From Musings On Iraq Iraq Thinks Its Politicians And Parties Are Failing Them According To New Opinion Poll
The main thing to take away from this new poll is that Iraqis felt that their country was heading in the wrong direction. Sunnis, the poor, and the young were the most pessimistic about the future. Based upon the questions asked, Iraq’s political class was the main culprit behind the negative views. All of the major parties and leaders, with the exception of Allawi and Sadr, were seen badly. Politicians are increasingly thought to be more involved with their own personal squabbles than running the country. In the sixteen months since parliamentary elections, very little has been accomplished as Maliki and Allawi are still arguing over finishing off the cabinet. The provincial councils have been in power even longer, and people’s opinions of them are just as negative with the exception of the Kurdish region. The question is the next time a survey is conducted, will the negative views increase even more or will they remain relatively stable? If the numbers continue to decline it will show that the public has lost even more faith in the government to improve its lot. The sad thing is that the elite do not show any concern for this. In Iraq, the parties insist upon national unity governments where everyone gets a seat at the table instead of being punished for their poor performance.
It's worth reading the detail of this to get a picture of the countries mood.

Key numbers:
o 70% of Sunnis unhappy with the direction the country is going in
o Young Sunni men particularly pissed off
o Poor Shi'a unhappy and shifting towards Sadr

What really disappointing is Maliki had managed to seize the reins from the Septics and largely shake off the devious Iranians. Allawi really had emerged as a potentially solid leader who seemed determined to represent Sunni as well as Shi'a interests, his party even won an election by a hair, only to be out maneuvered by the sectarian Shi'a status quo. The country remains mired in near Afghan levels of corruption with a rentier elite determinedly milking the place while a repressive military run it day to day.

We perhaps should consider that a healthier adversarial democracy that provided better incentives to politicians to actually serve the voter may be an entirely unrealistic expectation in a country deeply scared by decades of divisive dictatorship and then a savage ethno-sectarian civil war. It's remarkable that they have come as far as national unity governments carving up the pie largely peaceably but if it continues like this it will be a dead end.

This is not an encouraging example looking at the Arab Spring. The chorus from the protesters is they will not be like Iraq. They may be lucky to achieve as much as "The Persians". Iraq could be said to be different as it has had revolutionary change imposed upon it by force of arms. I don't really buy this "conceived in sin" argument, it fails to take account of a genuine popular surge towards Islamic but representative government by the natives. After the invasion the relatively sophisticated Iraqi Shi'a while hampered by American administration had political force, direction, capable leaders, well organized parties often with intimate support from a Qom ultimately interested in their success. Neither Libya, Yemen nor Syria have these advantages. Only Egypt has similar promise and it is plagued with not very different systemic problems that decades of democracy may only slowly erode.
On Iraq Gulf And Analysis 'Can US Aims in Iraq Be Squared with a Discourse of Iraqi Sovereignty? by Reidar Visser
“American instructors!”

It has been long in the making but finally there are more specific signs that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is beginning to publicly articulate a vision of a post-2011 US presence in Iraq that can fit with his own avowed aim to be an Iraqi nationalist.

Importantly, after his recent meeting with the new US defence secretary Leon Panetta, Maliki was talking about “instructors” or “trainers” (mudaribun) and not advisers (mustasharun), or, for that matter, regular troops. Historically speaking, “advisers” would be a major problem given the chequered legacy of the British in Iraq during the mandate and in subsequent decades, where it was precisely the popular hatred of the advisers (and the connotations of their immense political influence) that played a key role in unseating the monarchy in 1958. Similarly, regular forces or the presence of military bases would also be at obvious variance with a discourse of Iraqi nationalism.

The areas in which Maliki envisioned US training assistance included border surveillance, logistics and intelligence capabilities. This is actually a discourse that can fit in with a notion of Iraqi sovereignty: The US is considered an undisputed world leader in many of these areas; hence, to ask for assistance from a global superpower in these specific areas would not harm the idea of Iraqi independence in the same way that the “advisers” of the British mandate did.

Contrast this with the prevailing themes in the Western debate about Iraq. “Absence of external defence capabilities” is a recurrent term. And while this is probably true, as long as it is presented as a general issue rather than broken up into digestible and specific areas that can be singled out for cooperation with the US (preferably technology-related), kneejerk nationalist reactions are likely to prevail in the Iraqi parliament. Similarly, many Western commentators like to highlight a US peacekeeping role in and around Kirkuk. This is also something that is susceptible to Iraqi nationalist criticism, because it is a kind of narrative that fits so well with the standard conspiracy theory to the effect that foreigners are plotting to keep the Iraqis divided in order to justify their own continued military presence. If Arab-Kurdish tensions around Kirkuk are used as a key argument for extending a US presence in Iraq, each bomb that goes off elsewhere in the country may soon be blamed on a US scheme to pit Sunnis against Shiites so that they can extend the American presence in the oil-rich areas in the south.

