslim public opinion that the US administration is occupying an independent country, member state in the UN for an unlimited period.Now the US legislative arm is passing laws on Iraq. Biden and all those who voted on his resolution were not elected by the Iraqis. Third, Mr. Biden should feel shame for he has never shed tears for the ordeal of children, women and elders been killed on daily basis by Israel while trying to convince us he is feeling sympathy with the killing in Iraq. After 4 years of American occupation in Iraq the country is rendered as jungle which every Banana Republic will feel angry to be resembled to.
10/3/2007 3:24:39 AM    Recommend (6)

denspark wrote:
"With 160,000 Americans at risk in Iraq, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and with more than 3,800 dead and nearly 28,000 wounded, we also have a right to be heard."
Excuse me ?
You invade their country for no good reason, reduce it to a bloody shambles with an iraqi death toll in the hundreds of thousands & unleashed your mercenaries with legal immunity on the population and you think this gives YOU special rights in iraq because your army of occupation is in some danger and you've spent some money?
The world has heard enough from america about iraq. It's time americans apologised,shut up and got out.
You've done enough damage.
10/3/2007 2:32:31 AM    Recommend (14)

curtalden wrote:
I agree with the concept of Federalism, not only for the Iraqis, but moreso for the United States. As divided as this country is, it seems that the best solution would be to allow local jurisdictions to govern themselves with less centralized control from Washington DC. The United States is united in name only, and continuing to centralize political power in the hands of the 30-40% of the electorate who garners the required number of electoral votes is a recipe for continued governmental dysfunction.
10/3/2007 1:39:02 AM    Recommend (9)

emainland wrote:
Isn't it the Iraqis who should decide what form their country should take? Why should Biden or Gelb or Cheenie or Bush or the neocons map out Iraq's future? It's not their country and they have no business there. According to latest polling, both Sunnis and Shia overwhelmingly reject partition. 80 percent of Iraqis want Americans to leave, 50 percent want to kill us. The situation is clear. We are not wanted. So what's keeping us from leaving? Neocon dreams? Democrat spinelessness. Fossilhead greed for oil? U.S. public indifference? General American ignorance? Meanwhile, Cheenie's cooking up grand plans to expand the conflict to Iran and bomb the mullahs to dust. Will the smoking ruins of Tehran and hyperbolically patriotic TV mush from U.S. media make things any better? IMPEACH CHENEY FIRST LEST HE BOMB IRAN AND MAKE THINGS MUCH WORSE.
10/3/2007 1:35:04 AM    Recommend (16)

rkerg wrote:
Senator Biden and Mr Gelb, it is painfully obvious to more people every day that Bush and his "Bushies" are all hunkered down into their "don't hold us accountable for Iraq" crouch, so their pretending that any bit of good news is part of a grand strategy of their own devising and that any idea minted outside their pearly neo-con gates is without merit, goes without saying. These are very desperate politicos who would very much like to avoid having their name become a synonym for military incompetence.
10/3/2007 1:12:14 AM    Recommend (7)

R49Thomas wrote:
Some reactions.
First, allegedly (and please note that word is deliberately chosen) we have decided after announcing several now patently false previous motives that we invaded Iraq to bring democracy. It’s Operation Iraqi “Freedom”. So with all due respect, gentlemen, pipe down. This is the Iraqis’ decision. Not a bunch of 100 self-proved clowns in Washington, however well intentioned – though misinformed -they may be.
Second, having already demonstrated what must be a historical level of incompetence in Iraq, we really need to restrain our natural “American” hubris/delusion that we have some pipeline to ontological truth. We sat for the exam and the results are in. It’s not even a gentleman’s C. A little humility is probably appropriate right now.
Third, it is a bit disingenuous to say that this bone-headed plan is not effectively partition. The plan’s “federalism” is based primarily on religious affiliation. An analogy would be a federal structure in the USA based on race – with a canton for whites, one for blacks, one for Hispanics. One doesn’t have to be as smart as President Pan (or evidently most of our Senate) to figure out that such an approach will lead to de facto partition as co religionists flock together. And then eventual partition.
Fourth, the Iraqi adventure has done profound lasting damage to our strategic interests in the Middle East. The Arab reaction to this plan would indicate (to those who are or can pay attention) that this “great” idea is going to further exacerbate anti-Americanism in the area. For those unfamiliar with the ME, there is a suspicion in the area that the USA plan for Iraq was canonization/partition to destroy this country as a unified force and break the ME into a bunch of statelets and cantons to enhance Israel’s security.
Having already shot ourselves in the face, let’s not compound the problem by shooting ourselves in both feet.
Fifth, and perhaps most important: it’s really critical to stay within one’s area of competence. The run up to the Iraqi war and the stellar performance of both branches of Congress on other matters indicate that there is a paucity of some fairly basic skills in these two bodies.
That being said, there are clear areas of excellence and competence.
The Senate should focus on these.
What are these??
How about a non binding resolution praising the pumpkin growers of the USA? I would personally be very pleased to see a sense of the Senate resolution congratulating the Chicago Cubs on winning their division. And to be fair and balanced a message of profound condolence to the Mets. Having achieved such important milestones, the Senate could turn to weightier matters. How about a condemnation of “Oxy” Limbaugh for his impugning of American servicemen (a seemingly hot topic).
This is of course just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I for one found the Hanes ad in yesterday’s WaPo on page A29 offensive to the Judeo-Christian foundations of our great nation. Perhaps, the Senate could turn its powerful intellect to this critical issue.
10/3/2007 1:02:18 AM    Recommend (13)

capemh wrote:
The problem is with the fine print.
So the central government will guard the borders. What about common defense, an Army, Air Force, and Navy? Or would it devolve into a system of regional militias? If their armed forces are controlled by the central government, what will prevent the prime minister from picking off the individual regional governments?
Maliki doesn't want it, it appears, so as to centralize power around himself and the Shias.
The key to Iraq is the oil, and oil revenue. It has enough to rebuild itself, if it can get the wells on line. It seems to me that there isn't a hurry to do so. Why? Maybe because we are pumping money into Iraq, in the form of contracts and bribes that go to the local sheiks and other powers. Maybe, if the money dried up, they would get more cooperative, find a monetary reason to come together and work out a solution and get the oil pumping again.
Nothing like empty stomachs and emptying bank accounts to get people moving.
10/3/2007 12:55:36 AM

gatriotact wrote:
i got a question for you joe: we are in a time of high oil prices and american deficits driving the us dollar down to the level of the canadian dollar. why is it then that we have around 1 trillion for a war that has brought us shame, a perception as israel's lackey in the arab world, and endless future veterans expenses, but then i read when we want to build a high speed rail network in the midwest, a flat area ideal for high speed rail, a useful, exciting idea which could create a new, more efficient paradigm of transportation we dont have the one billion to do it. i think i have the answer which is that the central government is corrupt and controlled by the people who have no interest or hatred for the majority of the country.
10/3/2007 12:44:19 AM    Recommend (5)

gatriotact wrote:
i support a strong state of iraq capable of defending itself against us and israeli aggression.
10/3/2007 12:25:17 AM Recommend (11)

October 7, 2007

Syria Is Said to Be Strengthening Ties to Iraqi Opponents

DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 6 — Syria is encouraging Sunni Arab insurgent groups and former Iraqi Baathists with ties to the leaders of Saddam Hussein’s government to organize here, diplomats and Syrian political analysts say. By building strong ties to those groups, they say, Syria hopes to gain influence in Iraq before what it sees as the inevitable waning of the American presence there.

“The Syrians feel American power is much weaker in Iraq than in the past,” said Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus bureau chief of the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat. “Now they can take a bold public initiative like helping Iraq’s opposition organize without much fear, especially since President Bush has become a lame duck.”

In July, former Baathists opposed to the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki scheduled a conference for insurgent groups — including two of the most prominent, the 1920s Revolution Brigades and Ansar al Sunna — at the Sahara Resort outside Damascus.

The meeting followed two others in Syria in January that aimed to form an opposition front to the government of Iraq, and an announcement in Damascus in July of the formation of a coalition of seven Sunni Arab insurgent groups with the goal of coordinating and intensifying attacks in Iraq to force an American withdrawal. That coalition has since expanded to incorporate other groups.

The July conference was canceled at the last minute, however, indicating the political perils of Syria’s developing strategy. It was called off by the government of President Bashar al-Assad, participants, diplomats and analysts said, primarily because of pressure from Iran.

Iran is Syria’s chief ally and a staunch supporter of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited Damascus just days before the conference was to have taken place.

Still, hundreds turned up for the event, including Harith al-Dari, the leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni opposition group, and other high-profile figures wanted by the Iraqi government. Several said they hoped to reschedule the conference in Syria in the near future. “The American project in Iraq is collapsing, and we decided it was important to reach out to fellow Iraqis now,” said Nizar Samari, the spokesman for the conference and a former media director for Mr. Hussein.

Syria, which the United States accuses of channeling Islamic militants into Iraq, denies any role in organizing groups opposed to the Iraqi government. Analysts and diplomats, however, said they strongly doubted that the groups could operate in Syria, a police state, without the approval of the government.

Western diplomats and political commentators differed on the extent of influence Damascus could ultimately wield over the opposition groups. But they agreed that Syria had been using them to show the United States and Iran, often described as the big brother in its longstanding alliance with Damascus, that it had the capacity to play a major role in Iraq’s future. “Iran is the big player in Iraq,” said Mr. Hamidi, of Al Hayat, “but it lacks influence on the Baathists and the Sunnis.”

That would seem to create a natural opening for Syria, a predominantly Sunni country governed by its own version of the Baath Party. But its relations with the Iraqi Baathists have long been strained. Syria backed Iran in its war with Iraq in the 1980s and supported the United States against Mr. Hussein during the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

So Syria is walking a fine line, forging an “enemy of my enemy” relationship with the Iraqi Baathists and insurgents while still maintaining an alliance with Tehran. It is a risky strategy that carries the added danger of possibly incurring the wrath of Al Qaeda. “The conference brought together those people with a stake in Iraq and some of those who have not allied with America’s biggest foe, Al Qaeda,” said one political commentator, who asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety, referring to the canceled July conference. “This was a risky move by Syria, because it could draw attacks.”

After the United States-led invasion of Iraq, which Damascus strongly opposed, Syria became a haven for a number of high-ranking Baathists from Mr. Hussein’s government, many of whom were wanted by the American military. Syrian political analysts say they brought with them millions of dollars stolen from Iraq and were given refuge on condition that they kept a low profile because Syria feared reprisals from American forces in Iraq.

The Iraqi government has in the past accused Damascus of harboring Iraqis who are aiding the insurgency. And Syria makes no secret of its sympathy for the insurgents. “Syria looks to the resistance as freedom fighters, like George Washington fighting the British,” said Mahdi Dahlala, a former Syrian minister of information. “We understand that the rising up against occupation is a natural phenomenon.”

Syrian authorities have on occasion turned over wanted Iraqis when they wished to placate Washington or Baghdad. In 2005, Mr. Hussein’s half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who was No. 36 of the 55 Iraqis most wanted by the United States military, and 29 other former Baathist officials hiding in Syria were handed over to the Iraqi government on suspicion of aiding the insurgency.

But during his visit to Syria in August, Prime Minister Maliki urged President Assad, to no avail, to hand over more wanted Iraqis widely believed to be hiding in Syria. “Syria is not going hand over any Iraqis to the Iraqi government unless they produce evidence of wrongdoing,” Mr. Dahlala said.

Officials in the Bush administration say that Syria has had a mixed record recently, taking some steps that American officials see as helpful in Iraq and others that show that Damascus is seeking to build its own influence there.

In an interview, a senior Defense Department official praised Damascus for canceling the opposition conference and noted that the Syrians had cracked down to a degree on Islamic militants operating near the border with Iraq, a move long sought by Washington.

An intelligence assessment released in August in Washington said that the Syrian government had gone after Islamic smuggling networks. But it did so not out of a desire to help the United States, the report said, but because it feared that the groups presented a threat to the Syrian government. The report also criticized the Syrians for funneling money to Sunni insurgent groups inside Iraq “in a bid to increase Syrian influence.”

Syria has long had a regional strategy of influencing its neighbors’ politics by harboring their opposition groups. Washington imposed economic sanctions on Syria in 2004 for, among other things, its support of Hamas and several other militant Palestinian groups.

Suspected of orchestrating the 2005 assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, Syria has also come under increasing pressure from the United States and France for its support of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Thabet Salem, a Syrian political commentator, said Syria was also exploiting a rift between two former Iraqi Baath Party leaders, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former vice president under Mr. Hussein, and Muhammad Younis al-Ahmed, who is believed to be living in Syria. The two men, accused by Washington and Baghdad of leading and financing terrorist operations in Iraq, have multimillion-dollar bounties on their heads. “Younis al-Ahmed is trying to go under the umbrella of the Syrians as a way to unite the Baathists,” Mr. Salem said. “And the Syrians quietly support him, because they could have more control over their actions.”

In January, Mr. Ahmed held a conference in the northern Syrian city of Homs to try to revive the Iraqi Baath Party. Some Syrians speculated that he wanted to take a more conciliatory stance with the Iraqi government and the United States. His rival, Mr. Douri, who is suspected of having stronger ties with insurgent groups, rejected the conference. “Douri deeply distrusts working with the Syrians because he distrusts the Iranians, who are strong allies with Syria,” Mr. Salem said.

Mr. Ahmed is believed to be garnering increasing support in Syria from former Iraqi Baathists, at the expense of Mr. Douri and other rivals, by offering cash incentives and Syrian residency permits. Loyalty to his leadership is said to be particularly strong among the poorer, Sunni Arab, segments of Syria’s two million Iraqi refugees. “Syria could gain tremendous influence in Iraq if it could get control over the Iraqi Baathists,” Mr. Salem said. “It has much more in common, ideologically speaking, with them than it does with the Islamists in Hamas.”

A spokesman for Mr. Douri’s wing of former Baathists living in Syria, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad, condemned Mr. Ahmed and denied suggestions that former Baathists were turning away from Mr. Douri or considering negotiating with Washington. “We want every American soldier out of Iraq, and we won’t stop fighting until that happens,” Mr. Muhammad said.

David S. Cloud contributed reporting from Washington.

Washington Post    October 8, 2007

Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power
Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal
By Joshua Partlow

BAGHDAD -- For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in that broad goal.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

"Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself," he said. "You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that 'I want to reconcile with you.' "

The acrimony among politicians has strained the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki close to the breaking point. Nearly half of the cabinet ministers have left their posts. The Shiite alliance in parliament, which once controlled 130 of the 275 seats, is disintegrating with the defection of two important parties.

Legislation to manage the oil sector, the country's most valuable natural resource, and to bring former Baath Party members back into the government have not made it through the divided parliament. The U.S. military's latest hope for grass-roots reconciliation, the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen into the Iraqi police force, was denounced last week in stark terms by Iraq's leading coalition of Shiite lawmakers.

"There has been no significant progress for months," said Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents and the most influential Sunni politician in the country. "There is a shortage of goodwill from those parties who are now in the driver's seat of the country."

Iraqi leaders say there are few signs that Maliki's government is any more willing to share power now than 15 months ago, when he unveiled a 28-point national reconciliation plan. A key proposal then was an amnesty for insurgents -- an "olive branch," Maliki said at the time -- to bring members of the resistance into the political fold.

But over the summer and fall of 2006, sectarian violence rose to its highest levels, driving thousands of people out of mixed neighborhoods and pushing Sunni and Shiite politicians further apart. The amnesty never materialized, nor has the reconciliation.

Some politicians remain hopeful. Hashimi, the Sunni vice president, recently drafted what he calls the "Iraqi National Compact," a 25-point statement of principles that condemns all types of extremism and sectarian discrimination.

Hashimi's statement calls for candid dialogue among Iraq's various factions. On Sept. 27, he met with the country's most respected Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a rare and symbolic gesture that underscored the possibility of cooperation across the sectarian gap. Hashimi said Sistani expressed support for the national compact while requesting minor editing of the document.

"I have started from scratch. I know that," Hashimi said. "This will create a new environment between the Iraqi politicians to talk on sensitive issues face to face in an attempt to alleviate the reciprocal paranoia between the Iraqi sects and ethnic groups."

But Hashimi said he sensed no fundamental willingness from Maliki's government to reconcile with the Sunnis. It has been two months since the largest Sunni coalition walked out of the cabinet when its list of 11 far-reaching demands were not met. Hashimi acknowledges some progress on the demands -- such as a program for releasing prisoners during the holy month of Ramadan -- but calls the steps insufficient.

"Pulling out from the government was not a target, it's just a means, a way to encourage the government to perform in a better way," Hashimi said. "The response of the government has been very, very slow."

Sunni leaders sense that their Shiite counterparts believe the era of Sunni leadership in Iraq is gone for good -- "that Humpty Dumpty had a fall and cannot be put back together again" as one senior Iraqi official put it -- and Sunnis should accept the new reality. Sunni leaders, however, tend to express more limited goals than reclaiming the government.

"I, as deputy prime minister responsible for the portfolio of security and services, until now, have never been consulted on any security operation taking place in Iraq," said Salam Z. al-Zobaee, Iraq's second-highest Sunni official. "The Sunnis, even if they've been participating in the government, are still marginalized in decision-making."

The idea of "reconciliation" in Iraq has always been short on specifics. To Sunnis, it tends to mean Shiites will release their grip on decision-making, allow them greater influence in the government, crack down on militants regardless of their sect and promote peaceful cooperation between politicians. Sunnis demand the release of thousands of prisoners who have never been charged, the purging of all militiamen from the Iraqi security forces and influence in military decisions.

To Shiites, reconciliation is a process fraught with risks that Sunni "supremacists" will attempt to seize their former position of authority over the majority Shiites. Many Shiites believe that reconciliation requires punishing those who, during Saddam Hussein's government, ruthlessly killed and repressed Shiites and Kurds.

"It's clearly perceived by the government that reconciliation is clearly a winner for the Sunnis and not a winner for the Shias," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq. "The question becomes: How do you start balancing that scale a little bit?"

Many Shiites, still aggrieved by the crimes committed against them under Hussein, are not ready for new programs or legislation attempting to force a balance into existence.

"You cannot have reconciliation without justice, and justice has not been accomplished yet in Iraq. They have tried and executed not more than 10 people, Saddam and his people, and that is not enough," a senior Shiite government official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "The same people who were killing Iraqis at the time of Saddam in the name of the state and in the name of national security are doing it now with the insurgents."

Most of the U.S.-backed "benchmarks" for Iraqi political progress -- intended to push along reconciliation -- have so far not been reached. The government has not passed legislation that would govern the country's oil resources or allow former Baath Party members to reclaim government jobs, nor has it completed a review of the constitution or enacted an amnesty program. A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office judged that only three of 18 benchmarks had been met.

"The polarization of Iraq's major sects and ethnic groups and fighting among Sh'ia factions further diminishes the stability of Iraq's governing coalition and its potential to enact legislation needed for sectarian reconciliation," the report concluded.

Several Iraqi officials say they are hamstrung by the very government structure they are operating within. In 2003, the U.S. government handpicked a 25-member Iraqi Governing Council -- including 13 Shiites and five Sunni Arabs -- that would mirror the population's majority Shiite makeup. In 2005, when voters chose political parties rather than individual candidates, politicians' loyalties to sect over any other criteria solidified.

The resulting Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs emerged as the dominant political actors, with individual politicians subservient to the group. Leadership positions were parceled out in a de facto quota system to achieve at least nominal balance among the rivals.

This imperfect balance of power, deemed the "national unity government," entrenches these sectarian divisions and prioritizes a politician's ethnic or sect background above experience or ability, Iraqi officials say. The system makes selecting Iraqi ambassadors or cabinet ministers an exercise in horse-trading subject to bitter disputes.

"Iraq cannot be ruled by this notion of a national unity government, because that has been a recipe for paralysis," said Salih, the Kurdish deputy prime minister. "We need a government of majority, comprising the moderates, representing the key communities of Iraq and delivering to its constituents, and willing to take on the extremists."

The fragmentation of Iraq's leading Shiite coalition, while potentially leading to more instability, paralysis in parliament and gun battles in the streets, might be an opportunity to lessen the reliance of politicians on their sectarian blocs, one senior government official said.

"We need to break that mold of politics here, this politics where sectarian politics is the norm," the official said on the condition of anonymity because of concern about publicly supporting the disintegration of the Shiite bloc.

The Iraqi government plans to consolidate its cabinet and install skilled technocrats in place of inexperienced political appointees, officials said. Hamoudi, the Shiite member of parliament, said he expected that the 37 cabinet seats would be reduced to 22 or 23 in coming months. Certain public service ministries, such as Justice, Transportation, Health and Agriculture, would in theory become "independent" from political parties, he said.

"It's critical because now the feeling is that the national unity government has proven to be a failure in the region -- in Palestine, in Lebanon, and now in Iraq," Hamoudi said. "We need a strong government that conducts its duty and not that looks good."

Some potential progress toward reconciliation has run into recent trouble. The U.S. effort to recruit Sunni tribesmen to join the police force and fight the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq was strongly opposed last week by Shiite officials, who asserted that the Sunni recruits were killing innocent people under the guise of fighting insurgents.

"We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers," the leading Shiite political coalition said in a statement. "Their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon."

Special correspondent Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.


solami wrote:
Upon reading the numerous comments from both sides of the aisles, I'm moved to draw attention to the insights, wisdoms and advice of a great American Statesman and Republican, as contained in a recent letter from an American leader of the Assyrian community to the US lawmakers ( ¦ .../ashur.htm ¦ .../rebirth.htm):
    "In hindsight, Henry Cabot Lodge may have been right in his principled opposition against Europe's unrealistic post-WWI peace formulas. While not an isolationist, he argued in his 1919 Philippika to President Wilson: "The United States is the world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence. ... for if we stumble and fall freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin."
    But as powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cabot Lodge probably would not have allowed successive administrations to lead the United States astray from existing security, reconciliation and cooperation arrangements. Particularly not when they were successfully negotiated with and by the ethnic, religious and cultural communities directly involved. Regardless of whether these texts have an American seal dangling from it. And he wouldn't have been kind to current office holders here and there who treated history as bunk or would have forgotten about past and still valid international agreements. Yet, in the case of Iraq, that is precisely what is still happening, with valid international minority protection and private property guarantees waiting to serve the cause of peace.
    The over three-million-strong Assyrian community in Iraq, in the United States and elsewhere - who, of course, hold no monopoly for good ideas either - have taken it upon themselves to identify some lesser-known elements, means and methods which for now may be most immediately and practically helpful to stop and reverse the current disastrous developments in all of Iraq and beyond. ..."
10/8/2007 2:34:53 PM    Recommended (2)

solami wrote:
And for those who have seen enough consequences of those in power who act as if they had a monopoly for good ideas, the insights and proposals for getting everybody out of the hole - coming from a former Presidential Adviser-turned-leader of the US-betrayed Kurdish uprising of 1991 - are recommended reading for anyone interested in finding that mutually helpful third pathway (
10/8/2007 2:49:30 PM    Recommend (2)

genuineone wrote:
Cashmere, PAZZO means crazy, insane, nuts, etc. The word is used in Italian as a noun or an adjective to describe somebody who is either out of his mind, acts nutty, says crazy things, or behaves in an irrational manner.
10/8/2007 5:26:45 PM

cashmere1 wrote:
genuineone.... thank you! I DO keep on my toes with the trolls! I have caught some of them by posting to one of their handles that they weren't using at that particular time and they responded!! lol THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE! Dare I ask what "Pazzo" means in Italian???? "BELLO" has been discarded once he got caught lying about his Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars in Vietnam. "Acquisiano" has probably been banned. As long as those dittoheads don't insult me, don't worry genuineone, I can handle it!
10/8/2007 5:04:49 PM    Recommend (1)

cashmere1 wrote:
jvandeswaluw1 wrote:    cashmere, You gives us the impression that the USA is ruled by Corporate America. Where's your govt.?? Since bush the MBA has been our president, it has been ALL Corporate America! Bush doesn't realize this is OUR country! He is still trying to be one of those HIGH PAID CEO's we read about every day!  Our government has been taken over by bush and cheney and their corporate friends.
10/8/2007 4:56:15 PM    Recommend (2)

yvette5884 wrote:
Bush need to get us the hell out of there! NOW
10/8/2007 4:48:54 PM

rat-the wrote:
Well Folks, it seems that when the Sadrists, and the Badrists decided to bury the Hatchet, they decided to put it into Sunni Backs! The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend! First we collude to get rid of the Sunnis, then the Kurds, THEN the Arab Sadrists go BACK to quarreling with the Persian Badrists(Islamic Council)! But first, let's steal Iraq! Uh-Ohhhh, the Americans heard that! And, their STILL HERE! And Sa'udi Arabia, Jordan, UAI's, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, and even the Baathists in Syria don't like the plan either! And as the Shia's exit stage Right, they scream I Ran! IRAN! Iran!!!!
10/8/2007 4:15:01 PM    Recommend (2)

genuineone wrote:
Cashmere, You are always posting good arguments. Keep up the good work, and I'm glad you don't let yourself get bullied by Algibbs, aka Rotay, aka LePetomaine, and aka Bello (handsome in Italian) and the other ten pseudo names he uses at the WaPo. BELLO I think should call himself PAZZO instead. That is a more appropriate name for him. If he is Italian, like he said he is in a previous posting, he should know what that means.
10/8/2007 4:07:04 PM

