Saturday, September 29, 2007

Iraq and the Iowa primary

Preachers including those representing the Ayatollah Sistani warned in their Friday sermons yesterday against foreign interventions aimed at breaking up Iraq, implicitly and sometimes explicitly denouncing the Biden plan. But at the same time, a spokesman for the major Sistani client SIIC said the mention of federalism in the "National Pact" announced last week by Tareq al-Hashemi was a positive step and one that should be subject to further inter-party discussions and elaboration. In other words: The three-part federalism scheme is alive and well as a GreenZone collaboration, with the new, tentative, involvement of Hashemi and his Islamic Party (Sunni). But the foreign trumpeting of such a scheme is denounced as a scheme for partition. The apparent contradiction is easily understood. It isn't that anyone has ever doubted American influence on the Green Zone politicians like Hakim and Hashemi. What is new with Biden is the blatant nature of the foreign pressure for a dismemberment of the country. His scheme is seen as the extended middle finger to Iraq and Iraqis.

Which brings us back to the question: Why was the "Biden plan" trumpeted in this way, and why now?

The only available explanation in Washington is that the event--touted as showing Biden's bipartisan skills-- must have been part of his strategy for the Iowa primary. Political junkie Marc Ambinder quotes Biden's Iowa state director Danny O'Brien to the effect Biden is throwing everything into Iowa, featuring a push for endorsements from state legislators, including this: "Third, he’s stress[ing] his Iraq message – “a broader policy offering than they normally expected,” O’Brien says." And when the Biden-Iraq measure passed the Senate on Thursday, Matt Yglesias ran a picture of Biden, with a puff on his Iowa prospects--"Iowa Democrats buzzing about a coming Biden surge"--ostentatiously leaving out any actual mention of the Iraq amendment. It was about Iowa. Iraq as an actual country was beneath anyone's notice.

So the Iraqi perception of this as another screw-you message from America--bipartisan America this time--was no doubt the correct one. One of the Baghdad preachers yesterday put it this way (according to Al-Hayat):
[The preacher] denounced the decision of the American Congress with respect to partitioning Iraq, and warned that this will serve to "promote the process of tearing-apart and internecine fighting in the country", and he asked Iraqis to come to their senses and rise to the level of the responsibilities that have been placed on their shoulders, and he called America the Pharaoh of our modern age, striving for the partitioning of the Iraqi people by faction and by sect and by race.
"America the Pharaoh of the modern age" used to be a signature line of AlQaeda, but the idea is clearly gaining ground. And the primaries haven't even started yet.


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1:56 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir said...

Badger the American interest has been that Iraq not re-emerge as a formidable military power that seeks to expand its regional influence. Very similar to the interests of Iran (save that they want an Iraq without US bases). In order to achieve this the central government must be legally institutionally incapable of marshalling the society's resources for such an effort hence decentralization or federalism. This fits in with the ethnic/sectarion divison narrative and makes it seem as just common sense. SIIC as an ally of Iran gaining control in Basra as part of a Shia super region and using the oil rents and security forces to perpetuate its rule gives Iran a defacto buffer zone. This is I think also part of a cautious move to the endgame. Al Anbar militas, Hashemi's attempt at concilliation, perhaps the Saudis are on board and the hard slogging of negotiations is to divy up the spoils so the Saudi and Iranians both have proxies balancing each other and playing defence, while the peace and reconciliatin narrative lets the US move toward the exit.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I figured that the U.S. had given up on the anti-partition policy up until they initiated the Anbar program, which I think reverses policy and only cuts in the direction of partition. Biden (& Lugar) no doubt informed on the implications of arming up the tribes, is bandstanding a bit to publicize that the administration has (without explicitly say so) adopted his (long held) solution of hyper federation/partition. I suppose the rest of the dimwits jumped on the bandwagon because it fits the "they have been killing each other for centuries" narrative as an obvious solution, by physically separating (by T-walls) the various sectarian groups. Not unlike proclaiming that Fallujah has become a success and model for the rest of Iraq - a city depopulated, destroyed, and without an operating infrastructure, 80% unemployment, where no one can even drive a car. But hey, attacks on americans are down, and in the Petraeus/congressional play book that's the only that sells. So its off to the races and another episode of JackAss the reality, where we do it because we can. And could care less about the consequences.

anna missed

10:58 PM  

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