Downbeat on Iraq?

Colin Powell has been making the headlines over the weekend for his seemingly more realistic appraisal of the difficulties facing current US policy in Iraq when compared to the view emmanating from other members of the Bush administration. Again Juan Cole has been offering some informed comment on the topic here.

All of which makes the current consensus view from France and Germany pretty preoccupying in its own way.

“I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president,” Gert Weisskirchen, member of parliament and foreign policy expert for Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party, said in an interview.

Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said last week that France, which has tense relations with interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, had no plans to send troops “either now or later”.
Source: Financial Times


Now it is not clear to me at all what possible ‘solution’ there could be to the Iraq connundrum. What is clear to me is that the future of Iraq is a matter of concern to us all, whatever our views were of the war. A drift of Iraq into anarchy – or worse – would affect all of us. I have been mentioning its potential impact on Turkey. So what I am saying is that rather than simply scoring points with the Bush administration Europe’s political leaders should be treating the problem with the importance it deserves, and actively formulating a policy agenda which is in keeping with the gravity of the situation.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

49 thoughts on “Downbeat on Iraq?

  1. I wouldn’t read too much in the French and german comments.
    My guess is that they want to keep as much as possible before going to the bargaining table with Kerry.
    Then saying they would jump in Iraq with Kerry would make the latter look as too European. A sin for some american.

  2. “Good to see you back and aligned slightly right of centre..”

    Beauty, Alex, is normally thought to lie in the eyes of the beholder. I think I am more-or-less (give or take the odd correction) where I always have been.

    Where that lies on the coordinates you are using I am not exactly sure. Those on the right seem to think I’m on the left, those on the left seem to imagine I’m on the right, and probably those in the centre have me pidgeon-holed as some kind of loopy extremist. I am extraordinarily comfortable with all this.

    Still if you feel that the opinion that we in Europe should be casting a thoughtful eye over what might happen in Iraq (and be making some contingency plans) represents a centre right view, then who am I to disagree :).

  3. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this post?

    Do you want the Europeans to send troops? What possible troops could be sent that would change the essential dynamic in Iraq, which pretty clearly is slow motion civil war?

    I assert that at this point, the only way we could get a stable, democratic regime in Iraq is to have something like 3 to 400,000 combat troops in Iraq and a willingness to level cities and kill many Iraqis.

    The current Bush plan seems to be to keep a lid on the violence as much as possible, stage a fraudulent election to get US puppet Allawi in, and then rinse our hands of it and pull out, hoping the Allawi government doesn’t collapse too quickly.

    What possible thing could the Europeans do to change this, especially since the Americans are adamantly opposed to any European involvement in important decisions in Iraq?

    The Europeans don’t have 250,000 troops to send to Iraq, and they wouldn’t send them without control over the political decisions, which the Americans won’t give them.

  4. “I think Alex referred to a little hickup in the site layout.”

    Ok, thanks Frans. Still, it could have been valid as a kind of political comment.

    “which pretty clearly is slow motion civil war?”

    This I suppose is what I am complaining about. This sounds like fatalism to me, and standing back and watching it happen, and then receiving the backdraft.

    “I assert that at this point, the only way we could get a stable, democratic regime in Iraq is to have something like 3 to 400,000 combat troops in Iraq and a willingness to level cities and kill many Iraqis.”

    I have no idea how many troops would be needed, or what the kind of agreed framework might be, I simply think that this is the real topic we should be discussing. The one none of the politicians seem to really want to face up to.

    I have always thought that opposition to the Iraq war brought together a coalition of two essentially different points of view. Those who argued it was madness given the inevitable ethnic and religious dynamics which would be unleashed in the wake, and those who are opposed to any kind of intervention in third party countries (and especially if this is in alliance with the US) per se.

    I reluctantly accepted the war based on the WMD arguments of one Tony Blair. I now see that we were effectively mislead, but I don’t think the international community (including those who were opposed) can simply pat themselves on the back for not getting involved in the mess and then sit back and watch the bloodbath, if bloodbath there is to be, on the telly.

  5. “A drift of Iraq into anarchy – or worse – would affect all of us. I have been mentioning its potential impact on Turkey. So what I am saying is that rather than simply scoring points with the Bush administration Europe?s political leaders should be treating the problem with the importance it deserves, and actively formulating a policy agenda which is in keeping with the gravity of the situation.”

    But in fact they do the opposite. Which leads to the sad suspicion that they really do believe scoring points against Bush is more important than ensuring that Iraq doesn’t slip into chaos.

