Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Changes in the political map"

Al-Hayat's Iraq reporter Mashraq Abbas pulls together recent events in a coherent picture of "changes in the political map" of Iraq.

His first point is that Maliki's surprise visit to Ramadi yesterday was essentially part of an effort to present himself as a strong and non-sectarian leader, in response to new challenges to his government. He puts it this way:
[Maliki] is trying to overcome the contradictions in his government by showing support for the [Sunni] tribes in the al-Anbar stronghold of the armed groups, calculating that there are political changes going on that could alter the domestic political map, [changes] that have regional and US support, including an American plan for military withdrawal in the event of failure of the strategy of George Bush. ... [Maliki] met for the first time with Anbar officials and leaders of tribes fighting AlQaeda] in an effort to win them over to [the idea of] the national interest, and to confirm himself [Maliki] as a non-sectarian leader.
The idea of Maliki trying to get better PR as a strong and non-sectarian leader is straightforward enough. But what about the other part of what this writer is saying: namely about the "political changes that could alter the political map..." and the connection between those changes and "regional support" and a supposed "plan for US military withdrawal..." By "political changes" he isn't just referring to the highly-publicized Allawi scheme in and of itself. He is referring to something else that he thinks is behind the Allawi phenomenon. He puts it this way:
[Baghdad is the scene of] a race between a variety of different political groups to stake out positions on a political map that appears to be about to change--regardless of whether the security plan succeeds or whether it fails. With the appearance of proposals for new political alliances bringing together a variety of groups, sect-based or nationalist, Iraqi politicians are seeing that the "compass" that has up to now permitted the formation of fronts based on sect-cohesiveness, isn't going to last, given the changes in the public mood and the regional climate, in the direction of an easing of sectarian pressure
The journalist then tries out his own version of the Allawi-coalition arithmetic. But his point is that the "new political alliances" idea isn't synonomous with Allawi. It is something that is based on a change in the underlying political climate, both domestically and regionally. (For instance there have been various reports over the last few months about reform subgroups forming to pressure leadership of the big Shiite and Sunni coalitions to abandon their hard-line sectarian positions, without particular reference to Allawi or anyone else).

This of course is completely contrary to the emerging group-think in the West, where people on the left and the right are starting to come together in the thesis of inevitable religious war, mega-chaos and the threat of regional catastrophe. In some ways this looks like a repetition of the Saddam-WMD demagoguery: Scare-accusations that can't be falsified because at root they are nothing more than the cartoon-representation of Arabs with vicious plans; acceptance of the threat by people who find moral satisfaction in the lack of ambiguity. And so on. It is a subtle process in its own way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, you really shouldn't take these Green Zone politicians so seriously. They are all lap dogs. None of them have any credibility. According to a recent AP article, Maliki scuttled off to Ramadi because he's afraid Bush will dump him. There's a good article on Allawi on the Guardian website. It concludes as follows: "When the current "surge" inevitably fails, and Washington's (and Riyadh's) itch to combat Iran grows, keep an eye out for the rotund one. He offers the fantasy of an easy solution to an intractable problem - a "magic bullet" which will only lead us deeper into fiasco."


9:52 AM  
Blogger badger said...

They're all lapdogs, probably in the same way that the leading US Democrats are all lapdogs, would you agree? But just as it still matters what happens in Washington, lapdogs or not, it also matters what happens in the Green Zone (less so, but still...). So when this guy says the climate and the times are changing, and change for the better is conceivable, shouldn't you pay at least as much atention to him as you would to a similar claim in Washington? That's where my seemingly unrelated final point comes in: There is a knee-jerk (forgive me, I'm not talking about you) reaction feeds into the groupthink: They are all bad, and the situation will deteriorate as it is fated to do.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

I know what you mean about the groupthink, Badger; listening to the Congressional 'debate' on Iraq only reinforces the self-serving nature of the analysis.

But your attention to the developing nuances is appreciated by me, at a minimum. Thanks!

5:57 PM  

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