TheRealTonyV wrote:
I guess the Iraqi politicians are now learning about American Spin Doctors. This is yet another anti-war cheerleader piece
10/8/2007 4:05:18 PM

repudar711 wrote:
I still don't know why Bin Laden wanted to help the oil companies by attacking the World Trade Center. He must be getting his cut too.
10/8/2007 4:03:39 PM    Recommend (1)

hankomatic1 wrote:
It's Not The Talbian That PRotects The Opium Crop! It's U.S. And British Troops! NEWS FROM A GUY IN THE P.P.C.L.I In Country Helmomd Province! Their Proping Up Her Majasty's And Bush's NARCO-BANKERS! WAKE UP AMERICA You Have To Dig For The Truth. Britain And America Have Been Buying Up This Crop Since 2001 Under The Pretense Of Destroying It, BullSHlT They Send This Crop To Pakistan To Be Processed By America's Friend Musharraf
10/8/2007 4:02:52 PM    Recommend (1)

postDC wrote:
Should anyone be surprised?I am sure not the architects of this mess, the Multi- Lateral Warmongers Commission, Chenney-Runfeld-Wolfowitz.
10/8/2007 4:02:38 PM    Recommend (1)

peterroach wrote:
The GRAND PORTRAIT OF FAILURE... brought to you by George the 2.5 and the Bundestag Congress
10/8/2007 4:00:23 PM    Recommend (1)

coloradodog wrote:
Ship all these neocon Christian extremist a**h*les to Iraq. Let them finish stealing their land and all their oil. Call it New Jesuslandia.
10/8/2007 3:58:08 PM    Recommend (2)

rcvinson64 wrote:
You mean that we don't have a diplomatic fix for filling a power vacuum? I guess they'll have to fight it out,like we did.
10/8/2007 3:53:36 PM

whetsell wrote:
Too bad Saddom did not blow his oil fields, refineries, pipelines, and export terminals prior to the invasion. Iraqi Freedom Fighters, make it so now. Hunt and kill all foreign oil field workers, especially in the North where the traitors in kurdland have sold out to the zionists and the Hunt Wh- ores.
10/8/2007 3:52:04 PM

repudar711 wrote:
Think how many wind generators or solar panels you could install with a trillion dollars. And got something for your money. But no, we must help the oil companies get oil out of the hotbed of the world and the electric companies who burn coal to pollute our skys.
10/8/2007 3:50:14 PM    Recommend (1)

bbjets wrote:
This won't help the Bushco cronies! They're in trouble now!
10/8/2007 3:46:08 PM

glenknowles wrote:
hmmm, divide the country up into sections, cozy up to the ones with the oil, and screw the others. sounds like a plan to me. as a matter of fact, it sounds like the original plan the more i think about it...
10/8/2007 3:37:05 PM

repudar711 wrote:
I never saw the oil agreement bush wants the Iraqis to pass. Why not? So lets see it Washington Post. At least tell me the major points of the agreement and the parts Iraq doesn't like.
10/8/2007 3:35:23 PM

kjarch wrote:
How much more evidence do we need? Let the Iraqi people fight the rest of their civil war WITHOUT US TROOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. There is no workable solution that includes the US -there never has been.
10/8/2007 3:32:25 PM    Recommend (3)

lionblack42 wrote:
men,thats politicies the war is a error,just time bring the boys home quickly.
10/8/2007 3:31:21 PM    Recommend (2)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
LAGC,    At that time just about the whole Russian army was high on the Taliban drugs-heroin.
10/8/2007 3:29:02 PM

anla1974 wrote:
I remember before our president was re-elected to office arguing pointlessly on the phone with this guy about why this war was unjustice and un-American and how it would fail because the adage that wrong doesn't led to anything good is still true. It would be different to me if our president got the consent of the American people and we simply failed. We just failed. Failure happens, sometimes you lose. However, I remember distinctively in an address to the nation the president pretty much saying that regardless of what the American people felt, thought, or wanted that he was going to war anyway. I remember the way he addressed the general American public as if we didn't count because we are ignorant. That to me is the thing that stands out above all else when I remember how this all started.
Obviously, our gov knows what we don't, but that was still a slap in the face to the foundation of our government which was to be by the people, of the people and for the people. It was a slap in the face to the Truth in which we stand by to go to war only when necessary and righteous. I realize we were told of weapons of mass destruction, but it was a theory and not a fact and other enemies of America had them. Thus, it made no sense nor gave an excuse for an invasion and an attack on a country that the terrorist didn't come from against not only the wishes of the American people but the world. I think American people who backed the war were pushed, bambozzled by propaganda into backing it.
There was then and still now no just cause. Still all of us are responsible for this. United we stand and divided we fall so we'd better regardless of anything stand united and not get distracted by other nations noticing our wrong. We're still one nation -- unified. If the majority of our nation was not for the war our president would not have gotten a second term -- I know that is seriouly iffy because I know some who simply didn't want to change presidents during a war. Not that they were for it. Still, we should use this to take a look at where the collective conscience of America was heading in order to have back-uped invading a country just because well we thought we could win and their leader was a bad man with possible w-o-m-d. That's called bullying and not to mention a blatant act of arrogance when you peel back the layers. Evil can't be overcome with more evil. Bad man or not it is murder and it opened the door for others to act in the same way. That's not good at all. Yeah, he deserved it but look what it has gotten us.
At this point, I belive we should just look around at each other and learn from this -- strengthen our own nation and put the concern into our children, elderly and general welfare here. Oh yeah, we can't because now we can't just walk away and leave that country in a mess. That would be a complete lack of character. That's sad, and now if we did walk away, we'd likely be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks then before 9/11. It's a hard spot to be in but we're in it with no real way to judge or predict the ultimate outcome. What we can do to at least try to help keep ourselves safe is to ask, what's to come when countries like Iran, Korea are such a real threat and we're totally distracted by and caught up in Iraq??? It isn't a path to allow our nation to go down again because like it or not the world does need America's foundational principles to lead them. We need to get back to Truth.
10/8/2007 3:28:02 PM
Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
cashmere,    You gives us the impression that the USA is ruled by Corporate America. Where's your govt.??
10/8/2007 3:17:49 PM

repudar711 wrote:
They have found out one thing. The country can't even function or operate at the basic levels of daily life without effecient and capable leaders. Sounds familiar.
10/8/2007 3:14:24 PM    Recommend (2)

otiswaynehale wrote:
Iraq is an artificial construct, and should be allowed to break up into representive areas. This is eventually going to happen. The US should leave every part of the country except for the Kurdish area. They alone want our presence. From bases there, we would be able to react any danger the rest of the country might present. The Shiites and Sunnis would eventually settle their own disputes with any spilt blood being on their own hands, and not ours.
10/8/2007 3:13:45 PM    Recommend (2)

garryh wrote:
The violence in Iraq is beyond resolution except for brute force. See Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria. Saddam ruled his country in a ruthless manner but became a US concern when he no longer followed US dictates. It remains a mystery why he gave those in power in the US the excuse they needed to cripple his regime by invading Kuwait. The point being, that tensions and violence in that country were suppressed by Saddam's iron fist rule, they were never resolved before and they won't be resolved in the future even if Iraq becomes 3 separate states.
So it is with the US occupation of Iraq that violence is only suppressed by military might. Unfortunately the suppressed violence in one geographical area is soon replaced by violence in another area. And this will always be the case. Unless we wish to suppress religious unrest until the end of time, we must leave Iraq or be willing to spend trillions of tax payer dollars to make oil intersts rich by allowing them to exploit the Iraqi oil fields at our expense. The United States, took on the job to police Iraq when we were misled into believing we were stopping an imminent WMD threat, even though Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld knew otherwise, regardless of how they wish to use demagoguery to placate Americans. We are not there to spread democracy for certainly the way we have prosecuted the invasion and occupation using mercenaries who do not need comply to any law seems to have little to do with the plight of the Iraqi people and everything to do with oil and nation rebuilding profits. Remember when Bush said the Iraq War would not cost Americans anything, it would all be paid for by Iraqi oil tooth fairy? How many trillions of war debt will your children have to pay over their lifetimes.
10/8/2007 3:13:26 PM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
All companies protected by BushCo are untouchable. Impeachment is OFF the table remember??
10/8/2007 3:09:54 PM

repudar711 wrote:
Sounds like they need three separate states. That way they can elect their own representatives from each state. They could have a house based on population and Senate with so many from each state.
10/8/2007 3:09:43 PM

cashmere1 wrote:
infuse wrote:
Given that Carlyle Group and Halliburton are the main beneficiaries to this illegal invasion, I recommend a "War Profiteering Tax" of 25% of their annual gross revenue for as long as we have one or more soldiers in Iraq to help pay for it. Even if it put them out of business we will all be better for it.
~~~Maybe the American citizens can initiate a class action lawsuit against bush and the profiteers.... which includes his DAD and BROTHERS! I hope a group of SMART lawyers gets together and shows us the way to get our $$$$$$$ back! Then.... arrest all of of them for war profiteering and treason!
10/8/2007 2:56:30 PM    Recommend (7)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
The USA never should have given Israel too much influence on America's foreign policies. It harmed the USA more than it did Israel!!
10/8/2007 2:55:04 PM    Recommend (1)

cashmere1 wrote:
Mithras... by the time the $$$$$$ gravy train comes to a halt in January 2009, bush, cheney, rice, rumsfeld and the rest of the cabal, along with all the neocons who invested HEAVILY in this war, will ALL have $$$$$$$$$ enough to keep their families wealthy for generations! They still have one more YEAR to rake it in!
10/8/2007 2:51:16 PM    Recommend (7)

peristyle wrote:
"We must cultivate our garden" says Pengloss. Cher Voltaire, it is what we do, the world is our garden. Candide is still the best seller up to these days.
10/8/2007 2:51:04 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Evil will be punished no matter who commits the crimes. A criminal is only welcome among criminals. Ihope.
10/8/2007 2:50:35 PM

yvette5884 wrote:
Bush need to get us the hell out of there! NOW
10/8/2007 4:48:54 PM

rat-the wrote:
Well Folks, it seems that when the Sadrists, and the Badrists decided to bury the Hatchet, they decided to put it into Sunni Backs! The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend! First we collude to get rid of the Sunnis, then the Kurds, THEN the Arab Sadrists go BACK to quarreling with the Persian Badrists(Islamic Council)! But first, let's steal Iraq!

Uh-Ohhhh, the Americans heard that! And, their STILL HERE!

And Sa'udi Arabia, Jordan, UAI's, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, and even the Baathists in Syria don't like the plan either! And as the Shia's exit stage Right, they scream I Ran! IRAN! Iran!!!!
10/8/2007 4:15:01 PM    Recommend (2)

genuineone wrote:
Cashmere, You are always posting good arguments. Keep up the good work, and I'm glad you don't let yourself get bullied by Algibbs, aka Rotay, aka LePetomaine, and aka Bello (handsome in Italian) and the other ten pseudo names he uses at the WaPo. BELLO I think should call himself PAZZO instead. That is a more appropriate name for him. If he is Italian, like he said he is in a previous posting, he should know what that means.
10/8/2007 4:07:04 PM

hankomatic1 wrote:
It's Not The Talbian That PRotects The Opium Crop! It's U.S. And British Troops! NEWS FROM A GUY IN THE P.P.C.L.I In Country Helmomd Province! Their Proping Up Her Majasty's And Bush's NARCO-BANKERS! WAKE UP AMERICA You Have To Dig For The Truth. Britain And America Have Been Buying Up This Crop Since 2001 Under The Pretense Of Destroying It, BullSHlT They Send This Crop To Pakistan To Be Processed By America's Friend Musharraf
10/8/2007 4:05:53 PM

TheRealTonyV wrote:
I guess the Iraqi politicians are now learning about American Spin Doctors. This is yet another anti-war cheerleader piece
10/8/2007 4:05:18 PM

repudar711 wrote:
I still don't know why Bin Laden wanted to help the oil companies by attacking the World Trade Center. He must be getting his cut too.
10/8/2007 4:03:39 PM    Recommend (1)

hankomatic1 wrote:
It's Not The Talbian That PRotects The Opium Crop! It's U.S. And British Troops! NEWS FROM A GUY IN THE P.P.C.L.I In Country Helmomd Province! Their Proping Up Her Majasty's And Bush's NARCO-BANKERS! WAKE UP AMERICA You Have To Dig For The Truth. Britain And America Have Been Buying Up This Crop Since 2001 Under The Pretense Of Destroying It, BullSHlT They Send This Crop To Pakistan To Be Processed By America's Friend Musharraf
10/8/2007 4:02:52 PM    Recommend (1)

postDC wrote:
Should anyone be surprised?I am sure not the architects of this mess, the Multi- Lateral Warmongers Commission, Chenney-Runfeld-Wolfowitz.
10/8/2007 4:02:38 PM    Recommend (1)

peterroach wrote:
The GRAND PORTRAIT OF FAILURE... brought to you by George the 2.5 and the Bundestag Congress
10/8/2007 4:00:23 PM    Recommend (1)

coloradodog wrote:
Ship all these neocon Christian extremist a**h*les to Iraq. Let them finish stealing their land and all their oil. Call it New
10/8/2007 3:58:08 PM    Recommend (2)

rcvinson64 wrote:
You mean that we don't have a diplomatic fix for filling a power vacuum? I guess they'll have to fight it out,like we did.
10/8/2007 3:53:36 PM

whetsell wrote:
Too bad Saddom did not blow his oil fields, refineries, pipelines, and export terminals prior to the invasion. Iraqi Freedom Fighters, make it so now. Hunt and kill all foreign oil field workers, especially in the North where the traitors in kurdland have sold out to the zionists and the Hunt Wh- ores.
10/8/2007 3:52:04 PM

repudar711 wrote:
Think how many wind generators or solar panels you could install with a trillion dollars. And got something for your money. But no, we must help the oil companies get oil out of the hotbed of the world and the electric companies who burn coal to pollute our skys.
10/8/2007 3:50:14 PM    Recommend (1)

bbjets wrote:
This won't help the Bushco cronies! They're in trouble now!
10/8/2007 3:46:08 PM

glenknowles wrote:
hmmm, divide the country up into sections, cozy up to the ones with the oil, and screw the others. sounds like a plan to me. as a matter of fact, it sounds like the original plan the more i think about it...
10/8/2007 3:37:05 PM

repudar711 wrote:
I never saw the oil agreement bush wants the Iraqis to pass. Why not? So lets see it Washington Post. At least tell me the major points of the agreement and the parts Iraq doesn't like.
10/8/2007 3:35:23 PM

kjarch wrote:
How much more evidence do we need? Let the Iraqi people fight the rest of their civil war WITHOUT US TROOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. There is no workable solution that includes the US -there never has been.
10/8/2007 3:32:25 PM    Recommend (3)

lionblack42 wrote:
men,thats politicies the war is a error,just time bring the boys home quickly.
10/8/2007 3:31:21 PM    Recommend (2)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
LAGC,    At that time just about the whole Russian army was high on the Taliban drugs-heroin.
10/8/2007 3:29:02 PM

anla1974 wrote:
I remember before our president was re-elected to office arguing pointlessly on the phone with this guy about why this war was unjustice and un-American and how it would fail because the adage that wrong doesn't led to anything good is still true. It would be different to me if our president got the consent of the American people and we simply failed. We just failed. Failure happens, sometimes you lose. However, I remember distinctively in an address to the nation the president pretty much saying that regardless of what the American people felt, thought, or wanted that he was going to war anyway. I remember the way he addressed the general American public as if we didn't count because we are ignorant. That to me is the thing that stands out above all else when I remember how this all started.
Obviously, our gov knows what we don't, but that was still a slap in the face to the foundation of our government which was to be by the people, of the people and for the people. It was a slap in the face to the Truth in which we stand by to go to war only when necessary and righteous. I realize we were told of weapons of mass destruction, but it was a theory and not a fact and other enemies of America had them. Thus, it made no sense nor gave an excuse for an invasion and an attack on a country that the terrorist didn't come from against not only the wishes of the American people but the world. I think American people who backed the war were pushed, bambozzled by propaganda into backing it.
There was then and still now no just cause. Still all of us are responsible for this. United we stand and divided we fall so we'd better regardless of anything stand united and not get distracted by other nations noticing our wrong. We're still one nation -- unified. If the majority of our nation was not for the war our president would not have gotten a second term -- I know that is seriouly iffy because I know some who simply didn't want to change presidents during a war. Not that they were for it. Still, we should use this to take a look at where the collective conscience of America was heading in order to have back-uped invading a country just because well we thought we could win and their leader was a bad man with possible w-o-m-d. That's called bullying and not to mention a blatant act of arrogance when you peel back the layers. Evil can't be overcome with more evil. Bad man or not it is murder and it opened the door for others to act in the same way. That's not good at all. Yeah, he deserved it but look what it has gotten us.
At this point, I belive we should just look around at each other and learn from this -- strengthen our own nation and put the concern into our children, elderly and general welfare here. Oh yeah, we can't because now we can't just walk away and leave that country in a mess. That would be a complete lack of character. That's sad, and now if we did walk away, we'd likely be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks then before 9/11. It's a hard spot to be in but we're in it with no real way to judge or predict the ultimate outcome. What we can do to at least try to help keep ourselves safe is to ask, what's to come when countries like Iran, Korea are such a real threat and we're totally distracted by and caught up in Iraq??? It isn't a path to allow our nation to go down again because like it or not the world does need America's foundational principles to lead them. We need to get back to Truth.
10/8/2007 3:28:02 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
cashmere,    You gives us the impression that the USA is ruled by Corporate America. Where's your govt.??
10/8/2007 3:17:49 PM

repudar711 wrote:
They have found out one thing. The country can't even function or operate at the basic levels of daily life without effecient and capable leaders. Sounds familiar.
10/8/2007 3:14:24 PM    Recommend (2)

otiswaynehale wrote:
Iraq is an artificial construct, and should be allowed to break up into representive areas. This is eventually going to happen. The US should leave every part of the country except for the Kurdish area. They alone want our presence. From bases there, we would be able to react any danger the rest of the country might present. The Shiites and Sunnis would eventually settle their own disputes with any spilt blood being on their own hands, and not ours.
10/8/2007 3:13:45 PM    Recommend (2)

garryh wrote:
The violence in Iraq is beyond resolution except for brute force. See Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria. Saddam ruled his country in a ruthless manner but became a US concern when he no longer followed US dictates. It remains a mystery why he gave those in power in the US the excuse they needed to cripple his regime by invading Kuwait. The point being, that tensions and violence in that country were suppressed by Saddam's iron fist rule, they were never resolved before and they won't be resolved in the future even if Iraq becomes 3 separate states.
So it is with the US occupation of Iraq that violence is only suppressed by military might. Unfortunately the suppressed violence in one geographical area is soon replaced by violence in another area. And this will always be the case. Unless we wish to suppress religious unrest until the end of time, we must leave Iraq or be willing to spend trillions of tax payer dollars to make oil intersts rich by allowing them to exploit the Iraqi oil fields at our expense. The United States, took on the job to police Iraq when we were misled into believing we were stopping an imminent WMD threat, even though Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld knew otherwise, regardless of how they wish to use demagoguery to placate Americans. We are not there to spread democracy for certainly the way we have prosecuted the invasion and occupation using mercenaries who do not need comply to any law seems to have little to do with the plight of the Iraqi people and everything to do with oil and nation rebuilding profits. Remember when Bush said the Iraq War would not cost Americans anything, it would all be paid for by Iraqi oil tooth fairy? How many trillions of war debt will your children have to pay over their lifetimes.
10/8/2007 3:13:26 PM   Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
All companies protected by BushCo are untouchable. Impeachment is OFF the table remember??
10/8/2007 3:09:54 PM

repudar711 wrote:
Sounds like they need three separate states. That way they can elect their own representatives from each state. They could have a house based on population and Senate with so many from each state.
10/8/2007 3:09:43 PM

cashmere1 wrote:
infuse wrote:    Given that Carlyle Group and Halliburton are the main beneficiaries to this illegal invasion, I recommend a "War Profiteering Tax" of 25% of their annual gross revenue for as long as we have one or more soldiers in Iraq to help pay for it. Even if it put them out of business we will all be better for it.
~~~Maybe the American citizens can initiate a class action lawsuit against bush and the profiteers.... which includes his DAD and BROTHERS! I hope a group of SMART lawyers gets together and shows us the way to get our $$$$$$$ back! Then.... arrest all of of them for war profiteering and treason!
10/8/2007 2:56:30 PM    Recommend (7)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
The USA never should have given Israel too much influence on America's foreign policies. It harmed the USA more than it did Israel!!
10/8/2007 2:55:04 PM    Recommend (1)

cashmere1 wrote:
Mithras... by the time the $$$$$$ gravy train comes to a halt in January 2009, bush, cheney, rice, rumsfeld and the rest of the cabal, along with all the neocons who invested HEAVILY in this war, will ALL have $$$$$$$$$ enough to keep their families wealthy for generations! They still have one more YEAR to rake it in!
10/8/2007 2:51:16 PM    Recommend (7)

peristyle wrote:
"We must cultivate our garden" says Pengloss. Cher Voltaire, it is what we do, the world is our garden. Candide is still the best seller up to these days.
10/8/2007 2:51:04 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Evil will be punished no matter who commits the crimes. A criminal is only welcome among criminals. Ihope.
10/8/2007 2:50:35 PM

Janet1 wrote:
Bush will not allow a troop withdrawl of anything over 30,000 troops. Why, because Bush represents OIL and the OILmen of USA and England want exclusive rights to get that oil out of Iraq for our own selfish use. Of course others would like that oil for their selfish use too - stands to reason as mankind is selfish. You see Bush is president of big oil and energy but cares not a dot for the American people - we are not important. So big business is running this show and big business has no ethics nor do they care about the human race, but rather their concern is always for money, greed, and power. How do we stop the selfish greed of money and power? That is our concern. For until we can stop this evil greed in ourselves, we will never attain any peace anywhere on earth.
10/8/2007 2:47:08 PM

filoporquequilo wrote:
How about returning Iraq (and the region) to the Turks and sending the bill to Britain?
10/8/2007 2:45:44 PM   Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
The deteriration of every govt. begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded!! Montesquieu.
10/8/2007 2:43:13 PM

kentigereyes wrote:
Will someone please read, and explain, this to the despicable president of the United States of Arrogance!!!!!!!
10/8/2007 2:37:38 PM

infuse wrote:
Given that Carlyle Group and Halliburton are the main beneficiaries to this illegal invasion, I recommend a "War Profiteering Tax" of 25% of their annual gross revenue for as long as we have one or more soldiers in Iraq to help pay for it. Even if it put them out of business we will all be better for it.
10/8/2007 2:35:37 PM

wardropper wrote:
Good to have you on board, cashmere1. One does one's best.
10/8/2007 2:30:40 PM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Wars have no winners, losers only.
10/8/2007 2:30:12 PM

infuse wrote:
wp1123 wrote:    martiniano, I hate to see people fall for the "us against them" mentality. We are all Americans, and we all made this mistake. We let Bush do this, Democrats and Republicans. If 5 million people simply marched into DC and sat there till Bush/Cheney resigned, then this would all be over.. .Did you? Most Americans, and certainly well fewer than five million either cannot afford the trip, or cannot give up their jobs to do this. How do you propose to compensate those whose families depend on income to cloth, feed and shelter themselves?
Not that five million marching in DC wouldn't be effective. But to assert that Americans would rather sit in front of their TV and rant is juvenile.
10/8/2007 2:29:00 PM

wardropper wrote:
If you want to know what something with failure written all over it looks like, here it is. Look, learn. remember.
10/8/2007 2:22:40 PM    Recommend (1)

Mithras wrote:
logcabin1836 wrote: "Why on earth did Bush & Co. get us into this horrible mess"
An opportunity to please and/or enrich:
AIPAC/JINSA/PNAC/American Enterprise Institute;
Bush/Cheney's oily friends in the Middle-East and Houston (viz Halliburton/KBR, First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting);
long-time GOP and/or BushCo financial supporters (viz Blackwater).
There was also the very attractive notion to all of the above of having a large US military force enforcing US control of the world's second-largest reserve of oil.
10/8/2007 2:18:06 PM

Diogenes wrote:
Send a copy of this article to the decider.
10/8/2007 2:17:09 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Mithras,    Reading my daily this morning the British PM
promised air support,France and Italy don't mind to attack Iran and Israel is in favour of course. That fleet hasn't moved since ages. I don't like the present situation at all. On top that Bush said the war on terrorists could last for decades to come.
10/8/2007 2:16:19 PM

infuse wrote:
I can cite one great accomplishment of the Bush administration: for years I was opposed to a World Court having jurisdiction over our sovereignty. Bush has cleared the clouds over my eyes. The Democrats will do nothing even in light of this information, except to point fingers and collect campaign videos. Only a World Court can ever bring this administration to justice. But I'm not holding my breath.
10/8/2007 2:10:38 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
I'm lost for words. If Iran will be attacked that could mean the final nail in America's financial coffin. Most Americans don't have the slightest idea how frightening high their national debt is. The petrol dollar at an alltime low is not helping at all.
10/8/2007 2:08:47 PM

ChristianM wrote:
“”Legislation to manage the oil sector, the country's most valuable natural resource, and to bring former Baath Party members back into the government have not made it through the divided parliament.”” (From the story) And Bush allows Mr. Hunt to make a deal for Iraqi oil with the Kurds?????? Half of Parliament has LEFT!
"We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers," the leading Shiite political coalition said in a statement. "Their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon."
We are staying in IRAQ for OIL and the leaders of the minority are MILKING America for over $30 billion in taxpayers’ funds and Bush and Cheney and Conservative Talk Radio must be raking in the millions too. We are not wanted, or appreciated and WE HAVE NO STRATEGIC VALUE in the MIDDLE EAST, except to SUV drivers and the OIL companies who are scoring billions, nearly one trillion in excess profits for 3 years. How many lives do we need to waste for Bush? How many jobs do we allow the conservatives to sell to the highest bidder? How many more billions do we pump into IRAQ when we know it a total waste? How many parents, lovers, spouses and kids have to suffer because Republicans are trying to cover their greatest of all mistakes in American history? How many more lies, how much more diversion can we stomach while the Bush regime gives away our future, our jobs, our loved ones for his own glory? Where does this stop? When we invade Iran and sacrifice 1,000,000 Americans and OIL reaches $200 a barrel while we do NOTHING to DECREASE our use and dependence on OIL?
We cannot wait till 2008, we will sacrifice hundreds more, waste $200 billion which could be diverted to save tens of thousands lives of poor and uninsured Americans. Bush is incompetently insane and Republicans defend his murder, his greed, graft, pay-offs and lies that have divided and sold America to the highest bidder. Rush Limbaugh should be arrested for hate crimes and lies on the air OR be advertised for what he is, a professional airwaves, word wrestler who uses hate, fear and lies to manipulate and fuel the minds of the weak-minded, bigots and fearful. Iraq is almost as corrupt as the Bush administration, but that is just one more reason to leave. They said they cannot resolve their differences and do not want to divide up the country and essentially are saying, send us money and keep us safe, and as soon as we all have enough money to live somewhere else, we will leave it to the US to clean up.
10/8/2007 2:07:52 PM    Recommend (1)

Mithras wrote:
jvandeswaluw1 wrote: It was hopeless as it was from day one. trapped in the city of Bagdad for over 4 years. I wonder if that's a military record!! The true insanity is building a $700 million, 104-acre embassy in a city that you cannot control even with 130,000 regular troops and countless thousands of mercenaries. The embassy should be in the design of a bullseye, because that is what it will become. BTW, the British Prime Minister has announced this morning that only 2,500 British troops will be left in Iraq by next Spring.
10/8/2007 2:03:38 PM

logcabin1836 wrote:
Why on earth did Bush & Co. get us into this horrible mess By removing one dictator, we have unleashed total chaos, killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, four million refugees, 33,000 wounded and killed US soldiers...and for what??!! For what? Democracy..baloney! This is George Bush's War and he will be remembered in American history textbooks as an inept, secretive, and warmongering president. God save this country. Let us pray for the day of deliverance....1/20/09.
10/8/2007 2:03:13 PM

Kathy5 wrote:
WmJLePetomane wrote:    Another week of anti American rants from the Washington Post. Journalism. Acrimony? Oh, by all means then, let us leave immediately. Its all yours Al Queda. After taking up roost in the Palace, please remember we left and please, please don't attack us again anywhere. Please?
Oh, Fart Pants, you need to take your act on stage again, you know, that stage that is LEAVING town! Gee, I read what you are saying but, gosh you don't seem to have any reasoning in your words - no support for the bush policy on Iraq - just invite the terrorists to play nice. Careful, you may actually be seeing the light and it ain't pretty either - As I said earlier - let the terrorists have Iraq - at least then we will have them in a country that we can actually attack and kill a good majority of them all at once instead of oneies and twoies. By the way, when are you leaving to "save the world" from the awful terrorists?
10/8/2007 2:00:00 PM

Zeetea2 wrote:
Without a doubt it is time to leave Iraq, and I hope our do-nothing Congress finally grows a spine and cuts off spending for this war effective immediately (allowing only enough funding for our troops to close up shop and leave safely, something that will still take several months to accomplish). Our departure from Iraq can't be any worse than staying. Most of the ethnic cleansing has been accomplished WHILE WE'VE BEEN THERE -- 2 million+ refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, and nearly 2 million internally displaced citizens -- that's 15% of the total population, and Jordan alone has taken in 700,000+ Sunni Iraqis (their native population is only 4 million!). There will likely be further violence and internal displacement of Iraqi citizens along ethnic lines but it's going to happen regardless of whether we are there or not. It's a foregone conclusion that the Shiites will control the Gov't as they have a clear majority of the population. After decades under Saddam's brutal regime, who can blame them for wanting to run the country? More to the point, who can prevent this outcome from occurring? Democratic elections will not change this outcome but instead will cement it. More likely is that the facade of democracy will be dropped (it was never their idea or aspiration anyway) and another Dictator will be installed, this time a Shiite instead of a Sunni. Iran will continue to exercise great influence/control in the country just as it does now. Why the Administration didn't anticipate this prior to invading the country is a mystery. There is NO CHANCE that Al Qaeda in Iraq will be able to "take over" the country -- there are just too few of them compared to the Shi'a. Instead of attacking us, the Shi'a militia and AQI can fight each other directly. Eventually AQI will shrink to nominal numbers in Iraq and most fighters will go back to Afghanistan where they have regained much of their power (again since we've been there). This has been a total fiasco that no amount of time, lives lost, or money will correct.
10/8/2007 1:56:51 PM

wp1123 wrote:
martiniano, I hate to see people fall for the "us against them" mentality. We are all Americans, and we all made this mistake. We let Bush do this, Democrats and Republicans. If 5 million people simply marched into DC and sat there till Bush/Cheney resigned, then this would all be over. They don't though, they sit at home in front of the TV complaining. We have the power to stop this and everyone is to blame, not the "bushies" as people call them.
10/8/2007 1:56:50 PM    Recommend (2)

Mithras wrote:
Just when you think things can't possibly get any worse... here comes BushCo, setting new records in incompetence, lies and venality. (Can you imagine their terror at seeing the $$$$$$$$$ gravy train come to a halt fifteen months from now? Perhaps that's the terror they are having a war on.)
10/8/2007 1:56:39 PM

billmosby wrote:
Nothing more we should do, then. We've given them a chance to organize their government in whatever way pleases them, and they have done so.
10/8/2007 1:53:34 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
It was hopeless as it was from day one. trapped in the city of Bagdad for over 4 years. I wonder if that's a military record!!
10/8/2007 1:53:09 PM    Recommend (1)

1bernice wrote:
Governor Richardson is SO right about Iraq. We made Iraq write a new constitution that called for privatization of its oil and made them give up several calls for our departure. We held elections and pretended to "give" them sovereignty several years ago, but have yet to honor their right to exercise it as they see fit, not as we --ever on the alert for killing terrorists (oops, were those civilians?) and "enemies" (Iraqis who oppose our presence and, yes, the violent groups that formed in response to our presence).
We made them remove amnesty and anything else we didn't like from their 28-point June 2006 reconciliation plan that didn't suit OUR interests. Violence really rose after those who had expected amnesty were surprised by its withdrawal. We refuse to leave until most of Iraq's oil (80% or so of all new wells) is safely in the hands of British and US oil companies. And then perhaps until the leases run out in about 25 years. If Iraq wants peace, it could do no better thing than to kick us out and demand reparations for the destruction of their country.It could then re-write its constitution and, as this article makes clear, use our absence to find its way to internal peace.
10/8/2007 1:21:31 PM

fixbone wrote:
ok, now is enough enough?? How much more information does it take to have the repugs in DC see the light and tell this "decider" that enough is enough.
10/8/2007 1:18:05 PM    Recommend (2)

cashmere1 wrote:
wardropper...... your post was very insightful, thoughtful and inspirational. Thank you. I will NEVER give up hope, there is ALWAYS hope in MY heart!
10/8/2007 1:16:46 PM

janye1 wrote:
If the Iraquis cannot form any kind of unified government, WHY ARE WE STILL THERE??? All the US troops should leave and let these WARRING TRIBES have their country.
10/8/2007 1:14:22 PM

connerabr wrote:
Who'd Have Ever Thought It? But wouldn't it have been nice to have just suspected this would have been an eventual result, say 3-4 years ago?
10/8/2007 1:12:41 PM

