Sunday, January 28, 2007

Iraq government attitude on the surge

I can't overcome my 1960's upbringing, that told me that, generally, war is not the answer.

I do believe we should not leave it broken if we can avoid that. The question is whether more troops increase the chance of that, or not. I would trust the new General's opinion, if I can believe it is really his, and not one that was given to him, or a compromise between what he believes, and what his bosses believe.

There is an article in the NY Times Week in Review section today, from a reporter who is leaving Iraq. These paragraphs from the end are interesting. I highlighted a few sentences:

For those eager to write off Iraq as lost, one fact bears remembering. A great many Shiites and Kurds, who together make up 80 percent of the population, will tell you that in spite of all the mistakes the Americans have made here, the single act of removing Saddam Hussein was worth it. And the new American plan, despite all the obstacles, may have a chance to work. With an Iraqi colleague, I have been studying a neighborhood in northern Baghdad that has become a dumping ground for bodies. There, after American troops conducted sweeps, the number of corpses dropped by a third in September. The new plan is built around that kind of tactic. But the odds are stacked against the corps of bright young officers charged with making the plan work, particularly because their Iraqi partner — the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki — seems to be on an entirely different page. When American officials were debating whether to send more troops in December, I went to see an Iraqi government official. The prospect of more troops infuriated him. More Americans would simply prolong the war, he said. “If you don’t allow the minority to lose, you will carry on forever,” he said.

The remarks struck me as a powerful insight into the Shiites’ thinking. Abused under Mr. Hussein, they still act like an oppressed class. That means Iraqis are looking into a future of war, at least in the near term. As one young Shiite in Sadr City said to me: “This just has to burn itself out.”

Hazim al-Aaraji, a disciple of the renegade Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, understands this. A cleric himself, he is looking for foot soldiers for the war. On a warm October afternoon, as he bustled around his mosque in western Baghdad, he said the ideal disciples would have “an empty mind,” and a weapon. Surprised by the word choice, an Iraqi friend I was with stopped him, to clarify his intent. Once again, he used the word “empty.”

And it seems like even if we stay until there is a stable govt, that govt will work with Iran. The only difference if we leave while there is instability is that Iran may send in troops - but the end result is probably the same - other than how bloody it is.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Iran, Iraq, Shiites, Sunnis ...

Here is an interesting article from the Pew Forum on Religion, about Iran, Shiites, Sunnis, Iraq, the middle east, etc. The first half is transcript of a speech, and the second half is a transcript of questions and answers.

The speech is kind of dense. A couple of things I found interesting:
- Iran, and Shiite's generally, were supportive of the US invasion, because they wanted a democratic, one-man-one-vote election, because they knew it would bring the Shiites to power in Iraq.
- removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan also was good for Iran - Afghanistan and Iraq were Sunni walls around Shiite Iran.
- Al Qaeda really comes from radical Sunni groups - Wahabis supported in Saudi Arabia, for example. So Iran could have been our natural ally against Al Qaeda.
- On the other hand, the Shiites, particularly when Ahmadinejad became President of Iran, decided to broaden their appeal to Arab citizens by attacking Israel's right to exist, etc.
- Here's something from his answer to the second question:

"The Iranians do not want to talk about single issues. They want a broader structure of agreement that commits the two countries to normalization of relations, kind of like Kissinger going to China. For Iranians, normalization would mean that regime change is off the table and Iran’s interests are recognized. I am not saying this is something that the U.S. necessarily can or should do, but I’m saying that’s what they want."

Iran figures if they concede on nukes at the start, they are losing one of the best bargaining chips. He doesn't say whether they would be willing to recognize Israel as part of a larger package.

I wonder if anyone in our govt understood Sunnis and Shiites before we invaded Iraq?