December 26th, 2005

Post-election jaw-jaw in Iraq

So far, at least, the aftermath of the recent Iraqi elections seems to be–as Austin Bay writes–more jaw-jaw than war-war.

If even Reuters says so, it’s good enough for me.

There’s a lot of post-election sturm and drang, to be sure. And, as I’ve said before, the rebuilding of Iraq is a process inherently fraught with danger, and only time will tell how it works out.

But here are some interesting facts from the Reuters article:

While both Sunnis and Shi’ites have talked tough since the partial results came out, they have also been negotiating behind the scenes, and analysts say the main parties and coalitions are largely staking their claims for power rather than threatening to disrupt the process of forming a government.

President Jalal Talabani met secular and Sunni politicians in a bid to find consensus, and asked them to refrain from describing their opponents in inflammatory sectarian terms.

And in Najaf, Rubaie met the one man who has arguably more influence over Iraqis than any politician — the country’s most powerful cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose word is law to many in the 60-percent Shi’ite majority.

Rubaie said: “Sistani demanded that all parties should stay calm, should not resort to violence and should focus efforts on construction, economic development and securing services.”

I wouldn’t quite call that civil war–it actually seems relatively civil to me.

The article also states something that sounds pretty ominous:

There has already been an increase in shootings and bombings after the lull of the election period.

Now we’d all very much like to see the violence in Iraq end; I know I would. But, on reflection, this post-election “increase” appears to amount (so far) only to a resumption of the smaller types of violence that have been commonplace in the country, rather than the very large-scale bombs that seemed to be an almost daily occurrence for a while.

I don’t think anyone expected the election truce from the “insurgents” to last indefinitely, unless the Sunnis had won some sort of lopsided victory (which would have been very strange and suspicious, considering they are a definite minority, and might have provoked violence from other sources). So far there have been no post-election bombings of the kind that wreak havoc on scores of people. Of course, we could see those resume any day now. But at this point the situation does not even begin to resemble an actual civil war.

Yes, there’s plenty of violence and anger, as this more recent Reuters article details. And the article seems only too eager to tie all the violence into anger about the election, although only a small part of it seems to be, by my reading of it. But notice the following tidbit, nestled almost imperceptibly into all the rest:

But despite militant rhetoric, seemingly aimed at increasing their leverage, Sunnis are negotiating with others to build a governing coalition on the basis of the existing poll results.

So, is the “militant rhetoric” mostly strategic? Will the coalition actually be built, and will it hold?

At the risk of being redundant, I’ll repeat: wait and see.

9 Responses to “Post-election jaw-jaw in Iraq”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    What the media miss is the fact that without the US, no country full of factionalism and tribalism and blood hatreds going back generations can ever become peaceful, prosperous, and democratic.

    It is not because of US riches and money, reconstruction contracts, or military power. Although they are part of the solution.

    No, rather, the real reason why these countries can reconcile is because of a third party negotiator. That would be the United States itself. Not just pieces of us, but the whole package deal.

    Without an outside party, and a powerful outside party at that with power over both sides of the conflict, no true human will ever negotiate in good faith.

    Therefore the entire political problem in Iraq is due to the fact that Americans keep saying it is a “Local Issue”. But it really isn’t. Just because the military and the politicians do not want to Empire Build, does not mean they can take a lazy approach of “it’s not our problem, it is your problem” towards nation building.

    This is reflected in reality, where a neutral outside force is trusted to decide matters. This stability factor is the most important ingredient towards the future of a new nation.

    Many Sunnis don’t trust the Shia or the Kurds or the Iranians. But they will trust the Americans, because Americans are outside of the tribal connections, corruption, greed, and local influences. The same applies to the Shia. To the Kurds, their loyalty is more tribal and duty bound than otherwise. They still feel grateful for our partitioning of Iraqi airspace, allowing Kurdish independent rule.

    But what truly matters is the Sunni and the Shia. And without the US acting as an honest broker, as Major K described in his blog, the Iraqi people will be political stagnant and as healthy as Cuba.

    Very peaceful, but not very prosperous.

    Scroll down to his post about system disruption.
    I thnk you’ll find that effects based analysis shows that the US effort in Iraq is failing.

    Some people go with effects based analysis. But, the far more effective analysis the logical analysis. The classic is still the best.

    And besides.

    His approach is based on his belief in the shrinking power of the state and the rise of non-state warriors (themes we follow on this site). It is also grounded in Israel’s hard won experience. This is a very pointed analysis:

    Anything grounded on Israel’s “hard won experience” ranks as a 1(mebe a 2) in terms of military science. Israe’s like Hannibal, they win a lot of battles, but they never win the war.

    America’s like Rome, we lose 9 out of 10 battles, yet we still win the war. We are the supreme underdog, and no “non-state entity” will ever match that level of underdogedness.