LordPurple wrote:
1-80 Cultural knowledge is essential to waging a successful counterinsurgency. American ideas of what is "normal" or "rational" are not universal. To the contrary, members of other societies often have different notions of rationality, appropriate behavior, level of religious devotion, and norms concerning gender. Thus, what may appear abnormal or strange to an external observer may appear as self-evidently normal to a group member. For this reason, counterinsurgents--especially commanders, planners and small-unit leaders--should strive to avoid imposing their ideals of normalcy on a foreign cultural problem. Quote from 'U.S. Army * Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual' 3-33.5 In other words, 'It's all over now, Baby Blue.' Lord Purple
10/8/2007 1:10:35 PM

martiniano wrote:
hankomatic1 wrote: Bush is a "Bonesmen". We should not forget this fact. Bush has loyalties that supercede his loyalty to non-bonesmen. What he's doing is taking one for the team - setting up his buddies for decades and even generations to come. How he and Cheney suffer now will be repaid again and again over the years to come - long after Cheney has moved to Dubai and Crawford is renamed Bush.
10/8/2007 1:10:17 PM

connerabr wrote:
Whoa! With this earth-shaking revelation I'd guess Congi & Co. will have to regroup and advance yet another plan for peace?
10/8/2007 1:04:57 PM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Irak is not Dante's inferno; it's BushCo's inferno!
10/8/2007 1:01:38 PM

vicsoir wrote:
It's pretty apparent that the Iraqi officials couldn't care less how many people have to die, be injured, or displaced while they play their game of "chicken", holding out for what they personally want. That this country's men and women troops on the ground have to be held hostage by this mindset is intolerable. Distastful as it might be, a deadline for reaching an agreement by the factions in the government should be enforced, with the onus of what happens if it's not on the Iraqi officials whose decision to allow the country to disintegrate is totally their's to assume.
10/8/2007 1:00:19 PM

JoeBewildered wrote:
Well Duh.
10/8/2007 12:59:56 PM

Elvis1 wrote:
Everyone in the world except the Bushies and the morons in Congress think the US Military should be pulled back and puleld out. Yet here we are stuck in this Quagmire of Country building. Heckova Job Bushie and Hillery
10/8/2007 12:59:42 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
It's amazing how far BushCo will go to destroy a democratic USA. having signed the Military Commissios Act is the worst Bush did for his 'beloved' nation. Fascim at her best.
10/8/2007 12:58:18 PM

PutDownTheKoolaid wrote:
Wait. There can't be any structural problems with the Iraqi government. After all, our Supreme Leader, boy genius Bush, known worldwide for his competence, has installed a working democracy there that has brought freedom to billions around the world.
10/8/2007 12:57:10 PM    Recommend (1)

wp1123 wrote:
Just abolish religion. All problems solved.
10/8/2007 12:55:59 PM    Recommend (1)

rat-the wrote:
RAMPARTS-Wrong, and Wrong again, and wrong yet again! Islam is 90% Sunni, 10% Shia. The original Edicts that were Decreed against the Infidels, were against the INFIDEL Shi'ites! Tolerance is completely one-sided-on the Sunni's end!
As far as the Invasorios-They have STOLEN jobs you better believe me and MILLIONS of other AMERICANS want! WE want them BACK! Back with decent Pay-that is no longer being under-bid by Illegals!
10/8/2007 12:53:49 PM    Recommend (1)

RetCombatVet wrote:
No reconciliation
No oil
No Sunni deals
Not enough dead Sunnis
No parliament possible
No US-Sunni fighting insurgents
Is it time to go home?
10/8/2007 12:50:50 PM

1-20-09 wrote:
KABUL, Afghanistan OR Texas, USA - Afghanistan aka Lil Tex. executed 15 prisoners by gunfire, including a man convicted of killing three Western journalists and an Afghan photographer, the chief of prisons said Monday. It was the first time the country had carried out the death penalty in three years. look out Laura George will have wet dreams tonight.
10/8/2007 12:50:02 PM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Irak is the stepping to 'democratize' the ME. The neocons will bring more misery to the American nation. Iran will be the next target. America knows she's supported by France,Italy, England- for air support-.
knowing BushCo's mentality, they will be anxious to accept the European support.
Israel will gladly join in. Yes, the Match will get very hot!!
10/8/2007 12:48:59 PM

hankomatic1 wrote:
Bush is a "Bonesmen".
10/8/2007 12:45:35 PM    Recommend (1)

therebel wrote:
patk1--what cheap gas?? We're killing people and still not getting cheap gas. The average American is really taking one up the poop chute on this one!
10/8/2007 12:44:02 PM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
BushCo flattened Irak, killed one million Iraki civilians, sacrified 4000 of his own troops,etc. what else can BushCo do to
'improve' the situation in Irak? What should have been a cake walk ended in the macabre dance of the skeletons.
10/8/2007 12:34:09 PM    Recommend (2)

hankomatic1 wrote:
America if you keep going on with this, all your going to do is make rubble bounce.
10/8/2007 12:33:02 PM    Recommend (3)

ramparts wrote:
Finally, the Iraqis have spoken the truth. The attempt by the U.S., particularly Bush, to impose the homogenuous reality of the United States onto post-Saddam Iraq, is shown as a non-starter for Iraq at this time.
Only complete dolts woudl continue to demand this as a key goal, and a key reason, therefore, to STAY in the present force status in Iraq when the Iraqis themselves seem to undersetand it's not a goal they share amongst themselves. Everyone wants the Shi'i dominated government to make nice with Sunnis who treated them like dogs. And remember: Institutional Islam has always been dominated by Sunnis. The Sunni brand of Islam is the dominant form in Islam, and the Shi'i accounts for only a quarter million of the 1.5 billion muslims. But, the Shi'i have never been tolerated as legitimate Muslims. And so, the reality is that Iran, and the other Middle Eastern nations which have a dominance of Shi'i, know full well that given the default setting of institutionalized Sunnism, they've always been, and always will be marginalized, ridiculed, and persecuted. Why in the hell should Iraqi Shi'i be expected to give back any real power to the Sunnis who brutalized them so much. Yes, there was at the grass roots level, friendship, and a sense of "we are all Iraqis," but not at the government level.
Here's a real positive notion! All the memberse of Congress, and the President, and his advisers, should look at this breath of fresh air from the Iraqis, and determine that that goal is no longer valid. Take it away, and what do you have? An Iraqi government which can now be allowed to run the war itself, far more than us trying to run it for them. This statement dovetails nicely with Gordon Brown's strategy which has allowed him to begin signficant withdrawals. He's accepted reality, and while it might be nice to have reconciliation as we would like to think we've always had it since we became a Republic, the facts bely that myth. If it's taken us 200+ years to become homogenous, why can't it take that long for Iraq? And gosh, if we're all THAT homogenous, how come so many people see illegal immigrants as scum of the earth? How come we want to deport 12 million people who do lots of the work we don't want to do? Does THAT sound like we're all peace and love here???
10/8/2007 12:25:54 PM

TJ1928 wrote:
tarquinis, while I agree that much of the Republican leaning callers to CSPAN don't come across too sophisticated, the same can be said for the Democratic/liberal callers.
Repeating “no blood for oil,” “9/11 was a Zionist neocon conspiracy” and similarly inane Daily Kos/Salon/DU/Media Matters talking points while calling for an immediate and quick pullout from Iraq does not demonstrate any more comprehension or understanding of the situation in Iraq than calling for the U.S., “unleash the Army, let Blackwater gun down the terrorists.”
So relax, get off your high horse, and wait patiently until CSPAN lets you call in again.
10/8/2007 12:25:35 PM

rat-the wrote:
ProBulldog-The Shia want us to stay, it is the Sunni's who want us to leave. Two reasons.
First, Bushie and his Woman Child he put in charge, are arming and training the exact same Shia's we now may need to fight to remove a belligerent and un-cooperative Theocracy-we never should have supported for ONE friggin day!The Sunni's only recently began getting any aid, and for the FIRST time, something good was finally occurring!-NOW, the Chicken Shi'ites want that to STOP!
Second, with us gone, the entire MIGHT of the surrounding Sunni States FLOODS in and ANNIHILATES the Duplicitous thieving Shias!-Which, I could almost support!
All that was ever asked of them, as we stood by and let them be given a Country, was BENEVOLENCE!-THEY chose Sectarian Belligerence! They chose BADLY!
10/8/2007 12:20:17 PM    Recommend (1)

rkerg wrote:
If his Bushness had, from the beginning, told the American people that he didn't care what the consequences were because America just needs Iraqs oil, I think that support for this debacle would be higher. It is not just the overly long time that has passed, but all the lies that have been told by Bush and his administration that have reduced the support for this war. In other words, for many its not the war, but the lies and incompetence.
10/8/2007 12:18:03 PM

wardropper wrote:
cashmere1,    No need to despair. This administration has gotten American citizens (many millions of them) really riled up, and they are paying attention now. As long as the MSM do at least SOME decent reporting and the non-MSM keep digging beneath the flaky surface of the propaganda, there will always be plenty of information floating around for those millions who care to study and learn.
We have already seen (to an amazing extent) how corrupt, ignorant and arrogant politicians can make unbelievably ridiculous public spectacles of themselves when it comes to trying to cover their naked backsides with lies about fancy clothes.
To use H. C. Andersen's metaphor: Too many "children" have seen the Emperor's backside, and, since children are always amused or shocked by backsides, they have quite rightly told their parents, thank heaven.
The optimistic message I see in all of this is simply: Sure, go ahead and use your privileged background and money to corrupt all that is good, honorable and just, merely to feather your own nest, but you might as well know that it doesn't come free. It will cost you what you most hate to pay: You will make a ridiculous embarrassment of yourself. And if your self-respect allows you not even to care about paying that price, then the people who lock you up for war crimes will not care about respecting you either. Look at Mussolini and learn. From stupid, arrogant leader to a lump of meat hanging in public at the end of some piano-wire. Is it worth it? I guess Mussolini thought so at first.
10/8/2007 12:15:29 PM    Recommend (2)

Chagasman wrote:
All the more reason to pull our troops out now. We have done all we can, the rest is up to the Iraqs. If there is no reconciliation, then there will be no end to the violence and bloodshed, and why should one more of our troops die for this? Bush cares about nothing but keeping the war going until he leaves office, so he can say the coming disaster wasn't his fault. Only trouble is, Georgie boy, there is no doubt that you have made Iraq into a disaster. The burden is all yours.
10/8/2007 12:15:19 PM    Recommend (1)

rat-the wrote:
This is one time, I hate to say: "I told you so"! The Shia Theocracy of Iraq/n, needs to be put DOWN! Allowing a Shia Muslim State, in a Country that WAS Secular, is the result of having a Woman-Child in charge!
Cheney needs to send Bible-Thumping Evangelical Bushie off to Bible-Thumping School to Evangelize himself, while ADULTS deal with Duplicitous Chicken Shi-ites! THEY did not Liberate Iraq-WE DID!
We should DO IT AGAIN! This time, keep the Sunni Baathist supported SECULAR and Non-Sectarian Shia Ayad Allawi and the Secular Iraqi National List Party in CONTROL-untill ALL Millitias are DECIMATED! Any problem Clerics-ARRESTED!
Any Trouble Makers DEAD! Then, after the Adults have fixed the Woman-Child's mess, let Bushie get involved again!
In other words, Please REMOVE your craniums from your rectums! The noxious vapors and lack of oxygen have affected your judgement!
Free clue White House-WE are labled "Occupiers" no matter whether we do or don't. This is all because you DID NOT-When you SHOULD HAVE!
10/8/2007 12:10:01 PM    Recommend (1)

tarquinis wrote:
I have grown increasing hopeless regarding the Iraq fiasco. I listen to a most interesting Cspan program called Washington Journal almost every morning. It is a call in show. Basically, the Republican calls almost always demonstrate a complete ignorance of this problem beyond an adherence to slogans like democracy, war on terror, etc. They have no idea, no comprehension at all of the chaos of personal lives in Iraq. Yes, Saddam was a very bad guy, but reality now is that the lives of the vast majority of Iraqis are immeasurably worse in all respects now that America has shattered that country. If you steered clear of political opposition before the invasion, you could walk in peace in the streets, women were not confined to their homes, had professional lives, and were not strictly confinded to Islamic codes. Read Nir Rosen, whom you can easily google. Life in Iraq now is a true nightmare for almost all, not to mention no electricity, jobs, over two million having fled the country entirely, and maybe three million internally displaced. This may not be unknown to the bloggers on Washington Post, but to the Republican calls to Cspan, they think victory is at hand, unleash the Army, let Blackwater gun down the terrorists, it is good against evil and we are the good, and to mention facts contrary to their fairy tail concoctions means that you hate America, you want to see a disaster in Iraq, you blame America first, and on and on. How totally depresssing. It gets to the point of what is called the notion of American exceptionalism, that we are the shining city on the hill, God's gift to the nations. To talk facts instead of slogans means you are a liberal, and therefore not only scorned but hated. They like Fox news network a lot, and love Rush, Glen Beck, and watch them exclusively to bolster their confidence in false and ingorant impressions. They say God bless America, not God bless all humanity. They have no idea at all at the many trillions of direct and consequent debt that we are incurring while becomming increasing hated all over the world. They ask again and again, why do they hate us? They are our doom.
10/8/2007 12:09:05 PM    Recommend (1)

progressivebulldog wrote:
The Iraqis admit that their country is broken beyond repair and a majority of Iraqis want our troops to leave their country. What do we do? Do we listen to the Iraqis and leave? No. Instead we try to widen the war by blaming IRAN for our own problems. We claim we want to spread democracy and that we want a sovereign Iraq but our actions show just the opposite. We've already broken Iraq and now we want to repeat our mistakes on a larger scale by bombing Iran too! The madness needs to stop now.
10/8/2007 12:03:57 PM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Yes, the Match is hot and the Match will become hotter still. The problem is that the whole world knows that the Mother of all Battles is lost, except BushCo. THey're bilind as bats.
10/8/2007 12:01:32 PM    Recommend (1)

bklyndan22 wrote:
Can't you just imagine Dana Perino telling everyone in the press that once again, they have it all wrong, and the Administration anticipated and welcomed this "frank dialogue"? or President Bush calling it similar to the debate that sparked the Federalist Papers? were this not so tragic, it would make a great SNL skit...get the American military out of this before even more hell breaks loose, thanks to the wizards who have armed both sides, and misplaced enough weapons to equip a small country. BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW--THIS FOLLY IS NOT WORTH ONE MORE AMERICAN LIFE
10/8/2007 12:00:17 PM    Recommend (1)

biswashira wrote:
This is an excellent development that the Iraqi politicians have finally recognized the futility of depending on the American politicians for thinking for Iraqi national reconciliation. Here at home, our politicians have merely 30% approval rating. They are incapable of handling our own pressing problems: most of our politicians are too old, too rich, rarely think of common people and are heavily influenced money and special interests.
Until we have a chance to replace most of the seating congressmen and senators in the next election, I want them to stay busy in addressing our education, healthcare, immigration, trade/budget deficits, environment, and kitchen/school issues of professional couples with children. After the next election, I hope the newly elected congress would create a recall-provision for any future president who ignores people’s verdict right after the election. Our political parties are compromised, politicians are open for sale and so people should take back some of powers from the representatives.
10/8/2007 11:58:30 AM    Recommend (2)

w04equals666 wrote:
they are absolutely right..and any american congressman who says differently and that we need to continuously keep sacrificing americans in iraq is a murderer..
10/8/2007 11:37:06 AM

FedupwithPolitics wrote:
What a no brainer! These people hate each other as much, or more, as they hate us infidels. Saddam was Iraq's Tito and he was a necessary evil. Taking out his two sons would have probably been a good thing but killing Saddam was the worst possible scenario.

There are no democracies in the muslim world and after we leave Iraq, there still won't be any. Cut the country up, similar to Yugoslavia, and get the hell out.
10/8/2007 11:36:42 AM

