Friday, October 14, 2005

Assessing Iraq's pre-referendum week The guys over here at Today In Iraq have been doing a grand job of listing the blizzard of daily developments throughout Iraq. I had a column in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday in which I summed up the major trends at this crucial period: it was titled In Iraq, a rush toward democracy could trigger civil war. As I commented in my 'Just World News' post on the column, "Well, I didn't write that headline... I would have phrased it a little differently, since what they're rushing toward doesn't exactly look like 'democracy' to me... More like a series of murky deals concluded behind closed doors." But Icertainly do fear that the rush to ram through the referendum might itself increase the probability of a full-scale civil war. (And I'm far from alone in this.) Inside the Baghdad Green Zone, meanwhile, around a week ago US viceroy Zal Khalilzad rushed into battle trying to finagle yet another last-minute "fix" on the text of the draft constitution that would achieve-- what? Well, I generally find it more fruitful to assess the effects of people's actions rather than to try to second-guess their "motives". And as I wrote here and here on JWN, one notable effect of Khalilzad's finagle has already been to sow dissension among the Iraqi Sunnis. This will probably have the effect of significantly reducing the number of Sunnis prepared to turn out to vote in tomorrow's referendum, and thus decrease the "No" vote in those vital majority-Sunni provinces. As I noted here, many Iraqis are anyway pretty apathetic about the upcoming vote. And then, as TII readers know all too well, US military campaigns have continued across many parts of western Iraq in the past week... I noted here that as of October 10-11, the Independent Electoral Commission had still not been able to open any voting stations in the western Anbar region, the site of military operations over the past two weeks. And of course, no election monitors from any reputable international organization have been able to deploy throughout the country... So why should anyone place any trust in the announced results of tomorrow's referendum, anyway? (I asked that question in my CSM column, as well as on JWN.) On Tuesday, I published another contribution from Gilbert Achcar on the blog. He wrote:
whether the draft passes the referendum or not, there will be a largely autonomous Shiite entity in Southern and Central Iraq, in control of the major part of Iraqi oil reserves and allied with Iran. When one bears in mind the fact that the bulk of Saudi oil reserves are located in the Shiite-majority Eastern province of the US-protected Saudi Kingdom, one gets to realize the full extent of what is more and more of a nightmare for Washington...
Along the way there on JWN, I've also noted Maggie Thatcher's recently reported criticism of the way Bush and Blair justified the war, and I linked to Zbig Brzezinski's great warning that,
Flaying away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.
(The whole of the last portion of his piece is worth reading.) I also judged that Juan Cole's debunking of the authenticity of the so-called "Zawahiri Letter" looked convincing to me. Juan has spent a long time living in and studying both Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities in that part of the world. When he says he finds it extremely doubtful that a Zawahiri, an ardent Sunni militant (and an Egyptian one, to boot), would use a certain form of Shiite-favored greeting, I am inclined to believe him-- certainly, much more than I'm inclined to believe John Negroponte's claims about the letter's authenticity. And here, I noted that the old Iran-Contra architect and wellknown blackguard Michael Ledeen is planning a conference looking at the prospects for splitting Iran up along so-called "federal" lines-- seeing as how the project is going so swimmingly for all concerned in Iraq already, eh?. Finally, last weekend I had a little rant in which I noted the ghastly death-tolls from the natural disasters in Central America and eastern Pakistan, and from the continuing scandal of deaths from hunger and disease in Africa. I said that if everyone in the world started pulling together we could really start to deal with those problems--
Instead of which... There are George Bush and Tony Blair waging war and causing multiple new cascades of death and disaster in Iraq... there's Vladimir Putin waging war in Chechnya, and the Chinese playing potentially escalatory war-games around Taiwan... Talk about man-made disasters!
... I'm sure you get my drift.


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