Friday, February 27, 2009

Post-election sectarian logic causing fear of renewed violence

Zaid Al-Zubaidi writes in AlAkhbar about anxiety on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities over the security implications of the latest political development: namely Maliki's apparent move to ally with the Sadr trend in substitution for his prior alliance with the Supreme Council. Many have concluded that this means the return on the Mahdi Army, and already the result in some Sunni areas (writes Zubaidi) appears to be that non-takfiiri resistance groups have made alliances with AlQaeda affiliates to join ranks against the threat of sectarian attacks.
The mere possibility of a return at the present time of the officially frozen Mahdi Army, means the return of the specter of AlQaeda, because Sunni Arab areas feel the need for protection against the resurgent danger. And that has in fact led, in the face of the return to the streets of the men in black (death squads) and the opening of their operations in the heart of Baghdad, the night before last, with an attack on the "Ahlan wa Sahlan" hall, the kidnapping of a number of people there, and transporting them to an unknown location--in government vehicles.
Al-Zubaidi reviews the arguments about responsibility, and recent announcements by the Interior Ministry about rogue police units (including recent arrests in connection with sectarian killings in 2006), but he adds:
Those announcements [about arrests of small groups of rogue officers] have practically no meaning at all compared with the announcement by the Interior Ministry a few days ago [Monday Feb 16] about the firing of 62,000 of its employees for connections with corruption, abuse of power, and associations with militias. That kind of a number illustrates the extent of the government's involvement in all of the violent sectarian operations in [Iraq] during the time of the occupation.
For Al-Zubaidi, the basic point is about how the sectarian system works once it is set up and running. He writes:
Observers think that Maliki, who won the elections on the basis of renouncing sectarianism and the militias, has gotten in the habit of [merely] alternating his alliances with sects that have militia organizations, because he was originally allied with the Sadr trend, then he attacked them in cooperation with the Supreme Council, and now he is back in cooperation with the Sadr trend againsts that same Supreme Council.

For this reason, it is hard to be skeptical of the truth of information circulating on the streets, particularly in "Sunni districts", concerning agreements made with AlQaeda by a number of non-takfiiri resistance groups and by leaders of Awakening Councils, based on the need to join forces against a returning Mahdi Army. Agreements the gist of which is to permit members of AlQaeda to operate in their respective areas and not to report them or fight with them, in exchange for their not targeting local forces or the members of the Awakenings, and [in exchange for AQ agreeing] not to undertake operations against the Shia outside the framework of the militias, and to avoid friction with the foreign forces in the cities.


Anonymous anna missed said...

I suppose the implied logic is that the new alliance with Sadr means that the his people will fill the vacancies at Interior, and that represents the same alliance that pushed the Sunni's out of Baghdad.

7:24 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Yes, something like that, although the only actual incident he mentions is that one kidnapping incident involving a government vehicle, the rest of the news being of the "people are saying..." type.

I think what mostly struck the writer, and I know what struck me in reading it, is the thought-processes: The guy with the "anti-sectarian" platform is seen to be actually just switching sectarian partners, and that immediately implies defensive arrangements on the other side. So I'd say the implied deeper logic is that the system is set up in such a way that gains over here mean losses over there--"zero-sum" in a special sense--and that's seen to be true whether in the area of security or in general administration, all the result of truing to artificially re-create a government under the occupation.

Also, there have been developments with Sadr and a couple of breakaway leaders that the US has in custody who have supposedly been "negotiating" the release of other Sadrists from US custody (see LB at RoadstoIraq recently for some of that), so the actual who's who situation seems to me to be pretty cloudy.

8:10 PM  
Blogger badger said...

"trying to artificially re-create..." not truing

8:12 PM  
Anonymous anna missed said...

I guess thats the real question, whether they are "trying to artificially recreate a government under occupation". First off, seems to me that this alliance is the most significant result of the election, irregardless that it has generated about zero copy in the U.S. press. However, I see several conjoined possibilities relating to whether the new alliance is a product of occupation culture or a clever means of removing it. The alliance itself happened so fast after the election as to be suspect. It would seem that the alliance has been at the very least, a tacit agreement between Maliki and Sadr for some time now, perhaps including the time of Maliki's apparent crackdown - whereby it served as a demonstration of sorts that seemed to enhance Maliki's new nationalists profile, while at the same time preserving all of Sadr's basic demands, especially a hard withdrawal date. The U.S. for its part either believed the crackdown ruse, or saw that as an endgame strategy, they were better off with the more anti-Iranian Sadrists that with the more pro-Iranian SIIC. Armchair speculation I know, but it would explain the lack of coverage because the rhetorical contradictions are too revealing.

3:22 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Nothing wrong with a little speculation from time to time.

But we're missing a lot of necessary information, for instance:

(1) What is the nature of the M-Sadr "alliance" if it comes into being; and more fundamentally

(2) What's happening within the Sadr movement (and what is the role of the US in that).

(3) What is the status of the earlier-reported Parliamentary battle between Kurd/SupremeCouncil/IPI versus Maliki and his presumed new allies, given the continuing standoff over electing a new Parliamentary speaker (and what is the US role in that)

(4) There are plenty of indications that both the US and its Gulf state allies would like to harness the senior ex-regime officers to exert pressure on the Maliki administration. How is that playing into the post-election GZ politics?

In other words, there are a lot of gray areas, and one of the grayest is the direction (if any) of US policy/shenanigans in all of this.

(Personally I don't see this in terms of an endgame, but rather of a continuous and ongoing campaign to make sure that, whatever the Iraqi regime, it remains susceptible to US pressure). For all those reasons, I would myself take a pass on trying to say what the Maliki/Sadr relationship is.

7:04 AM  

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