cashmere1 wrote:
Negotiator wrote:
PM Talibani says 100K US troops could leave in 2008..Bush says and the forecast is only 30K drawdown. It is their country, yet the US is mandating reconcilation criteria and troop levels.
~~~~Also, our president has said several times that it will be up to the NEXT president to decide on troop levels and that we will have "SOME" US forces in Iraq for many years to come. Even our three top tier Democratic presidential candidates ALL have said we will have forces there during THEIR administration if he or she wins. It really doesn't matter what al Malaki wants. It seems the US is THERE to STAY, regardless of whether we like it or not.
10/8/2007 11:31:22 AM

hearnandrewd wrote:
We can't go into a country and change its goverment and think we know the way they opperate.The system we have here isn't working properly it self.So can this be transposed to some other country.Thanks wp for keeping it out there
10/8/2007 11:29:42 AM

WmJLePetomane wrote:
Another week of anti American rants from the Washington Post. Journalism. Acrimony? Oh, by all means then, let us leave immediately. Its all yours Al Queda. After taking up roost in the Palace, please remember we left and please, please don't attack us again anywhere. Please?
10/8/2007 11:28:44 AM

ahashburn wrote:
Over the years, my opinion of Iraqies is that they are basically cowards (rememeber how the gave up so easily in both wars) and are basically tribal like the American Indians in the 1800s.
10/8/2007 11:28:20 AM

WP11231 wrote:
Are we running out of rationals for this war yet? So far over 3,000 good Americans have been sacrificed - now what's the rational to kill the next Americans? Oh, I almost forgot - we have to create a legacy for the chicken hawk "war president" -
10/8/2007 11:28:00 AM    Recommend (1)

dilluminati wrote:
I disagree with the 'absolute' postulation of this article. If this were the case of human affairs, then the race riots and segregation riots in the US would not have eventually calmed down (after violence exhaustion) and the situation in Kosovo and Bosnia remained exceedingly violent, even South Africa offers an insight into why this 'absolutism' is not the case. That said: There is in store for the US and Iraq a continuation of ethnic cleansing and factionalism. But this should have been explicitly understood before the invasion, and was IGNORED as it was an inconvenient truth to the rush to war. Will the Iraqi's eventually come to violence exhaustion? Yes. Will that be soon? No!
The goal of a strong central government in Iraq (by the GOP whom tout state rights) was in effect under the Bathists. I think that the only rational plan was put forth by Joe Biden (a pragmatist-realist) that the eventual outcome would be regional autonomy. In the absence of a 'traditional and institutional' central government, Bathists: this should have been expected.
It is my guess that with or without US involvement that the ethnic strife will cease in about 20 to 30 years. Unless of course that a continuation of events and outside actors promote instability. There is studies performed by investment capital concerning institutional memory. see Kondratiev cycle. Essentially it will take generations for this violence to cease or to be understood as motivated by other factors. But allowed to follow natural course, violence exhaustion will occur.
10/8/2007 11:25:04 AM

Absolute_0-K wrote:
QUOTE "We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers," the leading Shiite political coalition said in a statement. "Their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon." UNQUOTE but...but...but General Petraeus told us the Surge was working? What should we do President Dubya?? What should we do???
10/8/2007 11:20:41 AM    Recommend (1)

bbjets wrote:
We need not to vote for any politician who voted to invate Iraq, and continues to vote to support this fiasco including most who are running for President. Simply don't vote for them.
10/8/2007 11:12:01 AM

hankomatic1 wrote:
The Match Is hot
10/8/2007 11:11:19 AM

TJ1928 wrote:
A sad development, but let's remembers that the Senate hurt chances of reconciliation when it passed a ‘sense of the Senate’ resolution opposing granting immunity to former insurgents in the summer of ‘06. Virtually all Senate Democrats and about half the Republicans voted for the bill; some Dems even had the gall to use Republicans' vote against the bill during the '06 campaign. Nice going. There’s no way of knowing how that affected reconciliation, but it’s hard to believe that this silly attempt to look tough on national security did anything but delay progress in Iraq.
10/8/2007 11:10:07 AM

1-20-09 wrote:
10/8/2007 11:04:27 AM    Recommend (1)

progressivebulldog wrote:
The Iraqis are at least realists which is more than can be said for Bush. Of course they are living in Iraq while he is living in Washington with a occasional unnaounced visit to one of the more secure areas. Maybe we should have Bush live in a house in downtown Baghdad until he changes his view and sees the reality of what he has wrought.
10/8/2007 10:49:10 AM    Recommend (1)

zb95 wrote:
The Bush administration will ignore this because their main goal is securing the oil fields not securing the peace.
10/8/2007 10:45:42 AM    Recommend (3)

robertjames1 wrote:
So George, after reading this article, tell me why you want to stay in Iraq and what you hope to achieve. If reconciliation is a prerequisite for peace what will the US achieve in the absence of reconciliation? If you want to tell me that you are in Iraq to stop terrorists please do not waste your breath.
10/8/2007 10:41:07 AM    Recommend (1)

therebel wrote:
Jihm wrote:    The American people can but stand in horror as the slow motion train wreck of US ME policy blows up in our faces.
The slow motion train wreck of our total foreign policy over the last 60+ years is the REAL horror!
10/8/2007 10:40:28 AM

papaspost wrote:
Hey there old boy with a trigger happy finger on the big red button.This war is supporting cultures that live for war.Factions that not happy unless they're fighting. You are being snowed . Big time..Those countries and their neighbors can not even stand living next to each other.The only love shared is that they love to hate us. They ,and others are playing tag team in bringing our Peace loving nation down.Maybe perhaps we should re-think your entire political agenda.. before something else happens and you get blamed.
10/8/2007 10:40:12 AM    Recommend (1)

wardropper wrote:
cashmere1    If only a World Court COULD bring this evil U.S. administration to justice. Problem is, as with the U.N., the U.S. thinks it effectively IS the World Court, so it would try to veto any judgements unfavorable to itself. Like the Police policing themselves, or the army disciplining itself, it used to be possible when honor, integrity, morals, the Constitution and the law counted for something. Now it's just ridiculous. A World Court would have to have teeth in the face of ANY opposition, even from the almighty U.S.A., and that still seems to be a long way off.
10/8/2007 10:39:27 AM    Recommend (2)

Thencamebronson wrote:
Any downturn in violence in Baghdad is not the result of any so called "surge". It is apparent that the current reduction of violence is more a direct result of Muqtada Al Sadar's call to his militia for a 6 month cease fire. They will use the 6 months to plan and organize while we are lulled into a false sense of security. When they do return to action it will be with a vengence. It's about power. These people play chess, while President Blutarski and his neo-con frat boys stare at the checker board and wonder what happened.
10/8/2007 10:33:24 AM    Recommend (1)

zb95 wrote:
Compelling reasons to get out especially coupled with Oxford Research Group's report released today that says the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a "disastrous mistake" which has helped establish a "most valued jihadist combat training zone" for al Qaeda supporters.
10/8/2007 10:27:26 AM    Recommend (1)

areid45 wrote:
No problem here! Just throw a few more billion dollars in and claim progress is being made.
10/8/2007 10:23:28 AM

treblig1 wrote:
"You cannot have reconciliation without justice, and justice has not been accomplished yet in Iraq. " a senior Shiite government official stated.. Well now we have to add another benchmark before our kids can come home. There must be JUSTICE before there can be reconciliation!!! If they keep adding more CR_P to be accomplished WE'LL NEVER GET OUT OF THERE!!!Gil in Tx
10/8/2007 10:18:46 AM   Recommend (2)

Jihm wrote:
The American people can but stand in horror as the slow motion train wreck of US ME policy blows up in our faces.
10/8/2007 10:18:14 AM    Recommend (1)

zb95 wrote:
So partition and get out. Let the Iraqis settle it from there.
10/8/2007 10:16:54 AM    Recommend (1)

martiniano wrote:
UncleWillie wrote:    "If reconcilliation is truly hopeless, maybe its our excuse to leave. But first be sure we're willing to accept the consequence of an Iran/terrorist takeover and increased prices at the pump." I am willing to accept the consequence. I am not afraid. I make decisions from reason not fear.
10/8/2007 10:16:50 AM

wj_phillips wrote:
Isn't that special. We're getting more good men and women killed and maimed to reach a goal the Iraqis don't want. So typical of the delusional Bush administration. What new lies will Bush tell to cover up this problem?
10/8/2007 10:15:22 AM    Recommend (2)

racam wrote:
So now it seems the sacrifice has not been worth it. They are asking Bush to get his nose out of their affairs. They want another dictator in power, someone to tell them what to do and keep them in line. In the short haul they will have another Saddam in power. But God forbid that we ever have another Bush in power. Bush should take this as an exit strategy and get out of Dodge. The Iraqis would be better off if we were not there.
10/8/2007 10:13:39 AM    Recommend (4)

analyst72 wrote:
Poor Wino One he keeps getting deeper and deeper. Will the idiot ever learn? Nah! he is too stupid for that..he is beyond repair.
10/8/2007 10:10:12 AM

DardenCavalcade wrote:
"Their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon." -- Leading Shiite Coalition Statement
About the best summary of Iraqi temperament I've seen.
10/8/2007 10:09:02 AM    Recommend (1)

jaxas wrote:
This is so utterly predictable. Let me predict what will happen. At Bush's next press conference, one of the press corp will refer to this article and ask Bush this question: "Mr. President, in the light of this pulling back from the goal of national reconciliation on the part of top Iraq leaders, will there now be a shift in strategy downward toward the more realistic goal of helping the Iraqis rebuild their service infrastructure and as a consequence, an orderly withdrawal of American forces?"
And Bush will react as follows: He will hem, haw, shift his feet and subsequently answer as follows: "Look, I know this is hard work. I understand the frustrations of the Iraq leadership. But they have to understand that we are committed to defeating Al Quaeda in Iraq. We must and will prevail in Iraq. As long as I am President we will never settle for anything short of victory. These people attacked us on 9-11! If we leave without achieving the goals I have set out we will be dishonoring the dead on 9-11 and those wonderful American troops that have given their lives to protect the freedom of Americans and Iraqis."
That is what is going to happen. Because George W. Bush still believes in the fantasies and delusions that began this misadventure in the first place. The Iraq leadership is giving him an out but he is just too flat out stupid to take it. I predict that he will opt for the same old impossible dream of Iraq suddenly, somehow overnight becoing a little version of mainstreet America.
10/8/2007 10:03:00 AM    Recommend (4)

Trying to grow democracy in Iraq is like trying to grow palm trees in Iceland. There is simply no fertile ground for democracy in Iraq, and there never was. With the resources available to the government, I cannot bring myself to believe that they didn't know that. Their goal in Iraq, and indeed the whole war on terror, has been somthing else entirely. There is a book that discribes the lobbiests from Israel urging the US to go to war with Iraq to topple Saddam Husseins' government, then move on to Iran and Syria, in order to create a situation in the middle east more beneficial to Israel and the US. Less chance of a cordinated attack on Israel, and access to oil resources for the US. However, lost in their imperial lust, they did not even account for the reaction of the people that actually live in those countries. The resistanc they ran into in Iraq has thrown a wrench in their whole plan. In their insanity, they still want to attack Iran, but they cannot maintain support for war, because of their utter failure in Iraq. It's time for america to wake up and realize that the war on terror has been a sham, and that the real motivation for the war has been idealistic imperialism, and the quest for planetary resources (oil). All the excuses we have been given for this war have been lies, including what happened on 911, and like an addict, until we admit that there is a problem, we will not take the steps to correct it. At this point, anyone that believes what our government tells them, is living is denial. There needs to be a national epiphany, and a loud overwhelming call by we the people for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, for the crimes committed in the name of the american people. Until we do that, we wear the disgrace that this administration has brought on us.
10/8/2007 10:02:37 AM    Recommend (2)

zb95 wrote:
The Bush administration is against this because it threatens their control of the oil fields.
10/8/2007 10:00:53 AM    Recommend (2)

hankomatic1 wrote:
Bush's Iraqi Failure Is Complete! What We Got Here Is A Civil War!
10/8/2007 9:59:09 AM    Recommend (2)

zb95 wrote:
This has been stated by opponents of this idiotic war for years. Bush and warmongers did not listen. Will they now listen to the Iraqis?
10/8/2007 9:55:35 AM    Recommend (2)

justjunkemail wrote:
Well now what Georgie, Porgie, Pumpkin, Pie? Back to the drawing board while you cry? How many more must die?
10/8/2007 9:53:11 AM    Recommend (3)

jherpers wrote:
o everything we have been trying in Iraq is not attainable? They just found this out? After we have sacrificed thousands of our soldiers and a trillion dollars, what we want is not possible? Have Cheney/Bush/Petraeus heard about this, or is it not in their scope of information?
The government of Iraq is telling us it can't work, but stay here and protect the 300 or so ministers and administration officials, because if you leave they will kill us or we will have to run to another country, like we did with Saddam!!!! IS this what we getr for a trillion and thousands dead and maimed? Yes, the Administration let their handlers make hundreds of billions and let them start making deals for Iraq's oil, thqatsa what this is all about and Cheney/Bush feel they were successful!!!
10/8/2007 9:52:57 AM    Recommend (4)

cashmere1 wrote:
lichtme wrote:     "And the Democrats just sit there worried about what Rush Limbaugh says"
~~ You are wrong to think that all we worry about is what Rush LimBLAH says! I NEVER listen to LimBLAH OR Faux News because I seek the TRUTH. I am mostly worried about what george w. bush and dick cheney say, because at this point even THEY are confused about the TRUTH because they have lied so much.
Personally speaking, I am worried about our do nothing Congress. They have the power to end this illegal war, yet quietly sit there and do nothing while our troops die. Maybe it will take the WORLD COURT to bring justice to this evil administration!
In the meantime, to the Iraqi people... PLEASE ask the US to leave your country?????
10/8/2007 9:51:42 AM    Recommend (3)

V_1618 wrote:
10/8/2007 9:50:54 AM

V_1618 wrote:
10/8/2007 9:44:44 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
We've to be careful that with the daily nonsense we ha've to read/hear, we keep our senses healthy!
10/8/2007 9:44:43 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Happiness is something that's lives between your ears. Helping others when they're down,etc.
10/8/2007 9:34:29 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Mithras, I meant to say that being is not always a blessing!
10/8/2007 9:29:05 AM

JimC45 wrote:
This is insane. Why are we in this country any more? They're dicking around and will continue to dick around until we get out of there and leave them to their own devices.
10/8/2007 9:25:00 AM    Recommend (1)

negotiator6 wrote:
So what's new. The Bush Administration says "national reconcilation" is the goal..the Iraqi's say it is impossible. PM Talibani says 100K US troops could leave in 2008..Bush says and the forecast is only 30K drawdown. It is their country, yet the US is mandating reconcilation criteria and troop levels. We have a president that is both dumb, foolish and cannot reconcile with the facts. Blood and guts of our people will be on his hands..and those of Cheney plus the others lurking the shadows who invented this mess.
10/8/2007 9:18:43 AM    Recommend (3)

edeckel wrote:
organaLeFay wrote:   In addition to believing that we are coming out on top in Iraq, here are the things which you must believe to be a Republican today:
(1) Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
(2) Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when W's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
(3) Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
(4) The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
(5) A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
(6) The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
(7) If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
(8) A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
(9) Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
(10) HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
(11) Global warming, evolution and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
(12) A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
(13) Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
(14) The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George W Bush's driving record is none of our business.
(15) Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.
(16) What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.
-- found on CraigsList ---
I would just add one thing to item number 13 and that would be to add A true repucklican can just look at a video and tell that all Terri Schiavo needed was a little speech and physical therapy and she could have gotten right out of that bed she had been in for so many years.
10/8/2007 9:18:27 AM    Recommend (10)

Mithras wrote:
jvandeswaluw1 wrote:    Hard to believe that some people like to die rich. Having rich parents can cause problems isn't that true Paris H? Paris H's problems were not caused by her parents being rich. They were caused by her parents. Sexual promiscuity and drug/alcohol addiction are not restricted to the wealthy. Or to the children of the wealthy.
10/8/2007 9:15:51 AM

roy4076 wrote:
Something possible? Best yet.
10/8/2007 9:15:03 AM

Mair1 wrote:
"We demand that the American administration stop this adventure"... Taken out of context,...... but I agree 100%. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih: "To me, it [reconciliation] is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power." I think he's right and I don't think it's anything we can 'fix'.
10/8/2007 9:12:22 AM    Recommend (2)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Like some of us stated yesterday: Religion is irrational. It does away with logical thinking; it becomes wishful thinking.
10/8/2007 9:09:54 AM    Recommend (2)

braultrl wrote:
Hey Dumbya, non-reconciliation is going to be pretty tough to benchmark. Maybe you can round up the Koolaid posse and have everybody dip their fingers in ink and pretend y'all are having a big 'ol Middle Eastern Democracy...
10/8/2007 9:08:38 AM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Hard to believe that some people like to die rich. Having rich parents can cause problems isn't that true Paris H?
10/8/2007 9:06:32 AM

therebel wrote:
gabbamonkey--yes it's oil, but more importantly, it's the destabilization of the region to keep the prices high. The beneficiaries? Carlysle Group and Halliburton!
10/8/2007 9:06:02 AM    Recommend (2)

Mithras wrote:
jvandeswaluw1 wrote:    Hello Mithras, PLease, tell me in short what it is. My memory will do the rest!
It is a column in today's Washington Post about Holland's attitude to Muslims in general and about Ayaan Hirsi Ali in particular.
10/8/2007 9:04:20 AM

gabbamonkey wrote:
So what the F&#@ are we doing in Iraq? Oh yeah, OIL!!!!!! So here we are reading that even the Iraqi's don't want reconsilliation so what does the conservatives have on their side now? NOTHING!!! They and the president are stupid AZZ idiots!
10/8/2007 9:03:26 AM    Recommend (1)

howjensen wrote:
Could it be we got into this bloody mess because our government is just as sectarian as Iraq's? How did a minority of neocon goons convince our President to launch a "preemptive invasion" using bogus information? How has our neocon and dysfunctional President been allowed to carry on his personal war when the majority of American citizens want out? We have about as much "national unity" as Iraq, and are equally paralyzed as to the solutions to a tragic war, health care, global warming, education and the like. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.
10/8/2007 9:02:07 AM    Recommend (4)

lichtme wrote:
We fight an illegal and unwinnable war to benefit the Conservatives, who are bankrupting our treasury as they keep us under surveillance and institute a police state. And the Democrats just sit there worried about what Rush Limbaugh says....
10/8/2007 8:57:52 AM    Recommend (8)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Most of BushCo's allies have forsaken them regarding the battle for oil. This should be a sign that BushCo is doing something wrong. Can't they see that?
10/8/2007 8:57:34 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Iran: First the politicians mark Iran as a danger to the Western World, but now that the military-Patreus- are getting into it, I start getting worried.Like you I suppose.
10/8/2007 8:51:08 AM   Recommend (1)

targetsix wrote:
Now what? Mr. Bush. More BS spin, and American/Iraqi Blood. Thanks for NOTHING.
10/8/2007 8:49:49 AM    Recommend (2)

DrSyedJaved wrote:
Iraq has been turned into a dilemma for the Muslim world. Al Qaeda has joined hand with insurgency against foreign occupation because their objectives meet in hurting the US. A dominant majority in the land of Islam does not want Al-Qaeda in Iraq to succeed in bleeding the US out of Iraq. Nor does it want the US and British troops to gain foothold in Iraq and thereby destabilise the whole region. No Muslim wants Iraq, the second country housing the third holiest place in Islam, under foreign occupation. It is a catch 22 situation. Day by day they US presence is aggravating the situation in Iraq and whenever, the US would leave, the situation would be bloodier behind. Sooner it leaves the better. Please log into to read on ....
10/8/2007 8:48:27 AM

wardropper wrote:
[Iraq doesn't want us]
Duh? And it took seven years to learn THAT? Our Dear Presider clearly didn't even get an adequate grade school education.
Who would have thought that our electoral system was in such bad shape, and exactly what safeguards do we have now that such a travesty of leadership will not take up residence in the White House again in the near future? None, I think.
10/8/2007 8:46:40 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Hello Mithras,
PLease, tell me in short what it is. My memory will do the rest!
10/8/2007 8:46:16 AM

hankomatic1 wrote:
Madman On The Planet "Conspiracy Of Lies" Used To Justify U.S. Occupation Of Iraq.
10/8/2007 8:44:22 AM
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jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
BushCo's greed for what's not theirs will ruin her in the end. Normal people don't like common thieves.
10/8/2007 8:41:25 AM    Recommend (2)

Doctor-dEvidence wrote:
Why are we in Iraq again???
10/8/2007 8:37:50 AM    Recommend (1)

Mithras wrote:
Did you read this?
10/8/2007 8:36:32 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Why should Americans worry about sectarian violence in the ME? In 1980 Irak invaded Iran and more than one million soldiers lost their life. It never was a peaceful region! The USA won't change this attitude.
10/8/2007 8:35:56 AM

UncleWillie wrote:
If reconcilliation is truly hopeless, maybe its our excuse to leave. But first be sure we're willing to accept the consequence of an Iran/terrorist takeover and increased prices at the pump.
10/8/2007 8:35:22 AM

Frishoo wrote:
Where is the headline about the continued dramatic decline of Iraqi and US Troop deaths???
The Post trumps up some article that quotes "Top Iraqis" and twists the definition of reconciliation.
Just another attempt to lead you liberal lemmings to the cliff of defeat.
10/8/2007 8:32:51 AM

coloradodog wrote:
So Iraqis themselves admit the much touted goal of "reconciliation" is not possible. What are we doing there? We are being used to referee their civil war. There is no military solution here. Only Cheney's arrogance and ignorace can not see this.
10/8/2007 8:27:37 AM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Under these political circumstances it's often very hard to stay optimistic and whistle a tune of just feeling happy about the human race.
10/8/2007 8:25:10 AM    Recommend (1)

Mithras wrote:
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said: "I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such. To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
sargon20 wrote: "Liberals just can't stand to see America win and that the surge is working!!"
Sargon20 is a typical, lifetime-subcribing member of Bush Enablers In Denial -- another child who got left behind.
10/8/2007 8:23:15 AM    Recommend (3)

cashmere1 wrote:
therebel wrote:
Exile this administration and POtuS to Baghdad and let them live in their over budget new embassy!
~~ It is NOT inhabitable because of faulty construction by corrupt contractors! If it is NEVER able to be safely inhabited, it would be a GREAT place to EXILE bush, cheney, rice, rumsfeld, bolton, libby, rove, miers, gonzales, kristol, wolfowitz, perle, adleman, and the REST of the zealots from PNAC and AEI who ALWAYS promoted REGIME CHANGE in Iraq!
The $700 BILLION US Embassy in Iraq, as it stands, and if unprotected by our military and Blackwater, is the next thing to HELL as far as I am concerned! The PERFECT place for those who put us in this war in Iraq! Let them go there and LIVE their DREAM!
10/8/2007 8:21:40 AM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
The pressure on Iran is mounting and endangering world peace. By an eventual American attack on Iran, America has the offial support of France, England,Italy and of course Israel. Russia might join in as well. The world is in grave danger. More DU-ammo will poison our planet. It's very, very sad that we're in this situation.
10/8/2007 8:18:56 AM

ktpllrd wrote:
So here you have it said openly. There is no reconciliation to have. So what now for the fail Bush policy. Now we just stay and die that is our perfect answer.
10/8/2007 8:18:30 AM

spike3905 wrote:
If, as Bush claims, there is no military solution without a political solution and a political solution isn't possible, we have put our troops in the middle of a low-grade civil war without end. Bush' exit strategy is to cross his fingers that things don't totally blow up before he exits the White House so he can blame the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history on his successor.
10/8/2007 8:13:08 AM

losthorizon10 wrote:
So- the "surge" is NOT working, because the Iraq government is getting WEAKER. Too bad the traditional media can't figure this out and keeps getting led around by the nose with GOP mis-directions- while our troops die in a phony neocon war.
10/8/2007 8:12:15 AM

cashmere1 wrote:
"But over the summer and fall of 2006, sectarian violence rose to its highest levels, driving thousands of people out of mixed neighborhoods and pushing Sunni and Shiite politicians further apart. The amnesty never materialized, nor has the reconciliation."
In other words, all else HAS failed! The amnesty program has failed, the reconciliation has failed, negotiations have failed and the surge has failed, and the killing goes on. NOW what? Is bush's war doomed to go on forever and ever? There doesn't seem to be any solution.
Blackwater is hired by our STATE DEPARTMENT to be gold-plated RAMBO's who are the HIRED GUNS in Baghdad at $1200 per man per DAY, and there are 160,000 of them in Iraq!! Their last shooting spree resulted in 17 Iraqis DEAD and 38 wounded! Blackwater's answer to that problem?? Pay off the victims' families with $15,000 cash! Blackwater is a disgrace to our country and to the world!
I still do not understand WHY, if this is a GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR in Iraq, as bush tells it, WHY isn't the world more concerned? Instead of helping the US, the few countries that did have troops in Iraq have pulled them out. The "coalition of the willing" has now become "THE COALITION OF THE UNWILLING"!
Bush likes to say that "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein" in order to justify his invasion and occupation of Iraq. I say that IF the world is so much better off now, why aren't they showing their gratitude by joining WITH us in Iraq? Is it just contempt for george w. bush, or is it a lost cause as far as the world is concerned?
The other countries in the Middle East, Israel included, ALL stay out of the fray when THEY have the most to lose there!
In the meantime, the US has built the FORTRESS in the Green Zone called the US EMBASSY at a cost so far or
$700 BILLION! It is so badly constucted by corrupt contractors that it STILL cannot be opened they say until "some time in 2008"!
Heckuva job Bushie!
10/8/2007 8:03:07 AM

MorganaLeFay wrote:
The situation can only get worse. We can walk away now or be ensnared in a much larger war with even fewer returns.
The Shiite faction in Iraq sides with Iran, the Sunni side sides with Al Qaeda. Saddam kept these guys in check and wanted to side with the US. Bush took Saddam out and now these two factions have the run of the country. One will come out on top.
There is no way for us to win in this situation.
Bush is contemplating a solution where he takes out Iran. I suppose he thinks he can then smash the Sunnies and, with Iran gone, the Shiites will have no bad guy to ally with then. Seems like an idiotic plan to me.
Another factor to consider is that the US probably can't take out Iran. We don't have the conventional forces to do it and Russia and China wouldn't let us take over the world's oil supply anyway. All the chest thumping and two minuts hate sessions against "Islamofascists" won't change this.
10/8/2007 8:02:17 AM

leochen24551 wrote:
The British and other media have discussed the production sharing agreements the Iraqi parliament is to sign but the American mainstream media have not. Is it verboten?
Few people seem to know what the Iraqis are in for if they sign these agreements.
We forced the Iraqis to write a constitution that privatizes their oil; the U.S. State Department prepared model agreements BEFORE the 2003 Invasion.
Only 12% of oil fields worldwide use agreements like these; all others are nationalized.
The agreements give the oil companies 70-75% of the profits until they have recouped their initial investments.
The leases run about 30 years, so I would guess it will take 30 years.
According to a letter to the editor in the March 12 Washington Post from Abbas J. Ali, the law “allows executives of foreign companies to serve on the Federal Council on Oil and Gas, and gives foreign firms exclusive control of fields for up to 35 years, including contracts that guarantee profits for 25 years.
"Furthermore, foreign companies are not required to reinvest even part of their profits in the Iraqi economy and are not required to hire Iraqi workers or Iraqi companies.”
Greg Muttitt, “Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth,” November 2005,
Greg Muttitt, “US Oil Strategy - Oil Objectives Unchanged,” January 2007, Unravelling the Carbon Web Newsletter,
Kamil Mahdi, “Iraqis Will Never Accept This Sellout to the Oil Corporations,” 01/16/2007, The GuardianUK,
Articles by Chris Ford (01/08/2007) and Kelpie Wilson (01/18/2007),
[from Bernice March 19th, 2007 3:58 pm]
10/8/2007 8:01:41 AM

bbjets wrote:
Iraq is a tribal society involving he who is most powerful rules.
Why should we think that national reconsiliation would have ever worked after taking out Saddam? The Sunni and Shia have been waring for centuries. And the new Iraq gov't has just come to this realization?--not a chance...they thought this all along.
So nice our brave young people in the military and our private murdurous contractor secuity teams are thrust between a tribal civil war that will never end. (You do want me to support the Justice Departmen's paid mercenary thugs right since they are a part of the team?)
U.S is the reason--the only reason.
10/8/2007 7:59:37 AM

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
I accuse BushCo of using fossile energy for as long as possible, which will pollute the air we're breathing and effects global warming. I accuse BushCo of using DU-ammo which causes radiation which causes cancer and breathing problems. Willingly and knowingly BushCo is destroying human life. This FACT makes them criminals!!
10/8/2007 7:58:44 AM

hmmmmmer wrote:
If the Iraqis don't think there is going to any national reconciliation why are we there? Wasn't that the purpose of the surge? This is getting more complicated as each day goes along. There is no way Iraq is ever going to come together. I am sure we will stay for the oil though.
10/8/2007 7:49:09 AM    Recommend (2)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Bushco is using the simple principle of
divide and rule in the ME. Keep the Islam nation 'occupied' and at the same time take control of the oilfieds!
10/8/2007 7:49:02 AM    Recommend (2)

therebel wrote:
ym1282--it's just like any other war we've ever gotten involved in, with a few exceptions, it's all politics and profiteering.
10/8/2007 7:46:51 AM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
General Patreus accuses Iran of smuggling arms into Irak which kills American troops. This is a worrying statement; the danger is that an attack on Iran is still possible. It would escalate the instability of an already dangerous situation in the ME. Why didn't they examine Bush's mental ability before he stole the election? The republicans knew his record as the Texas governour!
10/8/2007 7:40:25 AM    Recommend (1)

waterbirds wrote:
"We will stand down when the Iraqi's stand up." And that will be when??? How much American blood and treasure?
"sargon20 wrote: Liberals just can't stand to see America win and that the surge is working!!"
Sargon is content to label people -adding heat not light to the discussion - and spout GOP empty rhetoric ... those who think the surge is working should turn off Faux News and get out into the real world more often.
10/8/2007 7:40:00 AM    Recommend (2)

windrider2 wrote:
sargon20 wrote: Liberals just can't stand to see America win and that the surge is working!!
Yeah, we escalate to buy time for "national reconciliation" for a government that finally admits it has no intention of reconciliation, only consolidating Shiite power. Yep, the surge is working, all right, it's working to buy time for Iraq to reconcile with Iran and exterminate more Sunnis. YAY, America wins! *snark*
10/8/2007 7:30:04 AM    Recommend (1)

jthandbook wrote:
Woo Hoo!
All these Iraqis are telling us that the surge has failed in its purpose!
Will King George declare "Off with their heads!"?
How many more Americans must die to cover our Idiot In Chief's rear end?
10/8/2007 7:28:52 AM    Recommend (2)

ym1282 wrote:
A couple of months ago someone wrote a comment about how these people in Iraq and surrounding areas have been fighting for centuries! I don't think we will be able to stop that! I don't even think is our responsibility. If the government has specific goals about the invasion, PLEASE explain it to the American people with clear, concise and precise words! Every time the president talks about the topic he just shows us what a bad speaker he is. The generals lie and the judicial system is full of poeple like Mr Gonzalez. What would the founding fathers would say today? Isn't it established in the constitution that this is a nation of the people and that its people have the right to change the government if it doesn't satisfy the people's needs?
10/8/2007 7:22:35 AM

leochen24551 wrote:
America, as far as Bush and Cheney are concerned, will NEVER leave Iraq.
When Bush declared "Mission Accomplished", he meant it -- establishing our Military Occupation of Iraq, forever.
This has been but the latest in a series of Military Moves that goes back sixty years, to the end of WWII.
"Washington’s current pursuit of Permanent Military Bases in Iraq is not an aberration.
"During the past six decades, the U.S. has constructed a Network of Military Bases and Access Agreements that extends across North Africa, to Persian Gulf nations and Turkey, and onward to the atoll of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, whose Chagos people have been driven from paradise to make way for U.S. bombers and pre-positioned munitions.
"U.S. troops and bases in Europe, ostensibly assigned to NATO, have also helped to enforce U.S. Middle East hegemony, as have U.S. subversion, coups d’etat, and threats to initiate Nuclear War.
"President Bush, the Elder, wasn’t kidding when he said that the Desert Storm war was fought to create “A New World Order” in which “What we say goes.”
"It permitted the U.S. to reconsolidate its control over Middle East Oil Reserves.
"Bombing Iraq into the “pre-industrial age” served as a Warning to all who might challenge U.S. Dominance.
"It also provided the U.S. the necessary rationales to expand and to revitalize its infrastructure of military bases across the Middle East.
"Thousands of U.S. warriors and their fearsome weapons were dispatched to Saudi Arabia.
"Kuwait was occupied with air fields, munitions depots, and training grounds.
"U.S. bases and other elements of U.S. military infrastructure in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates were post-modernized.
"Using preparations for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq as political cover, nearly all U.S. troops and most of the Pentagon’s military infrastructure were pulled out of Saudi Arabia.
"Qatar now hosts the Combined Air Command Center.
"Thousands of U.S. troops are based in Kuwait, where they are trained, have easy access to the model supply base at Doha, and can support military operations in Iraq.
"But the greatest part of the infrastructure has been redeployed to Iraq.
"The Baker-Hamilton Study Group functionally endorses the Pentagon’s “Go Long” strategy, which envisions 50,000 to 60,000 troops – including one-tenth of the U.S. Army – remaining in Iraq “for years to come.”
"This helps to explain why the Pentagon is continuing to spend nearly $1 billion a year to build and expand military bases in Iraq.
"The Invasion of Iraq was thus rooted in more than neoconservative fantasies of imposing liberal democracy and a neoliberal economic system on Iraq.
"It was designed to transform the oil-rich nation into an Unsinkable U.S. Aircraft Carrier from which U.S. attacks and military interventions could be launched to “discipline” oil-rich Iran, Syria, and others who might challenge U.S. regional hegemony, terrorizing potential rivals – including indigenous insurgents – with high-tech and potentially nuclear “shock and awe” destruction.
"The Pentagon is working feverishly to further consolidate the U.S. military presence to 14 “enduring bases” in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), Baghdad, Anbar province (home to Sunni Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit), and Shi’a-dominated southern approaches to Baghdad.