The challenge for Washington is now to find out whether the parameters defined by Maliki – with an emphasis on “instructors” – can meet its own aims in a context where a straightforward SOFA renewal is becoming increasingly unlikely. Maliki seems to be aiming for a military presence that is so low-key that the anticipated parliamentary debate about the SOFA can simply be circumvented. For their part, the Iraqis still need to agree on a new minister of defence.

PS: Today’s vote in parliament to “support a reduction of the number of ministers in principle” is a non-issue. The real challenge is to actually do it and not least negotiate the constitutional modalities relating to such a move (i.e. the rules for dismissing a minister).
Beneath his "bring the boys home" base's nose Barry via Panetta has been signaling fairly desperately that the US wants to retain some formal basing other than their huge 6000 man Baghdad embassy. Actually a pretty big presence, I've seen 20,000 troops talked about, which probably means the ability to multiply that in secure basing in a short time.

DC might be better contenting itself with Kuwait, the fifth fleet and invest instead in encouraging thriving Iraqi-Turkish relations to thwart Qom's long game. But it's consistent with the high spending Pentagon's dull witted monopoly board basing policy and there is the underlying fact that US withdrawal under Bush's SOFA timelines does carry risks. Bibi may also bomb Iran just to show his fans in Congress he's got a bigger dick than Barry.

The Kurds actually would like the US to stick around to guarantee the KRG's autonomy, a motivation that naturally the rest of Iraq's population does not share. Elements in the army will anticipate being able to milk DC for point lining aid like Pindi. The wily politicians of Baghdad may actually wish to retain a discrete presence, mainly to balance Iran's influence. It's not so much the troops but evidence of a sustained US interest. If I was them I'd be dragging this out painfully until a decent bung is extracted from Barry.
From Musings On Iraq Indecision Over Iraq Policy In Pre-9/11 Bush Administration
What this series of events showed was that while Iraq was a heated topic within the new Bush administration, the debate had deadlocked. All parties were concerned about Iraq’s WMD programs and Saddam Hussein, but no one agreed about what to do about them. The Defense Department wanted to support the Iraqi opposition, and was talking about regime change one way or another. The State Department wanted to continue on with the previous containment policy, just improve it with new sanctions. The CIA was upping its intelligence collection against Iraq, but it was largely working off of assumptions, rather than hard evidence, and found that a coup would not work. Coming up with a terrorism policy was also being delayed because the Pentagon kept on emphasizing Iraq and dismissing Al Qaeda. National Security Advisor Rice was not mediating any of these growing disagreements, and Bush was not leading. They both just let every official follow their own path. The argument then that the president was set upon invading Iraq from the very outset of his term is not founded. That topic had been mentioned, but there was no decision on anything. The attempt to form an Iraq policy, whether it was a military move or not, had completely floundered in the first nine months of the Bush presidency. It would take the aftermath of 9/11 for the government to finally decide upon regime change.
This will disappoint the conspiratorially minded Team Bush was set on going to Baghdad even before coming to power.
A footnote on history.

From Musings On Iraq Laurie Mylroie’s Convoluted Iraq-Terrorism Conspiracy Theory
An investigation of Iraqi documents also discovered that Saddam’s government actually had its own conspiracy theory about the 1993 attack, believing that the CIA or the Mossad was behind it. As usual, none of this shook Wolfowitz’s faith. In a November 2004 profile in the New Yorker, he was still repeating Mylroie’s story, claiming that Yasin fleeing to Iraq proved that Saddam was behind Islamic terrorism in the world.

Laurie Mylroie went from one of the strongest supporters of Saddam Hussein, to one of its greatest opponents. She was so attached to Iraq being the savior of the Middle East, that when it invaded Iraq in 1990 she felt deeply betrayed. She became obsessed with Iraq, and tried to blame every anti-American terrorist attack upon it with very little evidence to support her argument. She was still able to attract many powerful allies like Wolfowitz, Woolsey, and Cheney. The fact that one U.S. agency after another found nothing to support her writing did not matter. It was that she blamed Iraq for much of the wrong doing in the world that made her appealing to people like Wolfowitz and the others. They were so convinced that Iraq was one of the greatest threats to the United States that they would accept just about any evidence against Saddam no matter how factitious it was. It was that anti-Iraq agenda that led to all these people pushing such a flimsy conspiracy theory.
The Mylroie tale is one of the strangest of Iraq war. It seems laughable now but a truly crackpot, paper thin, conspirloon story linking Saddam to Oklahoma and both WTC attacks that appears to have convinced some very smart people like Wolfowitz and had Cheney nodding along when it suited his purposes.

That Saddam was headed off into proto-Truther la la land, does not surprise me, Ahmadinejad was hinting the same recently. Well you do expect it of these guys.

A decade ago what I found strange was amidst the agitprop on Iraq the near silence on the substantial links from AQ too Pakistan, the ISI and the Haqqanis. Mullen finally broached the latter a few days ago, it's taken a decade for it to get much publicity. I can recall Wolfowitz repeatedly praising Pindi efforts in the GWOT, that was perhaps an even bigger denial of reality clashing with a preferred narrative.
On NightWatch
Iraq: For the record. Foreign troops in Iraq, including U.S. forces, will withdraw by the end of 2011, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki said on 29 September. Al-Maliki said the withdrawal did not apply to weapons experts or trainers.