  6. “Which leads to the sad suspicion that they really do believe scoring points against Bush is more important than ensuring that Iraq doesn’t slip into chaos.”

    1. Iraq has already slipped into chaos, or more specifically into the second phase of a classic guerilla insurgency.
    2. France and Germany’s repeated internationalization efforts early on when it might have made a difference were rebuffed by Bush&Co.

    So save your sad suspicion cheap shot for some other suckers.

  7. I don’t think there is anything the Europeans can really do to heavily influence events on the ground in Iraq, given the strength of the insurrection and the intransigence of the Americans.

    Edward, the bloodbath is already happening. How many people are killed every day in Iraq right now – 100, 200, more? It’s too late to do anything about that unless you are prepared to unleash overwhelming force, which would mean a greater bloodbath.

    I honestly don’t know what you want the Europeans to do. I don’t see any reasonable policy prescriptions at this point.

  8. Of course the situation in Iraq could be solved. But to make peace in a war it takes a genuine effort from most involved parties to exchange power (or prospect of power) for a negotiated settlement. I can?t se that the current US administration would ever be willing to make peace with those (like Al Sadr) that it has decided are the enemy. And I don?t think the US has a lot of credability left among the iraqis, thus making it hard for anyone to trust a settlement that doesn?t include US withdrawal.

    If Kerry is willing to share power over Iraq I think the european leaders will jump with joy over being let in again. And if peace negotiations ended with a request for troops to be ordinary peacekeepers (that is mostly keeping an eye on stuff and seeing to it that no party breaks the peaceagreement without the world knowing with side it was (like in Cyprus)) I don?t think France and Germany would be very hesitant to send troops.

    I see the quoted statement about not sending troops as a decision not to send troops to enforce the US-ruled order of today in Iraq. And I don?t see why that would change given how little Britain has gotten for being a loyal ally.

  9. It will be a full blown rebelion as long as the Americans are in Iraq so i don’t see why anybody wants to be involved with that. Especially when in countries like Germany live a lot of Iraqi’s which doesn’t make it smart to be involved with the raising of Iraqi cities.

  10. A drift of Iraq into anarchy – or worse – would affect all of us.

    Maybe or maybe not. Could be that the impact is minimal.

    So what I am saying is that rather than simply scoring points with the Bush administration Europe?s political leaders should be treating the problem with the importance it deserves, and actively formulating a policy agenda which is in keeping with the gravity of the situation.

    What the fuck are they going to do? Send lots of money? Shit, the PA and the Iraqi government have proven themselves to be incompetant when it comes to spending the money of the U.S., why should the Europeans sink their money into the moneypit known as Iraq?

    Send troops? Frenchmen and Germans don’t want to send their soldiers there. You think Schroeder and Chirac are going to go againgst the opinions of their publics now, after all their statements about not sending any troops? Hell, even countries like Italy have slowly begun distancing themselves from the Bush administration.

    Edward,

    Those who argued it was madness given the inevitable ethnic and religious dynamics which would be unleashed in the wake, and those who are opposed to any kind of intervention in third party countries (and especially if this is in alliance with the US) per se.

    And those opposed to interventions which don’t directly address American security interests; that are wasted oppurtunities in other words. I take no issue with the blowing the fuck out of America’s enemies. If Iraq had been a real threat to the U.S., I would have had no problem supporting this war; but it wasn’t a real threat.

    …but I don’t think the international community (including those who were opposed) can simply pat themselves on the back for not getting involved in the mess and then sit back and watch the bloodbath, if bloodbath there is to be, on the telly.

    Sure they can. Powell warned the Bush administration that if we invaded Iraq that we could expect little in the war of international help, and that ultimately it would make Iraq our responsibility. European governments are simply acting like the rational actors that they are.

  11. Hektor Bim: What possible thing could the Europeans do to change this, especially since the Americans are adamantly opposed to any European involvement in important decisions in Iraq?

    My sentiments exactly. As I wrote when the effect on Turkey was discussed, Europe is not in control of the crucial levers. But to agree with Edward a little too, it might be sensible to prepare some strategy for after an eventual US pullout.

    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with this (from Hektor again):

    I assert that at this point, the only way we could get a stable, democratic regime in Iraq is to have something like 3 to 400,000 combat troops in Iraq and a willingness to level cities and kill many Iraqis.

    The willingness to level cities and kill many Iraqis in response to a guerilla movement will create neither a stable nor a democratic regime, and I am surprised you can’t recognise this as an oxymoron. It can at best crush the insurgency and create a dictature (whether open or one hiding behind a pseudo-democratic facade doesn’t matter) stabilised only by continued foreign military presence, see the Philippines a hundred years ago. The only (faint) possibility for democracy I see is a coalition of Iraqis (say Sisani, Sadr, the MSA and smaller groups) organising elections on its own while the US pulls out.

