Iraq In Transition: Vortex or Catalyst?
September 2, 2004 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Iraq In Transition: Vortex or Catalyst? (PDF)
A key message of the report is that should Iraq fragment, a sectarian struggle between the Shi’a majority and Sunni minority is more likely to flare up in the context of a political breakdown. Al Qaeda and other militant Sunni groups will contribute to the polarisation between Sunnis, Shi’a and other religious groups in Iraq. A fragmented Iraq could provide a breeding ground for new militant factions, both Islamist and non-Islamist.
Press release
posted by y2karl (8 comments total)
The report ‘Iraq in Transition: Vortex or Catalyst’ claims that the hand over will lead to three likely scenarios:

1. If the Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd factions fail to adhere to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG), Iraq could fragment or descend into civil war.
2. If the transitional government, backed up by a supportive US presence, can assert control, Iraq may well hold together.
3. A Regional Remake could overtake the other two scenarios if the dynamics unleashed by Shi’a and Kurdish assertiveness trigger repercussions in neighbouring states.

posted by y2karl at 8:44 AM on September 2, 2004

Point #3 is well taken and the desired outcome by the US administration. However, it should be noted that it is not mutually exclusive from point #2.

Optimally, from the US perspective, by the time the elections are held in January, the Iraqi government will have enough internal cohesion, that is, a strong army, a large number of police, a large border guard and a large oil infrastructure guard, to maintain itself. Its consitution will be arranged, as well as its parliment, and its bureaucracy and central bank will also be firmly established. And its regional and local governments will be mostly functional.

Through this development, again with January being the "end point", the US will slowly and methodically withdraw from the large cities, until only redevelopment personnel such as engineers are left. However, this does not mean that they leave the country.

A US regional command equal to CENTCOM will remain in place with a Status of Forces agreement, similar to the one used in Germany. It will still have a Lieutenant General in charge of US personnel, focused on the needs of Iraq; but it will have a General (four star) in charge of the regional command. And this is where their point #3 comes into play.

The Kurds in the north will continue to inherently destabilize Syria, and northwestern Iran, just by living in a free, federal Iraq--both countries fearing a semi-autonomous Kurdistan; however, it is having just the opposite effect in Turkey, with the Turks closely aligning themselves with the friendly Kurds (if not the dwindling hostile Kurds).

The Shiites in the south are intimidating to the Iran government, as pilgrims from Iran would be very hard to stop, and if they observe freedom and democracy in Iraq, they will deeply unsettle the theocracy.

So, added together, #2 and #3 are what the US desires as a positive outcome.

However, I will also note that they neglected what I could call point #4, that if Iraq does show signs of either success or collapse, it could inspire foreign interference. For example, an Iranian Corps could attempt to swiftly occupy southern Iraq to "protect" Najaf. But this is just another scenario.
posted by kablam at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2004

Optimally, from the US perspective, by the time the elections are held in January, the Iraqi government will have enough internal cohesion, that is, a strong army, a large number of police, a large border guard and a large oil infrastructure guard, to maintain itself. Its consitution will be arranged, as well as its parliment, and its bureaucracy and central bank will also be firmly established. And its regional and local governments will be mostly functional.

Optimally, it will as likely rain gold dust worldwide in January.
posted by y2karl at 11:30 AM on September 2, 2004

ummm correct me if I am wrong. But, if it rains gold dust wouldn't it devalue gold to the point where it is worthless?
posted by Eekacat at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2004


If my grandma was a bus she would have wheels.
posted by VeGiTo at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2004

Current size of the Iraqi army: 36,000 men organized into three divisions. Current number of Iraqi police 34,000--scheduled to expand to 75,000 within the next 9 months. Current number of Iraqi national guard 12,000.
Border guard and oil infrastructure guard figures unavailable.

The entire Iraqi bureaucracy, except for ministries of defense and two others are now autonomous, only a few with US advisors. The Iraqi Central Bank now coordinates their entire banking system that is up to international banking standards, their most recent addition being VISAnet, so that credit cards work in country. The Iraqi dinar is a steady and strong currency in the region.

Its 18 governates and almost all of its cities have functional governments.