Comment: News services reported the US intends to leave behind in Iraq nearly 3.5 million pieces of equipment valued at more than $300 million. The cost of repatriating the equipment would exceed its value. Still, how is this accounted and is there any return on taxpayer investment?

The French destroyed their equipment rather than leave it to the Guineans in 1958.
On FP Who won the war in Iraq? (Here's a big hint: It wasn't the United States) By Peter Van Buren
Iran sat patiently on its hands while the United States hacked away at its two major enemies, Saddam, and the Taliban, clearing both its east and west borders at no cost to Tehran. (Iran apparently reached out to the U.S. government in 2003, seeking some sort of diplomatic relationship but, after being rebuffed by the engorged Bush Administration, decided to wait and watch the quagmire envelope America). The long slog both wars morphed into dulled even the reliably bloodthirsty American public's taste for another war, and cooled off plans in Tel Aviv and Washington for airstrikes against Iran's nukes (if Cheney couldn't edge the United States into that fight, who can?).

The Iranians also came to see that Iraq, like Lebanon, made for a nice proxy battleground. By the time my tour in Iraq was wrapping up, the mine resistant vehicles we traveled in could take a solid hit from pretty much anything out there and get us home alive, except for one thing: Iranian-made roadside bombs ealled EFPs. These shaped "explosively formed penetrating devices" fired a liquefied white hot slug of molten copper that was about the only weapon that really scared us. The Iranians were players in all parts of Iraqi society post-2003, including the daily violence. (Iranian proxy warfare in Lebanon is well documented in Robert Baer's excellent book, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, which also advances the United States vs. Iran proxy theory in general.)

Iran not only lost an enemy when Saddam was hanged, it gained an ally in the new Iraq. When the United States' last election surge withered away with the failure of the March 2010 Iraqi contest to produce a government, Iran stepped in to broker a settlement involving current PM Malaki (Malaki also serves as Minister of Defense and Minister of the Interior but is not a dictator) and the jolly Sadrists. Malaki, a Shia, happily recalls his days in exile in Iraq during the Saddam reign while Sadr hid out as a religious "student" in Qom when he was on the U.S. military's capture or kill list post-2003. Both men remain beholden to Iran and continue to shift Iraq closer and closer to Tehran's policy positions. Iran has its own proconsul in Baghdad, well-known locally but not discussed much in the west. The guy moved into the job after a tour as head of the Iranian special ops Qods Force.

Yet while strategic and political relationships are very important between Iraq and Iran, it is the growing economic and social-religious ties that cement the relationship and signify Iran as the real winner of the U.S. invasion. The raw numbers tell a big part of the story: the two countries' current annual trade is valued at $4 billion to $5 billion and growing, with much more money changing hands on the black market.

On more formal terms, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi kicked off the most recent round of goodwill on July 6, when he traveled to Baghdad to join the Iran-Iraq Joint Supreme Economic Committee. Better yet, Iran agreed to supply 9,400 barrels of "gasoil" a day to Iraq for power generation. Iraq also signed a $365 million agreement to install a pipeline network to import natural gas from Iran for power stations in the country. The pipelines will eventually supply 25 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas a day to the Sadr, al-Quds and South Baghdad power stations in the Iraqi capital.

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshiar Zibary said that Iran and Iraq would soon sign an agreement to overcome "all the suspended problems between both countries." "Iran is playing a positive role in Iraq and there is no objection for the strengthening of relations between the two countries," Zibary said.

But while trade is good, and oil is necessary, real money is in tourism. More specifically, religious tourism. Iranian Shia pilgrims traveling to previously off-limits shrines in Iraq, is a huge source of economic exchange. It also creates significant people-to-people ties that Iran will be able to exploit long into the future.

Iranian travel agencies control religious tourism to the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The Iranian companies are associated with local hotels, also owned by Iranians. The control by Iranian companies extends to tourists from Lebanon who combine a visit to Iraq with one to the religious site Mashhad, in Iran. The Iranian domination also extends to security arrangement for protecting the tourists. That role is filled by one company owned by one of the religious parties in Karbala.

Business is booming. Najaf is in the midst of a hotel building frenzy in a bid to ramp up the number of visiting pilgrims. While thousands of mostly Iranian religious tourists already pass through Najaf every day on what are marketed as nine-day tours of Iraq's holy Shiite sites, hoteliers and business groups in the city expect hotel capacity, currently at breaking point, to double in the next three years.

Elsewhere, markets in rural Iraq are filled with Iranian goods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. While the knitwear market is dominated by cheap Chinese stuff, other household goods are conspicuously marked "Made in Iran" and are snapped up by consumers.