  12. A further note on a much higher level of troops. I argued on various webboards before the war that the occupation is bound to fail, based on a comparison with the Bushies’ plan and the post-WWII occupation of Japan and Germany. (It was rather maddening to hear Rummy et al actually defending themselves with the same comparison…) One point was the troop levels.

    I still think a well-organised post-war plan supported by half a million or more occupying troops would have succeeded, even with all the destruction and animosity and cultural clash and the illegality of it all. But IMO too late today. Maybe if two million would patrol every Iraqi street, something could be created – but the rejection is so strong it would likely collapse as soon as troops leave.

  13. Interesting, but what really could Europe have done in Iraq anyways?

    Bosnia was on their doorstep, and they needed help to quell that tiny part of the world.

    Iraq is an entirely different ball of wax, so to speak, and shouldn’t be resolved by talking heads and the “committee” approach.

    Still, the Kurdish area is quite calm and progressing, and the shia area has great potential now that Al Sadr has been defanged. If only the damned Jihadis could be kept out of the country, and an effective dialogue created with the Sunnis, there might yet be a salvageable situation.

    However, history repeats itself sadly in that part of the world. Back in ’91, world opinion and the UN called an end to the gulf war before Saddams forces were completely decimated, after seeing the devestation on the “highway of death”. Later, those same republican guard divisions then crushed the uprising that should have removed saddam then. One of my army buddies who was there kept saying “just 48 more hours…”.

    Again, when the Marines went into fallujah, world opinion once again interveened, and this is largely why the terrorists still operate so effectively. During the siege of Fallujah, there was not *one* single suicide bombing in Iraq… why? Because they were bottled up and being obiliterated.

    This is why the UN and world opinion has to be taken with a grain of salt.

    The US is now taking the “multi-lateral” approach with regards to Darfur, and I think if you are the least bit honest, you will agree that once in awhile, a “uni-lateral cowboy” is needed to clean up the town. Too bad hundreds of thousands of africans have to die to prove that (rawanda).

    I wish you euros would understand that.

  14. “France and Germany’s repeated internationalization efforts early on when it might have made a difference were rebuffed by Bush&Co.”

    Chuckle. Which internationalization efforts are those? The UN ones? The ones authorized within months of the invasion?

    You really are going to have to be specific.

  15. “Still, the Kurdish area is quite calm and progressing, and the shia area has great potential now that Al Sadr has been, the only defanged.”

    This is the same that we were told after the end of the first uprising he had started.But if you prefer to believe that he has turned into Ghandi…
    By the way the Kurdish area was calm before our latest foray in Iraq.Nothing new here.

    “If only the damned Jihadis could be kept out of the country, and an effective dialogue created with the Sunnis, there might yet be a salvageable situation.”

    If only everyone in the Middle East turned into Ghandi all the region problems could be solved.If only…

    However, history repeats itself sadly in that part of the world. Back in ’91, world opinion and the UN called an end to the gulf war before Saddams forces were completely decimated, after seeing the devestation on the “highway of death”. Later, those same republican guard divisions then crushed the uprising that should have removed saddam then. One of my army buddies who was there kept saying “just 48 more hours…”

    Sorry to give you the bad news but Bush father has made pretty clear that the complete collapse
    of the iraqi regime was not his goal.Don’t believe me? Listen to Senior

    “Incalculable human and political costs” would have been the result, the senior Bush has said, if his administration had pushed all the way to Baghdad and sought to overthrow Saddam Hussein

    “We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect rule Iraq,”

    “Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different ? and perhaps barren ? outcome.”

    source http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,129974,00.html

    Funny how prescient he was.But I guess that is what you get when you apply such abstruse concept such as common sense to ME politics instead of ideological babbling.

    “The US is now taking the “multi-lateral” approach with regards to Darfur, and I think if you are the least bit honest, you will agree that once in awhile, a “uni-lateral cowboy” is needed to clean up the town. Too bad hundreds of thousands of africans have to die to prove that (rawanda).”

    Yes, I am sure that some cowboys can easily clean up Africa problems…
    Get real, the only thing we can accomplish there is blowing up the locals instead of letting them whack each other with the machete.

