October 2, 2005
The wrangling between President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd)
and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (a religious Shiite) may after all
threaten the stability of the government. Aljazeerah says, "Kurdish
officials warned on Saturday they would consider pulling out of the
government if their demands are not met. That would cause the collapse
of the government and put a new layer of political instability and
fragmentation between Iraq's main communities." The Kurds are angry
because they say the Shiite government had pledged to begin a major
resettlement of Kurds in Kirkuk, but has not. Kirkuk is about a quarter
Turkmen (mostly Shiites), a quarter Arab and a half Kurdish. Many Kurds
and Turkmen were expelled from the city by Saddam Hussein, who brought
in Arabs (many of them Shiites from the south) as settlers to "Arabize"
Kirkuk, a major petroleum producer. The pledge given by the Shiite
majority to resettle the expelled Kurds would threaten the interests of
the Shiite Turkmen and the Shiite Arabs, and they surely have put
enormous pressure on PM Ibrahim Jaafari to drag his feet on it.
will eventually be a referendum on the future of Kirkuk in which Kirkuk
residents will vote, according to the interim constitution. The Kurdish
parties are desperate to flood the city with their supporters, so that
when the referendum is held it will go in their favor (i.e. Kirkuk
province would join the Kurdistan provincial confederacy along with
Irbil, Dohuk, and Sulaimaniyah. The Shiites, by holding up
resettlement, are placing that outcome in doubt. The Turkmen and the
Shiite Arabs desperately do not want to be in Kurdistan, and the
Turkmen have demanded a semi-autonomous Iraqi Turkmenistan instead if
it looks as though that might happen.
The Iraqi government is
unlikely to fall, since 54 percent of the delegates in parliament are
religious Shiites who will support Jaafari, and a government can remain
in power with a simple majority. But if even a few Shiites defected,
Jaafari could be vulnerable to a vote of no confidence. For the Iraqi
government to fall at this point might well hurl the country into a
maelstrom of political discontent and even more violence. Kirkuk is a
Al-Hayat: The Sunni Arab members of the
constitution drafting committee said Saturday that they are negotiating
with US Ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad to make some final
amendments to the new Iraqi constitution. Ali Saadoun, a member of the
National Dialogue Council (Sunni), said that Khalilzad "promised to add
these amendments to the draft that is printed, and to broach them
through an appendix to it." But the head of the constitution drafting
committee in parliament, Shiite cleric Humam Hammoudi, objected that
"These are not alterations or additions but are rather just
affirmations and clarifications in the draft language, especially with
regard to the unity of Iraq and its Arab identity." In an interview
with Aljazeerah, he was in fact alarmed at Khalilzad's maneuvering, and
angrily said that no changes could be made to the constitution at this
The UN is supposed to be printing millions of copies
of this document, which nobody has yet seen outside parliament, so that
the Iraqi public can study it before the October 15 referendum.
got a lot of flack for calling the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq a sick
joke because there had been no campaigning and the names of the
candidates were not known until the last minute, and because the Sunni
Arabs wouldn't be represented. But now everyone in Iraq is complaining
about the sectarian and do-nothing government that resulted from those
anonymous elections (however bravely and however imbued with national
spirit the Iraqi public went into them), and of course the absence of
the Sunni Arabs has pushed them ever further into violent opposition.
me now risk some more flack and say that given that it is two weeks
before the referendum and no ordinary Iraqis have seen the text of the
new constitution, and given that the Sunni Arabs reject it to a person
even just from the little they know of it, this constitution is another
sick joke played by the Bush administration, which keeps forcing Iraq
to jump through hoops made in Washington as "milestones" and "tipping
points" to which the Republican Party can point as progress. Not to
mention that the draft we have all seen of the constitution is riddled
with fatal contradictions that will tie up the energies of parliament
and the courts for decades trying to resolve them.
Let's see. AP also reports that One thousand US troops go into the small town of Sadah,
block it off, bomb it, displace its inhabitants, comb through it
looking for foreign jihadis. Since there are only 2,000 inhabitants of
Sadah on a good day (it is a tiny border settlement near Syria
northwest of Baghdad), the Marines have a certain advantage. You figure
half of Sadah is women. Some further proportion is boys too young to
fight and old men. Could they muster 300 local fighters (would all of
them be in the guerrilla movement)? And how many foreign jihadis could
live in a town of 2,000? Would you guess 50? So have we thrown 1,000
Marines at between 50 and 300 local fighters, who are poorly armed and
lack real organization? Meanwhile entire districts of Baghdad, a city
of 5 or 6 million, are controlled by the guerrillas. Wouldn't they be a
bigger priority, since 95 percent of the violence in Iraq is plotted
out by Iraqis?