I saw a little slice of this during my own time in Iraq. My Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) covered an area that included the city and mosque of Salman Pak. Once a center for chemical weapons production and secret police training under Saddam, Salman Pak is better known to most Iraqis and Iranians as a historical and recreational area, approximately 15 miles south of Baghdad near a peninsula formed by a broad eastward bend of the Tigris River. It is named after Salman the Persian, a companion of Mohammad, who is buried there.

Salman Pak is also site of the Arch of Ctesiphon, the remains of the once majestic Persian Sassanid capital. Ctesiphon is one of the largest and oldest freestanding arches in the world. Before the US invasion of 2003, the area was a popular day trip out of Baghdad, and even sported a floating casino and villas for select friends of Saddam. My translator recalled family trips to the area the way my daughters remember a visit to Disney, leaving me a bit nostalgic for a time and place I never knew. The attraction now for Iranian pilgrims is the mosque, once a well-known Shia shrine, converted to a well-known Sunni shrine by Saddam and now once again a well-known Shia shrine after sectarian violence post-2003 blew away most of the Sunnis in the area.

On routine patrols through the area, my PRT and Army would frequently see giant tour buses with Iranian license plates and markings hauling tourists around the city. The Iranian tourists would take pictures of our military vehicles and gesture at us as we drove past, even as our soldiers scowled at them and pantomimed "no photos." Nothing weirder than to be spending one's days freeing Iraq only to run into Iranian tour agencies being the most obvious beneficiaries of that freedom. We didn't know it then, but our tourists were offering us a glimpse of the future, a picture of who the winners, and losers, were to be in our war.
My bold, the Iraq war may not have done little to serve our interests but perhaps it's not all bad.

It's worth considering these two countries fought a brutal trench war a few decades ago, a war that scarred their consciousness as the Great War did the French and the Germans. Yet now their peoples are increasingly close and interlocked economically. The Iraqis badly need this relationship with a largely supportive Iran as they recover from both Saddam and his fall. While ludicrously corrupt and badly governed Iraq is slowly progressing politically, it may yet have a positive affect on it's bigger neighbor.
In WaPo Iraq, siding with Iran, sends essential aid to Syria’s Assad By Joby Warrick
More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.

Iraq’s stance has dealt an embarrassing setback to the Obama administration, which has sought to enlist Muslim allies in its campaign to isolate Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. While other Arab states have downgraded ties with Assad, Iraq has moved in the opposite direction, hosting official visits by Syrians, signing pacts to expand business ties and offering political support.

After Iraq sent conflicting signals about its support for Assad last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke firmly against regime change in Syria in an interview broadcast on Iraqi television Sept. 30. “We believe that Syria will be able to overcome its crisis through reforms,” Maliki said, rejecting U.S. calls for the Syrian leader to step down. His words echoed those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who weeks earlier proposed that Syrians should “implement the necessary reforms by themselves.”

On other issues as well, the Maliki government in recent months has hewed closer to Iran’s stance — Iraq, for example, has supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology and advocated U.N. membership for Palestinians — as the U.S. military races to complete its troop withdrawal over the coming months.

Few policy objectives are more important to Iran than preserving the pro-Tehran regime in Syria, longtime Middle East observers say.

“This is Iran’s influence, because preserving the Assad regime is very much in Iran’s national interest,” said David Pollock, a former adviser on Middle East policy for the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. “Iran needs Iraq’s help trying to save their ally in Damascus.”

U.S. officials acknowledged disappointment with Iraq over its dealings with Assad, while noting that other Middle East countries also have been reluctant to abandon Assad at a time when the outcome of the uprising remains uncertain.

“The Iraqis should be more helpful, absolutely,” said a senior administration official involved in Middle East diplomacy.

Some of the proposed financial deals with Syria, however, “turn out to be a lot of talk,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss sensitive issues.

U.S. intelligence officials predict that Syria’s uprising will eventually topple Assad, most likely after the mounting cost of sanctions causes the business elite to turn against him. But the timeline for change is far from clear.

The Obama administration hailed a decision in August by three Persian Gulf Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain — to recall their ambassadors to Damascus to protest Assad’s violent suppression of anti-government demonstrators. And Turkey — like Iraq, a major trading partner with Syria — has repeatedly denounced the crackdown and has established Syrian refu*gee camps and hosted meetings of opposition groups.

Iraqi leaders also have criticized Assad’s brutality, as, indeed, Iran’s Ahmadinejad has done in public remarks. But Iraqi officials have refused to call for Assad’s ouster, or accept Syrian refugees, or even offer symbolic support for the anti-Assad opposition. Instead, the Iraqis have courted trade delegations and signed pipeline deals with Syria.

“Iraq is sending a lifeline to Assad,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert and author of “In the Lion’s Den,” a portrait of Syria under the autocrat.

Middle Eastern experts note that Maliki — a Shiite Muslim who lived in exile in Syria for nearly 15 years — has strategic and sectarian reasons for avoiding a direct confrontation with Assad. Members of Iraq’s Shiite majority and Syria’s ruling Alawite Shiite sect share a common worry about Sunni-led insurgencies. Some Iraqis fear that a violent overthrow of Syrian Alawites will trigger unrest across the border in Iraq.

