Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Americans did it (correction: We still don't know. See Saturday post) Now let's forget that and start beating the drums for "sectarian conflict"

The unit that carried out the Diyala raids was the "emergency response unit" of the "multi-national force", according to the spokesman for the commander of Iraqi ground forces, and that makes it an American-run operation. Which obviously requires the covering fire of verbiage, so that "it was what appears to be a rogue operation" (a US spokesman) and the McClatchy editor still leads the story on this by referring to the unit as an "Iraqi special forces unit".

"It was what appears to be a rogue operation. It's definitely concerning that we have an element that would go do something like that," said Brig. Gen. James Boozer, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, which oversee Diyala.

A spokesman for Gen. Ali Ghaidan, the commander of Iraqi ground forces, told McClatchy that the unit involved was the emergency response unit.

The Multi-National Force-Iraq Web site describes the emergency response unit as a "highly trained 746-man team trained to respond to national-level law enforcement emergencies. Team members undergo a robust eight-week specialized training course specifically developed for the current counter-terrorist fight."

If we add this information to the analysis referred to in the prior post (and discount the "rogue operation" ploy) , the state of the question becomes, not whodunnit, but for what reason, on the basis of what strategy? What would be the American interest in taking out of the picture, in a high-risk operation, the local Diyala official who appears to have been the primary official defender of the local Awakenings, namely Hussein al-Zubaydi, the head of provincial-council security committee and chief rival of the Awakenings-enemy Qureyshi?

This is where the PTB/PTA-based analysis lets us down, and possibly why the excellent recent Diyala analysis seems to have come to a screeching halt. Because it is one thing to say that the question of the Awakenings is a question of struggles for slices of the pie. But why on earth, in that case, would it be in the Americans' interest to launch a high-risk operation to disadvantage the Awakenings in the way that they have done? Unless they see the Awakenings as something other than a self-interested group (powers that aren't) that will eventually wither away in the struggle with the powers that be in Baghdad--the "withering away" hypothesis being the centerpiece, not only of the "Surge is a success" meme (Republicans), but also of the "we plan to withdraw our troops" meme (Democrats).

The most important point is this: If you overlook the Americans' crucial role in this, they you can go ahead and start beating the drums for the story of "sectarian strife", as we can already see this morning. "Escalating sectarian tensions", "Baquba raids roils Sunni-Shiite relations", and so on. Ideal background, you might say, for a final push for the bilateral security agreement.


Blogger Eric Martin said...

Because it is one thing to say that the question of the Awakenings is a question of struggles for slices of the pie. But why on earth, in that case, would it be in the Americans' interest to launch a high-risk operation to disadvantage the Awakenings in the way that they have done?

I'm not sure that "question" is the proper formulation. In my read, the Awakenings movement arose because certain Sunni elements were looking to rid themselves of what we call AQI (AQI having overreached), and also to secure power within their localities - power based on tribal lineage that they had enjoyed in some form or another for centuries in many cases.

These Awakenings/SOI decided that it would be better to accept the support of the Americans, and to observe a truce of sorts in this respect, so as to strengthen their position.

Many of those same factions have been demanding a share of the political pie, with all the patronage rights that affords. That's only logical since they represent a large constituency that has been without political representation and economic advantage.

Now from a cynical American perspective, these Awakenings/SOI groups present something of a conundrum: Maliki and the PTB (even some of the Sunni PTB) don't seem overly eager to incorporate them into the government, or share pieces of said pie. Yet there is a pretty good chance that they will continue to disrupt the situation unless they are given a greater share.

So perhaps the Bush administration is deciding that it would be best to go after them, aiding Maliki and others in their effort to marginalize an adversary. "Thanks for the truce, the PR was great, oh, and now that we have biometric/demographic data on most of you, happy hunting!"

As for withering away, I don't think most Democratic plans envision this. Rather, they are counting on withdrawal serving as an impetus for Maliki and other PTB's to share power (political and economic) in order to stave off a resumption of the violent clashes. The theory is that Maliki et al will not pursue such maximalist policies without the US military around.

They might be wrong, but that is the thesis.

7:02 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Fascinating and very original, Eric, thank you.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The primary problem for the occupation, with the Sunni insurgency was the lack of intelligence. The awakening program has filled that void. And will enable Maliki to continue down the path toward military dictatorship put into motion last winter. The ISF will assume the roll of occupation forces against all internal challengers creating the illusion of an anti-sectarian anti-occupation nationalist democracy has been achieved. Of course there will be no elections.

12:19 PM  
Blogger badger said...

And the Americans? Are you thinking they would provide back-up from the safety of bases, to which they will "withdraw" "by 20xx or as circumstances permit" pursuant to a sweetheart deal Maliki might go for? Or...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Joel Wing said...

I think the U.S. really wants the government to integrate the SOI, but the unconditional support the Bush administration has given means that if Maliki doesn't, the US won't really do anything about it. It seems like the U.S. was hoping the provincial elections would be the big safety valve for this issue because even if the SOI didn't get integrated a lot of them could get political office, and that would open up patronage and legitimacy to them regardless. Now with the elections postponned Maliki seems intent on settling old scores.

Also be aware that the government has not integrated the Shiite SOI. About 1/3 of the SOI are in southern provinces and belong to mixed Sunni-Shiite tribes. So it's not just about going after ex-Sunnni insurgents, it's also about control. The SOI answer to the U.S., not Baghdad.

4:07 PM  
Blogger annie said...

Of course there will be no elections.


interview w/Faraj Al-Haydari, chairman of The Independent High Election Commission (IHEC)

Niqash: After the delay in passing the election law and the Iraqi president’s rejection of the law, do you think that elections will take place next October as scheduled?

Al-Haydari: It is impossible to hold elections at the scheduled date. We told the parliament that the commission would be able to hold elections on 22 December 2008, if the parliament passes the law before the end of July because we need four months to complete all election requirements, such as the design of the ballot papers, the registration of eligible coalitions and other procedures. In case the law is delayed, it will not be possible to hold elections in 2008 and they will be postponed to 2009.

8:30 PM  

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