Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The rope of silk

Awni Qalamji (for other writings of his summarized here, try the search box on the upper left) offers a glimpse of the kind of debates that Obama-optimism caused among resistance factions in Iraq, and his conclusion is that many were completely taken in by the wave of optimism, misreading both Obama's intentions and their own capabilities, and hurting the reputation of the resistance among ordinary Iraqis, who remember well the earlier and more principled statements by the factions about no negotiations without commitment to complete and unconditional withdrawal.

He starts from the idea that Maliki's conversion from a sectarian boss to a national leader, from federalism to centralism and the "anti-sectarianism" that was central to his election campaign--all of this was in response to Obama's policy of promoting a strong central government under American guidance, and the abandonment of any specific "Biden-plan" separation schemes. Elements of this included the idea of re-integration of former regime officers into the armed forces, and so on. He writes:
In this context [the Obama plans for an American-guided centralized state] Maliki was transformed by the power of the occupation from a sectarian to a secular leader, and from a supporter of partition to an advocate for the unity of Iraq...and he is now a preacher for national reconciliation and including those who rejected the government of the occupation and inviting them to participate in the political process.
This is as much an illusion as is the confidence in Obama himself and his "rationality".
[Those who have swallowed this] have entered into this through the doors of the imagination and the imaginary, and some interperted Obama's "withdrawal" as if he was now having recourse to reason and grasping the fact that his forces lack the ability to last for any long period of time against the attacks of the resistance, as opposed to his predecessor the frivolous Bush who refused to recognize this...
And so the idea was that the reasonable Obama recognized that withdrawal was a way for America to save face and protect its reputation globally. So that:
[The argument was] that the occupation ought not to let this opportunity slip through its fingers, and should make an agreement with Obama to end the occupation through dialogue and negotiations. And that those who did not understand this were either ignorant, or inexperienced, or deficient, and finally the only thing left to accuse them of was treason and a connection with foreign powers.
The fact of the matter was and is that Obama put more conditions on withdrawal than even Bush did, so the "withdrawal" offer was itself illusory. And what is worse:
...and I say this with bitterness and with sadness, the Iraqi resistance has not yet reached the position where it could push the occupation forces to the brink of defeat, and it requires perhaps years before it reaches that stage. That is owing to the lack of unity among the factions, and not to their weakness. To be as clear as possible: The balance of power is still in favor of the occupation forces, in spite of the victories that have been won by the resistance againsts the occupation, and their exhaustion of the occupation, and their disruption of the American project for the Middle East as a whole, and their delaying of the project for the global American empire at whose gates history was supposed to stop.
So the various expressions by resistance factions of willingness to negotiate with the Obama administration were a result of misreading not only Obama's intentions, but of their own power and the balance of power as well.

Qalamji says his purpose in being frank is not to suggest that the occupation has become fixed and irresistable, but rather to issue a general alert to the resistance factions: Bush slaughtered us with the sword; Obama's strategy is to strangle us with a rope of silk--the so-called "soft power", and he cites a book by Joseph Nye called "Soft Power..." Because if Obama has his way, then the struggle will no longer be between the resistance and the occupation, but between the resistance "and the occupation government with its army", and the direct role of the American forces will be limited.

He concludes:
This is where the unity of the factions is important in standing up to the Obama plan. If this measure [proposed withdrawal] had come about two or three years ago, it would have been possible to fill the void in each city from which the occupation withdrew, and announce a national government there, that could have been extended to all the other cities. And although the possibility of unity is still there, these factions continue to be beating around the bush, and while they talk of unity in statements and communiques, in reality they are going in the opposite direction. For instance, the three fronts--Jihad and Liberation, Jihad and Change, and Jihad and Reform--which are the main body of the resistance, and which promised the Iraqi people they would unite at the earliest possible time, have again started, for some time now to strengthen each its own position, and to vie with one another to show off their power in order to convince people that they are the only front capable of liberating Iraq, and that the others should join under its banner. ... This is what accounts for the noticeable drop in operations by the Iraqi resistance, and this has led people to look for other alternatives in arranging their affairs.
And any such decline in popular support is damaging to the resistance, which can only thrive in an environment of popular support.


Anonymous Ken Hoop said...

I'm not sure if this is pertinent to your previous scepticism regards Cole, but here he seems to say the US should STAY in Iraq if the current Kurdish friction gets out of hand. One commentor gets in an understated dissent (As of my posting) Pertinent or tangential?

3:14 PM  
Blogger badger said...

He does seem to say that. But the argument (need for US military presence in order to make the region safe for yet another belligerent client) is so weird the first question has to be: Where is he getting this stuff, and does it matter? In other words, I don't know.

3:53 PM  

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