"Organized around airfields “to facilitate resupply operations and troop mobility,” the major bases in Baghdad include:
Camp Victory at the airport, which hosts as many as 14,000 U.S. troops;
Anaconda Air Base, just north of Baghdad, which spreads across 15 square miles and is being built for 20,000 U.S. troops;
Camp Falcon/Al Sarq, which will accommodate 5,000 U.S. soldiers;
and the so-called U.S. “embassy complex” in the Green Zone. There, $1 billion is being spent on a 100-acre installation, comparable to the size of Vatican City, with a Marine barracks, 300 homes, 21 other buildings, and its own electrical, water, and sewage systems.
“Post Freedom,” Camp Marez, and the Mosul Airfield serve the 101st Airborne Division and defend U.S. allies and interests in oil-rich Kurdistan.
“Camp Renegade” is an air base “strategically located near the Kirkuk oil fields and the Kirkuk refinery and petrochemical plant.”
"Tajji, just north of Fallujah, is built on the site of a former Republican Guard “military city” and is replete with the comforts of Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Subway restaurants to make U.S. warriors feel right at home.
"Camps Speicher and Fallujah are located near Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit and the center of Sunni resistance in Fallujah.
"Little is known about the other planned “Enduring Bases.”
"How much of this imperial infrastructure will survive the United States’ inevitable defeat in Iraq and the attendant negotiations is anyone’s guess." [Dr. Joseph Gerson, New England office of the American Friends Service Committee]
10/8/2007 7:13:28 AM    Recommend (3)

vigor wrote:
so the "surge" has officially failed.
Where is General Betrayus?    Why are we in Iraq?
10/8/2007 7:09:40 AM    Recommend (2)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
In one week time the exercise Vigilant Shield will commence. Stay alert! The exercise before 9/11 was called Northern Vigilance!! Remember? I do!
10/8/2007 7:03:49 AM    Recommend (4)

therebel wrote:
Exile this administration and POtuS to Baghdad and let them live in their over budget new embassy!
10/8/2007 6:54:25 AM    Recommend (3)

nads1 wrote:
Hey, I think I see Dick & George moving the goalposts again!
10/8/2007 6:46:31 AM    Recommend (3)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
General Patreus accuses Iran of smuggling arms into Irak which kills American troops. This is a worrying statement; the danger is that an attack on Iran is still possible. It would escalate the instability of an already dangerous situation in the ME. Why didn't they examine Bush's mental ability before he stole the election? The republicans knew his record as the Texas governour!
10/8/2007 6:42:26 AM   Recommend (1)

iceman04 wrote:
British expert think that US deserved to lose in Iraq. THey blame US attitude for its defeat. Putting it technically: US was screwed in Iraq by Iran. This is how history will basically say it. US messed with the wrong guys. Iran did nothing wrong to US. US should have made friends with Iran. But arrogance knows no bounds. And there is a price for this sin. Its a big fall.
10/8/2007 6:31:00 AM    Recommend (3)

glenbc wrote:
d-bag and s-head got us into this war, a couple of f-sticks if there ever were any. too bad they didn't listen when every credible nthropologist and sociologist predicted this result. arrogant and ignorant, great combination.
10/8/2007 6:29:54 AM    Recommend (4)

AIPACiswar wrote:
They have their Sunni; "...criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon," and we have the GOP. I understand now!
10/8/2007 6:24:26 AM    Recommend (2)

mostafamelgou wrote:
I believe that Bush Administration is leading a double policies, according to the drawn targets. A policy "window dressing" intended for the national or international public opinion. A second one, the true which is applied effectively on the ground.
Example: USA did not stop telling to encourage reconciliation in Iraq. But in fact and daily basis, Newcon are instigating tribal and ethnic rivalries.
10/8/2007 6:15:36 AM    Recommend (2)

pgardner1 wrote:
Mission accomplished! We have created the chaos Haliburton needs to justify occupying Iraq until it is worthless!
10/8/2007 6:14:57 AM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
If human beings don't have their freedoms then their destination is to become slaves!
10/8/2007 6:12:26 AM    Recommend (1)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
An illegal president is fighting an illegal war. The world looks on in amazement how a democratic nation is allowing this to happen. America where's your self repect and your feeling for justice?
10/8/2007 6:08:20 AM    Recommend (6)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
Nothing will last when it's built on brute force and intimidation!!
10/8/2007 6:00:14 AM    Recommend (1)

erkola wrote:
Now what? Does Bush need a picture on a chalkboard? What makes for a united goal? Money. Propose an even division of oil wealth to the three sectarian groups and let them be on their way. If they want to be rich and kill themselves, fine. If they get smart and function, not kiss and love each other, just function, it would be a start. More of our soldiers lives to try an impossible goal is criminal.
10/8/2007 5:45:55 AM    Recommend (1)

MPatalinjug wrote:
It will be prudent and wise for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates, their remaining coterie of neocons, their steadfast Republican supporters in the Congress and all those presidential aspirts, to listen to what these top Iraq officials have to say on political reconciliation in Iraq:
It is simply not possible, that's what!
American policymakers are engaging in an exercise in futility if they continue to pursue reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
They must now come to their senses, to the perhaps brutal truth, that a "soft" partition of the geographic space called "Iraq" into Sunnistan, Shiastan and Kurdistan--folowing the Biden Plan which the Senate has recently adopted in a nonbiding Resolution--is the way to go.
Kurdistan is already there, as a matter of fact. It is already an autonomous sectarian region, pretty much out of the control of Baghdad.
10/8/2007 5:34:04 AM    Recommend (2)

Open1 wrote:
There is still hope for Iraq:
1) Debushification
2) Pass an oil law that prevents any US company and any Bush or Cheney crony or contributor from participating in the Iraq oil industry or any related industries at any point in the supply or distribution chain
Iraq was better off under Saddam. There is still hope for Iraq: artificial respiration.
10/8/2007 5:07:11 AM    Recommend (6)

cjones210 wrote:
This is a struggle about power? Isn't that a civil war? I could have sworn our president and Republicans told us they would not leave our troops in the middle of a civil war where they would be nothing but targets. No reconciliation? Appears that the purpose of Bush's surge is not working. No amount of spin can change the facts. Our military can only do so much and if Iraqi's can not come to terms politically there is no reason for us to stay involved. It is time for us to step down and allow the Iraqi's to have their civil war just as we had between the north and south of our country. The original purpose of the surge was to make the country secure so the Iraqi's could make political progress and they admit that they can not accomplish anything that would be fair to all. Time for us to leave and let them have-at-it.
10/8/2007 5:05:53 AM    Recommend (2)

michel1835 wrote:
Nouri Al Maliki is the leader of the artificially created puppet government created on "project Iraq"
if it suits " project Iraq " 's objectives to keep a unified state at this phase , he is not performing on the declared benchmarks, because of inability or unwillingness no problem , he must be replaced by another puppet leader of government
terms of replacement must be discussed in secret , to make it look plausible and lawful
appoint first a deputy prime minister that will be the replacement
then ,let's say , an official resignation comes from Maliki in pure order and cooperation
in case Maliki doesn't comply , another solution is to "organize" a military coup and put a "controllable " Iraqi general in power , Maliki forced in exile
what Iraq needs now , is a strong military regime , but a little different from Saddam's
after five years of stabilization , the military can give back power to civilians , but stay on the watch as in Turkey
the new model for Iraq should be a secular , democratic , muslim state
the above mentionned scenarios can be organized by the "special operations" department of the CIA , with help from the MI6
for the time being , better deal with a unified Iraq with vast autonomy in the regions
10/8/2007 4:55:42 AM

hariknaidu wrote:
This is why GWB and his neocons don't understand - you've to reconcile with the indegenous
culture/civilization which permeates the Tigris/Euphrates for centuries!
10/8/2007 4:50:34 AM
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PJTramdack wrote:
Think about this for a moment: A stable, majority rule Iraq has got to be a Shiite Iraq, doesn't it:? Why in Heaven's name would W and his gangsters want that, with Shiite Iran next door? The goal could be a permanently UNstable Iraq that does one thing only: pump oil. The next step then would be to guarantee a permanently unstable Iran, unable to threaten anybody. On no, they would never come up with such a kooky plan, would they? The alternative is to set up a minority sect as the leadership party, put a strong and brutal dictator in power and make sure he runs things our way, and, that he grasps the point that without us, he's toast. Somewhere out there, there's an ambitious little colonel with a mustache who likes big houses, pretty ladies and American stuff. Instead of screwing around with reconciliation we should be scouting Son of Saddam.
10/8/2007 4:50:00 AM    Recommend (4)

jhbyer wrote:
I must say of the heartbreaking photo, those are the sweetest little girls topped off by a very cute baby. Throw down your guns, Iraqis, and hold your children instead.
10/8/2007 4:36:15 AM    Recommend (1)

cpwash wrote:
So, the raison d-tere' for the surge is now gone - there will be no reconciliation, now or ever in Iraq.
By the surge, do you mean crushing the Sunni? But you are arming them? I am confused, along with most of the rest of thinking America.
You say the war is not about oil, but you say we have a strategic interest in Iraq, which means oil doesn't it?
You say you are against tri-partition in Iraq - that it's vital they don't. But we are partitioned into 50, not three states and are a super-power. So it couldn't be harmful for Iraq either. And anyway, they are busy tri-partitioning themselves along ethnic lines with their ongoing civil war, are they not?
My mind spins. You've created an Alice in Wonderland place, where Alice (the US) wonders aimlessly from mad place to mad place, kill, maiming, and getting killed.
It is no wonder that most Americans now want and end to this senseless, terrible, and never ending war.
10/8/2007 4:18:59 AM    Recommend (7)

schmetterlingtoo wrote:
"Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government and national reconciliation is not a realistic goal."
Wow. Really? USG-are you listening? This is not just true about Iraq. THIS ALSO APPLIES TO MYANMAR-QUIT MAKING MEDDLING NOISES-YOU AIN'T GOT IT FIGURED OUT YET.
10/8/2007 3:58:48 AM    Recommend (4)

jhbyer wrote:
MorganaLeFey, excellent points... and too, for the dead-on GOP membership rules, thanks
10/8/2007 3:57:52 AM

jhbyer wrote:
The idea of Bushies helping Iraqis establish what they themselves reject for a model for federal gov't, would be a joke if it were real, but it's not. Rove's dream of a permanent majority party to which others by law must defer was the design imposed on Iraqis and fixed by us in their constutution, The benchmarks were all about remedying this mistake, but too late did Bush accept, if he indeed he has, that Rove's design led Iraq toward civil war.
10/8/2007 3:37:30 AM    Recommend (3)

fida2007 wrote:
In a post graduate course in 1992,the professor of international relatoins told our class that the world is now (after the disintergration of USSR)about to see an unprecedented level of US intervention in the affairs of other countries which I could not believe at that time (my faith being very strong in free media).But I am virtually short of words to express the amount of shock I feel over the role of (free!)media at the US' interventionist,illegal and devoid of all the civilised norms role.The world is soon going to see the actual situation, not the one painted by the US and her 'free media'.
10/8/2007 3:30:15 AM    Recommend (5)

AresBelt wrote:
Little by little, the inevitable conclusion of this misadventure becomes more and more apparent............
10/8/2007 2:56:21 AM    Recommend (2)

Persona8 wrote:
Shiite-led human leader politician by which political leaders' under Iraq-style sighting? www.washingtonpost.
com staff writer should write much more clear on the details of 'acrimony', who is straining who's or about which side in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,"and still yet",what sort of so called,"grass-roots reconciliation" hope U.S. military hope is relevant to Iraq? These social facts are extremely important but Iraqis never-shared same public opinion with U.S. military ever since 2005. Besides Nouri al-Maliki is, repeating not even Iraqi native-born but Egyptian who is brought up in the U.S.
10/8/2007 2:54:39 AM

somec47 wrote:
>>why should we start listening to Iraqis now?<<
hum, maybe because you didn't catch them on lie?
10/8/2007 2:39:58 AM    Recommend (1)

somec47 wrote:
>>Bush/Cheney have hell to pay.<<
there is no hell and haven. its in your little brain filed up with religious stuff. stupid comments like this never make up for anything. and those gentleman has a very gracious pansion plan.
10/8/2007 2:28:39 AM

fake1 wrote:
pffft.... why should we start listening to Iraqis now?
10/8/2007 2:14:52 AM

BrianX9 wrote:
"You cannot have reconciliation without justice, and justice has not been accomplished yet in Iraq."
This is an honest, heartfelt emotion, that the Shi'as must have justice.
But true justice would require the execution of thousands or even tens of thousands of Sunnis who were lower-level functionaries in the Saddam government.
Under the Nuremberg Protocols, while such cogs in the machine deserve to be hung, that would produce Justice under the Code of Hammurabi, this style of Justice (really a type of Revenge) would not form a foundation for building any sort of Reconciliation.
It would just lead to a new round of recriminations.
Now, the USA has no right to impose it's own values on Iraq, nor any right to impose Christian values, which are something different than American values.
But it is constructive to at least examine what Christian "Justice" would recommend for a way forward.
As explained by the evangelist Paul, no Christian wants to be treated justly.
None of us wants to get what we deserve, because we all deserve death, the wages of sin.
Rather, the Hope Christians is that our Creator takes pity on us and grants us Mercy instead of Justice.
The most important thing that the US could possibly do at this juncture to foster "reconciliation" in Iraq would be to create a sort of "Peace and Justice" Commission in Iraq.
The sectarian factions CANNOT create such a system at this time. Public emotion is too raw. Only the occupation power, or the foreign power supporting the sovereign Iraqi government, as you like it, can pull this off.
If you want Justice in Iraq, consider which version of Justice you want.
Then contact the Secretary of State through the website and demand that the Secretary immediately create the
US Commission on Civilian Losses in Iraq.
10/8/2007 1:59:18 AM    Recommend (1)

robertwhitlock wrote:
The government of the USA, under the leadership of the Bush Administration, has committed a grievous wrongdoing in Iraq. It is time to hold the elected officials accountable.
Iraqis do not want to cede rights to exploit the oil resource to foreign entities - be they governmental or private.
10/8/2007 1:56:45 AM    Recommend (7)

ceton wrote:
After all the death, dismemberment, corruption, fabrication, hatred, self-interests, turmoil, loss of stature, loss of allies, dwindling revenues, declining infrastructure, and all of the broken promises by all political parties ... we are left with nothing.
10/8/2007 1:53:29 AM    Recommend (6)

Christian_in_NYC wrote:
The Surge is Working!! Clap louder for Dear Leader!!
10/8/2007 1:48:46 AM    Recommend (3)

marcchagall2 wrote:
In the words of Gomer Powell, "SURPRISE! SURPRISE!"
10/8/2007 1:36:01 AM    Recommend (1)

kyprios928 wrote:
The Kurds are already autonomous. Turkey is standing by once we leave to do to them what we did to the rest of Iraq. The Sunis had enough of the less than 5000 Al-Queda sympathizers and decided to take care of them. Petraeus, grasped the opportunity to claim that it was his policy and gave them all the weapons they need, plus the unaccounted billions of dollars. The Shiites are sitting pretty filling their pockets with the American tax payers money, stashing them in Swiss bank accounts, along with their relatives that are buying the Swiss villas,causing a distabilization in Switzerland and making immigration their most important issue in their current elections. Now you tell me who is the sucker here?
10/8/2007 1:35:30 AM    Recommend (5)

emainland wrote:
So MoveOn was right to use the word "Betray Us"? So the Petraeus surge and all its casualties were for naught? The treasure and blood expended to get a pause in the conflict so the various Iraqi parties could reconcile their differences were for nothing, since the parties say they're not going to reconcile and instead will fight it out? So what are we doing in Iraq? It's pointless. The reality-community told Bush and America that going in. Thousands demonstrated and protested but too few listened. Maybe more will now.
10/8/2007 1:29:59 AM    Recommend (7)

AmericanPatriot wrote:
OK, NOW it's time to pack up and come home; just sell the U.S. Embassy back to Iraq and get the HELL out! Our presence there is NOT helping them solve anything, if that hasn't become clear enough by now! Like Presidential Candidate Ron Paul said in one of the debates, "We just marched in, and we can just march right out" or something to that effect, we are there ILLEGALLY, through NO DECLARATION of war by Congress! HOW MANY more of our brave UNDERPAID military do we have to sacrifice before the "Decider" gets the message? Perhaps he and 5 Deferment Cheney would like to volunteer THEIR services,(they can work with and pay Blackwater with their own Blood money) to the Iraqi people and LEAVE US ALONE so that we may begin to repair all the damage they've done!
Why is it that Cheney KNEW back in the 1990's when Bush Sr. sent our troops into Kuwait during Desert Storm that invading Baghdad would be a mistake, a QUAGMIRE, and the U.S. would be in it ALONE; it's on YouTube if anyone care to watch!WHY did no one, ESPECIALLY CHENEY HIMSELF think of this in 2003? Ambassador Joe Wilson debunked the yellow-cake claim BEFORE the invasion, they KNEW there were NO WMD's then! This should be one of MANY primary reasons for having Bush/Cheney Rumsfeld/Rice/Wolfowitz/Pearl/etc. TRIED at the Hague and then follow that up with some of Bush's alleged NON-TORTURE!
That's o.k., in the ultimate END GAME, they will ALL face Judgement Day by God Almighty Himself to answer for their many deeds against the human race! What I don't get is their self-righteous attitudes!
10/8/2007 1:28:18 AM    Recommend (8)

windarra wrote:
With the Iraq fiasco costing $1 TRILLION and national debt approaching $10 TRILLION, the genocide of 700,000 Iraqis, how are we going to continue down this destructive path?
Bush/Cheney have hell to pay.
10/8/2007 1:12:10 AM    Recommend (8)

twistedreality109 wrote:
I don't believe the hand picked leaders of Iraq saw Petreaus's colorful and information filled graphs showing beyond any doubt that the surge is working.
Maybe if each Iraqi minister had a limited print of each graph, autographed by Gen Petreaus, framed for immediate hanging in their office, they would be confident that good times have arrived.
Since the introduction of cholera to the Bagdad citizens, can typhoid, malaria, smallpox and finally the plague be far behind? Democracy, it seems slow to catch on...I wonder why?
10/8/2007 1:11:43 AM   Recommend (7)

1humanity wrote:
What we are fighting for in Iraq is NOT a national government, democracy, Al Qaeda, or WMDs. We are fighting in Iraq, because of some greedy oil companies and their beneficiaries, because Saddam was enemy number one of Israel and was funding the family of the suicide bombers in Israel and the occupied lands. The Iraq war and the push to go to war with Iran is a pathetic coalition between the corrupt Republicans, evangelical ignorant Armageddonians, and neocon traitors.
10/8/2007 1:07:48 AM    Recommend (7)

lockmallup wrote:
Oh boy, this must be a job for -- Hillary -- NOT! Richardson/Dodd Ticket in 2008 To Win. And for an all Muslim peace-keeping force in order to bring our troops home in less than a year!
10/8/2007 1:07:10 AM    Recommend (1)

MorganaLeFay wrote:
The surge is working. Bush kills our soldiers in order to fob off the loss of Iraq onto the next administration.
10/8/2007 12:58:04 AM    Recommend (6)

sargon20 wrote:
Liberals just can't stand to see America win and that the surge is working!!
10/8/2007 12:34:31 AM    Recommend (1)

WPguy wrote:
"We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers," the leading Shiite political coalition said in a statement. "Their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted or relied upon."
I'd like to see this US mis-adventure stopped too! Bring 'em home!
10/8/2007 12:27:17 AM    Recommend (10)

MorganaLeFay wrote:
In addition to believing that we are coming out on top in Iraq, here are the things which you must believe to be a Republican today:
(1) Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
(2) Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when W's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
(3) Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
(4) The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
(5) A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
(6) The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
(7) If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
(8) A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
(9) Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
(10) HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
(11) Global warming, evolution and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
(12) A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
(13) Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
(14) The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George W Bush's driving record is none of our business.
(15) Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.
(16) What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.
-- found on CraigsList ---
10/8/2007 12:15:29 AM    Recommend (19)

npsilver wrote:
I guess the CIA and Pentagon planners were never infrmed of this fact when they did their initial assessments before this invasion. Those cultural and religious differences have existed for centuries and we will not over come them in my life time. The best thing to do is let them handle theior own affairs and get our assets out of there before too long. If we want to help, send them arms and ammo and let the matter takes its course.
10/8/2007 12:12:51 AM    Recommend (7)

rkerg wrote:
Whatever the total cost of this idiotic Iraqi adventure in money, lives and casualties finally comes to,it will be duly noted, and anytime some republo-corporate-fascist says that a particular program that ACTUALLY helps working class and middle income Americans is just TOO expensive or TOO difficult, I will laugh and remind them how much easier and less expensive it is than Iraq was.
10/8/2007 12:09:51 AM    Recommend (5)

Wadsworth1 wrote:
Gosh those stupid leftist liberals ... who called this one right 5 years ago before the war evan began!
10/7/2007 11:57:14 PM    Recommend (9)

patriot76 wrote:
Well, nothing's new about BU$H$HIT wanting something for Iraq that they don't want for themselves.
10/7/2007 11:49:11 PM    Recommend (9)

Mithras wrote:
"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
Tell us again, President Dry Drunk, what was the Surge supposed to accomplish?
10/7/2007 11:42:48 PM    Recommend (13)

MorganaLeFay wrote:
It seems to me that Bush took a stable country, where the leader sincerely wanted to be a US lap dog, and divided it into two warring factions - a Sunni side that sides with Al Qaeda and a Shiite side that sides with Iraq. One side will come out on top, and if Bush is lucky, he might have some say so in this.
So will it be Al Qaeda or Iran who benefits from Bush's idiocy?
Heck of a job George.
And by the way, let us not forget the revelation from Spain last week that Saddam offered to step down peacefully before the war, i.e., the entire war could have been avoided. But Bush wanted war - not necessarily the removal of Saddam.
10/7/2007 11:41:24 PM    Recommend (14)

Schweg wrote:
Looks like someone other than Bush just moved the goalposts. Or maybe they just got torn down.
10/7/2007 11:30:51 PM    Recommend (11)

kinoworks wrote:
Good morning, Vietnam!
Way to go, Bushie.
10/7/2007 11:29:21 PM   Recommend (10)

The Globe - Erbil     10 October 2007, 12:34 EDT

Erbil to host conference on Iraq federalism

Kurds see federalism as a constitutional expression benefiting the entire country.

The Kurdistan presidency official spokesman issued a statement on October 3, calling for Iraqi political powers to attend a conference in Erbil on the issues of Iraqi federalism. The spokesman for the presidency of the Kurdistan Region released the statement on Friday, saying, "We ask for representatives of all parties and powers to attend the general conference in Kurdistan Region's capital city of Erbil that will focus on settling the issue of national reconciliation."

Discussions will center on the major problems facing Iraq, identifying the sensitive issues, building true relations among all Iraqi components, and all issues related to building a system of federalism.

No date has been set for the conference, but official invitations will be directed to all Iraqi political sides and well-known independent persons of importance. The statement also mentioned the unity of Iraq. "This call comes from our concern about a federal, united, multi-group democratic Iraq because we have chosen to live together, but it must be based on democracy and freedom for all," read the statement.

It also supported the U.S. Senate proposal on federalism in Iraq.
"We announce and assure that federalism is a solution that we have been seeking for a long time, as have other parts of Iraq. Federalism is an Iraqi decree before it is an external choice. It is a constitutional principle for building the Iraqi State and for solving the problems of Iraq, not only of Kurdistan."

The statement considers the U.S. Senate proposal accordant with the Iraqi Constitution. It also accused those sides who reacted negatively to the U.S. proposal of having either not read the project precisely or of "misusing it to express their chauvinist views as they attempt to return centralism to the administration of Iraq and abort the federalism principles and the Iraqi Constitution."

"Kurdistan leaders and political parties have played important roles in keeping Iraq united and division is not within their policy," the statement continued. Objectors to the U.S. Senate proposal are taking a hazardous turn because those who were against the Constitution at first are now attempting to abort the democratic and federal principles of the Constitution under the auspices of confronting the U.S. proposal and external interference.

In six points, the statement explains the reality of Iraq's governing experience. One point centers on the fact that the central governing of Iraq had allowed a singular party or section to hold exclusive authority and thus has led to a dictator system in the country. "Central rule has relegated the Kurdish people and the people of the south of Iraq to second-class citizens," read the statement.

Another point explains the current situation in Iraq as one where "political-religious parties consider themselves representative of the Sunnis while at the same time many Islamic parties express themselves as representatives of the Shi'as. Arab Iraq is ideologically divided between Sunni and Shi'a. State, government, and society are all viewed through a religious lens."

The statement from the Kurdistan presidency ensured support to the federalism system, which, according to the presidency, must be applied according to the Constitution. The people of any three provinces can vote to form a federal region of their own. "This is the political, social, national, religious reality of the Iraqi community. The first and final decision is left for the Iraqis, themselves, how to form the regions."

Washington Post    October 11, 2007

Worried Iraqi Officials Urge Calm
as Turkish-Kurdish Conflict Escalates

By Joshua Partlow

BAGHDAD, Oct. 10 -- Turkish armed forces' escalation of bombing and shelling in northern Iraq, along with threats of a broad ground incursion across the border, has alarmed and surprised Iraqi officials, who say the problems Turkey faces from rebel groups can be solved peacefully through diplomacy.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said officials in his government are preparing to get parliamentary approval for a cross-border military operation aimed at disrupting the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a guerrilla group that operates on both sides of the border.

In recent days, Turkey has stepped up its campaign against Kurdish separatists based in the mountainous border region of southern Turkey and northern Iraq, after the killings of more than a dozen Turkish soldiers. The Associated Press reported that Turkish aircraft on Wednesday bombed suspected rebel hideouts along the border. Iraqi officials say artillery shelling has intensified in recent days.

The growing confrontation puts the United States in a difficult position. Turkey, a NATO ally with a powerful army, has allowed U.S. forces to use bases on its soil to assist in the Iraq war. The Kurds are also staunch allies of the United States and preside over the most peaceful region of Iraq. A new front in an already complicated war in Iraq would damage U.S. efforts to achieve stability here.

Iraqi officials on Wednesday said they believed that a major ground invasion remained unlikely but called on Turkey to desist from further attacks inside Iraq. "We hope and we urge the Turks not to make any incursion across the Iraqi borders," Labeed M. Abbawi, an undersecretary in Iraq's Foreign Ministry, said in an interview. "They cannot hold the Iraqis responsible because the Iraqis are doing everything to contain the PKK."

PKK fighters exercise near-total authority in parts of mountainous northern Iraq. Their men and women maintain highway checkpoints and have complete freedom of movement within their territory. Abbawi acknowledged that "we cannot really stop some of these elements from going from the Iraqi mountains into Turkey." "This new escalation came as a real surprise, frankly," Abbawi said. "We are not seeking a confrontation with Turkey. Definitely, what we need is to tackle this problem through diplomatic channels and through consultation and dialogue."

Previous incursions by Turkey in the past decade have failed to drive out the guerrillas. Mahmoud Othman, an Iraqi parliament member and a Kurd, said a quick strike into Iraq seemed increasingly likely. A major invasion, with a sustained troop presence in northern Iraq, would be a calamity for both countries, he suggested. "If they did that, it would be a big mistake. Everybody will suffer," he said. "If they use force, that would be angering their own Kurds, the Kurds who voted for them. And secondly, it doesn't fit into their demands to be a part of Europe." Turkey wants to join the European Union.

Iraq and its Middle Eastern neighbors have scheduled a conference in Istanbul later this month as part of a series of meetings aimed at greater regional cooperation to address Iraq's problems. Iraqi officials worry that intensified violence could undermine the conference.

Mohammed al-Askari, a spokesman for Iraq's Defense Ministry, said Iraqis do not accept any interference from outside their borders. He also condemned any group staging attacks on neighbors from inside Iraq. "Turkey is shelling our villages on the borders in northern Iraq, but we still believe in a diplomatic solution," Askari said.

Violence also broke out elsewhere in northern Iraq on Wednesday. A suicide attacker exploded a car bomb at a checkpoint manned by Kurdish militiamen known as pesh merga, killing four people and wounding 21, according to the U.S. military. A second such attack, east of Tikrit, killed an policeman and another person, while wounding 22.

Later Wednesday, an "indirect fire" attack on Camp Victory, the U.S. military's sprawling headquarters near the Baghdad airport, killed two coalition forces members and wounded 38, the Reuters news service reported. The number of casualties is the highest in months from an attack on Camp Victory.

In Baghdad, the families of two Armenian Christian women who were killed by private security guards held a funeral service. The women were shot Tuesday afternoon when their car approached a convoy of an Australian-run security firm, Unity Resources Group, in central Baghdad. Relatives said they would sue the company on behalf of the victims, Marony Ohanis and Geneva Jalal Entranic. "This was an ugly crime. Everyone was sorrowful and in pain," said Lida Sarkis, Ohanis's niece. "They had no excuse to kill them."

Unity Resources Group issued a statement Wednesday saying that its four-vehicle convoy was stationary during the incident and that its people feared a suicide attack when the women's car approached. The guards used a series of "non-lethal" means before firing machine-gun bullets into the white Oldsmobile sedan, the company said. "We deeply regret the loss of these lives," the statement said.

Special correspondents Zaid Sabah in Baghdad and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.

newropeans-magazine 11 October 2007

Storm Warnings: Turkey-Iraq
Rene Wadlow Gravières (France)

The 9 October 2007 statement of the Government of Turkey allowing its troops to cross the Iraqi border to attack separatist Turkish Kurd camps in Iraq may be the start of a dangerous escalation in an already violence-torn area. The situation needs watching closely.
    Storm warnings are indications of danger. They are not predictions that a storm will break out, but dark clouds and lightning mean that some preventive measures are needed.
    The US Government has called for calm, and no doubt European Ministries of Foreign Affairs have dusted off their files on the PKK — the Kurdish Workers’ Party. However, it is up to non-governmental organizations to see what avenues of communication they have to both Kurds and Turks to see what possibilities of negotiation exist so that violence does not increase.
    The Government of Turkey is under pressure from the military and part of the population to do something after a land mine exploded on Sunday 7 October some 25 kilometres inside Turkey from the Iraq border in south-eastern Sirnak Province. The mine killed 13 soldiers, and the Army is frustrated by the fact that PKK fighters can carry out attacks on Turkish soil and then cross the frontier into Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish Government is under pressure to please the Army after the Army accepted the election of former Foreign Minister Abdullal Gul as President. Some, especially in the military, felt that Gul’s Islamic convictions put the secular nature of the Turkish state in danger. There was even talk of a military coup to prevent Gul’s election. While these objections to Gul have calmed, the Turkish military can expect some favours in return for their moderation on the political front. Punitive raids into Iraq might be such a favour.
    On 15 February 1999, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, was kidnapped on his way from the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya to the airport and flown back to Turkey where he was tried and sentenced to death. The death penalty was commuted into life imprisonment in 2002 following the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey in time of peace. He is kept in solitary confinement on the Turkish prison island of Imrali. During his trial, he called upon the PKK to end armed violence and to take up an organized civil struggle.
    Although the PKK was created to bring about equality for Kurds in Turkey, there was always a Pan-Kurd dimension to Ocalan’s thinking. As there are Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, there have always been hopes among some Kurds for a united Kurdistan. What to the Kurds is a hope is a fear to the governments of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Current events need to be seen against the background and history of Kurdish movements in all four countries. Governments have played Kurdish factions one against another. While the Kurdish provinces of Iraq are calmer today than other parts of the country, the tensions among Kurdish groups for power, between Kurds and minorities in the Kurdish areas, and between Iraq Kurdistan’s Government and the central Government of Iraq are not far below the surface.
    Kurdish nationalism is of relatively recent date. During the Ottoman period, religion was the main factor of identification and division. Kurds and Turks were grouped together in the “house of Islam” while others, Christians and Jews, existed in a largely self-governing millet system. The Kurdish question is an element of the break up of the Ottoman Empire into the states of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. As Turkey was the heart of the Empire, the transition and ideological elements were strongest in Turkey where personal identity became a key factor in the transformation of traditional society where identities were religiously determined at the communal level to a modern society where the aim was to define an individual’s identity at the State level. At the State level, there are only Turkish citizens or citizens of Turkey. The dilemma is whether all citizens are also ethnic Turks or whether a citizen of Turkey can also have another ethnic identity while still having all the rights of a citizen.
    During the first period of the Turkish State (1924 to 1945), everyone(residing within Turkey) was regarded as a Turk even if he himself was not conscious of it. The theory was that as the Turks had come from Central Asia, they had absorbed all prior inhabitants, even those, like the Kurds who lived in isolated mountain areas and spoke a non-Turkic language. The State propaganda through history teaching and linguistic studies was to insist that everyone was a Turk, even those who had forgotten the fact. The Kurds were “mountain Turks.”
    As it often happens, when history and linguistic identities are used for political ends, counter-history and linguistics come to the fore. Thus the intellectual Kurds started studying their history, and little by little, an intellectual structure of Kurdishness developed, basically after the Second World War. Although most Kurds thought of themselves in narrow tribal/clanic terms, among intellectuals and politically-aware individuals, a Pan-Kurdish identity started to grow and stressed the kinship with the Kurds living in Iraq, Iran and Syria. In the 1920s and 1930s, there had been short-lived but violent Kurdish revolts against the centralizing tendencies of the Turkish government. But these revolts were usually led by tribal chiefs or charismatic religious leaders.
