Friday, November 16, 2007

Iraq Update

I haven't abandoned Iraq blogging by any means, but quite frankly the best analysis you're going to get of what's going on politically in Iraq is over at Marc Lynch's blog Abu Aardvark; no more trenchant analysis of the "bottom-up reconciliation" process is available anywhere else. I'd start with this guest post by Georgetown Professor Colin Kahl, who argues that the approach has a somewhat reasonable chance of producing national reconciliation, and then the various responses by Lynch and others to Kahl's argument who argue that it doesn't. Spend some time reading these posts and educate yourself.

Also, I highly recommend this fantastic article by John Anderson in the New Yorker, titled "Inside the Surge." Overall it's a fairly gripping account of the trials and tribulations involved in trying to foster some reconciliation in Iraq, and the unwillingness of significant parties to accept such reconciliation. For example, here's Anderson interviewing Sheikh Zaidan al-Awad, a Sunni tribal leader from Anbar:

I asked Zaidan what sort of deal had led to the Sunni Awakening. “It’s not a deal,” he said, bristling. “People have come to realize that our fate is tied to the Americans’, and theirs to ours. If they are successful in Iraq, it will depend on Anbar. We always said this. Time was lost. America was lost, but now it’s woken up; it now holds a thread in its hand. For the first time, they’re doing something right.”

Zaidan said that Anbar’s Sunni tribes no longer had any need to exact blood vengeance on U.S. forces. “We’ve already taken our revenge,” he said. “We’re the ones who’ve made them crawl on their stomachs, and now we’re the ones to pick them up.” He added, “Once Anbar is settled, we must take control of Baghdad, and we will.” There would have to be a lot more fighting before the capital was taken back from the Shiites, he said. “The Anbaris will take charge of the purge. What the whole world failed to do in Anbar, we have done overnight. Baghdad will be a lot easier.”

Many of the players in Iraq seemed, like Zaidan, to be positioning themselves for the next battle.

So while a lot of right-wing bloggers are declaring "victory" in Iraq because slightly less people are getting killed then were getting killed this time last year, it's clear that many parties in Iraq are undergoing what can best be described as "recalibration" of their strategies. The Sunnis are happy to take our weapons for the moment, and the Shiite are happy for us to preserve their government or fight each other's opposing militias, but neither side is at willing to work comprehensively with the other yet, a problem that our own military is well aware of. And our troops will be coming home soon, one way or another. What happens when we leave? Nobody knows yet.

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