  16. The US didn’t need more troops in Iraq to have a calm and democratic result when they would have settled for what democratic Iraq would look like (it would be Iran-light). The US Army would then be home by now but it is clear that that result wouldn’t be acceptable to the American voters and i seriously doubt it would have been acceptable by the American goverment. So now we wait. Hopefully they have the intellegence to use january elections result as cover to leave but somehow i doubt it.

    ps. The Kurdish area are as quiet as Czechoslovakia after WWII. I’m just waiting until the cleansing starts

  17. Sebastian, there are always rumours that there were deals that Saddam would allow peacekeeping troops in to monitor human rights. That would have been a major succes

  18. Frankly, based on all these replies to Edward’s original assertion, it seems that France and Germany should not be formulating any kind of policy agenda in the Middle East at all, as it seems only to be getting in the way of US efforts.

    European concerns seem to reinforce the erroneous notion amongst Arab leaders that something can be done to stop American efforts to democratize Iraq. Unfortunately, Europe cannot do anything – and neither can the rest of the world – and we shall all have to wait for the moral decision of a handful of states in the American Bible-belt for the ultimate answer.

    Europeans should ask themselves (and here I might echo Edward’s concern) how could they possibly allow themselves to be so ineffective?

  19. A democractic Iraq would be a country that is religious, anti Israelic and with a nationalised oil company that sell oil for a high a price as prudent. These are all things that i can’t believe the Americans would want so why would i believe that the Americans want a democratic Iraq. Especially when their actions speak so loudly that they don’t want it.

    Also claims that the Europeans are ineffective are beside the point. How do you stand up to your best friend/biggest enemy for something which isn’t important to you but is clearly so wrong and ill advised

    ps. Worst possible outcome: Formation of a democratic Iraq after an American defeat.

  20. Edward, the bloodbath is already happening. How many people are killed every day in Iraq right now – 100, 200, more?

    Please don’t make idiotic, unfounded assertions without proof.

    Thanks.
    Rupert

  21. “Sebastian, there are always rumours that there were deals that Saddam would allow peacekeeping troops in to monitor human rights. That would have been a major succes.”

    Absolutely. But they were rumors, not fact. And why didn’t European countries pursue that avenue. They had 11 years.

  22. “What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this post?”

    Get some discussion going about the reality in Iraq, which is an objective it seems to have achieved.

    Prior to 09/11 there was some kind of growing international consensus about the application of international law to ‘nation-state-internal’ politics (Pinochet, Milosevic etc). Since then we only seem to have moved backwards. Dafur has been mentioned, and Nigeria is already starting to come up on the radar.

    We live in an increasingly complex, interconnected and insecure world. We need policies that address these issues.

    Since 09/11 the profile of human rights which was our focus has been lost in the rhetoric about terrorism. The two topics obviously belong together. To handle this we need strong international agencies, not the severely weakened ones we have now.

    Sorry to disagree with some of the comments, but this is not simply a US security issue.

    Chaos in a future Iraq, or mini Iraqs, is likely to lead to more, not less, terrorism. And Europe – as the Madrid bombings show – can easily be on the receiving end.

    What I think EU politicians should not do is get involved in the US elections.

    Kerry has put forward some proposals:

    “get more international help; ?get serious? about training Iraqi security forces; change the reconstruction process; and create a United Nations protection force to oversee elections planned for January.”

    My feeling is that whoever wins, something like this is inevitable. EU leaders need to think very carefully and clearly about our response.

    “the Kurdish area is quite calm and progressing,”

    “The Kurdish area are as quiet as Czechoslovakia after WWII. I’m just waiting until the cleansing starts”

    The information coming in that I am trying to flag is that the Kurdish area is far from calm. There is growing evidence that some form of ‘cleansing’ is already underway as the different groups struggle to establish ‘facts on the ground’. A Kurdish area which included places like Kirkuk and Mossul would inevitably be a conflict zone, given the minorities who live there, and the aspirations of the Sunni population in the centre of Iraq.

    Baghdad could become a nightmare, and the Shiite south could become some sort of a rerun of Iran.

    These are the issues we should be thinking about.

  23. Get some discussion going about the reality in Iraq, which is an objective it seems to have achieved.

    An interesting graphic from the NY times. FYI, this month for which the data was compiled averages out to 80 attacks per day. The high was last April at about 120. An attack is considered, among other criteria, as a guy looking around a corner and firing a couple of potshots with his AK. So, is the situation getting worse? Is is as bad as the BBC or as good as FOX have you believe?

    Neither you or I know as we are obviously not there. Our information is filtered by the news we choose to listen and watch as well as our own biases. So I rely on data. And on news from the source, primarily Iraqi blogs. The bag is mixed on that one, but the overwhelming majority of Iraqi blogs I read have a fairly centered attitude. The situation ain’t great, but it’s not terrible.

