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Iraq: an Overview
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I'm a bit late to this, but a clearer understanding of the situation in Iraq is always worthwhile. Juan Cole names the "Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005". I'll excerpt and paraphrase...

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Meanwhile, here's my own quick overview of the internal political situation:

Shiites WANT:
  • to be proportionally (60%) represented in the Iraqi government, giving them ulimate control of Iraq.

  • to erect a government somewhere between Islamic (acceptable to the US) and moderately Islamist (probably not acceptable to the US).

  • protection from Iranian and Sunni destabilization.

Shiites DON'T WANT:
  • a continued insurgency that threatens stability.

  • an outright Islamist regime similar to Iran.

  • the breakup of Iraq.

Kurds WANT:
  • autonomy

  • oil rights to Kirkuk.

  • federalism and protection from a centralized government.

  • a limitation of tensions between Turkey and Kurdish Iraq — for now, anyway.

Kurds DON'T WANT:
  • a strong central government.

  • a quick US withdrawal before the Kurds can defend themselves against challenges to their autonomy.

Sunnis WANT:
  • disproportionate influence relative to their percentage (20%) of the Iraqi population.
  • guarantees against shiite retribution and oppression.
  • a strong central government in Baghdad, ensuring their access to oil money.
  • integration (especially of former Baathist Sunnis) into Iraqi institutions — including the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi Security forces.

Sunnis DON'T WANT:
  • a weak central government which allows Shiites and Kurds to withdraw from the oil-poor central region and leave the Sunnis to wither, poor and powerless.

  • Islamist Shiite dominance

  • to lose their only real leverage: the threat of insurgency.


Finally, bear in mind that the US and Iraq also have to navigate the treacherous waters of Israel and Iran, both of whom seem to be agitating for geopolitical leverage in their recent rhetoric. (remember, in a game of chicken, it pays to look crazy) The best leverage we have in the Iran/Israel problem is probably a continued US presence in a stable Iraq.

That's leverage, though, and not a solution. The problem we still have is how to turn our leverage — and all of the aforementioned competing interests — into a solution. That is still far from clear.
 
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Comments
(remember, in a game of chicken, it pays to look crazy)
The problem with Iran, here, is that it likely isn’t simply looks.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
My returning military contacts tell me virtually all the violence in Iraq is now being perpetrated by outsiders......Jordanians, Syrians, Iranians.
I’m not sure your take on the Sunnis is correct. There is little long-term advantage, political and otherwise, to blowing up/alienating their brothers.
The obvious question is, can the majority control the outsiders?
 
Written By: Greybeard
URL: http://www.pitchpull.blogspot.com/
to erect a government somewhere between Islamic (acceptable to the US) and moderately Islamist (probably not acceptable to the US).
They apparently voted overwhelmingly (yet to be confimed) for Islamists and secular parties did badly, presumably they want an Islamist state.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Seemingly, you’re falling into the same trap that many liberals do: going strictly by the name, and not understanding that the name is a function of social convention and not necessarily indicative of direction to be traveled.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
My returning military contacts tell me virtually all the violence in Iraq is now being perpetrated by outsiders......Jordanians, Syrians, Iranians.
It’s the suicide bombings that are generally being done by outsiders, who are more likely to be suicidal jihadists, rather than simply interested in ending the occupation and securing ethnic interests.
I’m not sure your take on the Sunnis is correct. There is little long-term advantage, political and otherwise, to blowing up/alienating their brothers.
Of course there is some advantage to be had. The trick for the Sunni political leadership is to use the threat of unstopped violence as leverage, but to not let it get out of control or grow to the point where the Shiites decide they have to war against the Sunnis to stop it. It’s a delicate game.
They apparently voted overwhelmingly (yet to be confimed) for Islamists and secular parties did badly, presumably they want an Islamist state.
You might be right, but there’s a broad range of Islam>Islamism. At this point, it’s hard to tell where they’re falling on that spectrum.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

 
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