Aug 16, 2007

Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse

A new study by a German think tank weighs in on the future of Iraq.

Der Irak zwischen Föderalismus und Staatszerfall: Interessen und Handlungsoptionen irakischer und regionaler Akteure (31 page PDF-- German only).

"Already today, the main priority is to prevent Iraq from breaking apart completely." That is the sober conclusion of a new study released Wednesday in Berlin on the situation in Iraq. Called "Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse," the study argues that there is little hope of a centralized power in Iraq and that the country's future depends on walking the fine line between decentralizing power and civil war.

The report, written by terror and Middle East expert Guido Steinberg under the auspices of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, says that a far-reaching decentralization is the country's only hope. And if it fails, the result could be devastating, including the possibility of full-scale civil war complete with foreign intervention.

"The basic assumption of this study," Steinberg writes, "is that a federalist solution will be the only possibility to maintain Iraq as a single country. The most important role of German and European policies should therefore be that of supporting steps toward a peaceful federalist solution." ...

The sectarian wrangling means, the study says, that the best solution -- that of a federalism free of ethnic and religious divisions -- has largely been rendered impossible. But even a federalism resting on the ethnic divisions that have been established seems challenging given the opposition from within the Shiite and Sunni factions to such a solution.

And that's not to mention the opposition of other countries in the region. "The discussion within Iraq is influenced to a large degree by the interests of neighboring countries," the report states. "Due to their potential to become involved, the Iraq federalists have to take their positions into account. And Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria all reject the ethnic-religious federalism model out of hand." Military intervention from Iraq's neighbors to protect their interests, particularly from Turkey in the north, is a very real possibility, the report warns. ...

All of which makes the immediate future in Iraq look bleak, Steinberg writes. The alternative to a successful federalism solution, he indicates, is chaos, more violence and a Shiite dictatorship. "Iraq is a failed state," the report concludes, "and will remain unstable for the foreseeable future."

For those who require a more optimistic assessment of the situation, you need look no further. In an article about the increased use of house-borne IEDs against American troops in Iraq, a PAO suggests we interpret the development as another sign of progress:

Officials attribute the increasingly sophisticated attacks to desperation on the insurgents' part after troops became too successful at finding roadside bombs and other explosives.

"It's a clear sign that they could not get to us by other means, and that's a good sign," said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a spokesman for the American operation in northern Iraq, describing the pattern of house bombs in that area. "Obviously we're countering the improvised explosive devices, and force on force, they know that they can't fight us."

But ambushes and rigged houses can cause many more casualties than smaller improvised explosive devices, which rarely kill more than one or two people at a time. Increasingly, Donnelly said, insurgents are creating a "daisy chain" of house bombs, in which an initial explosion can trigger blasts up and down a block.

Additionally, house bombs can be some of the most difficult explosives to detect because of the myriad ways they can be activated, Donnelly and others said. Some insurgents use powerful bombs or other munitions; others rely on homemade explosives. The blast can be set off by a trip wire, a pressure plate or a remote device. ...

Donnelly said that as U.S. troops become more skilled in identifying house bombs, al-Qaeda in Iraq will probably develop even more advanced techniques for attacking soldiers. But the American military's counterinsurgency abilities, assisted by increased cooperation from Iraqi citizens, would prevail, he said.

"There is no question that there is still a serious threat," Donnelly said. "But the gains we have made are tremendous. In the end, we will win, and they will be marginalized and pushed out."


Donald Douglas said...

Nice post! But what are we going to do? Even a federal solution may still lead to collapse. Do we pull out now?

Burkean Reflections

Meatball One said...

I'm not in Iraq.

I had no say whatsoever in the why,how, or when of anyone or anything deploying to Iraq.

I am not a We with juice when it comes to anything pertaining to Iraq, nor do I make claim to being such a We. This of course hasn't precluded myself and a few of my close associates and friends from bird hunting and tequila shooting with a good number of the war's Anglo-American principals.

I do however donate significant monetary resources (amounts probably approximating your ass. prof. salary (gross, that is))to various pragmatic programs that attempt to marginally, but meaningfully, heal people fractured by trauma come of war and torture. Some of that cash comes from good old fashion war profiteering on my part. I do not give back out of shame or guilt or obligation de tithe. I do so because I have the means to spare and I like the idea of healing - it gives me a cheap kick, maybe even a thrill. (I guess I have something in common with dentists after all.)