    Common sense tells us that the violence will spike as the elections draw near. There is really nothing you can do about someone who wants to blow themselves up. No country has been able to prevent that, so include it in your calculus. As for Euro foreign policy and diplomacy, I think it’s best if they just stayed out of Iraq. There are bigger fish to fry, namely Iran.

  24. Rupert:

    I agree about Iraqi blogs. I find them more reliable than western and Arab news sources in gauging the mood of the people. I also like to read blogs by American soldiers, to gauge the level of their morale – something which certainly cannot be had from the media.

    I do find it preposterous when outsiders claim that the whole country is a mess. It’s akin to the hysterical claims about the “Jenin Massacre” in Palestine – the whole city flattened, thousands massacred. Subsequently, even journalists had to admit that nothing of the sort happened.

  25. Still, the Kurdish area is quite calm and progressing,

    Iraqi Kurdistan is in considerably worse state than it was 18 months ago, when it had a long term rapprochement between the DPK and the PUK, peace with its Arab and Turkmen minorities and de facto independence due to the toothlessness of the Iraqi armies. Calm and progressing? In what way? Kirkuk and Mosul are powderkegs at the moment, not to mention the potential for all sorts of on intra-Kurdish bloodletting in the far North East.

    and the shia area has great potential now that Al Sadr has been defanged.

    Has he? Why is violence escalating in the South? Why do British troops only patrol Basra in large, armoured, groups these days? Why did British troops in Iraq discharge 100,000 rounds of ammunition during August?

    If only the damned Jihadis could be kept out of the country,

    If only I could put the toothpaste back in the tube… look the invasion is what allowed them into Iraq. They weren’t there last January you know. And they wouldn’t be able to operate without considerable local support.

    and an effective dialogue created with the Sunnis, there might yet be a salvageable situation.

    How’re you going to do that when the US has just bombed Sadr City and Allawi wants to do the same to Fallujah according to today’s news?

  26. Iraqi Kurdistan is in considerably worse state than it was 18 months ago, when it had a long term rapprochement between the DPK and the PUK, peace with its Arab and Turkmen minorities and de facto independence due to the toothlessness of the Iraqi armies. Calm and progressing? In what way? Kirkuk and Mosul are powderkegs at the moment, not to mention the potential for all sorts of on intra-Kurdish bloodletting in the far North East.

    Again, don’t offer pithy assertions without proof. Your opinionated description of a ‘powderkeg’ does not contradict ‘calm’ or ‘progressing’. The ‘state’ you are shrilly crying about must be ‘state of mind’ because in material terms, The Kurdish areas are doing fine.

  27. Edward: I agree that the Europeans should be thinking about the situation in Iraq. How do you know that they are not? My real question is that there is really not much the Europeans can do at this stage. That is all.

    DoDo: There are a significant number of people in Iraq who are opposed to a democratic state. Most of them are Sunnis, because they want to retain their traiditonal dominance and feel free to repress the Shiites and Kurds without interference. The only way I see to create a stable and democratic polity (at this stage after the many failures) is to use both the carrot and the stick, where the carrot is improved security and the stick is repressive measures against towns like Fallujah. Is this guaranteed to work? No, which is why I am reluctant to fully support it. The more likely result is a dictatorship, as you suggest. All I am saying is that I see no other way now to even get close to a democratic state but a lot more troops and targetted bloodshed. The policy the current administration seems to be pursuing is installing a puppet government (Allawi) who will either become a dictator to survive or more likely collapse a couple of weeks after the Americans leave, plunging the country into civil war.

    As for the number of deaths in Iraq daily, 100 does appear to be too high. If we use iraqbodycount.net’s figures, we get something like 27 civilian deaths per day, and adding the 2 coalition deaths per day, we get about 29 people per day dying in Iraq. Still not exactly a peaceful place.

  28. Dear Marcello,

    What you read is, well, not what I wrote or meant.

    My point was that the 1991 gulf war was called too soon because of the UN and several arab countries. This allowed the Hammorabi and Medina Republican Guard divisions to retreat in fairly good form.

    Months later, those divisions were used to crush the Shia rebellion.

    I agree, Bush Sr didn’t want to occupy Iraq. But he almost left Iraq in a position where the Iraqi’s could have finished the job (and Saddam) themselves.

    Instead, about 300,000 Iraqi’s were killed (mostly shia) by Saddam. I put the fault there on 24×7 media, the UN, and general squeemishment of the public.