But other experts say Iraq’s support for Syria underscores the influence of Iran, which has staked billions of dollars on ensuring Assad’s survival. Pollock, the former State Department adviser, said Iraqi leaders fear repercussions from Iran and its Syrian protege as much they covet increased revenue from trade.

“Iran is certainly important behind the scenes, and the Iraqis know the Iranians are looking over their shoulders,” said Pollock, now a researcher for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

Pollock noted that Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — a firebrand Iraqi Shiite with tens of thousands of devoted followers — has publicly backed Assad, calling him a “brother.” Iraqi leaders know that hostility toward Syria could invite reprisals against politicians and ordinary civilians in Baghdad, or perhaps against the estimated 1 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, he said.

Still, U.S. officials have privately expressed disappointment over Baghdad’s reluctance to take a more forceful stance against Syrian brutality, which millions of Iraqis witness daily on Arab-language cable news networks.

Only in mid-September, after six months of worsening violence, did the Iraqi government issue a statement that appeared to call for Assad’s ouster. In that statement, on Sept. 20, Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Moussawi was quoted as telling New York Times reporters in Baghdad that Iraq had privately urged Assad to step down. “We are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for free expression,” Moussawi was quoted as saying.

But less than 24 hours later, the Iraqi government began to backpedal. The same spokesman, Moussawi, told reporters on Sept. 21 that Iraqi leaders had never called for Assad’s resignation and said he had been misquoted. “It was neither the nature nor the followed discourse of the Iraqi government to intervene in the affairs of other countries,” Moussawi said.

Maliki’s broadcast interview Sept. 30 reflected a further retreat. While calling for an end to violence, the prime minister rejected regime change as destabilizing and said the crisis should be resolved gradually through reforms.

Assad has survived by relying on hard-currency reserves and Iranian loans to maintain subsidies for Syria’s military and business elites, ensuring their continued loyalty and preventing the further spread of the country’s pro-democracy uprising, which took hold in March.

Faced with international sanctions — including a new European Union ban on oil imports — Syria also has found support from Iraq and other neighbors as it scrambles to refill its hard-currency coffers, now hemorrhaging at a rate estimated at $1 billion a month.

Iraq and Syria, which share historical and cultural ties, have long been trading partners, and smuggling in border towns has generated immense profits even during times of war. Scores of private traders regularly ferry tons of diesel fuel and other goods in vans and pickup trucks, specially modified with heavy suspensions that cause their backsides to jut out like monster trucks at a car show.

Officials in both countries are cracking down on the black market in favor of legitimate ventures, particularly in the energy field. In early August, as other Arab countries were recalling their ambassadors to Syria, Iraq put on an unusual tour for 100 of Syria’s top government and business leaders. The visitors, led by Syria’s trade minister, were shown factories and refineries and applauded by Iraqis eager to cut deals with their Syrian neighbors.

The week-long visit yielded a new pact designed to boost a soaring bilateral trade that already tops $2 billion a year and will solidify Iraq’s status as Syria’s biggest trading partner. Iraqi Trade Minister Khayrullah Babakir, praising the pact, spoke of a new focus on “empowering the private sector in both countries.” There was no mention of sanctions, or of the Syrian uprising.

Staff researcher Julie Tate and staff writers Greg Miller and Liz Sly contributed to this report.
Maliki a couple of years ago was pretty critical of Syria, accusing it of hosting elements of the Iraqi insurgency given to staging spectacular attacks on Baghdad. But like the Israelis they have to be worried about what might follow Assad and the consequences at their border. Like the Turks there is KRG II to fear. Like Lebanon the Iraqis bear the scars of civil war, one next to them is liable to spill over and a hostile Sunni state in Saudi's orbit is hardly desirable.

That is sufficient motivation, I'd not make too much of the Iranian element in this, the Iraqis are not pawns of Qom they simply share many of its interests and the enmity of its regional rival, The Magic Kingdom
On Musings On Iraq Iraq Improves Ranking In Corruption Index
For the first time in six years, Iraq did not find itself as one of the five most corrupt countries in the world in a new report on the topic. From 2006-2010, German’s Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Iraq the 2nd, 3rd or 4th most corrupt country in the world. This year however, Iraq finally moved up the list to being tied for the eighth spot.
Transparency International 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index
1. Somalia 1.0
1. North Korea 1.0
3. Myanmar 1.5
4. Afghanistan 1.5
5. Uzbekistan 1.6
5. Turkmenistan 1.6
5. Sudan 1.5
8. Iraq 1.8
8. Haiti 1.8
Tied with Haiti, still it's an improvement.
On NightWatch
Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki urged Kurdish officials to hand over Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges and threatened to replace ministers who belong to the Sunni Arab Iraqiyah bloc if they do not end a Cabinet boycott.

Al-Maliki said Baghdad will not accept any interference in Iraqi justice and that ministers have no right to suspend their membership in the government. If the ministers do not come back for the next Cabinet meeting, he will appoint replacements.