    The result is an extremely difficult judo move that uses US forces clear towns for relatively unprepared Iraqi units to hold, while at the same time consolidating bases to reduce its presence in preparation for a pull-out. Here’s a critique:

    The result is a bunch of writers talking about war and criticizing a 2 year veteran American force. Not just any American force, but the best, the most trained, the highest in discipline, the supreme in esprit de corps.

    They presume that they know better than the hardened veterans of a war that they believe is sourced from the 20th century.

    But this isn’t the 20th century, and historical effects analysis have no use in the 21st.

    Global guerrilas is the intellectual version of defeatism. As such, it may sound convincing, but it lacks all basis in reality.

    Derived from Israeli defeats, and historical incorrect notions, it does not have the flexibility of heart and mind to adapt to new enemies.

    It really does sound like propaganda from the enemy. I do believe that if the media adopt John robbs, that their propaganda effect would increaes by at least an order of magnitude.

    Systems disruption is not based upon the commonality of human nature. But on the uber power of a “cause” and a “spirit” and a slogan that effaces and overwhelms all previous opposition. The ultimate underdog. But the US is the ultimate underdog, and non-state actors like the beloved Palestinians, Chechnyans, and Al-Qaeda dissidents still have light years to go before matching the supreme status of Under-Dog supreme.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Ah, yes. “Systems disruption.” That’s the new pseudoscientific euphamism for the “divine power” behind the left’s three commandments:

    Something Is Going To Change.

    The Change Will Destroy The World.

    It’s All George W. Bush’s Fault.

    Not to say “systems disruption” can’t happen, but the global cooling / global warming / climate change lobby have taught me to take all claims of “systems disruption” with a truckload of salt. Especially unsourced and unreaearched claims that repeatedly use the phrase “systems disruption” like some kind of boogeyman.

  3. Goesh Says:

    Like Liberal Hawk, I am cautiously optimistic too. I note the significant lack of violence in Basra, a mostly Shia’ area, which could bode ill for secularism on the one hand, yet I recall reading from several sources early on how the majority of the Shia’ intelligentsia were driven south by saddam, how there were so many unemployed professionals there. This bodes well for secularism and then there is Sistani, the big Shia’ honcho, who continues to urge participation and cooperation. Yes, I am optimistic and I fail to see any real merit to the anti-war folks claims of total failure. The Western analysts who are proclaiming failure stand in contrast to ‘in-house’ Iraqis indicating otherwise, and other Western analysts in agreement with Iraqi counterparts. Iraqi polls taken allude to conditions other than failure as well.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Timothy, let me compliment you, for being the rare person openminded enough to be able to appreciate my writing about this while not necessarily agreeing with it.

  5. Timothy Says:

    Interesting and well written blog you have here. As to the substance of this particular entry: I strongly suggest you check out John Robb’s continuing analysis of the Iraqi situation, which you can find here:
    http://www.globalguerrillas.typepad.com

    Scroll down to his post about system disruption.
    I thnk you’ll find that effects based analysis shows that the US effort in Iraq is failing.

    Second, I want to commend you for a lucid and compelling account of your conversion to the neo-con philosophy. Although I strongly disagree with the neo-con project, it is always enjoyable to read good writing.

  6. Goldstein Says:

    There likely was some fraud. After all ,it appears that the Shiite parties increased their vote even though the religous leadership pointedly did not endorse them. All predictions were for some decline and an increase for the secular lists.

    Given Iran and Sadr’s records I can believe that.

    On the other hand, when forced to look civil war in the face, most Iraqis of all stripes are backing down.

    I am cautiously optimistic.

  7. AcademicElephant Says:

    I think the parallels between the Sunnis and the Democrats are illuminating, but here’s my thought: wouldn’t it be interesting if not the election proper but the resolution of the post-election fracas was the true crucible of Iraqi democracy?

  8. Sigmund, Carl and Alfred Says:

    rickl is quite right- it is quite clear the Sunnis have taken their cue from the dem playbook- “Refuse to accept defeat at the polls and charge that the election was illegitimate.”

    There is a difference, though. Arabs are far too pragmatic to obsess over political differences, to the exclusion of everything else.

    They will extract what they can, in terms of concessions, however they can. This is their equivqlent of the “smoke filled back rooms”, where the deals are made.

    That said, unless the the Sunni are Baathists or Islamists, they do not want to return to pre war politics, Iraq style.

    They too, remember Saddam’s ‘style’ of governance.

    The Sunni are a minority, looking for the best deal they can get, and will say and do anything to get it.

    Think Jesse Jackson.

  9. rickl Says:

    I don’t know one way or another whether there was any fraud in the Iraqi election. It would probably be miraculous if there wasn’t.

    But (some of) the Sunnis seem to be taking a page from the Democrat playbook: Refuse to accept defeat at the polls and charge that the election was illegitimate.

    Do we need any more examples of just how corrosive and dangerous their tactics are? Not only here in America but in the example we set for the rest of the world.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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