    From the book “Crusade”, both divisions were under the US/UK guns when the war was called. Never leave your enemy in the field… it is the damn committee approach that the UN and weak-players try to take that frustrates us all.

  29. “I agree, Bush Sr didn’t want to occupy Iraq. But he almost left Iraq in a position where the Iraqi’s could have finished the job (and Saddam) themselves.”

    Let’assume that the rebellion succeeds thanks to the elimination of those units and Saddam is hung to the nearest lamp post.All nice and good.What happens next? Well,I will try a guess.Let’s see,the dictator is gone, the ruling party members are on the run and the army does not exist anymore.That means that the government is gone too (by government here I mean the bureaucracy, the ministries, the police etc).And if the government is gone that means looting,anarchy, scores settling and warlordism/theocracy.And maybe a little civil war on top of that.Does this sound familiar? It should.Why? Because that is either what has happened in the last war or what usually happens in these circumstances.Remember,the iraqi government collapsed in the blink of an eye.Can you spell power vacuum in capital letters?
    Now what are you going to do?
    a)Pack and leave.
    b)Send tens thousands of troops attempting to stabilize the situation.

    I had understood that you did not mean that the coalition should have made a drive to Baghdad
    but the practical outcome would have been the same:Iraq turned into a collapsed state or american troops dodging bullets in Baghdad.That ultimately is what Bush senior was apparently concerned about.

  30. That is not the reason the US didn’t support the rebellion. Iraq would have been Iran II, and you can say much but not that the US hates Saddam more than the mullah’s

  31. Rupert,

    now duckie, calm down and try not to get so ad hominem. If things are so OK in Iraqi Kurdistan, why are political assassinations taking place?

    http://www.kurdmedia.com/news.asp?id=5422

    Why are Turkey and the US at loggerheads over American attacks on ethnic Turks who may or may not be helping militants?

    http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=3330

    Why are car bombs going off in Mosul?

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3047030a12,00.html

    Why are they going off so regularly that they barely even rate a mention in the news?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1310437,00.html

    Why are truck drivers being killed in random incidents in Northern Iraq?

    http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/288954.asp?cp1=1

    Why are the Kurdish diaspora jittery about Allawi’s intentions with regard to Kirkuk?

    http://www.kurdmedia.com/news.asp?id=5513

    And why are Turks and Arabs in Kirkuk building an anti-Kurdish coalition?

    http://www.turks.us/article.php?story=20040929221602770

    Proof enough for you? Take the rose tinted glasses off, mucker. Iraq is going to hell in a handcart. Six months ago I thought people in Northern Iraq knew just what would happen if ethnic conflict did break out in Northern Iraq and were determined to do their best to avoid it (see, e.g., http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=2584&l=1 ). Now, sadly, I’m not so sure.

  32. Touchy aren’t we? Ad Hominem indeed.

    Ah! Truck drivers getting killed at random! That clearly is a sign of a deteriorating situation.

    Why are they going off so regularly that they barely even rate a mention in the news?

    ‘barely even rate a mention?’ Hilarious. Barely mentioned? What, did they whisper about it? They obviously did get mentioned if your able to post about it. But, more to the point, these things don’t get mentioned as often or as loud as you think they should for the same reason a mugging isn’t big news in New York. Cause it ain’t new. Your whole premise is flawed. Iraqi history didn’t start in April 2003. Iraq has always been violent. Has always had car bombs and assasinations. Half of those news stories are merely conjecture. No actual violence involved. A tribe is worried/scared about their future? Ack! It’s a quagmire!

    Given your death grip on your views and your sensitivity to criticism, I don’t think anything I post will change your mind, but I find it odd considering your not in Iraq. In reference to the PDK and PUK blood fued that you find so worrisome, all of their internecine violence came before the invasion of Iraq. They explicitly agreed to a cease fire because of the invasion. A house divided falls and all that. Furthermore, a ‘Turkish led force set up to monitor a ceasefire between between rival Kurdish factions in northern Iraq will be dissolved next month’… The reason? Because it’s no longer needed. So much for your claims otherwise.

    I also find it odd that one of your posts has nothing to do with Northern Iraq at all, but rather Baghdad. I mean really, if things are as bad as you perceive them to be, there should be much more convincing ‘proof’ than what you’ve presented, which is imo, just speculation.

  33. Hektor Bim: “There are a significant number of people in Iraq who are opposed to a democratic state. Most of them are Sunnis, because they want to retain their traiditonal dominance and feel free to repress the Shiites and Kurds without interference.”