Gee, I guess it's raining gold dust.

For lots of additional information, I suggest the weekly roundup of good news from Iraq, published in the Wall Street Journal. The 9th in the series.

Still no quags to be found.
posted by kablam at 6:54 PM on September 2, 2004

Still no quags to be found.

US-backed armies firing blanks

Fear of being linked to US-backed regimes that lack authority has inhibited potential recruits in violence-prone Iraq and Afghanistan from heeding calls to join nascent or rebuilding national armies, say United States academics and political and military analysts.

"The challenge of creating national armies in both countries is fundamentally linked to the challenge of legitimacy for the new [US-installed] governments," says Margaret Karns, who lectures on international organizations, foreign policy and diplomacy at the University of Dayton in in the state of Ohio.

"Low legitimacy" for the governments of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq "translates into limited willingness of individuals to sign up for the military, knowing that they might become targets of groups opposed to either government", Karns told IPS.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Washington has been struggling to create a 40,000-strong military force to take over security in the war-torn country.

But according to Brigadier General James Schwitters, who is part of the US command responsible for training Iraq's new army, only 3,000 of the soldiers could be regarded as having been militarily trained, as of early August.

"Despite over a year and billions of dollars in spending, [US] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and those he appointed for the mission in Iraq have largely failed to reconstitute meaningful security forces and police," says Erik K Gustafson, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War and director of the Washington-based Education for Peace in Iraq Center...

In July, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that both Iraq and Afghanistan would surely end up as failed states if the US and the international community did not work together to salvage the two nations. The security situation in both countries was dismal, he said.

"Can we afford two failed states in pivotal regions?" he asked. "It's both undesirable and unacceptable if either Afghanistan or Iraq were to be lost. The international community can't afford to see those countries going up in flames. There would be enormous repercussions for stability, and not only in those regions."

Insurgent Attacks Halt Iraq Oil Exports

The latest strikes against five pipelines linked to the southern Rumeila oil fields immediately shut down the Zubayr 1 pumping station, forcing officials to use reserves from storage tanks to keep exports flowing for several hours. The reserves ran out late Sunday.

The South Oil Co. official said that before Sunday's attack, Iraq's exports from the south were about 600,000 barrels a day already a third less than the normal average of 1.8 million barrels a day due to a separate string of attacks early last week. The pipelines were still ablaze Monday, he said.

Saboteurs last brought southern oil exports to a halt in June.

See also Iraq Pipeline Watch

99. August 25 - attack on the reversible Strategic Pipeline linking oil fields in the north and south of Iraq sparked fire 19 miles (30 km) west of Babylon.
100. August 25 - explosion at 7:00 am near Al Madhatiya in Aawazel area, about 18 miles (30 km) south of Hilla, on gas pipeline which transports gas from Basra to other southern towns set the pipeline ablaze.
101. August 25 - eight parallel pipelines that link the Rumaila oilfields to the Zubayr 1 pumping station were hit in Berjasiya, 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Basra, when a bomb exploded under a bridge at 9:00pm and caused it to collapse, reducing exports from the south.
102. August 27 - attack on the 36 inch in diameter oil pipeline that connects the South Rumaila oilfield to storage tanks at the Zubair One station near Basra.
103. August 27 - attack on the 48 inch oil pipeline that connects the North Rumaila field to storage tanks in the West Qorna oilfield.
104. August 27 - blast on oil pipeline that feeds the Daura refinery; section on fire 19 miles (30 km) north of Baghdad.
105. August 27 - attack on oil pipeline in the West Qurna oilfield, 90 miles (144 km) north of Basra.
106. August 29 - blast on oil pipeline that links the Rumaila oilfields with export storage tanks in the Faw peninsula in al-Radgha, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Basra.

That's just last week.

The Iraqi dinar is a steady and strong currency in the region.

Ask the Expert: Should you invest in the Iraqi dinar?

...The main argument for buying the dinar, of course, is that Iraq has vast oil and natural gas reserves at a time when energy prices are climbing. If the country gets its political act together, it could profit in a big way.

I hope things work out that way, but it's a big, big if...

