"What is more worrying is that politicians themselves are adapting to the situation rather than trying to change it. The new regime seems to have slipped in to the shoes of the former. Officials squat in the opulent residences of their predecessors, whose era they claimed they were ending. Almost no infrastructure has been built in Baghdad over the past 10 years, except the local government headquarters, the road to the airport and a few flyovers. Traffic police shelters at crossroads are stamped “gift from the town hall”, recalling the “donations” (makarim) of Saddam: a personalised substitute for what should be provided anonymously by the state. Public service salaries remain insufficient, driving employees to find supplementary sources of income, legal or not. High-level corruption is tolerated, documented and used as leverage when necessary. Pervasive social climbing, nepotism and incompetence are poisoning institutions." -- Almost ten years after the start of the War on Iraq, Le Monde Diplomatique looks at what has really changed.
Iraq, Kurds, Turks and oil - A tortuous triangle The governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan play a dangerous game [more inside]
The military surge in Iraq is failing. Sure, violence in the country is down significantly, but that's as much due to the Sunni Awakening, which began significantly before the surge got going in 2007. Unfortunately, everyone, particularly the McCain campaign, seems to have forgotten that the goal of the surge was to provide political stability, and it totally hasn't. [more inside]
Iraqi Kurdistan - a flipbook style video of thousands of pictures taken in Kurdish dominated northern Iraq by photojournalist Ed Kashi.
"The Uncontainable Kurds" (NYRB). Nice summary of recent Kurdish politics in Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Civil war. Surely this is an adjectival misnomer of the first rank. Of all of the various types of war, civil war -- that is, a violent conflict waged between opposing sides within a society -- has generally been the least mannerly and the most savage... By just about every meaningful standard that can be applied -- the reference points of history, the research criteria of political science, the contemporaneous reporting of on-the-ground observers, the grim roll of civilian and combatant casualties -- Iraq is now well into the bloody sequence of civil war. Dispense with the tentative locution "on the verge of." An active, if not full-boil, civil war is already a reality.Shattering Iraq
See also Iraq: see no evil, hear no evil
Iran gaining influence, power in Iraq through militia
Bush's Strategy, Iraq's New Army Challenged by Ethnic Militias
Outside View: Iraq's Grim Lessons More Inside
Kurds are the Closest Relatives of Jews Funny, They don't look Jewish:"Research has just begun into the ancient ties between Kurds and Jews. It would be interesting to see if the various Jewish groups have as strong a family tie to Kurds in the maternal lineages as they do in the paternal lineages. Preliminary studies indicate that Jewish populations in eastern Europe and Yemen have maternal origins that contain much more non-Israelite ancestry than their paternal origins. Despite this admixture with other groups, the Jewish Judean people ultimately began their existence in an area within or nearby Kurdistan, prior to migrating southwest to Israel. This exciting research showing that Kurds and Jews may have shared common fathers several millennia ago should, hopefully, encourage both Kurds and Jews to explore each others' cultures and to maintain the friendship that Kurds and Jews enjoyed in northern Iraq in recent times (as chronicled in Michael Rubin's recent article "The Other Iraq"). As Rubin indicates, the Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani once visited Israel and met with Israeli government officials. Rubin refers to the Iraqi Kurds' "special affinity for Israel" and writes that "In the safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Jews and Israel are remembered fondly, if increasingly vaguely." Let us hope that this relationship can be renewed and strengthened."