    Straight out of US propaganda, repeated innumerable times by the media – but without any actual evidence to support it. In this quality and in the number of people buying it it is not dissimilar to the propaganda myth about the wealthy pro-Saddam Fallujah, vs. the poor (by Sunni standards) pro-Salafist Fallujah of the real world. But the really bizarre thing in your argument is the loss of meaning of ‘democracy’ – democracy is the will of the people, and if the will of Fallujans/Sunni Arabs/Iraqis is for US and allied troops to leave (which it is, even according to the last poll the CPA commissioned, before Najaf II and the regular bombing of cities), this below doesn’t make any sense:

    “The only way I see to create a stable and democratic polity (at this stage after the many failures) is to use both the carrot and the stick, where the carrot is improved security and the stick is repressive measures against towns like Fallujah.”

    I also wonder if you would use the democratic argument (“most Fallujans want this or that”) in defense of your endorsement of collective punishment.

  34. The Canadian journalist who was abducted, beaten several times, traded between rebel groups, and released after a week in Tal Afar (the Turkmen city of 300,000 also besieged by the US without much media attention) told that Mosul is ripe to be the place of the next outbreak.

    Also, you conveniently forget that before the invasion, Zarqawi was the guest of Ansar-e-Islam, a Kurdish fundie group, which is very much active, however often the media repeats “…except the Kurdish-controlled provinces”.

  35. “Iraq has always been violent. Has always had car bombs and assasinations.”

    LOL, isn’t your last name Rumsfeld?…

    In Baghdad, there have been a dozen or so deaths from gunshot wounds a month in 2002. Now the hospital morgues count over 300 a month. ‘Always has been violent’, eh?

  36. In Baghdad, there have been a dozen or so deaths from gunshot wounds a month in 2002. Now the hospital morgues count over 300 a month. ‘Always has been violent’, eh?

    You send someone to a hospital if they’re alive. Tally the body count from the Saddam era and you’ll lose every time.

  37. Back to Edward’s question; I think the real question is: can we (Europeans) do anything that doesn’t make things even worse?

    Kerry doesn’t present us with a solution. He may yet have a secret plan, but my impression is that he is just as oblivious to reality and the difficulties of the task as most of the US political elite, and seems more pre-occupied with lessening US troop numbers than about what’s best for the Iraqi people. To participate in a non-solution, would only serve to let it fester longer, making the forces the fear of which supposedly keeps us there only stronger. That is to say, the longer you stay the worse the aftermath.

    So, Edward, what I think European politicians with foresight could do is to seek and build relations with every possible Iraqi group, and try to use these connections to pressure or to act as an intermediary whenever something happens once Iraq is left to its own, rather than following any grand strategy.

  38. Rupert, now you’re outright comical. Can you read “gunshot wound” and “morgue”? And how exactly does your objection change the comparison between the 2002 and 2004 data?…

    As for the Saddam-era total, it would of course be convenient for you to include the 1988 and 1991 crushings of uprisings in a monthly average, even tough they happened before Saddam was contained as and with silent approval from Reagan and Papa Bush – only, we don’t know those numbers. 300,000 is widely claimed, but attesting to the extremely low priority the Occupation powers have given to the real tasks following from their rhetoric, only 5,000 were dug up from mass graves so far – most of them by untrained Iraqis just after the invasion, without any Bosnia-style forensic program…

    …but this all is beside the point; since when is the threshold to measure the World’s Greatesst Democracy’s performance by the performance of one of the worse dictators of the 20th century?…

  39. Can you read “gunshot wound” and “morgue”?

    No, I can read “gunshot wound” and “hospital morgue.” Iraqi’s don’t take their dead to the hospital to be put in a morque. They wash their dead and bury them. A hospital morque is for people who were taken to the hospital because they thought they could live and, alas, they died. So if a Baathist era thug takes my 5 sons, kills them, and throws them out with the trash, the hospital ain’t invovled. Besides, you’ve offered no proof of that statement.

    And it’s not convenience, but fact. Shall we add the thousands murdered every year by Baathist thugs? Or the maimings and torture performed on countless people. Your right to fault American ‘performance’ on security in Iraq. But to claim the situation is ‘worse’ than Sadaam era thuggery is ridiculous. For that, I listen only to the Iraqi people.

  40. Ah! Truck drivers getting killed at random! That clearly is a sign of a deteriorating situation.

    Well, if you think truck drivers getting killed at random is, you know, normal and not a sign of a deteriorating situation, I’d hate to live where you do.

    ‘barely even rate a mention?’ Hilarious. Barely mentioned? […] I also find it odd that one of your posts has nothing to do with Northern Iraq at all, but rather Baghdad.

