Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Foud Ajami on iraq

Foud Ajami on Iraq in Wall Street Journal. Ajami is the author of a classic work on Middle Eastern history.

He begins with some positive news of (somewhat) increased security in Baghdad due to the surge of troops. But along with Rosen we see why:
The blunt truth of this new phase in the fight for Iraq is that the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad. The great flight from Baghdad to Jordan, to Syria,to other Arab destinations, has been the flight of Baghdad's Sunni middle-class. It is they who had the means of escape, and the savings....No one knows with any precision the sectarian composition of today's Baghdad, but there are estimates
that the Sunnis may now account for 15% of the city's population.
Saleh al-Mutalk, a Sunni fundamentalist legislator in the government states:

It is up to the Americans to replace it, change the constitution that was imposed on us, replace this incompetent, sectarian government with a government
of national unity, a cabinet of technocrats."

Ask yourself when the Americans, much less the Shia government (plus Kurds) would ever allow that. The Sunnis shot themselves in the foot by boycotting the constitutional commission elections. The best that could be done, but I see no evidence this ever will, are new provincial elections in the Sunni regions.

The Shia know the US are on the way out. Ajami states that the Shia fundamentalist government's fear is precipitous withdrawal. Ajami also writes a near hagiography of Maliki, which smacks of propaganda at worst, wishful thinking at best. But Ajami returns to more sanity when he discusses that the Shia Arab government knows it will not be accepted by the Sunni countries and can not rely on the US long term. On a best possible best of options left outcome:

For our part, we can't give full credence to the Sunni representations of
things. We can cushion the Sunni defeat but can't reverse it. Our soldiers have
not waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against Sunni extremists to fall for the
fear of some imagined "Shia crescent" peddled by Sunni rulers and preachers. To
that atavistic fight between Sunni and Shia, we ought to remain decent and
discerning arbiters. To be sure, in Iraq itself we can't give a blank check to
Shia maximalism. On its own, mainstream Shi'ism is eager to rein in its own
diehards and self-anointed avengers.

And later on:

A Shia-led state in Baghdad--with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis--can go a long way toward changing the region's terrible
habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be
hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would
yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region.
Ajami concludes: "We made this history and should now make our peace with it."

I agree. The US has made it in part and now should come to peace with it. Rather than timetables linked to funding, I would rather, following Juan Cole set a date, tell the government we are leaving (not all the troops immediately). There is not going to be political concession with security or otherwise. Here I think Ajami is hoping rather than being honest. There are going to be no concessions with a long term surge 2 years or more nor with an immediate withdrawal.

I think such a conflagration is unavoidable. I think the only best option left is to announce a coming departure and hope some marginal amounts of deals are bought for Sunni tribal leaders. Anbar, which "no one wants" in the words of Nir Rosen, will be the home of a gang-ridden, unemployed, dark future for Iraqi Sunnis. The poor ones who couldn't afford to get out when all the middle class Sunnis departed. Iraq is being emptied of Sunnis. Iraq is Shia. The battle is over.


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