This operation strikes me as odd. Perhaps they
think a high-value target like Zarqawi is there, and the thousand
Marines are to make sure that he does not escape?
not sure Zarqawi exists, so I'd be reluctant to send a thousand Marines
after him and to majorly inconvenience (and from the video on
Aljazeerah, partially flatten) poor little Sadah.
Then there is
the question of why only US troops are being deployed. In the recent
Tal Afar operation, the US asked Iraqi troops to take the lead.
a funny thing about that, too. SecDef Rumsfeld and Gen. Casey were
saying not long ago that there were 3 Iraqi units (a brigade and two
battalions) that would and could take the lead in fighting the
guerrillas. A brigade doesn't have a fixed number, but let's say it is
1500 to 3000. Now, the press said that the charge at Tal Afar was led
by 4,000 to 6,000 Iraqi troops. Was that the level-1 units plus some
level 2s? Were these the units who could fight on their own? They were
said to be mostly Kurdish Peshmerga, with some Shiites along (Badr
Now Rumsfeld and Casey say there is only one battle-ready brigade
in the Iraqi army. We'd be back down to 1500 to 3000 men who could and
would fight on their own. And Casey now says it isn't even one of the 3
units earlier so identified. What happened to them?
Did some melt away at Tal Afar? We know that the guerrillas mostly
escaped the city through tunnels, and few engagements were fought
(though 500 or more people were killed in the city, some proportion of
them innocent civilians caught up in bombing raids) The US military
claimed 150 guerrillas killed and 400 captured, but it is not at all
clear that the 400 apprehended were actually guerrillas as opposed to
Sunni Turkmen who had some pressing reason to try to stay in the city.
The stated objective had been the foreign infiltrators. What happened
to them? AFP reported on Sept. 13, "An Iraqi army lieutenant colonel
suggested that up to half the rebels might have managed to flee to
neighbouring villages. Among those arrested were some 30 foreign fighters, including around 20 Syrians,
as well as four Afghanis and two Saudis, he told AFP requesting
anonymity." That is, 200,000 inhabitants were driven from their homes,
neighborhoods were flattened, and 500 people were killed so that the US
could capture 20 Syrian villagers so angry about the US military
occupation of Iraq that they slipped over to Tal Afar to fight it.
wait. This battle was supposed to be a major one. How how did at least
half of the guerrillas (I suspect many more) escape from the city?
Could it be that they were tipped off by officers in the Iraqi army?
How did the US find out about the infiltration? Was it when they got to
Tal Afar and nobody was there? Or was it when there were a few
firefights, and everybody but a few gung-ho Kurds held back?
the US military did think that Zarqawi and some fighters were in Sadah,
then, they might well have refused to involve the remaining reliable
Iraqi brigade, for fear that some elements in it were not in fact
reliable, and Sadah would be gone when they got there, the way Tal Afar
Meanwhile, in the real world terrorists have struck at tourist sites in Bali again.
The people in Sadah were never dangerous to US interests in 2000, or
2001, or 2002. Now a thousand Marines are tied down there while the
real al-Qaeda has the run of London and Bali. I guess Rumsfeld thought
there are no good targets among al-Qaeda. But they can see lots of good
Another two US soldiers were killed in Iraq on Saturday.
A Danish soldier was killed by a roadside bomb on a bridge in Basra.
brother of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr (Sulagh) was kidnapped in
Baghdad on Saturday. Jabr is himself a Shiite Turkmen and the Shiite
Turkmen of Tal Afar had pleaded for the military operation against the
city launched in mid-September, on the grounds that the 70 percent
Sunni Turkmen majority was allied to the guerrillas and was persecuting
the Shiites. The killing of over a hundred Shiites with a bomb in
Kazimiyah was explicitly announced by the guerrilla movement as revenge
for Tal Afar. One wonders if the abduction of Jabr's brother is another
reprisal. Of course, the Interior Ministry has organized special
security police with names like the Wolf Brigade, who target the Sunni
Arab guerrillas, so their are lots of motives for payback.
The Scotsman reports,
"Meanwhile, British troops yesterday handed control of a small military
camp outside of Basra over to Iraqi forces. "It's a real sign of
progress, of the increasing capability of Iraqi forces," said British
Army Major Mick Aston, as the 10th Division of the Iraqi army was given
control of Camp Chindit Az-Zubayr, southwest of Basra. About 100
British soldiers had been based at the camp, which was used for
training Iraqi troops."
Looks more like the beginnings of a British withdrawal from the South to me.
Likewise, on the American side, the US withdrawal from the Shiite holy city of Karbala this week is a weather vane