Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Untruth and Iraq - 2

Further to Robert Malley's remark which I quoted previously,  a few days after the interview the International Crisis Group had this:  "contrary to the Baker-Hamilton report’s suggestion,  the Iraqi government and security forces cannot be treated as privileged allies to be bolstered;  they are simply one among many parties to the conflict.  The report characterises the government as a “government of national unity” that is “broadly representative of the Iraqi people”:  it is nothing of the sort."  ('After Baker-Hamilton: What to Do in Iraq', 19 December 2006)

The bit from the ICG report that the FT quoted (23 Dec) was the call for the US to "avoid steps to engineer a cabinet reshuffle aimed at side-lining Muqtada al-Sadr,  which would further inflame the situation."  This is number 21 (to the Government of Iraq) of their recommendations.

What caught my eye,  though,  from an initial skim-through,  was this:
The argument,  advanced by Peter Galbraith that the reality on the ground is already one of de facto partition,  is self-serving – a Kurdo-centric justification for the establishment of an ethnically-defined Kurdish state.  It is also patently false.  The reality is one of widespread chaos in which families are forced to move from relatively heterogeneous pockets to areas in which their “kind” predominates,  often finding themselves in nothing better than a bigger pocket.  Rather than solving the problem,  this only re-orders dividing lines,  which remain contested in a constantly-changing pattern of  horrendous and endemic violence.  Any plan to divide the country up into a Kurdish proto-state and two entirely artificial and highly unstable “Sunni” and “Shiite” regions would therefore exacerbate sectarian violence,  drive the country apart,  further damage the state,  and encourage regional intervention and interference.  [P10;  in note 12,  against the argument that in the December 2005 elections Iraqis “rejected the idea of a unified Iraq”,  the ICG says,  "While these were sectarian in nature,  they in no way suggested that Iraqis were expressing a desire for the country to break up."  Galbraith's argument is in “The Case for Dividing Iraq”,  Time, 5 November 2006;  Galbraith has also written a book which,  as the IGC puts it,  he tellingly titled The End of Iraq]
This is a tentative effort to get back into commenting about Iraq - something I am not alone in being hesitant to do.  The ICG report needs a lot more analysis than this.  It's a long time after the event,  of course,  but the issues have not really changed.

Some background on the issue of Kirkuk can be found here. More recently, the BBC World Service's Analysis took a look at it:  "Iraq's constitution says by the end of this year a referendum should be held in the northern,  oil rich,  city of Kirkuk to decide its future status.  The Kurds want to incorporate it into their own largely autonomous,  predominantly Kurdish region.  Pam O'Toole explains why the Kirkuk referendum could ignite a crisis in the relatively peaceful part of Iraq."  (9 Apr, 8:50 & 22:20) Again,  Peter Galbraith and the man from the ICG put the opposing points of view.


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