[Marxism] Iraq still poised to explode

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Jul 29 01:50:02 MDT 2008


Iraq: poised to explode
posted by Robert Dreyfuss on 07/27/2008 @ 1:02pm

While everyone's looking at Iraq's effect on American politics -- and
whether or not John McCain and Barack Obama are converging on a policy that
combines a flexible timetable with a vague, and long-lasting, residual force
-- let's take a look instead at Iraqi politics. The picture isn't pretty. 

Despite the Optimism of the Neocons, which has pushed mainstream media
coverage to be increasingly flowery about Iraq's political progress, in fact
the country is poised to explode. Even before the November election. And for
McCain and Obama, the problem is that Iran has many of the cards in its
hands. Depending on its choosing, between now and November Iran can help
stabilize the war in Iraq -- mostly by urging the Iraqi Shiites to behave
themselves -- or it can make things a lot more violent. 

There are at least three flashpoints for an explosion, any or all of which
could blow up over the next couple of months. (Way to go, Surgin' Generals!)
The first is the brewing crisis over Kirkuk, where the pushy Kurds are
demanding control and Iraq's Arabs are resisting. The second is in the west,
and Anbar, where the US-backed Sons of Iraq sahwa ("Awakening") movement is
moving to take power against the Iraqi Islamic Party, a fundamentalist Sunni
bloc. And third is the restive Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which is
chafing at gains made by its Iranian-backed rival, the Islamic Supreme
Council of Iraq (ISCI). 

Perhaps the issue of KIrkuk and the Kurds is most dangerous. Last week, the
Kurds walked out of parliament to protest a law passed by parliament to
govern the provincial elections. The law passed 127-13, but it was vetoed by
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. Juan Cole, the astute observer, says :
"The conflict between Kurds and Arabs over Kirkuk is a crisis waiting to
happen." He cites Al-Hayat, an Iraqi newspaper, as claiming that not only do
the Kurds want to control Kirkuk, an oil-rich province in Iraq's north, but
they plan to annex three other provinces where Kurds live: Diyala,
Salahuddin, and Ninewa. That's not likely, but they do want Kirkuk, and the
vetoed election law would have limited the Kurds' ability to press their
gains there. 

The election law was supported by Sadr's bloc and backed by former Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi and his Iraq National List. Another nationalist party,
the National Dialogue Council, has demanded the ouster of President Talabani
over his veto of the law. Other Iraqi parties are backing the now-vetoed
law, too, which also restricts the use of Islamic religious symbols by
political parties seeking to corral illiterate, religious voters. 

Because of all this, it now looks like there won't be provincial elections
this year at all. The ruling bloc of Shiite religious parties and Kurdish
warlords is split over the crisis, weakening Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,
and members of the ruling coalition are trying to patch things up. I don't
think they'll succeed. Many Shiites in the ruling bloc, including ISCI, have
criticized the law as divisive, but as Arabs it's hard for them to endorse a
Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk. ISCI and the Badr Brigade, its armed wing, are
holding parlays to decide what to do. Interestingly, all three members of
the ruling presidential council, including Talabani, the IIP's Hashemi, and
ISCI's Adel Abdel Mahdi, voted to veto the law, putting ISCI and the IIP on
record as supporting the Kurds. Bad for them politically. 

The IIP says that it wants to mediate the crisis. But the IIP is in a very,
very weak position. Having just rejoined the Maliki government, it is under
siege at home in its base in Anbar province, where the Awakening is flexing
its muscle. This could be the second explosion. The Sunni Arabs are still
seething over the divisive Iraqi Constitution and their continuing exclusion
from political power, and the Awakening movement sees the IIP (correctly) as
wildly unrepresentative. So the Awakening, representing Sunni tribal powers
and former resistance fighters, wants in, at the expense of the IIP. That
time bomb is ticking, too. 

The final crisis-to-be is the Sadr vs. Badr one. The Times today suggests
that Sadr is weakening: 

The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the
Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across
Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.

Don't believe it. Sadr's rivals, ISCI, don't have anything like the popular
base that Sadr has. And underneath Sadr is a volatile mix of neighborhood,
local and regional militias, mosques, and economic fiefdoms that won't yield
easily to ISCI and Maliki. Because Sadr's forces are dependent on Iran,
however, for arms and cash, Iran may be in the driver's seat. Just the other
day, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps crowed that the
United States has failed to install an anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, and
he's completely right. 

So Iraq is still poised to explode, and Iran may be in control. McCain's
solution: provoke a showdown with Iran. Obama's solution: try to make a deal
with Iran to stabilize Iraq. I'm not sure either "plan" will work.

Comments (88)

Lets not forget the Turks, who won't be happy about the Kurds controlling
the oil in the North. The question is not if things are going to explode,
but when is it going to happen? As

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