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Iraq, after the war

20 May 2008

Summary: Part I explained why the war might end in 2009. This post describes what Iraq might look like after a “master settlement” negotiated between Iran and the US (with some involvement of the major Iraq factions).

As I said a year ago the Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace and an end to our war in Iraq.  The following are excerpts from those posts of March and Nov 2007, speculating about how Iraq might look after the war.  A land in which the Jus post bellum (Latin for “Justice after War”) has no place, but life has returned to a normal form.

The three parts of Iraq after the war

Local elites have created regimes throughout most of Iraq. Backed by or evolved from militias – which run the gamut from criminal gangs to formal armies — they fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the central state. This fragmentation was often described a descent into civil war, but was in fact the formation of a new Iraq. Ethnic cleansing was a major tool in this process. The “Anbar awakening” was the last step in this process, as the Sunni Arabs’ provinces developed a leadership structure and ejected foreign jihadists.

How much violence will there be in the new Iraq? Warnings of massive bloodshed are often made by pundits with a near-100% record of error in this war. This is a possible scenario, one which I have always considered unlikely — and still do.  These people have lived together for millenia, and well know the price of disorder.

This question breaks into two issues.

1. The extent to which each region of Iraq maintains internal order. Can they run stable governments? How will each deal with their minorities? For example, consider Kurdistan. Will the PUK and PDK continue to peacefully share power in Kurdistan? How will they treat the Turkmen?

2. The extent to which they come to terms with each other. How is the northern oil shared? What happens in the disputed zones, such as Kirkuk?

The number, duration, scope, and intensity of these conflicts are unknowable.  There are few reasons to expect severe outcomes, although they are possible.

The most serious conflict might be for control of the Shiite Arab regions, between Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM, today nominal followers of Muqtada al-Sadr), and those aligned with the other major Shi’ite group, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC, formerly SCIRI). Today both the US and Iran support SIIC against JAM. However, these balance of power alliances can easily change. SIIC might attempt to achieve independence from its foreign masters. JAM might seek power by more closely allying with Iran or even the US. They key factor is the ability of the US and Iran to limit intermural Shiite conflict.

Foreign influence in Iraq

A broken Iraq cannot control its destiny, as greater powers shape it to suit their needs.

Iran wins much in this scenario, a negotiated ending to our Expedition to Iraq. No longer need they fear Iraq, either as a regional power or US puppet. They become undisputed regional hegemon. Their influence in Iraq will prevent Iraq from contesting Iran’s role as the leading Shiite power.

America gets at least one of our major goals in Iraq: those “enduring” bases, from which we can project power across the region. We eliminate one or two potential great states: Iraq will not to build nukes, and we have the ability to hit Iranian nuclear facilities. We also get a return to the status quo ante-bellum: no base for al Qaeda in Iraq.

The future of Iraq — and the Middle East

Will this “new” Iraq survive long? Southern Iraq might somehow combine with Syria or Iran. The Sunni Arab regions might be absorbed by any of their neighbors. Kurdistan might expand or disappear. Or a strong leader might appear, uniting much of the region under an Islamic or secular banner. As T E Lawrence says in chapter III of Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

The tribesman and townsman in Arabic-speaking Asia … were a people of spasms, of upheavals, of ideas, the race of the individual genius. … Their largest manufacture was of creeds; almost they were the monopolists of revealed religions. … It pointed to the generation of all these creeds. They were assertions, no arguments; so they required a prophet to set them forth.

Concluding notes

The next chapter will discuss what this scenario would tell us about modern warfare. How accurate were the forecasts of 4GW analysts? How reliable were reports of the War Bloggers? What was the role of COIN? What are the lessons learned for America?

Note: This is a forecast — a guess. It is just a brief sketch, painted in bold colors for clarity.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Go here to see an archive of my posts about the Iraq War.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. plato's cave permalink
    20 May 2008 3:48 am

    I had always assumed that a key factor in the “civil war” was control of oil, and access to it for the Sunnis. The Sunnis were said to have a strong habit of being in power, and a strong desire to return to it. How could they settle for a Sunni mini-state without any oil?

    During the surge, I understand that the US provided the Sunni militias with considerable arms or money. Will that not be an obstacle to stability in central Iraq?

    Otherwise, your prediction of an Iraq divided into three parts is persuasive, and fits the outcome that Joe Biden began to tout a couple years ago.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Giving the Sunni Arabs a share of the northern oil revenue seems a likely component of any deal. That the Sunni Arabs have arms and control of some areas is a necessary condition for a deal, which is why I say the Anbar Awakening was a step both toward the breakup of old Iraq and a deal creation of new Iraq. Just speculation, of course.

    Like

  2. plato's cave permalink
    20 May 2008 8:56 pm

    I dont see the gain or the point of threatening Iran’s WMD abilities. They are only hypothetical as far as we know. Iran’s energy position, particularly if allied with one of Iraq’s oil-producing states, seems far more important, and threatening to the US, strategically.

    Also, I tend to agree with those who believe that the ME can never be “stable” as long as Israel pursues its expansionist agenda.

    Like

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