Local leaders, in addition to Vice President al-Hashimi, are involved in violence, Prime Minister al-Maliki said at a news conference in Baghdad on 21 December. He also called for the arrest of his deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, for sabotaging the political process.

Al-Maliki said he gave videotapes incriminating al-Hashimi's security personnel to President Jalal Talabani and late Chief of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Abdel Aziz al-Hakim in 2008, but the leaders asked him to put the case on hold to ensure success in the political process. Al-Maliki said he has similar files proving the other leaders' involvement and that he will reveal their identities if they do not stop using violence.

Comment: In effect, Maliki has announced a pending purge of Sunni Arab political leaders, three days after the departure of the last American soldiers. It is an extraordinary act of defiance to consolidate Iraq as an Arab Shiite state before other groups and sects can act to prevent it.

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it will cooperate with judicial decisions from the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council regarding Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Kurdistan Alliance member Mahmoud Othman said. Othman asked the judiciary to declare an arrest warrant and said the alliance will leave this decision process to the judiciary.

Comment: The logic of political events this week leads towards a resumption of civil war next year. The Kurds no longer have the US as their protector and they lack the strength, politically and militarily, to protect the Sunni Arabs. Together they can cooperate to defend their territories, but al Maliki is making it clear that Iraq is the first Arab Shiite state.

That probably explains the Sunni Arab determination, with obvious outside Sunni Arab financial support, to overthrow the Alawite government in Damascus to prevent the formation of a Shiite belt from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea. To Sunnis, the spread of the Shiite heresy and apostasy means the return of fitna … chaos. Iraq is lost to the Sunni Arabs, for now, and the new battle lines against the Shiism are being drawn in Syria.
My bold, an interesting way to look at Syria.
On NightWatch
Iraq: President of the Kurdish Autonomous Region Massud Barzani said in a speech on 20 March that the partnership that built a national unity government formed at a meeting he had hosted was now "completely non-existent and has become meaningless."

Barzani accused Prime Minister al Maliki of aspiring to tyranny. He said, "There is an attempt to establish a one-million-strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person." He claimed that al Maliki and the government were "waiting to get F-16 combat planes to examine its chances again with the peshmerga (Kurdish militia)." Barzani's reference is to the government order for 36 F-16a from the United States.

Barzani asked, "Where in the world can the same person be the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council?" The prime minister has yet to appoint permanent ministers of defense and interior, more than two years after parliamentary elections

Barzani said that he was committed to an alliance with Iraq's majority Shiites, but not with one involving al Maliki. "We are committed to our alliance with the Shiites but not with this group of people who have monopolized power and with their policies have even marginalized other Shiites….It is time to say enough is enough. The current status of affairs is unacceptable to us and I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try to find a solution. Otherwise, we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate."

Comment: The underlying issue is that Barzani judges that the al Maliki government intends to rescind Kurdish autonomy at some point in the near future, including control of oil in Iraqi Kurdistan and denial of Kurdish claims to land areas in the north that had been Kurdish but which Saddam populated with Arabs.

The central government in Baghdad and Kurdish regional authorities are locked in lengthy disputes over oil contracts with foreign oil firms and ownership of territory near Kirkuk, the northern oil hub. The Kurdistan region has signed some 40 contracts with international companies on a production-sharing basis without seeking the approval of the central government's oil ministry.

The national oil ministry, meanwhile, has awarded energy contracts to international companies on the basis of a per-barrel service fee. It also has refused to sign deals with any firm that has agreed a contract with Kurdistan.

Barzani's remarks depict al Maliki as a Shiite-version of Saddam Hussein, backed by Iran. Searches of the internet failed to produce independent corroboration of the charge that Maliki intends to form a million-man force answerable to him. That was the size of the Iraq Army under Saddam. The other allegations against al Maliki, however, essentially are correct.

The implications of Barzani's allegations are that Kurdistan must declare its independence or prepare for another round of civil war. Barzani's statements indicate his intention is not to provoke that, but to ensure autonomy for the Kurds.

A crisis is looming because no central government in Baghdad can permit the Kurds to sign international contracts without obtaining approval from the central government. On the other hand, if the Kurds do not take juridical hostages through oil contracts, they have no leverage in dealings with Baghdad.

This will not end well for the Kurds and the US is no longer in a position to protect them.
The Kurds are the big open question in Iraq, the KRG was a US protectorate for a long time, those days are over and there is oil involved. It'll be interesting to see which way Qom jumps, they have been somewhat supportive of the KRG and may not like Maliki consolidating his power. Of course the Kurds are also an issue in Syria.


Book Reviewer
Blimey this a one man effort or can anyone join in ?

For those who served on Op Telic... A Brit CIMIC adviser tells her side of the story in post invasion Kirkuk and elsewhere in the time of the CPA.

Iraq war will haunt west, says Briton who advised US military | World news | The Guardian

"The world is better off without Saddam. But nobody has been held accountable for what happened in Iraq, and there is a danger that we won't learn the right lessons, particularly related to the limitations of our power.