A question like Do we pull out now? expresses a pathological regressiveness teetering on the proudly infantile. It is not a question posed by a man, much less a man endowed with any discernible sway - at home, among peers, or in the audience of kings and their makers.

With victory wishers like yourself anywhere near the helm we would most certainly be bound to go down in flames. Are you near any helm? I pray not. Fifth columnists must be rooted out to the extent they haven't been kept at bay for they will insist that all that hurts us is a course the true patriot must incessantly follow. And at that they will insist using the words of babes.

steve said...

I shall keep this exchange as an example of the chasm between accepted cultural wisdom about current events and the actual factual world.

Meatball One said...

Hey there Steve!

YouNoMe said...

Kind of hostile there Meatball boy?!
Or perhaps it was only an affected outrage? so that you could brag ever so heroically not only of your regal and copious philanthropic ways, but of your great wealth? (gee guys!! this dude REALLY MUST know what he's talking about!! he DONATES to CHARITY!! "amounts probably approximating your ass. prof. salary (gross, that is)"!?! golly I feel such shame... Donald, you must be beside yourself!! (you loser ass. proff!))
Tell us, oh wise one, is the 'cheap kick' you derive from healing all those victims as satisfying as the belittling and ridiculing of someone who is simply asking a question?
"This of course hasn't precluded myself and a few of my close associates and friends from bird hunting and tequila shooting with a good number of the war's Anglo-American principals."

This I will be laughing at for a long time to come.

Here's another gem:
"It is not a question posed by a man, much less a man endowed with any discernible sway - at home, among peers, or in the audience of kings and their makers."
Tell me love? Which do you fancy yourself then? The king or the maker?
Really, you are hilarious.

Meatball One said...

I am here to spell bad. I am here to self-ridicule. I am here to BS. And when blue moon lucky in my ubiquitous attempts, I am here to entertain. Since we are chicken-assed anonymous, bragging can't be da' game at hand - or any portion of it. We might as well be avatars and of what worth are the boasts of reality dissociated gifs?

Younome, you obviated my suspicion that you might have a law degree somewhere in your pedigree by the seemingly deformed conclusions you extrapolated from my invective. There is little if anything in my infantile tirade that can be successfully used to triangulate any of the kill shots you seem poised to take.

Can it be assumed from anything I scribbled that I left open the possibility that I am a maker of kings - or a king? Naw. That the prof. is a loser ass? Absolutely Naw. (I know he's a friendly guy and a great dad)

All I nobly do Sir, is to roll ignoble meatballs.

I do apologize for upsetting ye with any insinuation of wealth or elliptic reference to odd lot drinking buddies. Twas not my intention. Twas but to practice my Swenglish.

Nonetheless, my puppyish invective is part of a temporally broader exchange between DD and myself. I believe DD knows my style, and I his. (Geez, M1 even reads his blog semi-regularly (without trolling) to stay abreast the diking activities of the chronic wrong-doers. He is a most duteous digger of dikes for many a wrong-doer and the blow back their deeds threaten the Heimat's peace & security with.)

In conclusion, I have but two minor beefs with DD:

ONE: Most everything he claims (at BR) that can be checked against power-pointable facts and figures is wrong, and oft dead wrong at that. End of story for any of us fact checkers still out there.

TWO: I suspect that DD is part of a formal talking points collective whose mission it is to engage in domestic perception herding & management, and the buttressing of rotten hulls without respect or regard to any existent truths. The exact nature of the collective escapes me but I suspect the shadow of the hand of officialdom, or something close to it. For that there are many clues but I shall go there first when I can power point it as solidly as if it were a PDB.

Till then I might redundantly point out(for most that is) that almost all polemic generated here is done tongue in cheek. We're here for fun and games. I'd let DD buy me a drink any day, if only he would let rub his elbow patches - and I'm quite sure we will get around to that sooner than later.

But I stand firm, "Do we pull out?" ain't a real question. It's baby talk, not worthy a man of letters or his learned audience. Agree ye not? I'm all fucking ears.

Meatball One said...

Baby talk aside, here are links to two somewhat interesting articles:

The War as We Saw It

The Independent
Military commanders tell Brown to withdraw from Iraq without delay