    It was not until 1984 that the PKK, made up largely of youth, influenced by Marxism, independent of traditional Kurdish tribal leaders, started a program of violence against the Turkish State and against Kurds who were considered allies of the Turkish government. The PKK was strong in the poor mountainous areas where the State authorities had difficulty to penetrate. The PKK had military bases in northern Iraq and training camps in Syria.
    The Turkish Government’s first reaction was to consider this violence as terrorism and to treat it as a military problem to be solved with military means. This is still the attitude of many political figures and most of the military. But after years of violence, with many dead and villages destroyed, the PKK is still there. However, the PKK does not necessarily represent the majority of the Kurdish people.
    Within Turkey, there is a need for further democratization and devolution of decision-making powers, and the development of dialogue. Not all officials, political parties, and military officers are willing to accommodate moves toward further democratization and pluralism in Turkish society. At the same time, there is a tendency among many Kurdish radicals to pursue a policy based on what amounts to exclusive ethnic nationalism. There are no easy solutions, and time will not heal by itself. There must be leadership both among Turks and Kurds to break out of the sterility of violence and build a base for a democratic and liberal society. Events in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran will all influence each other. They merit watching closely. The storm warnings remain posted.

*    René Wadlow is also editor of the online journal of world politics and an NGO representative to the UN, Geneva. Formerly, he was professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies, University of Geneva.     October 16, 2007

Slipping away
by Dr Hussein Tahiri

A report submitted on 16 July, 1925 by the commission appointed by the League of Nations to resolve the Mosul problem, stated that the Kurds formed the majority of the Mosul Vilayet (province). It concluded that since Kurds constituted five-eighth of the population, and were a distinct race from the Arabs or Turks, an independent Kurdish state should be established. However, for economic motives, Mosul was to be attached to Iraq. By then, the British had realised that Kirkuk, which was part of Mosul Vilayet, contained significant oil reserves. Consequently, the British spearheaded the campaign to make Mosul part of Iraq as without it Iraq could not be a viable state economically and strategically.

In 1930, an Anglo-Iraqi agreement was signed in which Britain’s mandate over Iraq ended, and Iraq was given independence. In this Anglo-Iraqi agreement, there were no provisions to secure Kurdish rights. The British abandoned the idea of an autonomous Kurdish state within Iraq and the Kurds were left at the mercy of the Iraqi state. The international community, particularly the British, failed the Kurds and paved the way for the Iraqi government to suppress, massacre, and commit genocide against the Kurds.

Realising the potential of Kirkuk, the Iraqi government soon began its Arabization campaign. From the 1930s and until the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds and other minority ethnic groups were prevented from purchasing any land or houses in the region. In the last decade, Saddam Hussein’s regime had been forcibly removing Kurds from Kirkuk to reduce their numbers so that the government could claim Kirkuk was not Kurdish.

Kirkuk has been a contentious issue in Kurdish-Arab relations in Iraq and it will continue to be unless a solution is found. In 1970, the Iraqi Government granted the Kurds a comprehensive autonomy pact but Kirkuk was not included. The Iraqi government was not willing to let go of Kirkuk and neither was the Kurdish leadership. When Saddan Hussein’s government was overthrown in 2003, an opportunity was created for the Kurds to incorporate Kirkuk into Kurdistan. However, there have been several impediments.

The Iraqi factor

The new Iraqi government under immense pressure from the Kurds had to agree on the normalization of Kirkuk. This provision was incorporated into Iraqi permanent constitution under Article 140. The new Iraqi constitution was ratified on 15 October 2005 in a referendum by the Iraqi people, which made it mandatory for the Article 140 to be implemented.

Article 140 stipulates three steps: first, to reverse the process of Arabization in which tens of thousands of Kurds and non-Arabs were driven from Kirkuk and replaced with Arabs from central and southern Iraq. The settled Arabs are to be sent back to their original places while the Kurds and other non-Arabs who were forcibly removed to be resettled back in Kirkuk. Second, after the normalization process, a census scheduled for July 2007 is to be carried out. Third, a referendum would be held by the end of 2007 to determine the future of Kirkuk.

By late September, the first step of normalization has yet to be implemented. Arab Iraqis have been unwilling to implement Article 140. Sunni Arabs outright reject it, while Shiites have shown passive resistance. The Jafari government set obstacles. Maliki has expressed his willingness to implement the article, while in practice, he has created “technical problems” in the hope of delaying its implementation. This has put immense pressure on the Kurdish leadership.

The Kurdish factor

The Kurdish leadership failed to create an atmosphere in Kirkuk, which would be conducive to a friendly relationship among the Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmans. The leaders failed to convince these minorities that upon joining the Kurdistan Regional Government, their rights would be guaranteed. Instead, Turkey and other states exploited the Arab and Turkman sentiments against the Kurds. The relationship has reached a point where both Shiite and Sunni Arabs, and some Turkmans will under no circumstance agree for Kirkuk to be part of Kurdistan.

Still, the Kurdish leadership has been promising the Kurds that Article 140 will be implemented by the end of 2007, eventhough all indicators point to the fact that Article 140 will not be implemented by then. Realistically, it would be impossible to normalize the situation in three months, have a census and then hold a referendum.

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has been warning that if Article 140 is not implemented, there would be civil war. It is obvious that this is only a bluff. The Kurds are in no position to forcibly occupy Kirkuk. If they could, they would have done it when Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Any attempt to get back Kirkuk by force will invite the intervention of regional states. If the Kurds have cast their hope on US support, they will be sorely disappointed.

The US factor

The US is not in Iraq to protect the Kurds. At present, Kurdish and US interests in Iraq happen to be the same, and so the Kurds have benefitted from US foreign policy by default. There is no guarantee that the US will continue this support.

Many US analysts would also agree that US foreign policy has never been based on principle or morality. If the Kurds have forgotten Wilsonian principles of post-World War I, the 1975 and 1991 US abandonment of the Kurds, then they should not forget the recent leaked deal between the US and Turkish government to capture and hand over PKK leaders to Turkey.

Turkey has been bombarding the Kurdistan Region for months yet the US has not intervened to put a stop to it, despite the fact that the US is bound by international law to defend Iraq. Iran is considered an archenemy of the US, and yet the US has kept quiet over Iranian bombardment of Iraqi Kurdistan. As Kurdish politician Mahmud Osman said on 12 September 2007: “If the situation in Iraq improved, the US might not even say hello to Kurds.”

It would be naïve for the Kurdish leadership to believe that the US would support their claims on Kirkuk, against the wishes of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other US allies in the region. When Iraq was ‘liberated’, the Kurds captured Kirkuk but they were forced to hand it over to US forces. The US could push the Iraqi government to implement Article 140. Yet, it was reported on 16 August 2007, that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said that it would seem highly improbable for the referendum to take place by the end of 2007. In fact, the US has been advising the Kurdish leadership to prepare the Kurds for a postponement of the Kirkuk referendum.

It seems more likely that the US would support Kirkuk to become part of Sunni Arab region. The Shiites have access to oil resources in the south and the Kurds in the north. The Sunni areas would need Kirkuk oil to be a viable region. In order for the US to appease the Sunnis and their Arab supporters, it would likely favor Kirkuk joining the Sunni Arab region. Furthermore, this deal could get Turkey supporting the US against Iran, in any future US attacks. The Mosul Vilayet was annexed to Iraq on purely economic reasons. These are the same players at work so why shouldn’t they apply the same principle? It seems that Kirkuk is slowly but surely slipping away from Kurdistan.

Dr. Hussein Tahiri is author of “The Structure of Kurdish Society and the Struggle for a Kurdish State”. He is a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs. He is currently an Honorary Research Associate with the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, Australia.

October 19, 2007

Turkish Bid to Pursue Kurds Poses Quandary for Iraq

BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 — Turkey’s decision to allow the dispatch of troops over Iraq’s border in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas throws into relief a troubling quandary for Iraq’s leaders.

On one hand, Iraq wants a cordial relationship with Turkey, a powerhouse in the region and a counterweight to the competing pulls of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But Iraq has been able to do little to halt the rebel group’s activities because Iraq’s central government must rely on its ethnic Kurdish minority, which populates the region where the guerrillas are active, to take a stand against them.

Another factor complicating matters for the Iraqi government is that the Qandil mountains of the border region with Turkey are among the most rugged areas in the Middle East, and the area has never been fully under any government control.

Iraq’s Kurdish region has been semi-autonomous since 1991 and controls its own armed forces, which also patrol the border with Turkey. All ethnic Kurds, they are reluctant to fight the rebels because it means fighting brother Kurds, with whom they are generally sympathetic.

The guerrillas are ethnic Kurds who come primarily from Turkey and speak Turkish. The rebel group, known by its Turkish initials P.K.K., has an estimated 3,000 fighters in the mountains of northwest Iraq, from which they carry out attacks on Turkey. In the past, the rebel group has aspired to have an autonomous state in Turkey, though it is unclear exactly what the group’s demands are now.

While the Kurds in northern Iraq are not thought to participate in the activities of the Turkish rebel group, neither have they sought vigorously to eradicate the rebels — in part because it would be tantamount to going after their own. “The P.K.K. members are Kurds just as we are,” said Rebwar Karem, 31, a student at Sulaimaniya University on Thursday. “The state of Turkey hates the Kurds so while we don’t respect the armed struggle of the Kurds in Turkey, I’m against anyone who orders them to leave” the Kurdish area of Iraq.

At a protest on Thursday in Erbil, marchers carried signs that swore allegiance to Kurds, wherever they might be in the region. “Kurdistan is one and all Kurds are pesh merga,” said one sign, a reference to Kurdish fighters.

In a statement on Wednesday the Kurdistan Regional Government affirmed its opposition to the rebel group’s violent acts but warned Turkey not to tell the Kurds how to run their affairs. “We do not interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, and we expect the same in return,” it said. The regional government “condemns the killing of innocent people in Turkey and does not believe that violence solves any problem,” the statement said.

Western officials say that neither Iraq’s Kurds nor the central government has much of an incentive to act vigorously against the guerrillas. “The Iraqi government would like P.K.K. to go away, but when you’re in Baghdad, that stuff seems very far away,” said an American official who is familiar with the region, but who refused to be quoted by name because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. “As for the Kurdistan Regional Government, I don’t get any sense of fondness in domestic Kurdish politics for the P.K.K., but the idea of taking action against fellow Kurds is anathema.”

The official added that the Kurdistan Regional Government looked at the situation pragmatically. The Iraqi Kurds have other concerns, like attacks by Sunni Arab insurgents, especially in places like the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, where there is a struggle for control. “The P.K.K. isn’t the first thing that come to their mind. It’s the bombings in Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk and their argument is, ‘Yes the P.K.K. is killing Turks, but are they an existential threat to Turkey? No. Are they going to bring down the Turkish government? No.’”

None of that, however, is much comfort to the Turks. Several thousand have died since the early 1980s when the rebel group was formed. The latest rebel attack in Turkey on Oct. 7 killed 13 Turkish soldiers. A measure of Kurdish reluctance in northern Iraq to judge fellow Kurds is that several Kurds explained in interviews that killing Turkish soldiers was a defensible action.

“The P.K.K. is killing Turkish soldiers in Kurdish villages,” said an Iraqi official who is an ethnic Kurd and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was expressing a personal opinion. “I hate to imagine what Turkish soldiers would do in a Kurdish village,” he said, adding, “Many Kurds would see that as an act of self-defense.”

The official Iraqi position is far more modulated. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has called for talks with Turkey, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi traveled to Istanbul on Wednesday to extend an olive branch to the Turks. In an interview broadcast on several Iraqi television stations late on Thursday, the country’s foreign minister, who happens to be a Kurd, used carefully diplomatic language. “The P.K.K. should leave Iraq,” said Hoshyar Zebari in a brief interview, but added, “The Iraqi government is uncomfortable with the decision of the Turkish government to send troops to northern Iraq.”

Mr. Zebari, like many Iraqi Kurds, finds himself with divided loyalties. While the Kurds of northern Iraq have thrown in their lot with the country’s central government and say they want to be part of a united Iraqi state, their loyalty to fellow Kurds runs deep — and not without reason. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, an estimated 500,000 Kurds fled over the border to Turkey (a similar number fled to Iran) and found refuge among Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Hundreds of years of history further bolsters the Iraqi Kurds’ position. The Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East and its members now live primarily in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, with a small number in Syria. Primarily mountain dwellers, they have their own language, customs, music and native dress. Despite their numbers, they have never had their own country and that reality irks many Kurds to this day, especially in the Kurdish area of Iraq.

Reporting was contributed by Sabrina Tavernise in Amman, Jordan, Sebnem Arsu in Istanbul, Richard A. Oppel Jr. in Baghdad, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times in Kurdistan.

Washington Post    October 19, 2007

U.S. Helped Negotiate Agreement Between Shiite, Sunni Leaders
Local Foes Commit to Peace in Baghdad

By Joshua Partlow

BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 -- Local Sunni and Shiite leaders from southwestern Baghdad signed an agreement Thursday intended to halt sectarian violence and attacks on American and Iraqi troops, with the condition that security forces limit their raids and offensive operations.

The 12-point "reconciliation document between Muslims" was the result of two months of negotiations between U.S. soldiers and power brokers in an area of the capital that has become an important base for Shiite militiamen but has also experienced attacks by Sunni insurgents.

The agreement, signed in a conference room in the U.S.-protected Baghdad International Airport compound, is an example of the U.S. military's wide-ranging effort to encourage local leaders to make such peaceful commitments in the absence of momentum toward national reconciliation by Iraqi politicians.

"The people in this room are leading the process for all of Baghdad," said Lt. Col. Patrick Frank, commander of the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, which operates in southwestern Baghdad. "You are the hope for the entire city."

U.S. military officials said that while they did not expect a cessation of violence in such neighborhoods as al-Jihad and al-Furat, the agreement represented a statement of good faith by rival factions and could contribute to improved security in coming months. Frank described the tribal leaders and neighborhood officials as highly influential in the area, a swath of southern Baghdad that is home to 125,000 people.

Those involved in the reconciliation agreement are Sunni tribal leaders; members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni political party; and local government officials, many of whom have ties to the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

It remains unclear exactly how much power the participants have to rein in either sectarian violence or the lucrative criminal enterprises run by militiamen. Some neighborhoods near those covered by the pact, particularly al-Amil and Bayaa, have witnessed increases in roadside bombings this month and remain strongholds for the Mahdi Army. Thousands of Sunni families have been driven from their homes there.

Those districts are "more complicated," said Sabeeh Radi al-Kaabi, president of the district advisory council in the area, noting recent clashes between Sunni tribesmen and the Mahdi Army. "But I have seen the desire of Sunnis and Shiites to end the fighting," he added.

The reconciliation meeting was attended by two senior Iraqi government officials -- Safa Hussein, deputy national security adviser, and Bassima al-Jaidri, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- who are members of a government committee to implement national reconciliation. Some participants were particularly encouraged by Jaidri's approval of the agreement, given her reputation among some U.S. and Iraqi officials as an ardent Shiite partisan.

"I believe that reconciliation is the only solution to save Iraq from violence and terrorism," Jaidri said in an interview after the meeting. "Where it has happened in other areas, we see the curve of violence going down. Reconciliation is the only solution, not military operations."

The most contentious issue at Thursday's meeting was a stipulation that the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces would retain the ability to conduct "limited raids on specific targets" in the area. Some Iraqi local leaders wanted all raids and offensive military operations halted, but the American soldiers refused. The compromise language said that the security forces could move against "specific targets that break the law and threaten peace" and that murderers would still be subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Frank, the U.S. commander in the area, said his soldiers had already limited themselves to targeted raids, so the agreement would not significantly change their day-to-day behavior.

Hours after the agreement was signed, mortar shells or rockets landed near two U.S. military bases in southwestern Baghdad.

The reconciliation agreement also calls for the "cessation of firing on main streets, markets, and parks," demands that both Sunnis and Shiites refrain from stealing property from displaced families, and says that authorities will release all innocent people held in American and Iraqi prisons.

"These are members of Sunni and Shiite tribes who were involved in fighting each other, but they agreed to look to the future and forget the past," said Hussein, the deputy national security adviser. "I think it is the beginning of a success story."

Special correspondent Zaid Sabah contributed to this report.

October 23, 2007

Make Walls, Not War
By PETER W. GALBRAITH, Townshend, Vt.

IN a surge of realism, the Senate has voted 75-23 to acknowledge that Iraq has broken up and cannot be put back together. The measure, co-sponsored by Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, supports a plan for Iraq to become a loose confederation of three regions — a Kurdish area in the north, a Shiite region in the south and a Sunni enclave in the center — with the national government in Baghdad having few powers other than to manage the equitable distribution of oil revenues.

While the nonbinding measure provoked strong reactions in Iraq and from the Bush administration, it actually called for exactly what Iraq’s Constitution already provides — and what is irrevocably becoming the reality on the ground.

The Kurdish-dominated provinces in the north are recognized in the Constitution as an existing federal region, while other parts of Iraq can also opt to form their own regions. Iraq’s regions are allowed their own Parliament and president, and may establish their own army. (Kurdistan’s army, the peshmerga, is nearly as large as the national army and far more capable.) While the central government has exclusive control over the national army and foreign affairs, regional law is superior to national law on almost everything else. The central government cannot even impose a tax.

Iraq’s minimalist Constitution is a reflection of a country without a common identity. The Shiites believe their majority entitles them to rule, and a vast majority of them support religious parties that would define Iraq as a Shiite state. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs cannot accept their country being defined by a rival branch of Islam and ruled by parties they see as aligned with Iran. And the Kurdish vision of Iraq is of a country that does not include them.

The absence of a shared identity is a main reason the Bush administration has failed to construct workable national institutions in Iraq. American training can make Iraq’s Shiite-dominated security forces more effective, but it cannot make them into neutral guarantors of safety that the Sunnis can trust. The Kurds ban the national army and police from their territory.

In a reflection of Iraq’s deep divisions, the country’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and the main Sunni parties denounced the Senate vote as a plot to partition Iraq, while Kurdish leaders, along with a leading Shiite party, embraced the resolution precisely because they hope it will lead to the partition.

Senator Biden, probably the best-informed member of Congress on Iraq, insists that loose federalism, not partition, is his goal. He makes an analogy to Bosnia, where the 1995 Dayton agreement has kept that country together by devolving most functions to ethnically defined entities. He has a point: Iraq’s Kurdish leaders are willing to remain part of Iraq for the time being because Kurdistan already has all attributes of a state except international recognition.

But over the long term, the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are better analogies to Iraq than Bosnia. Democracy destroyed those states because, as in Iraq, there was never a shared national identity, and a substantial part of the population did not want to be part of the country.

So we should stop arguing over whether we want “partition” or “federalism” and start thinking about how we can mitigate the consequences of Iraq’s unavoidable breakup. Referendums will need to be held, as required by Iraq’s Constitution, to determine the final borders of the three regions. There has to be a deal on sharing oil money that satisfies Shiites and Kurds but also guarantees the Sunnis a revenue stream, at least until the untapped oil resources of Sunni areas are developed. And of course a formula must be found to share or divide Baghdad.

At the regional level, Iraq’s neighbors have to be reconciled to the new political geography. The good news is that partition will have the practical effect of limiting Iran’s influence to southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad.

Turkey, understandably angry over terrorist attacks by a Turkish Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, has in recent days threatened to strike at the group’s sanctuaries on the Iraqi side of the mountainous border. In general, however, Turkey has adopted a pragmatic attitude toward the emergence of a de facto independent Kurdistan, in part by supporting the Turkish companies that now provide 80 percent of the foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Those who still favor a centralized state like to insist that partition would further destabilize the country. But current events suggest otherwise. Iraq’s most stable and democratic region is Kurdistan. In Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, the Americans abandoned a military strategy that entailed working with the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army and instead moved to set up a Sunni militia. The result has been gains against Al Qaeda and a substantial improvement in local security.

Let’s face it: partition is a better outcome than a Sunni-Shiite civil war. There is, in any event, little alternative to partition. Iraq cannot be reconstructed as a unitary state, and the sooner we face up to this reality, the better.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia and the author of “The End of Iraq,” is a principal in a company that does consulting in Iraq and elsewhere.

Washington Post     November 22, 2007

Shiites in S. Iraq Rebuke Tehran
Petition Calls for U.N. Probe Into Iran's Influence, Sheiks Say
By Amit R. Paley and Sudarsan Raghavan

BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 -- More than 300,000 Shiite Muslims from southern Iraq have signed a petition condemning Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq, according to a group of sheiks leading the campaign. "The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of south Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere."

The unusually organized Iraqi rebuke illustrates the divisions that Iran has provoked among Iraq's majority Shiites. The prime minister and major political blocs are closely tied to Iran, but the petition organizers said many citizens are fiercely opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs. Several sheiks leading the campaign traveled to the capital from the southern province of Diwaniyah and showed The Washington Post and other news organizations an electronic file filled with images of signatures they said endorsed the petition. Their effort is being supported by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization but that nonetheless enjoys U.S. military protection in Iraq.

The petition, which the organizers said was signed by 600 sheiks, calls on the United Nations to send a delegation to investigate what it termed crimes committed by Iran and its proxies in southern Iraq. "The most painful stab in the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous end," the sheiks said a statement. "The only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq, and in particular the southern provinces, is the eviction of the Iranian regime from our homeland."

The campaign echoes repeated pronouncements by U.S. officials that Iran has been instigating violence in Iraq and allowing weapons to flow across the border, though U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that Iran appeared to be honoring a pledge to clamp down on weapons smuggling.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that the United States had agreed to an Iraqi proposal for a fourth round of talks between U.S. and Iranian officials on the situation in Iraq. "We are open to using this channel as a way of talking directly about important issues concerning security in Iraq," he told reporters in Washington.

Meanwhile, scattered violence across Iraq on Wednesday left at least 15 people dead, an Interior Ministry official said. A suicide car bomber killed at least four people and wounded six when he detonated a vehicle packed with explosives outside the courthouse in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, said Khalid al-Alwani, a local tribal leader. The attack was one of the largest in recent months in Anbar, the former Sunni insurgent stronghold that has become relatively peaceful this year since a group of tribal leaders joined with the U.S. military to fight the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The U.S. military announced that an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb. The military said the attack, which wounded three other soldiers, was caused by an explosively formed penetrator, a weapon that U.S. officials believe is manufactured in Iran. The British Defense Ministry also confirmed that the crash of a Royal Air Force Puma helicopter near Baghdad on Tuesday killed two British troops and wounded two others. It said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

Special correspondents Zaid Sabah and Dalya Hassan in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.


windarra wrote:
Get over Iran you bunch of chickenshits. They are not a threat to you or Israel. It is your worship of capitalist greed that is a threat to all life on earth.
Get over being the beast of armageddon and embrace all of mankind with love, humanity and sharing. I dare you to care and share for once.
Keep your nose clean and understand that racism is the root of imperialism.
11/22/2007 3:56:48 PM    Recommend (1)

dennydean wrote:
As has been demonstrated in some of the posted comments, a major reason for US problems in Iraq is glaring ignorance of the people and politics in the Middle East. If you can get 300,000 neocons, led by the likes of Bill Kristol, to sign a petition rebuking Dick Cheney and George Bush, and talk to a foreign newspaper about, then please buy this Arabian Night tale.
On the other hand, if know the geography, politics and demography of Southern Iraq, see this article for what is: WAR-MONGERING PROPAGANDA! For 300,000 shiites in Southern Iraq and their clergymen rebuking Iran would be the same as saying 3000,000 shiites in Sadr City, or Najaf or Karbala would write a petition rebuking Al-Sadr and the Mehdi army! In other words, impossible - will never happen
Did anyone noticed the use of the word "sheiks" in the article? For those who don't know, "sheik" is a sunni title; shiites DON'T have "sheiks", and no shiite would ever call himself sheik! This, more than anything else, is the red flag that clearly says "don't believe the hype"!! It's WaPo at its old tricks again!
11/22/2007 3:29:33 PM    Recommend (1)

dennydean wrote:
Oh, yes, that (in)famous phrase "spoke on condition of anonymity", which means, "we are making this up". Or in this case, "we are using 'sheiks' instead of Pentagon propaganda", which this article really is.
Sorry, guys, for not buying your story; but I just can't see 300,000 shiites, led by shiite clergymen, signing a petition condemning Iran!
By the way, did you read and verified the authencity of those names/signatures? This reads like that so-called letter from OBL to Zarqawi. A letter that conveniently fell into the US military hands; and published by the same!!
We've been fooled too many times, with the willing aid of the media, to believe anything you guys tell us about Iraq! 300,000 shiites in Southern Iraq condemning Iran! I couldn't stop laughing after reading this US military propaganda called reporting!
11/22/2007 2:52:02 PM    Recommend (1)

tddroy wrote:
Senior tribal leader? His name must be Cheney working along side a TERRORIST GROUP called Mujaheddin-e Khalq to find an excuse to start a war with Iran. And WashingtonPost is doing what it is so good at doing, Kissing Cheney’s behind.
11/22/2007 1:38:10 PM    Recommend (2)

justjunkemail wrote:
11/22/2007 12:14:33 PM    Recommend (1)

Imarkex wrote:
The more Iran does in Iraq the more Iraqis will not like it .Iran is not there to help them.
11/22/2007 9:17:51 AM

RichardCheeseman wrote:
"Their effort is being supported by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization but that nonetheless enjoys U.S. military protection in Iraq."
Anyone who supports and protects terrorists must face the wrath of the United States which is fighting a War on Terror. It's time for a full-scale US invasion and military occupation of the US, followed by regime change, trial and execution of the bloodthirsty US dictator, and then nation-building with the support and guidance of other countries until that happy day (and we know it won't be soon, it will take a sustained effort) when the US can again take its place as a member in good standing of the international community.
11/22/2007 9:09:58 AM    Recommend (3)

dr_vaman wrote:
"What goes to the goose goes to the gander". Iran denies that they are sponsoring terrorists, but it is a well known secret that they live on terrorism every where. While many Iranians are highly educated, they are not in a position to influence a more open government and therefore the leaders have chosen a path of terrorism. The current president is the one that started the UN defiance by taking US embassy hostages and started his path to terrorism. I am sure he is shameless that he may teach this to even his children. Obviously, in Iraq shiites are tired of the sponsored terrorism. Iraqi shiites are better off in Iraq forging a democratic nation where they can find their own method of democracy and not rely on any body else and can live much better in a society that is culturally rich and economically rich although they are poor at the moment. They can bounce back very quickly than any other nation in the middle east and they should know that the world will assist them to be one of the greatest nations and they should be proud of.
11/22/2007 8:03:57 AM

rscott251 wrote:
Its not hard to imagine the Iraqis are getting fed up with Iran. Remember, the Iraqis were fairly secular under Hussein. There was much inter-faith minglings between Shia and Sunni. But we hear constant reports of how there are morals squads popping up all over the south, which sounds a lot like Iranian Revolutionary Guard influence. Perhaps what thats what the Iraqi Shia are getting fed up with. Just as the Sunnis realized Al-Queda in Iraq was just as oppressive in their power, the Shia might be waking up to the same on the Iranian side, and see themselves as just being pawns as proxies in Irans feud with the West, just as were the Sunnis with Al-Queda in Iraq. Maybe, just maybe, they are realizing, you know what, the US and the West didn't bring alot of this violence to the South until the Iranians started ilfiltrating. Hopefully, we can continue to play this to our advantage in terms of getting national reconciliation and progress on the political front.
11/22/2007 8:02:13 AM wrote:
What did the Americans expect?
Of course Iran will influence Iraq and probably turn it into a satellite state. America basically just did the dirty work for Iran.
This should serve as a lesson to America not to meddle into affairs they do NOT understand.
11/22/2007 7:53:30 AM    Recommend (4)

jvandeswaluw1 wrote:
The biggest Muslim nation-Indonesia- Is helping Irak to remove the occupiers from her soil. Indonesia is actually sending soldiers to Irak!
11/22/2007 7:49:21 AM

waterbirds wrote:
... from the NY Times today .. Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.
... NeoCons who already have their plans made to bomb Iran (why not use it since you already have it) may have paid for this report ... NeoCons love secrecy and backdoor deals.
11/22/2007 7:18:06 AM    Recommend (5)

sweeneyogede wrote:
One wonders how much Washington paid for each of those "300000 signatures".
Too much I bet.
11/22/2007 4:38:30 AM    Recommend (4)

jameschirico wrote:
Iraqi politicians have failed to realize what most of the population has concluded, hurting the other side in a quest for power hurts us. When Shia and Sunni begin helping each other to rebuild the country to create a better life for all is the time we can leave Iraq. The 300,000 signatures reflect how the people are ready to reconcile and end the conflict. We as a country should build on this by paying for a peace Hadj to sign a ten year cessation of violence and revenge edict under Kaba for all tribal leaders and major clerics. The few remaining pockets of terrorist supports would have no choice but to leave or die at the hands of all that signed the edict. The religious power it carries can be exported to Iran by grand ayatollahs like Sistani whose non-aggreession towards the Sunni is the underpin of the current feeling among the people. We should seize the moment and act as a friend that promotes Islam.
11/22/2007 4:20:10 AM    Recommend (1)

sardony1 wrote:
I don't understand why Iraq doesn't demand Iran to stay out. When did they get so friendly?
11/22/2007 2:25:34 AM

bernhardhorstmann wrote:
How much did the U.S. pay to the MEK to organize this? How much did it pay to the sheiks?
11/22/2007 1:59:42 AM    Recommend (3)

alvedge wrote:
There ae mixed signals on Iran's lying low in Iraq. But it seems that our talks with Iran are at a low level and focussed on modest mearures. OK, but let's build on that. Real, modestly stable improvement in Iraq seems to require more fundamental diplomacy with Iran, and we do, both, want Iraq more stable, in our immediate case for troop saving reductions; but also for longer term regional goals.
11/22/2007 1:30:38 AM

f16poor wrote:
After investing so much of our blood and treasure in that far-away country, I watch Iraq as though watching a Baby Democracy growing up – 300,000 signatures? I am so proud of those 600 Sheiks ....
11/21/2007 10:13:10 PM   Recommend (1)

Tanvir37 wrote:
Conflict seems inevitable in the Middle East. There is fighting within the different sectors of a religion and fighting within the different cultures. It will take a lot of work for the people of the Middle East to stop fighting. I recently came across a website about the Singing Revolution ( which is an inspirational story of people coming together and demanding their freedom.
11/21/2007 9:57:46 PM

Washington Post      January 10, 2008

Approach Acknowledges Benchmarks Aren't Met
For U.S., The Goal Is Now 'Iraqi Solutions'
By Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung

In the year since President Bush announced he was changing course in Iraq with a troop "surge" and a new strategy, U.S. military and diplomatic officials have begun their own quiet policy shift. After countless unsuccessful efforts to push Iraqis toward various political, economic and security goals, they have decided to let the Iraqis figure some things out themselves.

From Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to Army privates and aid workers, officials are expressing their willingness to stand back and help Iraqis develop their own answers. "We try to come up with Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," said Stephen Fakan, the leader of a provincial reconstruction team with U.S. troops in Fallujah.

In many cases -- particularly on the political front -- Iraqi solutions bear little resemblance to the ambitious goals for 2007 that Bush laid out in his speech to the nation last Jan. 10. "To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis," he pledged. "Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year . . . the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution."