"Politicians can still claim that Iraq was a violent society, or that Iraqis went into civil war because of ancient hatreds, or the violence was the inevitable result of the removal of Saddam, or that al-Qaida and Iran caused the problems. They distract from our own responsibility for causing some of the problems by our presence and the policies we pursued."

She said the focus on building up local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was not the right priority.

"We think it is about us, and it is about our security. But in the end, it is about their politics … success in Iraq was always going to be defined by politics. We needed a political solution, a pact, a peace."
A bloody 06 style day, 115 dead. New AQ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his bloody debut hitting security targets, promises to retake strongholds, also to strike the US homeland.

Via Musings On Iraq

Russian reporting and biased, sees a Syrian connection.
Al Jaz gives the equally biased Qatari view, it's all because Nouri al-Maliki has consolidated power.

I tend towards the Russian view here AQ's old Syrian ratlines going into reverse in aid of the Syrian revolt recently can't have been good for Iraqi security.

Syria still contains a great number of Sunni Iraqis, that were the losers in Iraq's sectarian civil war, it's not hard to guess which side many would pick in Syria, even former Baathist may align against the Alawites. The Syrian regime's heavy hints about using gas against foreign elements would worry me if I was one of them. The potential for a sectarian conflagration between Iraq and Syria is a growing risk. That's the sort of worst case scenario "The Surge" period was hoped to have warded off.
Something for the Oilys.

My own opinion about this is that Iraq was a badly calculated war in which the security of energy supplies were an important argument for policy realists in the Pentagon and Bush administration, though these were pretty thin on the ground at the time. A lot of the public talk on oil was dizzyingly stupid, the idea that the reconstruction would be paid for not by US tax dollars but fountains of Iraqi black gold comes to mind. After a lot of reading I think headless chicken panic, pre-conceived Pentagon notions on what the next war might be and unipolar hubris played a bigger role. The policy realists who were enthusiasts were largely to be disapointed. The following articles are all worth reading in full.

On Musings On Iraq Did The U.S. Plan On Privatizing Iraq’s Oil After The 2003 Invasion?
The argument that the 2003 invasion was about controlling Iraq’s oil appears to be a compelling one, but falters when compared to what actually happened. There were definitely talks both within and without the Bush administration that the U.S. should take advantage of Iraq’s great oil wealth. Ideas were thrown about to privatize the industry, and allow foreign companies to move in. No real decision appeared to be made before the invasion started however. When the Coalition Provisional Authority was created to govern Iraq it decided to maintain petroleum as a nationalized business. While Iraq has tried to shape oil policy since then, it has largely let the Iraqis determine their own policy. That's why when major international firms finally returned to Iraq in numbers in 2009, they signed contracts that greatly favored the government. Then Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani wanted to make sure that the country retained as much of its wealth as possible, and was largely successful. The result is that today, Iraq’s energy sector continues to be part of the state-run economy.
On Musings On Iraq Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” Chapter 13 “Restarting Oil Production”
Rather than attempting to take over Iraq’s oil industry, the U.S. was mostly concerned with putting it back together and getting it back to its pre-war output levels after the 2003 invasion. The Americans were ill prepared for the state of Iraq’s petroleum infrastructure, and the attention it garnered from the insurgency. Amazingly, they and the Iraqis were able to get production going again although it faced many ups and downs. Today, oil fuels the Iraqi economy. It took years of work and a large infusion of funds for that to happen. Oil did not prove the immediate reward that the Bush administration initially believed. That was just one more example of how the White House’s best-case scenario for postwar Iraq failed when it met reality. Instead of Iraq paying for itself, it turned out to be the largest and most expensive reconstruction efforts in American history.
From T.P.M Barnet's blog Fascinating achievement of US foreign policy: Iraq outcranks Iran on oil[IMG]

And in the resulting state we have now their still much room for squabbling over oil. In TNI [URL=""]Baghdad and Erbil Battle for Iraq[/URL]
It is therefore fair to question the KRG’s timing of its decision to challenge Baghdad last April. Pipelines connecting the Kurdish region to the Mediterranean are still two years away. The Turkish government has not yet decided what kind of direct hydrocarbons relationship it wants with the KRG. That decision could lead to Iraq’s break-up, a prospect that Ankara has historically feared and actively resisted because of the threat it would pose to Turkey’s own territorial unity. Yet times are changing: the Syria crisis and a possible U.S.-Iran war could redraw the region’s borders. Not knowing how the chips will fall, political actors are starting to move to secure their interests as best they can and maximize any advantage they might gain.

