Slowly the new Iraq becomes visible

Summary:  a quick review of the big-picture evolution of the new Iraq.  Eric Martin provides a brief but brilliant analysis of how the delay of Iraq’s provincial elections fits into this picture.

Amidst the flood of commentary about Iraq the most fascinating fact remains Americns see two different Iraqs. The the pro-war and anti-war folks have radically different views of what’s happening now (the folks in Iraq have even more different views, and their views will determine the outcome — but that’s a subject for another post).

Amidst their efforts to spin the news slow a different Iraq emerges from the fog, combining elements of both stories — but largely invisible to or ignored by most Americans.

A.  Iraq is well along to fragmenting into three parts.  The outline remains uncertain, as does the final relationship among the pieces.  Iraq could eventually stabilize as anything from a loose confederation to a Federal/State structure.

B.  This process will likely produce peace in Iraq, or at least a low but tolerable level of conflict.

C.  The United States is largely a by-stander –or perhaps a passenger — to this process.

This is my 80th post written over the past 2 1/2 years describing these three things.  At the end are links to 4 posts providing the details.  There are, of course, others also describing this process.  Like Eric Martin.

Martin provides insight about the details of the war, writing at American Footprints.  This post is esp. well-expressed:  “Remember to Remember to Vote on the Vote“, 15 July 2008 — Excerpt (but I recommend reading the full post):

As Marc Lynch reports, today’s scheduled vote in the Iraqi parliament to determine the rules governing the provincial elections slated for October has been postponed until Thursday. Thursday is overly optimistic as well, however. The final vote on the vote, so to speak, will likely face further delays which will, in turn, push the date of the elections themselves back. Lynch thinks this is actually a good thing:

… At the root of the need to postpone the vote on the election law lie controversies that have, in some form or another, led to the many overlapping conflicts that have beset Iraq for the past 5+ years.  Those issues include, but are not limited to:

  1. the status of Kirkuk (with implications as to the autonomy and economic viability of Kurdistan, strength of the central government, ethnic/sectarian tensions);
  2. the use of open lists/closed lists {in the election} …
  3. the use of religious symbols/iconography; and
  4. the possibility of voting rights, if any, for the roughly 5 million internally and externally displaced Iraqis … .

The problem is that extra time hasn’t been able to untangle these conundrums thus far. For example, settling the status of Kirkuk has been such a thorny subject that its resolution has been kicked down the road so many times that the can resembles a silver dollar.

… Thus, just as in the case of Surge enthusiasts, Lynch’s optimism (though obviously well meaning) is based on a misread of symptom for pathology. With respect to The Surge’s objective, the basic strategic error lies in the fact that the various warring parties were not battling each other because there was no period of lessened violence that they could use to forge political accord. Rather, there was no period of lessened violence because of the difficulty in reaching that same political accord.

Similarly, while some combination of calendar extensions and punting on sensitive issues might eventually lead to an election law that parliament approves, there are no ways to, as Lynch put it, “get the rules right.” The rules are just a superficial manifestation of the more important subterranean tectonic clashes. Right for some on the rules will be wrong for others, and the major issues will remain.

So the wars rage on, even if in slow motion for all.

As time goes by the fabric holding “Iraq” together torques and tears.  Kurdistan is now in almost all respects an independent nation.  Slowly the Sunni and Shiite Arab regions are developing their own political and governmental apparatus.  Eventually the pieces will fit together in a new configuration.  That process might be peaceful, incendiary, or anywhere in between.  We have little to say about it.

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).

Other posts about the fragmentation of Iraq and the end of the War

  1. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq (29 December 2005)
  2. The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace (13 March 2007)
  3. Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq (27 September 2007)
  4. Iraq, after the war (20 May 2008)

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

2 thoughts on “Slowly the new Iraq becomes visible”

  1. You know what they say : truth becomes the first casualty in war (Tolsoy?). And at present the news networks all over the world are engaged in their own wars for ratings by covering their versions of reality in Mesopotamia (formerly Irak).
    Fabius Maximus replies: True! But perhaps this is a secondary effect, as they seek ratings by appealing to pre-existing audiences each with their own vision of events in Iraq. Supporting this interpretation: these two visions exist among non-commercial Internet sites and the analysts writing there.

  2. While I fully agree on the fact that “Only Iraqis can win the war” (my phrase), I totally disagree about: “we have little to say about it.”
    Not only have we already had a LOT to say about it, but we continue to hold veto power thru the military over many aspects. But my main point is belief that the US can significantly help create the kind of process to be used, and much of the result will be based on the process. Whether Sunni Kurds can ally with Shia Arabs to demand that Sunni Arabs given Kirkuk houses by Saddam will have to go or can stop Kirkuk from becoming part of Kurdistan is one of the real main issues. But a process of peaceful economic growth among the Kurds, a positive future that would be seriously threatened by a civil war, implies that the longer the decision is delayed, the more both Sunnis and Kurds will have invested in accepting a non-war resolution of the status.

    I’d be pretty happy with a weaker central Iraq, and 3 (or more, up to 18?) regions or provences with significant canton like local responsibility and resources (Swiss model confederation).

    It’s an excellent point that there aren’t really any obvious “right rules” — because there were prior injustices done, and no just way to undo them.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Your faith in our ability and wisdom to manipulate foreign societies is noteworthy, but I suspect with little in the way supporting evidence — in our history of domestic and foreign projects, and in evidence that we have adequate understanding of the various soceities of modern Iraq.

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