My view is that if you want to spend a few bucks to acquire Iraqi dinar as a novelty item or you want to gamble with money you can well afford to lose, that's fine. Enjoy yourself. But you shouldn't even think of making something this iffy a part of your investment portfolio.

Casualties in Iraq

An Australian reader of Juan Cole wrote the following:

Total US dead is reported at 1012 as at end of August (244 days of 2004 with 530 dead versus 482 dead in 2003's 287 days despite end of official war and return of "sovereignty").

Of at least equal concern is US casualties totalling 6987 as at end of August including a big jump of 1112 in the most recent month alone. Note that the wearing of bullet-proof vests means that many of these would have been deaths in earlier combats such as Vietnam. The vests have reduced deaths but greatly increased total incapacitation wounds such as brain injuries and limb loss. (Note that Pentagon has been trying to "spin" the number of wounded by only reporting "hostile" wounded since 1 April 2004).

If you assume that the 6987 wounded cannot return to fight and nor can the 4416 reported non-battle injury evacuations, the US loses 21.47 soldiers per day to injury (and 36 per day in most recent month) on top of the 1.9 average deaths per day (total 23.37 per day equals 8530 per year that this continues, more if rates escalate as they are currently). Too many years at this rate and the US military is severely depleted, not to mention the increased vet costs and resultant family impact back home.

Gee, I guess it's raining gold dust.

You may think so. I don't.
posted by y2karl at 8:52 PM on September 2, 2004

British trapped in Basra vacuum

After three deaths in as many weeks the British Army has stopped patrolling the streets of Basra, choosing instead to remain in barracks under daily bombardment despite pleas from residents to take on the Iraqi insurgents.

With troops now moving only in Warrior armoured vehicles on patrols not more than 100 yards from base, forces loyal to the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stepped into the power vacuum, roaming the streets with rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s.

Vital reconstruction has been halted and the citizens are suffering deprivations daily.

US wounded total in Iraq approaching 7,000

The number of American troops wounded in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 is approaching 7,000, according to figures published Tuesday by the Pentagon. The death toll for U.S. military personnel is 975, plus three Defense Department civilians.

The wounded total has approximately doubled since mid-April, when casualties and deaths mounted rapidly as the insurgency intensified. The death toll over that period has grown by about 300.

Questions For a Wartime President

America's dilemma in Iraq now, so obvious that people rarely state it, is that a war meant to contain terrorism has had the effect of creating more of it. Most of the new terrorism is in Iraq itself, which was to be a platform in combating terrorism but has instead become a magnet for it.

The Iraqi cauldron was dramatically captured in an article Sunday in the New York Times about the Taliban-like Sunni fundamentalists who now control western Iraq. When decent Iraqis try to work with the Americans to fight these insurgents, they can meet the fate of the local commander of the Iraqi National Guard, who had his head sawed off.

The administration is sensibly seeking Iraqi solutions, which, unfortunately, don't provide crisp answers. As is so often the case in the Arab world, there is never a final resolution -- only the postponement of a decision to a later day. The three-week battle of Najaf is the latest example. This looked to be a decisive showdown between the insurgent militia of Moqtada Sadr and the U.S.-backed interim government. But just as U.S. and Iraqi forces were near a decisive victory last week that would have powerfully reinforced the interim government, an Iraqi solution emerged. Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani brokered a deal that avoids clear winners or losers.

Facing such reversals in Iraq, what does the Bush administration plan to do in a second term? Will the United States double its bets in Iraq and fight a bloody new war to pacify the country, or will it tolerate more murky but pragmatic Iraqi solutions? Will it expand the war against Islamic militants by threatening Iran and Syria, or will it seek to enlist those nations as allies in maintaining regional stability? Will it accept a broad (and sometimes anti-American) coalition for change in Iraq and the Arab world -- broad enough to include even a Moqtada Sadr -- or will it hunker down with a narrower group of allies?

The truth is that we don't know the Bush administration's plans. We see the twin towers looming in the background, as a powerful symbol of unity and resolve. But to what end? This week Bush should level with the nation about what's ahead. That's an obligation, surely, for a wartime president.

posted by y2karl at 12:00 AM on September 3, 2004

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