Although some progress has been made and legislation in some cases has begun to slowly work its way through the parliament, none of these benchmarks has been achieved. Nor has the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki taken over security responsibility for all 18 provinces, as Bush forecast it would. Last month's transfer of Basra province by British forces brought to nine the number of provinces under Iraqi control.

In explaining the situation, U.S. officials have made a virtue of necessity and have praised Iraqi ingenuity for finding different routes toward the same goals. Iraqis have figured out a way to distribute oil revenue without laws to regulate it, Crocker has often noted, and former Baathists are getting jobs. Local and provincial governing bodies -- some elected, some not -- are up and running.

The Iraqis "are at the point where they are able to fashion their own approaches and desired outcomes," Crocker said in an interview, "and we, I think, in part recognizing that and in part reflecting on where we have been over the last almost five years, are increasingly prepared to say it's got to be done in Iraqi terms."

The U.S. military has praised the Maliki government for acknowledging it is not ready to handle security in much of Iraq, and at the same time has dismissed the ongoing violence in Basra and much of the rest of the south as an Iraqi problem. "There are innumerable challenges in the security situation in Basra," Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said late last year, "but there are Iraqi solutions emerging to some of these."

For some observers, the approach indicates a new realism in Washington, a recognition that long years of grandiose plans drawn from U.S. templates have not worked in Iraq. But others charge that the phrase "Iraqi solutions" implies a cynical U.S. willingness to turn a blind eye to sectarianism, political violence and a wealth of papered-over problems -- if that is the price of getting the United States out of Iraq. "The new phrasing is both the dawning of reality, and the cynical use of language and common sense to camouflage past errors, hoping to avoid the audit of flawed logic that got us to this point," said a retired British general familiar with the U.S. experience in Iraq, and who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of his current position.

U.S. officials at various levels are pushing the idea for different reasons, said Sarah Sewall, director of Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a Clinton-era Pentagon official. While Petraeus has embraced the notion out of "realism," Sewall said, she thinks the Bush administration "has recently arrived at this formula out of desperation -- due to the failure of its past efforts."

The U.S. occupation authority initially envisioned a free-market paradise for Iraq, with flat taxes and a state-of-the-art stock exchange. Its successors lowered their expectations, seeking a Westernized, relatively corruption-free system, gently trying to wrest the economy away from state ownership. But with little progress, U.S. officials in Baghdad now are simply looking for something that works, frequently spotlighting the Iraqi government's top economic milestone -- passing a national budget and spending some of the appropriated funds.

On the military front, reliance on Iraqi solutions brought an unanticipated success. During the March 2003 invasion, the U.S. military neglected Anbar province, in western Iraq. Later, top commanders decided that a few raids would subdue the growing Sunni insurgency there. Only after Anbar became the center of operations for the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq did U.S. combat forces move to claim the province, engaging in heavy fighting in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Last year, as Sunni tribes began to turn against al-Qaeda, U.S. officials accepted their offer to sort out the province themselves. Taking a leap of faith, U.S. commanders opened talks with tribal leaders and agreed to let them fight their own battles. But when the U.S. military suggested that the Shiite-led Iraqi government incorporate the Sunni fighters -- many of them veterans of anti-U.S. combat -- into their own security forces, the Iraqis balked.

The Anbar situation has become an example of the reality Washington confronts, as Iraqis have made clear they do not need U.S. permission to do what they want. "We completely, absolutely reject" a permanent Sunni-based security force, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi told a news conference in late December. As soon as restive Sunni areas are calmed, he said, the local forces will be disbanded.

Talk of Iraqi solutions "is largely a red herring," said Wayne White, who led the State Department's Iraq intelligence team from 2003 to 2005. "This is a catchy phrase aimed at touting -- and exaggerating -- success in Sunni Arab areas," such as Anbar, "while diverting focus away from potential downsides related to same," including the creation of local forces allied with the United States but opposed to the Iraqi government.

Much of the "Iraqi solutions" strategy is taking place on the neighborhood level, where the U.S. military has expressed little interest in reversing the sectarian cleansing that contributed to the recent decline in violence. Joint U.S. civilian-military teams seem steeped in new levels of patience and flexibility. They report ground-level accommodations on such issues as adjusting U.S.-sponsored "micro-loans" to reflect Islamic rejection of interest payments and direct dealings with representatives of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"Politically, realistically, representatives of . . . Sadr are important," said Paul Folmsbee, a Foreign Service officer who heads the U.S. civilian-military reconstruction team in Baghdad's Sadr City. "There's an office called the Office of the Moqtada al-Sadr, and they also provide many services to the population, and so we work with them." That includes working with Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, elements of which are fighting U.S. forces elsewhere, Folmsbee told reporters last month.

To Crocker, the meaning of "Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems" is "blindingly obvious. Iraq has got a government. It's got a system. It's got provincial governments. It's got a military and a police. And it has leaders of all of these things who increasingly take themselves seriously as leaders."

Crocker, who co-wrote a 2002 paper predicting a "perfect storm" of things likely to go wrong after an ill-conceived U.S. invasion, was one of a number of U.S. diplomats who urged early caution. Since his arrival in Baghdad in March, he has insisted that the U.S. role is to "steer, push, prod and pound the table" to help Iraqis move forward without trying to do everything for them.

A major challenge for the Iraqi government this year, he said, will be dealing with rampant corruption. "Will it be through a U.S.-style approach to rule of law, under which officials file financial disclosure payments and can't take more than a cup of non-Starbucks coffee?" Probably not, he said.

"We can make some suggestions. We have. We are," Crocker said. "What we need them to do now is say, 'Thanks very much, but we've got a way of our own down which we want to move with this.' "

The approach also seems designed to bypass thorny issues. Direct dealings with Sadr's forces in the Baghdad neighborhoods they control both reverses earlier policy and sidesteps initial U.S. hopes for elected local government. In southern Iraq, U.S. military and civilian officials have refused to become involved in the violence between warring Shiite groups, with Petraeus describing that conflict as something Iraqis must deal with on their own.

The new openness to "Iraqi solutions" also reflects the U.S. military's painfully learned lessons about how to operate in an alien land. Army Col. Robert Roth, who trained Iraqi army commanders in 2005, said it means that the only way to win in a counterinsurgency campaign is "by, with and through the people within that country where the insurgency exists -- they must decide how they want to live and then take action to make it so." The most successful example of that process in Iraq, Roth added, was the turnaround in Anbar.

To the U.S. civilian officials with whom the military has frequently been at odds in Iraq, it is a welcome change. "I have a lot of admiration for my military colleagues," said a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. "A lot of them are really getting this, understanding issues . . . family, culture, values, religion. You don't identify an objective in those areas, like a hill, and say, 'Let's come up with a plan, and we'll take that piece of territory.' "

The traditional military belief, he said, was that "if you just bring enough resources to a problem and get the right approach, the outcome is guaranteed. But it's very, very frustrating for them, as it is for all Americans, for members of Congress, because we are expending so much on this exercise, and we want to know that we're going to achieve something good.

"But we are learning," the diplomat said. "We are a pragmatic people at the end of the day . . . [and] you don't get anybody ever to do something they don't want to do."

Several officers pointed out that the emphasis on local answers simply follows the instructions of the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency. Conrad Crane, an Army historian who co-wrote the manual, noted that it quotes Lawrence of Arabia's famous admonition, "Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly."

Crane said he has seen among U.S. brigade and battalion commanders in Iraq "a growing realization on the ground that Iraqi solutions will best fit Iraqi problems. We have learned some of this the hard way."

February 1, 2008

Kurds’ Power Wanes as Arab Anger Rises

BAGHDAD — As a minority group in Iraq, the Kurds have enjoyed disproportionate influence in the country’s politics since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But now their leverage appears to be declining as tensions rise with Iraqi Arabs, raising the specter of another fissure alongside the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites.

The Kurds, who are mostly Sunni but not Arab, have steadfastly backed the government, most recently helping to keep it afloat when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lacked support from much of Parliament.

With their political acumen, close ties to the Americans and technical competence at running government agencies, the Kurds cemented a position of enormous strength. This allowed them to all but dictate terms in Iraq’s Constitution that gave them considerable regional autonomy and some significant rights in oil development.

But now the Kurds are pursuing policies that are antagonizing the other factions. The Kurds’ efforts to seize control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and to gain a more advantageous division of national revenues are uniting most Sunnis and many Shiites with Mr. Maliki’s government in opposition to the Kurdish demands.

For the United States, the diminution in Kurdish power is part of a larger problem of political divisiveness that has plagued its efforts to build a functioning government in Iraq. While several political parties can come together to address a particular issue, none can seem to form the lasting allegiances needed for actual governance.

The Kurds, with their pro-American outlook, were a natural ally. But now the Americans are increasingly placed in the uncomfortable position of choosing between the Kurds, whom they have long supported and protected, and the Iraqi Arabs, whose government the Americans helped create.

One major Shiite group, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has not publicly taken sides, but powerful people within the party have been openly critical of the Kurds. Others expressing frustration are leading members of Parliament and Hussain al-Shahristani, the oil minister and a prominent Shiite politician, who calls Kurdish oil contracts with foreign companies illegal.

Humam Hamoudi, a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, said, “They are no longer the egg in the balance,” using an Arabic proverb that refers to the item that tips the scale. Mr. Hamoudi added, “The Kurds are not so powerful.”

Independent analysts largely back that assertion. “There’s a strong feeling that the Kurds have overreached,” said Joost Hiltermann, a senior analyst for the Middle East at the International Crisis Group who is based in Istanbul.

“The Kurds had their eye on independence in the long term, and they wanted to use the current window to increase the territory they hold and the powers they exercise within the territory,” he added. “They’ve done well on the powers, but not so well on the territory. They now face real restrictions.”

The jousting threatens to undermine much of what the Kurds have achieved in political influence and to supersede, at least temporarily, the far deeper divide between Sunnis and Shiites.

And by helping unite Sunnis and Shiites, the Kurds’ overreaching has strengthened the hand of Mr. Maliki despite widespread doubts about his ability to govern effectively. The tensions could even persuade the central government to further postpone an already delayed referendum on whether to make Kirkuk part of the Kurds’ semiautonomous region.

“The government got a lot of support when they stood against the exaggerated demands of the Kurds,” said Jaber Habeeb, an independent Shiite member of Parliament who is also a political science professor at Baghdad University. But to capitalize on this support, which is almost certain to be temporary, he said, the government must move quickly to improve electricity, water and other basic services.

The Kurds have been locked for decades in a power struggle with Sunni Arabs, most recently with Mr. Hussein. That led to the Hussein government’s Anfal campaign, in which about 180,000 Kurds died and 2,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed, according to Kurdish counts.

The United States and its allies created a no-flight zone over the Kurdish areas after the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and the areas have since become increasingly affluent. While much of Iraq has been engulfed in violence since 2003, Kurdistan has been notably peaceful, with streams of foreign investment and a building boom in Erbil, the largest city. Against that backdrop, the Kurdish aspiration to bring more territory, including Kirkuk, into its semiautonomous region looks greedy to the Arabs.

In a signal of its displeasure, Parliament has refused to approve a new budget because it awards the Kurds 17 percent of the total revenues, which many representatives say is more than their share based on population. Because Iraq has not had a census in decades, it is impossible to know the true size of the Kurdish population. Some Kurdish leaders say it could be 23 percent; some Arabs say it is 13 percent.

The Kurds are also believed to collect millions of dollars in duties on goods coming into Iraq but they neither send the money to Baghdad nor share accounts of the income, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Parliament members are also angered that the Kurds want Baghdad to pay salaries of their militia, the pesh merga, from the Defense Ministry’s budget. The pesh merga operate primarily in Kurdistan rather than serving the country as a whole.

However, the Kurds contend that in the event of an invasion they would be on the front lines. Such a situation seems all too real to the Kurds, because Turkey has recently threatened to invade to rout the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party. The rebels have been mounting attacks over the border into Turkish territory.

Perhaps most grating for Iraqi Arabs, the Kurds have refused to back down on the oil exploration contracts they have signed with foreign companies. Arabs view the central government as the only entity empowered to approve contracts, albeit in consultation with the regions where the oil is located.

The Kurds argue that the central government has been dragging its feet on an oil law and that they cannot afford to defer oil exploration and development further, said Ros Shawees, a former vice president of Iraq and point man in Baghdad for Massoud Barzani, the president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Kurds acknowledge that they are worried by the opposition that has developed, although they are reluctant to concede that they may have overplayed their hand. “It is necessary to keep such feelings to a minimum,” Mr. Shawees said. “We have to work in different respects to show that the Kurdish region doesn’t just make demands and take things, but that the region is an example for all regions and it can benefit all Iraq.”

For now, however, the budget has yet to be approved, the oil law and revenue sharing laws are in limbo, and there is a new and visible fault line on the Iraqi political scene.

Mosul Vilayet Council Workshop 28-29 February 2008
Guidelines as adopted on 1 March 2008 in Istanbul (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish)

Wall Street Journal    May 31, 2008

The Mideast Won't Change from Within

The Middle East has witnessed dramatic changes over the past few years, including the adoption in some countries – Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories – of the democratic system as the means for the transfer of political power. Though all of these countries are still troubled, the huge turnouts in all three electoral processes were clear evidence of the willingness of their peoples to switch to ballots over bullets.

Unfortunately, some Arab intellectuals seem bent on rejecting democracy as a foreign – in particular, Western – concept. I recall before Saddam's fall that many were repeating a slogan that says "No America and No Saddam," which ostensibly aimed at touting a nationalistic project for change. Today the same slogans are reiterated; sometimes out of good will and naïveté, other times to support the totalitarians and the extremists. People keep saying that if both Iran and the U.S. had stayed out of our business we would have been able to solve our problems on our own.

In my opinion this fantasy about change in isolation from foreign influence is ridiculous. The Middle East is not like Eastern Europe – where the countries that underwent a change were surrounded by old and well-established democracies and the Soviet Union was falling apart. Had the latter factor not been the case, democracies in Eastern Europe would've been silenced for God knows how many more decades.

Similarly, it's naïve to expect democracies that emerge from isolated nationalistic initiatives, without backing from outside powers, would ever be welcomed by the neighbors in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Syria. The idea that these states wouldn't interfere if America and the West did not is laughable.

Just look at Syrian and Iranian interference in Lebanon, even though America did not lead the change the way it did in Iraq. And while Gaza and Beirut have fallen to the extremists, Baghdad has not. The reason is the American presence that continues to protect the democratic process.

Change with support from the outside, especially the West, is a necessity. First of all, the neighbors would not let these democracies take a breath and second, democracy is a concept that emerged and evolved in the West. For the Middle East it's like importing a medicine that we didn't manufacture. The usage and dosage instructions are necessary.

Toppling Saddam's regime was half the way to democracy, and now it's become clear that protecting the newborn democracy is just as crucial a job as overthrowing the dictator. There's absolutely no doubt that the American presence in Iraq has been the biggest factor in protecting Iraq from coup attempts by extremists – be it al Qaeda to declare an Islamic state, or the hard-line Shiite movements.

It is obvious that in the Middle East there's a real war raging between the supporters of extremism and totalitarianism and those of democracy and tolerance. The choice before the world is whether it will support one side by doing something, or the other by doing nothing.

Mr. Fadhil co-writes a blog,

The Independent    5 June 2008

History repeating itself: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control
This raises huge questions over our independence

Ali A. Allawi

In 1930 the Anglo-Iraqi treaty was signed as a prelude to Iraq gaining full independence. Britain had occupied Iraq after defeating the Turks in the First World War, and was granted a mandate over the country. The treaty gave Britain military and economic privileges in exchange for Britain's promise to end its mandate. The treaty was ratified by a docile Iraqi parliament, but was bitterly resented by nationalists. Iraq's dependency on Britain poisoned Iraqi politics for the next quarter of a century. Riots, civil disturbances, uprisings and coups were all a feature of Iraq's political landscape, prompted in no small measure by the bitter disputations over the treaty with Britain.

Iraq is now faced with a reprise of that treaty, but this time with the US, rather than Britain, as the dominant foreign partner. The US is pushing for the enactment of a "strategic alliance" with Iraq, partly as a precondition for supporting Iraq's removal from its sanctioned status under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It is a treaty under any other name. It has been structured as an alliance partly to avoid subjecting its terms to the approval of the US Senate, and partly to obfuscate its significance. Although the draft has not been circulated outside official circles, the leaks raise serious alarm about its long-term significance for Iraq's sovereignty and independence. Of course the terms of the alliance for Iraq will be sweetened with promises of military and economic aid, but these are no different in essence from the commitments made in Iraq's previous disastrous treaty entanglements.

The Bush administration has set 31 July as the deadline for the signing of the agreement. Under the present plan, the draft of the agreement will have to be brought to Iraq's parliament for approval. Parliament, however, is beholden to the political parties that dominate the present coalition, and there is unlikely to be substantive debate on the matter. The Shia religious leadership in Najaf, especially Grand Ayatollah Sistani, has not clearly come out against the agreement, although his spokesmen have set out markers that must be respected by the negotiators. The Najaf religious hierarchy is probably the only remaining institution that can block the agreement. But it is unclear whether the political or religious leadership are prepared to confront the US. President Bush, with an eye on history, is seeking to salvage his Iraq expedition by claiming that Iraq is now pacified and is a loyal American ally in the Middle East and the War on Terror.

It is only now that Iraqis have woken up to the possibility that Iraq might be a signatory on a long-term security treaty with the US, as a price for regaining its full sovereignty. Iraqis must know its details and implications. How would such an alliance constrain Iraq's freedom in choosing its commercial, military and political partners? Will Iraq be obliged to openly or covertly support all of America's policies in the Middle East? These are issues of a vital nature that cannot be brushed aside with the Iraqi government's platitudes about "protecting Iraqi interests". A treaty of such singular significance to Iraq cannot be rammed through with less than a few weeks of debate. Otherwise, the proposed strategic alliance will most certainly be a divisive element in Iraqi politics. It will have the same disastrous effect as the treaty with Britain nearly eighty years ago.

The writer is the former finance minister of Iraq

    June 17, 2008

Another Bad Deal for Baghdad


WITH only perfunctory debate, the Bush administration is pressuring a divided Iraqi government to approve a security agreement that could haunt Washington’s relations with Baghdad for years to come. The “strategic alliance” that President Bush is proposing eerily resembles, in spirit and in letter, a failed 1930 treaty between Britain and Iraq that prompted a nationalist eruption in Baghdad, a pro-Nazi military coup and a pogrom that foreshadowed the elimination of Baghdad’s ancient Jewish community.

The outline of the deal, which has not been made public, has been described by a high-level Iraqi insider, Ali A. Allawi, a moderate Shiite who was a post-invasion finance minister. Writing this month in The Independent of London, Mr. Allawi noted a disturbing parallel between the proposed alliance between the United States and Iraq and the earlier treaty that formally ended Iraq’s post-World War I status as a British mandate.

“The treaty gave Britain military and economic privileges in exchange for Britain’s promise to end the mandate over the country,” Mr. Allawi wrote. “The treaty was ratified by a docile Iraqi Parliament but was bitterly resented by nationalists. Iraq’s dependency on Britain poisoned Iraqi politics for the next quarter-century. Riots, civil disturbances, uprisings and coups were all features of Iraq’s political landscape, prompted in no small measure by the bitter disputations over the treaty with Britain.”

Under the 1930 pact, Iraq had to consult Britain on security issues and allow it the use of Iraqi airports, ports, railways and rivers. Two major military bases were leased to the British, who were empowered to station their forces throughout Iraq. British personnel were granted immunity from local prosecution.

Almost 80 years later, the Bush administration seeks a startlingly similar arrangement. While not formally a treaty (having been carefully crafted to avoid the requirement of Senate ratification), the wide-ranging pact that the United States proposes nearly replicates the 1930 accord. According to press reports based on leaks from the Iraqi Parliament, the pact envisions giving the Americans rights to as many as 58 military bases and control of Iraqi airspace. It would grant immunity from Iraqi laws to American military personnel. And it would empower American officials to detain suspected terrorists without the approval of Iraqi authorities.

The agreement, which Washington is pushing Baghdad to sign by July 31, would replace the United Nations mandate that now authorizes the American occupation. Iraq would be freed from Security Council sanctions and would benefit from continued American military and economic aid. Iraq could also receive as much as $50 billion in blocked assets, dating back to the first gulf war, that are now held by the United States.

The 1930 treaty was followed by Iraqi independence and then more than a score of coups, countercoups, massacres and rebellions. Many Iraqis objected to British collusion with the ruling Sunni elite, and protested the use of British warplanes to suppress tribal uprisings. The legal immunity given to British forces generated even more resentment, a history detailed by Elie Kedourie, a British scholar born in Baghdad.

The nationalist uprising culminated in an Axis-backed putsch in April 1941, when Iraqi colonels exploited these grievances to seize power bloodlessly. Following the only pro-German coup in the wartime Middle East, British forces rushed to Baghdad to oust the leaders, who fled as Allied troops approached.

To preserve the fiction that Iraq’s liberation was indigenous, however, the British held back from crossing the Tigris and entering downtown Baghdad. That May, absent any occupying authority, two days of looting and rioting broke out as the capital’s Jews were celebrating the festival of Shavuot, while the British troops looked on. This pogrom, called the farhud, claimed hundreds of lives and presaged the wholesale destruction after 1948 of the largest and oldest Jewish community in the Arab Middle East.

After its 1930 treaty with Iraq, Britain proved unable to ensure order during the decade of nationalist tumult that followed. Rarely has the proverb about repeating history been more vividly signaled.

Karl E. Meyer, a former member of The Times editorial board and the editor at large of World Policy Journal, is the co-author, with Shareen Blair Brysac, of “Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East.”    26 June 2008

Iraq: Flourishing Corruption Under American Occupation
By Rauf Naqishbendi

In  the  life of any nation, there is no substitute for effective, positive leadership.  Good leaders can lift a nation from despair and disappointment to hope and  a re-kindling of what is possible. On the other hand,  ineffective, poor  leadership can burden a healthy nation with overwhelming difficulties.  For nations already on the precipice, the ascendancy of  poor leadership  can be a fatal prescription, ruinous to the country. A case in point is the flourishing corruption in Iraq under American occupation, and the mediocre Iraqi Kurdish leadership.  The corrupt behavior of Kurdish leaders casts  gloom on the future of the Kurds. Nowhere is this more  conspicuously manifested than in the pursuit of monetary gain at the expense of the rights of the Kurdish people.

Two kings, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talibani,  reign in Kurdistan. Their claim to legitimacy is that they have been elected by the people. It is true there was one election many years  ago.  As sometimes happens, the choice for many people was not in electing the better of the two candidates, but voting against the lesser of  two evils.  Now, the two leaders  have created a system whereby each is leading their own political party. To safeguard against any dissension in the rank and file, they cherry picked members of their executive committee from amongst their loyal friends, and members of their own families. These two political parties have control over every resource.  They also control an  iron-fisted militia, so that no one can effectively challenge or dispute their legitimacy.  Ironically,  despite  their dictatorial  rule,  they call themselves democratic.

In a democratic system the head of state is bound by the law of land. He cannot siphon state’s revenue into his own personal account. He is allotted a stipend and perquisites approved by lawmakers. Barzany has, for more than a decade, sealed his account from public examination. He treats the people’s treasury as his own and believes it is his inherited birth right. Democracy, in Mr. Barzany’s view, has no room for social and national obligations and responsibilities. Democracy is the recognition that he is the undisputed ultimate leader. As for his constituents,  people are free to agree and bow to him. Furthermore, he places the prestige, power and interest of his clan ahead of the interests of the people.

The Bush Administration, with all its intelligence resources, has known that Barzani, for a decade, was taxing Iraqi oil in Ibrahim Khalil (the oil pipelines passed through Kurdistan to Turkey) and siphoning the money into his own coffer.  No one could ever account for the billions of dollars he collected. What should have been a public accounting record remained as his secret personal account. Now, add to that the billions of dollars Mr. Barzani has received since the occupation, again with no public record.

In every democratic civil society, lawmakers are mandated to endorse a budget and disburse funds to government agencies in order to finance social programs. But there is no such process in the Kurdistan region. American administrators in Iraq have been handing over the entire Kurdistan region budget to Talibani and Barzani to share it equally amongst themselves. That would never fly in American and it should not have been condoned in Iraq.  The budget for the Kurdistan region should have been entrusted to a committee of responsible Kurdish citizens not affiliated with the dominant political parties. In essence, the current prevailing corruption is because of America’s mismanagement in administering Iraqi affairs, and emboldening corrupt leaders to prey on the public interest.  This is how Kurdish leaders are ‘managing’ the Kurdistan region.  Leaders of the Arab regions of Iraq are even worse.

Budgetary administration is a telling story of the U.S.’s failed mission in Iraq.  We created a corrupted system in Iraq, which is by far more corrupt than that of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and unprecedented in Iraq’s history. Yet our young men and women are asked to sacrifice their lives in the name of national security and freedom for the Iraqi people.  Instead, we have created an environment where Iraq’s corrupt leaders, both Kurds and Arabs, are advancing their pursuance for power and prestige while ignoring the real needs of the people.  At the same time, Iraq resembles a death trap for our troops.

Iraq has not hindered pumping oil to the world market. It gets a formidable revenue from exporting its oil. Moreover, the Unites States has been contributing tens of billions of dollars to rebuilding and reconstructing Iraq. There should be a system of accountability regarding what has happened to those funds and into whose coffer they have gone. The funds certainly have not gone into rebuilding the infrastructure. There is not yet adequate utility service such as clean drinking water and electricity in the entire country. In fact  public services, even with the economic blockade during Saddam’s regime, were far more efficient than that under American occupation. Though Iraq is an oil producing country,  there is a shortage of gasoline and home heating oil and sometimes people have to resort to the black market to obtain these necessities at exaggerated prices. These deficiencies must be laid at the doorstep of the U.S. administration in Iraq in combination with corrupt Iraqi leadership.

In Kurdistan, the two leaders are not accountable to questioning by parliament or any institution, for they are kings, and they are the law unto themselves.  In a true civil society, the head of state is accountable for his action, and major deflections from the course desired by the people can warrant impeachment by the lawmakers. If Kurdistan were a civil society with a system of  real accountability, these Kurdish leaders would have been impeached a long time ago and branded as the criminals they are, with the  mark disgrace discrediting their political life. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been formed. The idea may be real in Kurdistan, for it resembles a government with all government attributes. But it is an illusion because it has no clear border, thanks to the Kurdish leadership. It is unrecognized by the world and cannot be located on a world map. The Kurdish dream has always been to have their own government. If Kurdish leaders were conscious of their peoples’ will and dreams, a real Kurdish state would have been their impetus to lead, instead of being so driven by power and selfish monetary considerations. If there is going to be a real Kurdish future, the rule of these kings must come to an end.

July 9, 2008

Wildcatters Plunge Into North Iraq
'Easy Oil' in Kurdistan Spurs Westerners to Brave the Risks

TAWKE, Iraq -- The Canadians are squeezing oil from sand. The Brazilians want to nurse it up through miles of seawater, sandstone and salt. But here in the far north of Iraq, oil is literally bubbling to the surface.

Oil executives lament that the age of "easy oil" is over. It isn't over here. For companies that have stumbled into this corner of Iraq known as Kurdistan, it's an era that has just begun.

"Look at this," said Magne Normann, Middle East director for DNO International ASA of Norway, as he stood beside a pond of oil oozing up on a hillside. For fun, he heaved in a stone. "What a sight," he said, as the liquid shot three feet high. "Pure oil."

Mr. Normann admires one of the many natural oil seeps near the village of Tawke.

Iraq is well known as one of the planet's last great oil repositories, with more than 115 billion barrels of reserves, by most estimates. The surprise is how much oil -- and easily accessible oil -- there appears to be in Iraq's Kurdish region, a rugged, Switzerland-size area that has seen centuries of conflict but essentially no oil exploration, until now.

One of the world's most prolific oil fields, the Kirkuk field, sprawls for more than 70 miles just to the southwest of the Kurdish region's border. After 74 years in production, it still churns out over 400,000 barrels a day. Dozens of similar geological structures extend far to the north in Kurdistan, undrilled and almost entirely unexamined.

"I am not expecting to find another Kirkuk," says Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan's plain-talking minister of natural resources. "But I think we will find a lot of fields that add up to Kirkuk."

If he's right, Kurdistan's three provinces could hold more than 25 billion barrels of crude. That's roughly five billion barrels more than the remaining proven reserves of the U.S.

With oil prices near record highs -- U.S. benchmark crude closed at $136.04 a barrel yesterday, off $5.33 for the day but still roughly double the level of a year ago -- governments and energy companies are scouring the earth for fresh supplies. (Please see related articles on Asian oil usage2 and commodities prices3.)

Kurdistan is now among the world's last playgrounds for the old-fashioned oil explorers known as wildcatters. More than 20 companies from around the world are prospecting here, making this one of the liveliest exploration zones in the oil-rich Middle East, particularly for risk-taking small fry like DNO.

The hubbub is in sharp contrast to the rest of Iraq, where an exploratory well hasn't been drilled in 15 years, thanks to neglect throughout the Iran-Iraq war, the period of international sanctions and then the war that began in 2003. Major oil companies have entered talks with Baghdad over ways to boost output in the huge fields in Iraq's south. But the Iraqi government remains loath to grant outsiders the right to explore for new oil or to share in the profits.

The freewheeling Kurdish area has no such compunctions. The Kurds have enjoyed near-complete autonomy within Iraq since the early 1990s, and now have their own regional government, complete with a Parliament and a prime minister. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution recognized that autonomy, and gave the Kurds a degree of control over their own resources that they were quick to exploit.

By early 2007, the Kurds had awarded contracts to three exploration ventures. When negotiations over a national Iraqi oil law broke down in acrimony last summer, the Kurds decided to move ahead with their own oil legislation. Some two dozen other exploration deals were signed under the Kurdish law -- causing Iraqi officials in Baghdad to regard them as invalid.

Companies signing deals under the Kurds' law have since been barred by Baghdad from doing business in the rest of Iraq, where the biggest of the country's oil fields lie. That threat is keeping the major oil companies out of Kurdistan, despite their ardor for new terrain to drill. Meanwhile, until Iraqis can agree on a national oil law, the companies drilling in Kurdistan have no way to export oil they unearth.

Even if they do find a way, the oil will have to travel via an existing oil pipeline that runs through Turkey, which has skirmished with the Kurds for decades and fears the rise of a rich and independent Kurdistan. Like Iran and Syria, Turkey has a large and often restive ethnic Kurdish population.

All these uncertainties have helped push down the stocks of some of the oil companies operating here, as investors have recoiled from the legal morass and the overall dangers of Iraq. A slumping share price was one reason that Todd Kozel, the American chief executive of U.K.-based Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., recently flew a dozen hedge-fund managers and financial analysts over to see his company's holdings firsthand. "The goal of this trip is to prove that Kurdistan is safe," he told them.