The Maliki government and the Kurds are therefore unlikely to kiss and make up. Any new agreement will be a temporary accommodation that would give each what they need most right now—Baghdad: revenues from Kurdish crude before its own production in the south ramps up; Erbil: the ability to pay producing companies before they throw in the towel in utter frustration. The real battle—over the future of Iraq and Kurdistan—is still a couple years away.[/QUOTE]And now we have Syria, a powder keg of ethno-sectarian tension that's spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon.
On Musings On Iraq How Operation Desert Fox Finished Off Iraq’s WMD Programs
Operation Desert Fox was widely derided for years, but turned out to have a far larger impact upon Iraq than most critics believed. Only lasting four days, many analysts doubted that it could have much affect upon Saddam Hussein. After all, he was still in power, and many thought that with inspectors no longer in the country, Iraq would restart its weapons programs. As it turned out, Iraq had destroyed most of its WMD stockpiles, and was largely trying to hide the extent of its programs from the outside world by 1998. Desert Fox convinced the regime that the U.S. was intent on maintaining sanctions to contain the government, and there was no way for it to rebuild its WMD effort as a result. Those operations ended, with only some small-scale work on toxins for assassinations left. This was not known until after 2003 however when Saddam was overthrown, and outside experts were able to go through all of Iraq’s documents, and interview its personnel. Even though Desert Fox was very limited in scope, it came at just the right time in the history of the Saddam regime to put an end to its weapons of mass destruction.
And here was me thinking it was just another war of Bill Clinton's penis.
On Musings On Iraq Iraq Ranks As One Of The Worst Countries To Invest In For Oil And Gas In Opinion Poll Of Energy Industry Officials
In June 2012, the Fraser Institute issued its latest report on investment in oil and gas around the world. The paper was based upon a survey of several hundred executives from the hydrocarbon industry. Iraq ranked near the bottom in almost every category. This souring of opinion on Iraq is quite a change as previously energy companies were eager to get into Iraq’s petroleum market since it had been cut off for over a decade by international sanctions. Now that some businesses have gotten a taste of working there they have found it difficult, and concerns about security and political instability are also pressing issues. For those reasons, Iraq ranked in the bottom ten in the opinion poll, which could limit future investment in the country’s oil and gas sector.
Looking at the figures, considering what Iraq's been through and the deepening problem of contagion from Syria and a US war with its sponsor Iran it's surprising Iraq is doing so well. Often not worst and ahead of big operators like Russia in some areas.
The Syrian mess has been having impacts in Iraq. The ethno-sectarian civil war has never stopped entirely but there's been an big uptick with a wave of Takfiri style mass casualty bombings and increasingly open troop movements.

But it's the Kurds that represent perhaps the biggest problem for the nascent Shia Iraq. This looks bad, on Al-Monitor Erbil Sends Forces to Outskirts Of Kirkuk, Enraging Baghdad
Kurdish peshmerga forces were deployed to the outskirts of Kirkuk to fill the security vacuum there and to thwart a sectarian war, which some believe to be just around the corner. According to the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, the move was coordinated with the governor of Kirkuk. Iraqi military forces, however, believe that the oil wells located in the area are the reason behind this move and consider it a breach of security agreements between Erbil and Baghdad.
The Syrian mess has been having impacts in Iraq. The ethno-sectarian civil war has never stopped entirely but there's been an big uptick with a wave of Takfiri style mass casualty bombings and increasingly open troop movements.

But it's the Kurds that represent perhaps the biggest problem for the nascent Shia Iraq. This looks bad, on Al-Monitor Erbil Sends Forces to Outskirts Of Kirkuk, Enraging Baghdad
The disputed territories are going to be a catalyst for a Kurd/Iraqi civil war, I suspect. Especially with Erbil leaning more towards Ankara in an attempt to pursue their own hydrocarbon interests.
On Musings On Iraq Iraq’s Insurgency Goes On The Offensive Resulting In Highest Monthly Death Counts in Years
Iraq’s security situation has literally exploded. Al Qaeda in Iraq was already at the tail end of its latest offensive when security forces used excessive force against protesters in the town of Hawija in Tamim province in April 2013. That allowed militant groups to exploit the growing anger amongst the Sunni population, and launch a new wave of retaliatory attacks. That has led to a growing number of bombings and mass casualty attacks that have resulted in the highest death counts seen in years.

All four organizations that track casualties in Iraq saw a dramatic jump from April to May 2013. Iraq Body Count went from 561 killed in April to 883 in May. That was the largest amount since 1,266 in April 2008 when the civil war was still going on. Baghdad’s ministries reported 681deaths, up from 208 in April. That was the most since 851 in July 2008. Agence France Presse had 614 killed. The highest figure was from the United Nations with 1,045 casualties, compared to 712 in April. The U.N. had not recorded that many deaths since October 2008. Together, Iraq Body Count, the government, and the U.N. averaged out to 869 deaths for the month, and 28.0 killed per day versus 16.4 in April. Casualties had been going up since December 2012 when Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) launched its latest offensive. They have now been joined by a major effort by other militant groups such as the Baathist Naqshibandi group. They are all trying to portray themselves as defenders of the country’s Sunnis against the Shiite led government. They are using that to actively recruit amongst the protesters and tribes in provinces like Anbar, Salahaddin, Diyala, Tamim, Ninewa, and Baghdad. AQI is also going after both Sunni and Shiite targets in its continuing effort to restart the sectarian civil war.
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