Monday, January 26, 2004

No war is civil

The conflicts and difficulties surrounding the supposed "handover of power" in Iraq to take place before July 1 continue to grow. On Saturday,
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, called a halt to mass protest against US plans for handing over power, saying the United Nations should be given time to assess whether the elections he demands are possible.

But radical Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr branded the UN a "dishonest" body which served America's agenda and had no role to play in future Iraqi elections.
This came a day after Ahmed Chalabi, a central figure in the US-picked Iraqi Governing Council, endorsed the call for immediate direct elections in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute. "The view that we hold in Iraq now is this - that democracy is associated with elections," he said, adding "Do not seek to find a reason why elections are not possible. Seek to make them possible, and they will be possible." This is a real turnaround for Chalabi, and some suspect its real purpose is to give him the kind of political legitimacy that lining up with Sistani can convey.

Meanwhile, others want the US to hand sovereignty over to an expanded council, combining caucuses in some areas with elections in others, and other variations.

All this is taking place again a backdrop of continuing violence and an increasingly gloomy outlook for longer-term stability. Four days ago I raised the possibility that the face-off between the Shiites and the Kurds could lead to civil war. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Washington (Knight-Ridder) - CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said Wednesday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered verbally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.

The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which has until now grudgingly accepted the U.S. occupation, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing its demand for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.

"Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time," said one intelligence officer. "They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before." ...

Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war weren't confined to the CIA but are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council. ...

In an interview with Knight Ridder on Wednesday, a top cleric in the Shiite holy city of Najaf appeared to confirm the fears of potential civil war.

"Everything has its own time, but we are saying that we don't accept the occupiers getting involved with the Iraqis' affairs," said Sheikh Ali Najafi, whose father, Grand Ayatollah Bashir al Najafi, is, along with Sistani, one of the four most senior clerics. "I don't trust the Americans - not even for one blink."

If the United States went ahead with the caucus plan and ended the military occupation, the interim government wouldn't last long, he said.

"The Iraqi people would know how to deal with those people," he said, smiling. "They would kick them out."
On top of that, there's another player in this, one not often mentioned. The January 23 Daily Star of Lebanon reported on a commentary in the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat.
All of Iraq's neighbors are concerned about its partitioning, but the Turks have more than one reason to be worried, columnist Huda Husseini said Thursday.

Ankara has good reasons to be worried over an Iraq whose future is still a mystery, Husseini said. ... It considers a possible independent Kurdish state on its southern border as a direct threat to its domestic stability....

"Iraq's neighbors will interfere in order to prevent its division along ethnic lines. And if the Kurds try to achieve their lifelong ambition and control the oil-rich northern Iraqi provinces, they will be stopped," [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan reportedly told his Shiite guest [Abdel-Aziz Hakim, a member of the IGC].
The columnist quoted "informed sources" as saying the situation in Kurdish-majority northern Iraq would remain status quo until the planned 2005 referendum on a new national constitution.
After that date, northern Iraq is expected to become part of a federal state. As for the oil-rich provinces, they are expected to be directly managed by an Iraqi central government.
That is, Turkey, which fears the nationalist aspirations of the Kurds within its own borders, is being assured by Iraqi sources not to worry, the Kurds will be out of the loop again - and the Turks declare they will "prevent" the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region.

The Kurds, however, seem in no mood to compromise and feel they are owed big by the US. I see this as a dangerous, dangerous, situation.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');