Insurance Policy
Kurdish officials look at the flurry of oil contracts they're signing as a two-pronged insurance policy. By cutting deals with companies from countries as diverse as Australia, Britain, France, India, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S., the Kurds say they hope to win international political support in case things go awry with Baghdad.

And in case Iraq were to break up, the Kurds would have their own abundant revenue stream. "Has this been deliberate? It certainly has," says a beaming Mr. Hawrami, the Kurdish natural-resources minister, who has crafted the bulk of the contracts awarded so far. "We want a balance. We want friends on all sides."

Some good-sized companies have planted their flags here, including Austria's OMV AG, Hungary's MOL Group and India's Reliance Industries Ltd. But they are far outnumbered by lesser-known ones that see Kurdistan as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. WesternZagros Resources Ltd., for example, is a Canadian company that has never drilled for oil. It now has the rights to a 2,000-acre patch about 60 miles southeast of the famed Kirkuk field.

Then there's Genel Enerji AS and Addax Petroleum Inc. Together, the Turkish and Swiss-Canadian concerns have sunk six wells in their Taqtaq field and are ready to pump more than 50,000 barrels a day. Estimated extractable oil in their field, the companies say: at least 550 million barrels.

Rumblings of a coming oil boom have triggered pell-mell construction in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, a city that local officials tout as the next Dubai. It has a new airport. Cranes hover over the frame of a high-rise hotel being built for Kempinski, the German luxury hotelier. A United Arab Emirates company, Damac Properties, is planning a $4.5 billion retail and golf community on the outskirts.

No company better captures Kurdistan's oil boom than DNO, which in 1995 had just three employees and a North Sea oil plot that coughed up around 800 barrels a day. By 2004, DNO had multiplied its output with expanded North Sea holdings and 30 wells in Yemen. That year, DNO signed its first contract with the Kurdistan regional government.

What brought Mr. Normann to the tiny village of Tawke, within sight of the Turkish border, were the area's pond-size oil "seeps." Oil and gas seeps aren't always a good sign. But in Iraq, they have led, over the years, to some of the biggest finds.

The DNO deal was unusual in several ways. It was signed just as the insurgency caught fire in the rest of Iraq, but before Iraq had a new constitution. More noteworthy was that it promised the Norwegian company a cut of future revenue in exchange for shouldering all upfront risks and investment costs.

Such so-called "production-sharing contracts" are controversial in much of the Middle East, where people oppose giving foreigners a cut of their nations' resources. But the Kurds have used roughly the same model for all ensuing oil deals, permitting companies to take profits, after expenses, of around 18% on average. The rest will go to the Kurdish government. How that will then be distributed within Iraq is still being negotiated.

What the Kurds wanted in return was speed. Dozens of contractors turned down DNO, but it managed to hire a Canadian seismic crew and a Chinese drilling company called Great Wall Drilling. By November 2005 it had its first drilling rig in place, shipped from China and hauled by a 110-truck convoy from the Turkish port of Mercin.

Six months later, DNO announced it had struck oil -- the first new discovery in Iraq since the early 1990s. "By any measure, anywhere, that's fast," says Mr. Normann.

DNO now has three tracts covering an area nearly the size of Rhode Island. It is drilling its 11th and 12th production wells at its Tawke field, which extends for 16 miles along an undulating rise in the far northwest corner of Iraq. Tests so far suggest the field may contain more than a billion barrels of oil. DNO has told shareholders that with its current technology, it expects to recover at least a quarter of that.

Its Tawke wells can pump an average of around 10,000 barrels a day each. That is small compared with Kirkuk and other mammoth fields. But it has been years since any U.S. oil well, outside of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, produced anywhere near that. The most prolific onshore well in the lower 48 states, owned by Swift Energy Co. in Louisiana, pumped just 1,600 barrels a day last year.

"For a company of our size, there is nothing like this anywhere in the world," said Mr. Normann, gazing at DNO's rugged concession on a drive from Erbil to Tawke.

After crossing other companies' tracts, his Land Rover cruised for nearly an hour along an arid, scrub-dotted plain with an immense ridge to the north extending far to the horizon -- all of it open to DNO exploration. "That ridge goes all the way to Syria," Mr. Normann said, pushing back his cowboy hat. "And we haven't drilled any of it."

Export Holdup
DNO is lucky on several counts. It has found abundant oil. Its contract, approved before Baghdad and Erbil had their bust-up early last year over the national oil law, is one of the only three not under fire.

And its main holdings are within easy reach of the oil pipeline that extends into Turkey from the Kirkuk field. DNO has laid its own 30-mile pipeline to hook into the main line.

All of DNO's oil operations are guarded by Kurdish militia forces.
But it still has a big problem. After investing more than $350 million drilling wells and laying infrastructure, it still can't export oil; Baghdad has held up any exports pending resolution of the debate over a national oil law. Instead, dozens of tanker trucks line up at its base camp to haul away some 7,000 barrels a day, pumped straight from the wellhead for the local market. The stock of DNO is off 21% since a year ago.

On their parched plot to the east of Erbil, the Turkish-Canadian operators of the Taqtaq field are in the same bind. Turkey's Genel Enerji got the rights to the field in 2003 and later brought in Addax as a partner. Their target production is 300,000 barrels a day. But to export any of it they must lay their own pipe roughly 30 miles to the Kirkuk line, an investment they are reluctant to make until the Kurds resolve their standoff with Baghdad.

"For now, we are just spending money," says a frustrated Can Savun, the venture's project manager.

Newcomers like Gulf Keystone, which signed its contract amid a rash of contested deals last fall, are charging ahead as well, confident the brawl over the national oil law will be resolved before they hit oil.

Gulf Keystone is doing seismic tests and plans to have a drilling rig in place by early next year. Its CEO, Mr. Kozel, brims with enthusiasm over Kurdistan's promise. "This is Iraq," he said. "This is the most promising oil patch in the world." Stock-market investors, evidently mindful of the risks, are less enthusiastic. The stock is down about 30% from early November, when it announced the deal.

To stir some market confidence, Mr. Kozel brought his gaggle of investment managers and analysts by for a chat with Mr. Hawrami, Kurdistan's de facto oil minister. Baghdad has no right to approve or disapprove of the contracts Erbil has already signed, Mr. Hawrami told them. "It is done, it is finished, it is history, it is final," he said, with a faint brogue gained from years spent in Scotland.

So when might companies here start exporting oil? Mr. Hawrami shrugged. That will take more time, he said. But by the end of next year, he assured them, Kurdistan would be exporting a quarter of a million barrels a day. "I have no doubt about that," he said.

Write to Neil King Jr. at


August 4, 2008

A Major Political Test for Iraq

Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk has been a political tinderbox-in-waiting that was largely ignored as war-fighting took precedence. Now that violence is way down, Iraqi leaders have no excuse not to peacefully decide the city’s future. Their failure to do so has already raised tensions and could further shred Iraq’s fragile social fabric — and unleash more bloodshed.

Kurds who run the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan should not be allowed to unilaterally annex Kirkuk, which they regard as their ancient capital but is also home to Turkmen and Arabs. They were promised a referendum in the Iraqi Constitution, but no durable solution can result without the participation of all groups. Overconfident Kurds and their American supporters have not been looking seriously for compromise.

The problem came to a head two weeks ago when Iraq’s Parliament passed a law again postponing a referendum on Kirkuk (it was supposed to be held by the end of 2007). The law contained a measure diluting Kurdish power in the area’s provincial council.

The Kurds believe the referendum will endorse making Kirkuk and surrounding areas part of Kurdistan — giving them more oil revenue and furthering their goal of independence — while Turkmen and Arab leaders want the city to stay under the central government.

Kurdish parliamentarians boycotted the session, resulting in the election law being declared unconstitutional. Another session on Sunday dissolved without reaching a quorum; lawmakers were to try again on Monday.

The problem is not just with the Kirkuk referendum. If the Kurds continue to hold the election law hostage, provincial elections now expected in early 2009 will also be stymied. These elections are crucial to Iraq’s political stability and reconciliation efforts because they will give minority Sunni Arabs a chance to be in government for the first time since they boycotted the 2005 elections. Sunnis who played a key role fighting with American forces against Iraqi insurgents are already embittered by the failure of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to hire enough of them for promised security jobs.

Compromises on Kirkuk are theoretically possible, but only the U.N. seems to be seriously trying to find one. That’s baffling, since no one, other than the Iraqis, has more vested in keeping the lid on violence and on tension with Turkey and Iran than the United States.

Iraqis proved their post-Saddam political wheeling-and-dealing skills when they adopted budget, amnesty and provincial powers laws earlier this year. It’s worth testing whether horse-trading on the crucial but deadlocked oil law and other contentious issues like minority rights and redistribution of powers could produce a Kirkuk deal all ethnic communities could live with.

If Iraqi leaders cannot settle the matter, they might consider putting Kirkuk and its environs under United Nations administration as was done with Brcko after the Balkan wars. The imperative is to ensure that Kirkuk’s future is not drawn in blood.

August 19, 2008

Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq


KIRKUK, Iraq — The phone rang, and it was answered by a Kurdish security commander, Hallo Najat, sitting in his office in this deeply divided city. On the line, he said, was a United Nations official wanting to know whether it was true that the Kurdish militia, the pesh merga, had left its bases in northern Iraq and was occupying Kirkuk.

No, Mr. Najat told the caller. But after hanging up, he wryly revealed the deeper truth about Kirkuk, combustible for its mix of ethnicities floating together on a sea of oil: the Kurds already control it. “It’s true,” Mr. Najat said. “What is the need for the troops?”

Of all the political problems facing Iraq today, perhaps none is so intractable as the fate of Kirkuk, a city of 900,000 that Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens all claim as their own. The explosive quarrel over the city is one major barrier to creating stable political structures in the rest of Iraq.

Beyond that, it demonstrates that despite a recent decline in violence, Iraq’s unsettled ethnic and regional discord could still upend directives emanating from Baghdad and destabilize large swaths of the country — or even set off a civil war.

This month, legislation in the national Parliament to set the groundwork for crucial provincial elections collapsed in a bitter dispute over Kirkuk, as Arabs and Turkmens demanded that the Kurds be forced to cede some of their power here. But with the Kurds having already consolidated their authority in Kirkuk, there seemed little chance — short of a military intervention — of that happening.

Kurdish authority is visible everywhere in the city. In addition to the provincial government and command of the police, the Kurds control the Asaish, the feared undercover security service that works with the American military and, according to Asaish commanders, United States intelligence agencies.

Asaish officers are often the first to the scene of an attack and, other Kurdish officials concede, seem always to have the best intelligence. The leaders of the Asaish report only to the dominant Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. “He’s my boss,” said Mr. Najat, the commander of the K.D.P. Asaish force in Kirkuk, glancing at a picture of Masrur Barzani, the head of intelligence for the K.D.P. and the son of the party’s leader, Massoud Barzani.

The Kurds’ control over the security forces — and their ability to use it for political purposes — was evident three weeks ago, rival groups say, after a suicide bomber attacked Kurdish demonstrators, igniting a riot that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.

After the attack, a mob of Kurds set upon a Turkmen political headquarters, eventually firebombing the building. At some point, the Turkmen guards inside fired at the crowd. All in all, American officials say they believe, far more people were killed and wounded in the riot than in the bombing that touched it off.

Yet, while the police quickly arrested 13 Turkmens at the headquarters, charging them with firing on the crowd, they did not apprehend any of the Kurds who burned the building. One of the Turkmen guards wounded in the fighting was quickly interrogated at the hospital by the Asaish and the police. A video, in which the guard says he was ordered to fire on the crowd, soon appeared on Kurdish television.

Kurdish police commanders promise an impartial investigation of the bombing and its aftermath, overseen by officers from all of the city’s ethnic groups. But the senior Turkmen on the force, Maj. Gen. Turhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef, fears a whitewash. “I don’t think we will have a result,” he said, describing the broadcast showing the wounded Turkmen guard as “illegal.”

The Kurds’ accumulation of power has stoked tensions with Arabs and Turkmens. “There is much fear,” said Mohammed Khalil, the leader of the Arab bloc on the provincial council. “The Asaish are saying they will annex Kirkuk by force, and that is terrifying people.” Arabs also say the Asaish carry out kidnappings, a charge Asaish officers deny.

But rival ethnic leaders also warn that the Kurds’ control of the security forces will not prevent chaos in the event of an outbreak of ethnic fighting. The city’s Arabs, Mr. Khalil said, “will not stay handcuffed by Kurdish actions.”

Under Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Kurdish families were ousted from Kirkuk, replaced by Arabs as part of his drive to obtain a firmer political grip on the enormous oil reserves here. But after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurdish militiamen reversed the process, driving out Arabs and bringing in Kurds. Arabs and Turkmens now make up about 40 percent of Kirkuk’s population, according to American military estimates.

The Kurds want to fold Kirkuk into the neighboring Kurdistan region. They also warn that any plan stripping them of power will be harshly contested. “Its fate will be failure,” said Nejad Hassan, the senior Kurdistan Democratic Party official in Kirkuk.

After the suicide bombing, that conflict was evident in a dispute about whether to bring a substantial number of Iraqi troops into the city, in a direct challenge to Kurdish supremacy.

In a series of sweeps conducted with the Americans, the Iraqi Army has helped establish stability this year in other volatile parts of Iraq. But Iraqi troops have largely stayed out of Kirkuk.

After the July 28 attacks, however, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered in a battalion from a nearby base. The troops took up positions in the city.

Aware that part of the proposal being debated in Baghdad was to send a far larger force from central and southern Iraq to administer security — which would mean a mostly Arab force, loyal to the Baghdad government, set against Kurdish-controlled forces — the Kurds objected strenuously.

Kurds were not the only ones opposing the deployment of a major Arab security force after the violence. The American military commander here, Col. David Paschal, said he feared that if Baghdad sent in additional troops, Kurdish leaders would retaliate by sending in their own militia from northern Iraq, creating a potentially disastrous confrontation. “I just saw this continued escalation of force happening,” he said. Baghdad is expected to withdraw the troops, according to American commanders.

Colonel Paschal blames all the political parties for inflaming tensions to serve their interests. But he said it was difficult to comprehend the level of mistrust. "Negotiations here are, ‘You give me everything I want, and I will walk away happy,’ ” he said. “It is hard for us to appreciate the level of ethnic hatred.”

The severity of those tensions became indisputably clear three weeks ago when thousands of Kurds poured into central Kirkuk to protest the power-sharing proposal in Baghdad.

In a video that American commanders say they believe to be authentic, a young man who the Americans say appears to be the bomber, not a woman as Kurdish officials initially said, can be seen standing in a sea of demonstrators. He ritualistically raises his hands, palms up, toward his face, then lowers them to his side. An instant later the explosion engulfs him and everyone around him.

It took only a few moments for the demonstrators to turn their fury on the Turkmens, whom they instantly blamed. One mistook a well-known Kurdish journalist, Yahya Barzanji, for a Turkmen correspondent, shouting, “He’s working for the Turkmens,” Mr. Barzanji recalled. A video captured the crowd furiously beating Mr. Barzanji, chanting: “Kill him! Kill him!”

Within minutes the mob was in front of the Turkmen party headquarters. While American and Kurdish officials agree that the Turkmen guards fired into the crowd, Colonel Paschal — who watched the skirmish unfold in a video feed from a remotely piloted aerial drone — said that the Turkmens did not appear to fire wantonly, and that they instead gradually escalated until they were firing directly into a large and growing mob that posed a threat.

All told, at least 28 people died and 213 were wounded in the suicide attack and the ensuing riot, according to the Asaish commander at the main hospital. Kurdish authorities have sought to play down the intensity of the fight between the Kurds and the Turkmens, but Colonel Paschal said most of the casualties were sustained during the riot.

Despite this outbreak, Colonel Paschal said attacks in Kirkuk had dropped by two-thirds since last summer. Kurds attribute some of that improvement to the Asaish. “They are in direct contact with the people,” said Hemin Shafiq, a 24-year-old policeman. “They are more rapid. That is why they are much more active than the police.”

Rifat Abdullah, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan here, said: “The Asaish have lots of sources, and that’s why the Americans depend on them and the police depend on them. That might explain why they have more power.”

General Turhan admitted that the Asaish officers were, at times, more powerful than the police, and he said there were thousands of Asaish in the city, though Kurdish officials say there are no more than 1,000. “They have a major role combating terrorism, but the problem is they are loyal to the political parties,” he said.

In an interview, the provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Jamal Taher, a Kurd, did not answer a question about whether he had the power to control the activities of the Asaish. But he praised their ability to ferret out information. “Maybe they have better sources than me,” he said.

Riyadh Muhammed contributed reporting.

Tensions in Kirkuk

Of all the political problems facing Iraq, perhaps none is so intractable as the fate of Kirkuk, a city of 900,000 that Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens all claim. Left, the aftermath of a suicide attack on Kurdish demonstrators three weeks ago.
all photos by Benjamin Lowy/VII Network, for The New York Times

A wounded man was evacuated. The attack ignited a riot that left dozens dead and hundreds injured. The quarrel over the city is one major barrier to creating stability in the rest of Iraq.

After the attack, a mob of Kurds set upon a Turkmen political headquarters, eventually firebombing the building. Left, burned cars outside of the headquarters.

The remains of the Turkmen headquarters. At some point, the guards inside fired at the crowd. American officials say they believe that far more people were harmed in the riot than in the bombing.

While the police quickly arrested 13 Turkmens at the headquarters, charging them with firing on the crowd, they did not apprehend any of the Kurds who had burned the building. Kurdish police promise an impartial investigation, but there is fear of a whitewash.

A picture of a Kurdish martyr adorns an archway at a checkpoint in Kirkuk. The Kurds' accumulation of power has stoked tensions with Arabs and Turkmens.

A Kurdish Iraqi police officer patrols a Kurdish neighborhood of Kirkuk. Under Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Kurdish families were ousted from the city. But after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurdish militiamen reversed the process, driving out Arabs and bringing in Kurds.

A Kurdish family mourned the loss of their 15-year-old son, who was shot in the recent fighting. All told, at least 28 people died and 213 were wounded in the suicide attack and the ensuing riot. Afterward, there was a dispute about whether to bring a substantial number of Iraqi troops into the city, in a direct challenge to Kurdish supremacy.

Aware that a proposal was being debated in Baghdad on sending a mostly Arab force in Kirkuk that would be set against Kurdish-controlled forces, the Kurds objected strenuously. Thousands protested the proposal.

The American military commander in Kirkuk, Col. David Paschal, blames all the political parties for inflaming tensions to serve their interests. But he said it was difficult to comprehend the level of mistrust.

World Politics Review    8 October 2008

The Misrule of Massoud Barzani: Iraqi Kurdistan's Yasser Arafat
By Sam Brannen

Once an oasis of stability in Iraq, the Kurdish north is increasingly a source of unrest. Because of the misrule of Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG) who may go down as the Yasser Arafat of the Kurdish people, the region is becoming a danger both to the country and to its own people.

The contrast between Barzani and Iraq's president, Jalal Talibani, is striking. Talabani, the scion of Kurdish Iraq's other political dynasty, has spent the years since liberation from Baathist rule in Baghdad, earning a reputation as one of the great uniters of a fractious Iraq, often serving as mediator between the various sects, the Americans, and others in the region.

Massoud Barzani, on the other hand, has spent the past five years amassing power and influence in Erbil, the capital of the increasingly independent Iraqi Kurdistan. There he has focused on conducting oil deals beyond the reach of the central government, and has refused to cooperate with Turkey to combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists that operate from safe haven in territory ostensibly under his control.

Corruption in the Kurdish region is rampant, and many of the Turkish firms that rushed in after the liberation of Iraq, eager for contracts, have gone unpaid for work already completed. Luxury cars are appearing on the streets while many ordinary Iraqi Kurds are increasingly disillusioned with the continued lack of development. Opposition parties rooted in Islamist politics -- perceived as immune from corruption -- are springing up across the political landscape, but no elections are scheduled (the Kurdish region will not hold elections with the rest of the country in January) and it's likely that even if elections were held, the outcome would be predetermined.

Most recently, Barzani has demanded that the central government pay for his Peshmerga forces, still likely the best trained and most disciplined in Iraq. He argues that these forces are for the greater good of all of Iraq, but has simultaneously taken to deploying them in contested areas outside the established borders of the Kurdish region. This has resulted in a heightening series of clashes with Sunni Arabs, mainly focused in Diyala province. Barzani claims that the Peshmerga are fighting al-Qaida, and that their role in the stabilization of Iraq continues to be underappreciated. While some Peshmerga were folded into the Iraqi Army and have fought bravely and died for the security gains in Iraq over the past year, for the most part Barzani has jealously guarded his forces in a region that doesn't especially need them. Barzani's true goal is clear: expand the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan into oil-rich areas before the state of Iraq and a more capable central government solidify.

Massoud Barzani's nephew and the prime minister of the KRG, Nechirvan, has shown himself to be a far more reasonable man, serving as a key link in talks with Turkey about the PKK issue. But he does little to temper his uncle's excesses. Cause for greater concern are the continued health problems of Jalal Talibani, whose exit from the scene would truly leave Masoud Barzani's ambitions unchecked. Such a situation would be perilous not only for Iraq's immediate stability, but for the long-term prosperity of the Iraqi Kurdish people as well.

Author's note: The author has been informed by readers that Michael Rubin has previously compared Massoud Barzani to Yasser Arafat and to Hezbollah's Nasrallah. The author was not aware of this at the time he wrote this piece. This piece is based on original research into the topic.
Sam Brannen is a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies' International Security Program.

NOVEMBER 12, 2008

Kurdistan Is a Model for Iraq
Our path to a secular, federal democracy is inspired by the U.S.

    Iraq's Kurds have consistently been America's closest allies in Iraq. Our Peshmerga forces fought alongside the U.S. military to liberate the country, suffering more casualties than any other U.S. ally.
    And while some Iraqi politicians have challenged the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, Iraq's Kurdish leaders have endorsed the pact as essential for U.S. combat troops to continue fighting terrorists in Iraq.
    The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is committed to a federal, democratic Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors.
    We have benefited enormously from the service and sacrifices of America's armed forces and their families, and we are deeply grateful. We are also proud to have shared in such sacrifices; my brother was among those severely wounded during the liberation of Iraq.
    Last year, following a U.S. request, we deployed Kurdish troops to Baghdad. These troops played a decisive role in the success of the surge. Last month I once again visited Baghdad to meet with the leadership of the federal government. We stressed our commitment to developing an Iraqi state that abides by its constitution and that is based upon a federal model with clearly delineated powers for its regions.
    In spite of all this, some commentators now suggest that the Kurds are causing problems by insisting on territorial demands and proceeding with the development of Kurdistan's oil resources. These allegations are troubling. We are proceeding entirely in accord with the Iraqi constitution, implementing provisions that were brokered by the U.S.
    In the constitutional negotiations that took place in the summer of 2005, two issues were critical to us: first, that the Kurdistan Region has the right to develop the oil on its territory, and second, that there be a fair process to determine the administrative borders of Iraq's Kurdistan Region -- thus resolving once and for all the issue of "disputed" territories.
    Unfortunately, ever since the discovery of oil in Iraq in the 1920s, successive Iraqi governments have sought to keep oil out of Kurdish hands, blocking exploration and development of fields in Kurdistan. Saddam Hussein's government went even further, using Iraqi oil revenues to finance the military campaigns that destroyed more than 4,500 Kurdish villages and to pay for the poison gas used to kill thousands of Kurdish civilians.
    The Kurdish leadership agreed to a U.S.-sponsored compromise in 2005 in which the central government would have the authority to manage existing oil fields, but new fields would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the regions. Since then, the KRG has taken the lead with Baghdad in negotiations on a hydrocarbon law that is faithful to Iraq's constitution and is conducive to modernizing Iraq's oil infrastructure and substantially increasing its oil production.
    We have awarded contracts for foreign oil companies (including some American ones) to explore our territory. In so doing, Kurdistan is not threatening the unity of Iraq. It is simply implementing the constitution.
    The "disputed territories" have a tragic history. Since the 1950s, Iraqi regimes encouraged Arabs to settle in Kirkuk and other predominantly Kurdish and Turkmen areas. Saddam Hussein accelerated this process by engaging in ethnic cleansing, expelling or killing Kurds and Turkmen, or by requiring nationality corrections (in which non-Arabs are forced to declare themselves to be Arabs) and by moving Arabs into Kurdish homes.
    The dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds over Kirkuk has lasted more than 80 years and has often been violent. All sides have now agreed to a formula to resolve the problem, to bring justice to Kirkuk, and to correct the crimes against Kurds committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. Iraq's constitution requires that a referendum be held in disputed territories to determine if their populations want to join the Kurdistan Region. Conducting a plebiscite is not easy, but it is preferable to another 80 years of conflict.
    If the pro-Kurdistan side should lose the referendum in Kirkuk, I promise that Kurdistan will respect that result. And if they win, I promise that we will do everything in our power to ensure outsized representation of Kirkuk's Turkmen, Arabs and Christians both on the local level and in the parliament and government of the Kurdistan Region.
    Regional stability cannot come from resolving internal disputes alone. That is why expanding and deepening our ties with Turkey is my top priority.
    My meeting last month in Baghdad with the Turkish special envoy to Iraq was a historic and positive development. There should be further direct contacts between the KRG and Turkey, as well as multilateral contacts that involve the U.S. We are eager to work with Turkey to seek increased peace and prosperity in the region.
    I am proud that the Kurdistan Region is both a model and gateway for the rest of Iraq. Our difficult path to a secular, federal democracy is very much inspired by the U.S. And so we look forward to working with the Obama-Biden administration to support and defend our hard-fought successes in Iraq, and to remain proud of what the Kurdistan region is today: a thriving civil society in the heart of the Middle East. When we insist on strict compliance with our country's constitution, we are only following America's great example.

Mr. Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Northern Iraq's Turkmen & other minorities are short-shrifted

to: President Elect Barack Obama
from: Orhan Ketene, a Turkmen from Kirkuk (Northern Iraq) living in the US
Nov. 24, 2008

Dear and Honorable Mr. President:

Congratulations on your historical election as the president of the United States of America. Your victory is the triumph of hope, a hope for a good change and a better future for the United States and the world.

I am writing to you not just because you won an election but because you have good intentions and you stand for justice and equality.

As a Turkmen from Northern Iraq, I ask you to pay attention to the plight of the Turkmens who are the second largest community in Northern Iraq and the third largest one in Iraq.

This peaceful and civilized people have been a part of Iraq’s history for at least fifteen centuries and have contributed a lot to this country. Their monuments throughout the history still stand.

Turkmens have always been friendly with neighboring communities in the region. They have shared their wealth and lands with the others for thousand years.

However, for the last nine decades, they have been unjustifiably prejudiced as disloyal to the country and wrongfully portrayed as the fifth column of a neighboring state. They have been under suspicion and have been victims of assimilation and ethnic cleansing campaigns.

Their population, which is in the category of millions, had been ignored and until today, they have been treated as a small minority by every administration in Iraq. My people were and are marginalized and denied their right of self determination, autonomy and any role in the state affairs as well as any high position in the successive governments.

Dear Mr. President; this people are in dire need of justice.

It is helpful to know that Northern Iraq is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious area.

Unlike the rest of the country, which is predominantly Arabic, there are four major distinct groups in the North; the Kurds, the Turkmens, the Arabs and the Chaldo-Assyrians as well as two smaller groups, the Ezdis and the Shabaks.

Northern Iraq includes the ethnic homelands of Kurdistan, Turkmeneli and Assyria. Therefore, each of those communities would like to have their autonomy and the right of self-determination, in order to protect and promote their language and culture.

None of the groups accept to be dominated by the other, but rather through equal partnership between the majors and a fair share for the rest.

The American administration has told Iraqi minorities that they will bring equality to individuals and communities alike. However, they favored one minority only and gave them every thing they dreamed of and more. On the other hand they gave symbolic positions and representations to the Turkmens and the Chaldo-Assyrians.

Moreover, they let this favored minority to dominate the whole of Northern Iraq by force, despite the will of the other components.

The reality in Northern Iraq is; one ethnic homeland of one ethnic group is expanding against the other ethnic homelands.

Unlike what has been portrayed in the western media, Northern Iraq is not a haven for democracy, peace and stability, but rather, a land of mini dictatorships, ethnic discriminations, ethnic cleansing, countless assassinations, unwarranted arrests and torture. Currently, there is a resistance in Northern Iraq against this imposed hegemony which will escalate into a bloody conflict unless equality between all groups is established.

Dear Mr. President;

Turkmens hope to see the United States adhere to its American values and leave a good legacy behind, for this troubled region.

Empowering and enabling those great values will stop terrorism, ethnic intimidation and the drain of wealth. It will bring peace, stability and cooperation between all ethnic groups in Northern Iraq which will make it a good model for the rest of the Middle East region.

I ask you, as a defender of justice and righteousness, to consider the real situation in Northern Iraq and do the right thing to restore Americas’ rightful image.

Thank you for your attention.


Orhan Ketene

Washington Post    November 23, 2008

Kurds in N. Iraq Receive Arms From Bulgaria
3 Planeloads of Munitions Worry Officials in Baghdad
By Ernesto Londoño

BAGHDAD -- Kurdish officials this fall took delivery of three planeloads of small arms and ammunition imported from Bulgaria, three U.S. military officials said, an acquisition that occurred outside the weapons procurement procedures of Iraq's central government.

The large quantity of weapons and the timing of the shipment alarmed U.S. officials, who have grown concerned about the prospect of an armed confrontation between Iraqi Kurds and the government at a time when the Kurds are attempting to expand their control over parts of northern Iraq.

The weapons arrived in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah in September on three C-130 cargo planes, according to the three officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Kurdish officials declined to answer questions about the shipments but released the following statement: "The Kurdistan Regional Government continues to be on the forefront of the war on terrorism in Iraq. With that continued threat, nothing in the constitution prevents the KRG from obtaining defense materials for its regional defense."

SOURCE: Staff reports | By Mary Kate Cannistra |  The Washington Post - November 23, 2008
[see also above maps reflecting land claims of other constituant communities without engaging the responsibility of others than their authors, and with the editor transmitting this information without taking position on the validity of any of these claims]

Iraq's ethnic Kurds maintain an autonomous region that comprises three of the country's 18 provinces. In recent months, the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad, which includes some Kurds in prominent positions, has accused Kurdish leaders of attempting to expand their territory by deploying their militia, known as pesh merga, to areas south of the autonomous region. Among other things, the Kurds and Iraq's government are at odds over control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which lies outside the autonomous region, and over how Iraq's oil revenue ought to be distributed.

The Kurds of northern Iraq have run their affairs with increasing autonomy since 1991, when U.S. and British forces began enforcing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect the region from President Saddam Hussein's military. The U.S.-led invasion in 2003 sparked concern that Iraqi Kurds would seek independence, but the Kurds have insisted that they wish to remain part of a federal Iraq.

Neighboring countries with large Kurdish minorities, including Turkey and Iran, have said they would oppose the emergence of an independent Kurdistan, as the autonomous region is known.

Iraq's interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said in an interview that central government officials did not authorize the purchase of weapons from Bulgaria. He said such an acquisition would constitute a "violation" of Iraqi law because only the Ministries of Interior and Defense are authorized to import weapons.

Experts on Iraq's constitution said the document does not clearly say whether provincial officials have the authority to import weapons. However, Iraqi and U.S. officials said the Ministries of Interior and Defense are the only entities authorized to import weapons. The Defense Ministry provides weapons to the Iraqi army, and the Interior Ministry procures arms for the country's police forces.

The Iraqi government has acquired the vast majority of its weapons through the Foreign Military Sales program, a U.S.-run procurement system, Brig. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, who assists the Iraqi government with weapons purchases, said Saturday. He said he knew of no instances in which provincial authorities had independently purchased weapons from abroad.

With thousands of American military officials involved in the training of