Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Simon Jenkins was for the war and explains some elements of the new Iraqi Constitution:

Visit Baghdad and you can see our golden chance for an exit

The Sunday Times, 16 October 2005

Another view on the constution from OpenDemocracy:

Iraq: a constitution to nowhere
Zaid Al-Ali
The Iraqi constitution may lead to the country’s disintegration, says Zaid Al-Ali. How did Iraqis reach this point?

There's nothing much to disagree with Simon Jenkins till he says [my emphasis]:

American and British troops had no right to be in Iraq but they have removed Saddam and authored a new constitution. The only reason for their staying is to maintain security, and that they patently cannot do. The claim that early departure “will make civil war inevitable” is as implausible as it is patronising. Staying is what sets civilians at war with each other.

My suggestion is there will be a surge forward by the home-grown and just-over-the- border- in- Iran Mullah-backed militias as soon as they feel able - with or without the American/British/anon presence. The elections will proceed as planned, 'under' or 'over' this, acording to how they are seen. These groups will want maximum influence in a post-militia, truly political phase. To get this they will push militarily in two areas: (1) consolidate control of the Shia south and as far north to Baghdad as they dare and (2) from within the Shia north of Baghdad.
In essence they will physically control the south and much of Baghdad.

Jenkins' point that the central government, though ineffective, could do nothing if not protected by coalition forces, is the tipping point, in one sense. While foreign forces remain, the insurgency will maintain its momentum in the centre while the southern militias will grow and organise - militarily and politically - continuing to vie for supreme power. Other well established political groups (religious, tribal, secular) might determine they cannot operate without strong military arms, so establish or reinforce their own private armies in central Iraq, in essence Baghdad, to defend their interests in the central zone against the increasingly powerful Shia forces based in Sadr city and the south.

Once the Shia have sorted themselves out in the south, they will logically see it is essential to take physical control of central government with a view to the future, elections or no. They will want to skew the constitution further by playing on the get out clauses built into it, or any laws that might be promulgated later to favour their ideology. Totemically, they will want to see no uncovered women in the streets of Baghdad. Their whole political focus will be on continued social control through Sharia. Will a free and diverse media continue to exist in this climate? More and more of the best politicians, alaysts,commentators, educators will be picked off to create the climate of fear necessary to take more control by force.

Meanwhile the secular parties will see, if they do not bolster their social desires and political beliefs with force, they will lose everything they have regained since Saddam against this tide of fundamentalism. As this goes on, more of the middle classes, the academic and technological elite on which the country will depend, will leech out of the country in greater numbers because they cannot work in the increasingly unstable, dangerous and undesireable social strictures progressively imposed. This will then make it easier for less able and narrower-minded, but militia backed politicans to progressively take greater numbers of governmental posts and ministerships.

A relatively stable state will be arrived at with the south as a de facto southern state, a strong Shia state, backed by Iran, with a strong, stable, quite democratic Kurdistan, protected by American airbases, and a powerless central government in Baghdad surrounded by warring Sunni factions whose main motive would be to prevent the centre being taken over by Shia forces, and protect central government even though it is predominantly Shia.

In the immediate short-term with no coalition forces left, the Shia militias in the south would effectively fight to the death to take power in their area. This would satify the elements of the constitution Jenkins identifies in sectio 129.

Once the south is reasonably stable they will turn their minds to how they can assert maximun force in the centre. This will be based on physical control of Baghdad because the Sunni insurgents based on a few predominant tribes and tribal leaders, will control the outlying areas. The Shia authority in the south, backed by their own militia/army, will now be in a position to make more demands within the ongoing delicate democratic process. As in the 1789-93 French revolution, post 1917 Russia, a lot of this power play will consist of destruction of newspaper premises and the assassination of prominent opinion formers

Marc Lynch under his Abuaardvark hat mentions:

Abd al-Bari Atwan, the influential editor of the Arabist daily al-Quds al-Arabi, argues today that not only were the results of the Constitutional referendum a foregone conclusion, but so are the coming Parliamentary elections. The results have been pre-cooked, he claims, to produce "a new government hostile to Iran, as an instrument for the American administration in the coming war against it." And this supposed new government has a name attached to it: Iyad Allawi.

Atwan writes that Allawi "will return to rule by force, as the person acceptable to most Iraqis, in the American imagination... as a secular, nationalist [qawmi] man hostile to Iran, and unacceptable to Sayid Ali Sistani." He reports that Allawi has intensified his contacts with various Iraqi factions over the last few days, in order to create a coalition that will present itself as the broadest democratic- oriented list able to confront the specter of sectarianism and to wage a fierce war against the insurgency. In other words, Allawi will present himself as the Iraqi De Gaulle, the savior for all of Iraq's woes. He is counting, according to Atwan, on Iraqis having a short memory, and not remembering that he was one of the figures most closely cooperating with the American occupation. Atwan wants to remind Iraqis of this history, and probably is trying to kill Allawi's bid before it begins.

This is a man who pops up all the time to assert most confidently about the arab world. Most of what he says is soon forgotten. Often his slant is amazingly unobjective, despite his obvious ear to the ground. He comes over half the time as a mouth-piece of someone or other, rather than a traditional journalist. His basic idea sseem to be to suggest that westerners could not possibly understnad or interpret the situation, only an expert such as himself. Often an edgy, reflexive anti-westesternism, which is slightly smoothed when he talks on British TV, comes into his interpretations, which seem quite obviously too simplistic to bother with. To persistently say the same thing which is 2The west can't possibly undestand how to solve this, it shouldn't interfer and we as Muslims are best set to deal with out own problems" is so far from thre truth. The truth is the Arab worls is congenitally incapable of sorting its affairs, and could do with a neo-colonialist model based on the modern, interconnected world paradigm. Unfortunately, though the Americans seem to have taken the first step down this road, they haven't got the nerve or the imagination or any palns to walk to the end. This would in effect taking over the whole area barring Israel, militarily, in order to solve the Israel problem, and settle the various countries such as Syria and Iran into the modern world.

It seems highly unlikely Allawi will attempt to take power (or that the Americans will stay to back him) unless the whole country descends into murder and mayhem of an extent hitherto not seen. In any case, as soon as it gets that hot the U.S. military will retreat to the North, dropping bombs as the British did 3/4 of a century ago, to dampen down, though not subdue total revolt. There are many other individuals with stronger power bases than Allawi. If the scenario I have painted above is accurate, he will be one small part of the Sunni power base, in the centre, desperately trying to hold off the Shia militias in large parts of Baghdad. They would be able to nothing about the south or Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, the end of year elections will simply cement the religious, tribal divides. This is the default value which has always operated without a demagogue to flatten it out.

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memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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