Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jaafari group turns against knee-jerk federalism

Azzaman his morning (Tuesday Nov 20) headlines remarks by a spokesman for former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, a member of the same Dawa party to which current Prime Minister Maliki belongs. The Jaafari spokesman said Jaafari's wing of the party is going to form a "nationalist current" with participation of leaders of various religious, political and social groupings, which will function not as a political party, but as a grouping of
"...national [or "nationalist"] and social [or "socialist"] personalities along with organizations of civil (meaning not political-party) society, in a project aiming at putting an end to the sectarian antagonism, and having a national breadth and depth that doesn't lean to this sect of that."
The only specific programmatic point he mentions is that this new "current" will be opposed to any implementation of federalism based on sect, and furthermore it will stress that there needs to be ample consideration and reflection before any implementation of federalism on any other basis, whether geographic or what he calls "qaumiyya," which could mean a range of things, but probably here he means "ethnic".

The two stalwart members of the governing coalition, the Supreme Council and Dawa, were exile groups that returned to Iraq with the US invasion, and have been associated from the beginning with the American-sponsored sectarian character of the "new Iraq". Groups outside of the political process including the nationalist part of the Sunni resistance, and the anti-Qaeda tribes as well, along with the Shiite currents centered on Sadr and Fadhila, all have a nationalist core, so that even when they fight among themselves they are "fighting over competing versions of Iraqi nationalism," (borrowing a phrase from a presentation at the recent MESA conference in Montreal by Fanar Haddad of the University of Exeter) and not with the aim of defeating the other in the sense of breaking up the country.

What makes this new move by the Jaafari branch of the Dawa party noteworthy is that for the first time a substantial part of that stalwart US-sponsored sectarian bloc is defecting, in principle at least, to an overtly anti-sectarian and nationalist line in rebellion against the leader of their own party (Maliki).

By the way, I did make my way to the MESA conference, but since I was in learning mode and not in reporting mode I don't have a lot I can reliably report from there, except for this: The Brookingses and the whole Washington think-tank nation were nowhere to be seen, and they were not missed. In fact (or rather mostly just as a feeling), it seems that whole Washington cabal that argues back and forth about US military strategy and calls it "Iraq" is held in considerable contempt by the scholarly community. One commenter remarked after a particularly fact-filled panel discussion on how different this was from what normally goes down in Washington, "and I am not talking about people in Iowa who have maybe heard of Iraq, I am talking about the people who drive US policy. Maybe what they should do is just 'recognize the right of Iraq to exist'". It was the kind of remark that stays with you for its many meanings.


Blogger annie said...

'recognize the right of Iraq to exist'

i don't think it's iraq they have a problem with. just those damn iraqis standing between us and our oil.

why can't the scholarly community understand that?

12:29 AM  
Blogger badger said...

annie, bear with me and let me try and put it this way:

If we don't appreciate old Chinese art or the philosophy of Mencius, there's no harm in that. Or even if we think of China as primarily a source of some natural resource or other. Life is short. And if there was an American invasion or something for the purpose of putting our hands on some natural resource, it would make a lot of sense to point out that basic purpose, lest people fall for some self-serving excuse or other.

But if we don't have a clue about Iraqi culture, including Iraqi forms of social cohesion, and at the same time we are asked to buy into a public-relations strategy that says essentially that the country has already been disabled as a cohesive nation, and we are asked to do that in careless or deliberate ignorance of the whole of Iraqi culture, including the forms of social cohesion, then we do have a bit of a problem.

People of good will and common sense were against the invasion because instinctively everyone knew that this was a country of living, breathing people with living cultural traditions and all the rest of it, blown apart for the sake of oil, let's say. And obviously it has been important to debunk all he other fine excuses ("democracy" and "WMD" and so on) that were supposed to dress this up. It was a case of debunking the lies underlying the invasion. Those you could call the "entrance lies".

But what is now being concocted is another, different set of lies to justify an American-style "withdrawal". In the trauma of war and occupation and civil war, the whole idea of Iraq as a nation of living, breathing people with living cultural traditions and the rest of it (which people of common sense and good will more or less assumed as one of the reasons why the invasion was wrong) has been (for the purposes of the US-administration PR machine) washed away. The horror and tragedy that were unleashed by the invasion have been turned against the Iraqi people, by that PR machine, so as to create a new set of lies based on the idea that Iraq no longer exists as a cohesive country with even minimal rules for co-existence and the rest of it. Thus maximizing the need for continued US influence of one kind or another.

It was in this sense that the speaker said "maybe what they (the think tanks and so on) should do is just recognize Iraq's right to exist."

You are right about the "problem" not being Iraq, but rather access to oil, insofar as you're talking about the invasion itself. But now--and this is what I'm trying to say--the problem is Iraq, because US policy from now on is going to be based, in one form or another, on the idea that there is no longer any Iraq. And this new set of lies will maximize the scope of continued and renewed American adventures in the region.

7:35 AM  
Blogger annie said...

i was feeling rather snarky and mentally exhausted when i made that comment badger. the way i see it is the only way the US policy ever intended on pacifying iraqis was to somehow get to an interim where dividing iraq seemed like the best option, the only option, for them to survive therefor our presence can be seen as humanitarian.. saving themselves from eachother.

the whole idea of Iraq as a nation of living, breathing people with living cultural traditions and the rest of it .... has been.... washed away.

imho this idea is dangerous to the occupier. the pr machine doesn't want us to associate iraqis w/ourselves. they can be violent, radical, irrational, desperate, clueless, terrorists,uneducated, anything.. but the image the msm wants is that we are constantly seeking for a 'moderate' muslim. however all real 'moderate' solutions are never an option offered. all the 'benchmarks' only serve to usher iraq into divided servitude.

thanks for your response. the world needs to look at the optimum for iraq and iraqis, something the pr never speaks of because it doesn't include the outcome of the US policy.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Great post, Badger, and a great comment as well. Your basic take on things is dead on.

And the remark about recognizing Iraq's right to exist is beyond dead on.

Just in the last two days I have been debating the original lie that Iraq "was always a mistake that was dreamed up by old men in London for the purpose of colonial administrative convenience". Part of my response to that lie is that the three wilayat that were combined to make Iraq were dreamed up by old men in Istanbul for the purpose of imperial administrative convenience, and so what if some old men in London decided a few centuries later and for colonial administrative convenience to recombine them into a modern-day nation state. Every country dreamed up by those old men in London and Paris for colonial administrative convenience involved combining and/or dividing up the geographical areas that had been dreamed up by other old men in Istanbul for imperial administrative convenience, so why is it only Iraq and not all of them that was "always a mistake"?

12:21 AM  
Blogger annie said...

guess what

the US is dropping plans for 'unity' in iraq , propagandized as some solution is regional elections, for governors.

wow, i'm so shocked. is this the 'soft partition'.

the framing is sooo designed.

sorry doesn't really cut it.

3:12 AM  

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