    Oh, for God’s sake that was the point. If you scroll down in the Guardian article about Baghdad, you’ll find in paragraph 13, you’ll find a reference to an American soldier dying near Mosul. Barely worth a mention, because, well obviously because Iraqi Kurdistan is such a happy peaceful place.

    these things don’t get mentioned as often or as loud as you think they should for the same reason a mugging isn’t big news in New York.

    This is my point!

    In reference to the PDK and PUK blood fued that you find so worrisome…

    No, that wasn’t what I was talking about at all, that’s ancient history, and none of the articles I linked to so much as mentioned it. I was talking about the incipient three cornered ethnic war over the future status of Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and the possibility of straight out fight between the Arabs and Kurds in Mosul. But don’t you worry, just you deliberately misunderstand what I say and it’ll all go away.

  41. But don’t you worry, just you deliberately misunderstand what I say and it’ll all go away.

    I understand what your saying, I simply disagree.

    If ‘tensions’ and ‘possibilities’ are your criteria for a disaster, then you should move to Utopia. By that standard Kosovo or Sarajevo is a disaster. You’d make a fabulous CBS reporter.

    Your funny. I have to mine an artical about Bagdad to find a reference to a soldier dying near Mosul, therefore disaster.

  42. I understand what your saying, I simply disagree.

    No you don’t. You understand what you want me to say. I didn’t say anything about PUK/KDP feuds, for example. To demonstrate you don’t understand what I’m saying…

    Your funny. I have to mine an artical about Bagdad to find a reference to a soldier dying near Mosul, therefore disaster.

    No, if I wanted to, I could have gone to Google News and just typed in “Mosul” or “Kirkuk” and had my pick of thousands of articles about the mess that Iraqi Kurdistan is at the moment. The point I was making was that violence is so common place in Iraqi Kurdistan that it often barely rates a mention.

    Look, be honest, with yourself if no-one else. Is what is happening in Iraq today really what you envisaged 18 months ago?

  43. No you don’t. You understand what you want me to say. I didn’t say anything about PUK/KDP feuds, for example. To demonstrate you don’t understand what I’m saying…

    Iraqi Kurdistan is in considerably worse state than it was 18 months ago, when it had a long term rapprochement between the DPK and the PUK,

    I think you did….

    I could have gone to Google News and just typed in “Mosul” or “Kirkuk” and had my pick of thousands of articles about the mess that Iraqi Kurdistan is at the moment.

    Or better yet, you can read Iraqi blogs. News from the source beats a reporter holed up in Baghdad any day.

    Look, be honest, with yourself if no-one else. Is what is happening in Iraq today really what you envisaged 18 months ago?

    Honest about what? As I said, you and I don’t really know what Iraq is like, because we aren’t there. I said it ain’t roses but it’s not a disaster. Yes, that’s what I thought it would be, and probably will be for a while. You seem to be claiming it’s something on the order of Vietnam.

  44. It is not like Vietnam. There were local allies in Vietnam. Vietnam was not a disaster in the same league as Iraq.

  45. Rupert – The shooting of foreign truck drivers can indeed be an indication of how the situation is negatively escalating. Are you aware that some Iraqi employers are so fed up with US companies hiring low wage foreign workers to do driving that Iraqi firms can handle, that they are hiring frustrated out of work Iraqi youths to shoot the foreign drivers? Yes, some shootings appear to be politically motivated in that it is hoped that soldiers won’t be resupplied or reconstruction will come to a halt. But, economically driven chaos and murder, well that does indeed take things to a new level. In addition, you must remember that the Americans used money from the Iraqi Development Fund/Oil Fund, which is Iraqi money, to pay these foreign drivers. A further slap in the face.

    Regarding Iraqi bloggers, there are just as many on the negative side. You’re being selective about who you read. As for someone else on the ground in Baghdad, try Back-to-iraq.com.

    Regarding what can be done in Iraq. This is a small thing, but I think it would be helpful if movies from the Taliban era in Afghanistan were shown on tv. It’s one thing for the Iraqis to decide what type of govt they would like, but I think they may be more willing to give the jihadis the heave-ho if they had a better idea of just what the jihadis would like to implement. Show the movies of the gangs of 18 yr olds beating the elderly and women in the streets for some infraction. Show those gory soccer matches where beheadings and stonings took place at half time. I understand some of the Fallujans who originally invited the jihadis in are anxious to get rid of them as they are attempting to forbid music and tv, and generally take power from the local leaders. Although, with all the aerial bombing who really knows anymore.