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Preventing Genocide In Iraq

Iraq has disintegrated and genocide of unimaginable scale looms high. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Alon Ben-Meir
UPI Commentator
New York (UPI) Nov 29, 2006
To prevent genocide in Iraq on the scale of the genocide in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus, the Bush administration must move swiftly to divide Iraq into three main self-rule entities with loose federal ties. Neither the insurgency nor the sectarian killing will end unless the Sunnis can govern themselves. The Bush administration must use every ounce of leverage it has to push for such a solution before it is too late.

To end the carnage the Bush administration must address the root causes behind the ever escalating civil war which has swept Iraq. The sooner the administration stops pushing for a western-style democracy and in that context try to preserve the so-called democratic national unity government, the sooner it will stop the fast approaching precipice. Moreover, it must, by now, be clear to the Bush administration that there is no military solution.

No Iraqi or American forces will be able to end the insurgency or disarm the numerous militias. The violence will continue to rage because for the Sunnis it has become a matter of survival itself. The history of Iraq and the relationship between the main factions -- the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds -- make the option of creating three separate entities the only viable option that will bring an end to the violence. Here's why:

First, the history of hatred and animosity between the Shiite and the Sunnis in Iraq predates the current conflict; it goes back centuries but it has been steadily intensifying following the creation of modern Iraq in 1922. The Shiites have suffered unimaginable oppression and abuse by the Sunni minority, especially under the ruthless reign of Saddam Hussein. Revenge and retribution have become engrained in the culture and there is practically nothing the administration can do to change it.

Second, having held power in Iraq from the day of its inception, the Sunnis have not accepted the fact that they are a minority and may never regain power again. Sitting in a coalition government where the Shiite majority can railroad any legislation they wish makes the Sunnis feel complicit in their own political demise. Sooner or later they will permanently walk away and regardless of how much pressure the Bush administration brings to bear to keep the government together, the current Iraqi coalition will not last.

Third, the indiscriminate killing and the brutality inflicted on each other has virtually destroyed any vestiges of civility and trust between the two sides. The fight for survival itself became the motivation and therefore all means to ensure survival, especially for the Sunnis, have become justified. Moreover, fearing for their lives, a self-imposed sectarian separation became routine in mixed areas in Baghdad and elsewhere where hundreds of thousands relocated to safer areas to live with their own brethren, creating de-facto all-Sunni or all-Shiite enclaves.

Iraq is already divided. The Kurds have been enjoying complete self-rule for the past 15 years and they are not about to surrender what they have gained in blood. Notwithstanding their majority status, the Shiites are moving toward establishing their own independent provinces and are determined to hold fast to the oil beneath their land in the south. In any case, the Iraqi constitution allows for the creation of independent provinces, permitting each group to enact their own laws and build their own institutions.

The only way the Sunnis will accept their minority status is if they can govern themselves with a guaranteed equitable share of oil or its revenue. Only an economically viable and politically independent Sunni entity will provide the Sunnis the assurances they need to give up the fight. Otherwise, however dim the prospect of winning may be, they will continue to battle the Shiites because they see no other viable option. The artificial political arrangement the Bush administration has pursued to politically co-opt the Sunnis has done nothing to change the psychological disposition between the Shiite and Sunnis which was nurtured by decades, nay centuries, of acrimony, hostility and distrust.

As it considers a new course of action in Iraq, the Bush administration must realize that Iraq has been broken along fault lines that have always been there but the administration willfully ignored. The unfolding carnage reflects not only the current tragic state of affairs but it should indicate how much worse the situation will be if the administration stubbornly clings to the notion that there can be a different outcome.

Not all Sunnis would settle for a much smaller piece of the pie, but then again, they can be made to understand the pitfalls of the unending violence. The army, the police and all other internal security forces are dominated by the Shiites and buttressed from within and outside by several Shiite militias making reversal of fortune for the Sunnis extremely unlikely. Dividing Iraq with loose federal ties will provide the Sunnis and the Shiites the same condition that exists for the Kurds: the opportunity to lead their lives as they see fit and cooperate under federal settings where cooperation benefits them.

The Bush administration has been warned time and again before and after the war about the unintended consequences of the Iraq war but paid no heed and remained stuck in a failed policy. Iraq has disintegrated and genocide of unimaginable scale looms high. The Bush administration must act immediately to prevent that from happening before it is too late.

related report

Iraqi Government Failing To Establish Credible Control
Washington (UPI) Nov 29 - A new U.S. report published this week offers a chilling analysis of the Iraqi government's failure to establish credible control of its country. Benchmarks in Iraq are not merely measured by casualties suffered or inflicted by U.S. and allied forces. Some of the most important statistics and measurable trends reflect the degree to which the new democratically-elected parliament and government in Baghdad is succeeding in winning credibility, loyalty and trust from the country's 28 million people.

Judging by those criteria, the Bush administration, spearheaded by outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has failed the grade badly so far, according to the conclusions of the new report "Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War" by Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, a Washington think tank. The report was published Monday by CSIS.

The report concludes that, despite much rhetoric about political conciliation, national unity and compromise in Iraq, "Talk has not been followed by substance. Prime Minister (Nouri al-)Maliki's conciliation plan has not taken hold, and the new government has not shown it can implement such plans or bring Arab Sunnis back into an effective political structure."

Cordesman writes that Shiite firebrand leader Muqtada Sadr "appears more open to compromise with other factions now." However, Sadr "appears to be losing control over the more radical parts of the Mahdi Army, which may render his more conciliatory position less meaningful."

Cordesman is scathing in his assessment of how the Iraqi government functions, or, perhaps more accurately, malfunctions. "The national government cannot even spend its budget; much less demonstrate that it now has an effective ministerial structure or the ability to actually govern in many areas," he writes. "Actual governance continues to default to local authorities and factions."

Because of the failure of the central government, "There is no real consensus on what legal system to use, courts do not exist in many areas and are corrupt and ineffective in many others," the report says. "Legal authority, like governance, is devolving down to the local level."

As we reported at the time in these UPI Eye on Iraq columns, Cordemsan confirms our conclusion then that "The election in late 2005 effectively divided Iraqis by sect and ethnic group, with only a small minority voting for truly national parties. No clear national party structure has emerged since that time."

U.S. policymakers placed great hope and confidence in the binding role that the new Iraqi Constitution would play in establishing a healthy, stable new democratic body politic in Iraq. However, Cordesman concludes, its role has instead been destructive and negative.

"The creation of a new constitution has done nothing to establish consensus and much to divide the nation. It leaves more than 50 areas to be clarified, all of which involve potentially divisive debates between sectarian and ethnic groups, and most of which could lead to added tensions over the role of religion in the state," he writes.

Cordesman is also dismissive of U.S. Department of Defense and White House claims about the major gains that have allegedly been made in restoring the economy of oil-rich Iraq.

"Increases in macroeconomic figures like the total GDP disguise massive problems with corruption, the distribution of income, and employment, particularly in troubled Sunni areas and the poorer parts of Iraq's major towns and cities," he writes. "Young men are often forced to choose between the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces), insurgency, and militias for purely economic reasons."

The economic picture is depressing across most of Iraq, Cordesman concludes. "The real-world economy of Sunni areas continues to deteriorate, and investment in even secure Shiite areas is limited by the fear of crime and insurgency," he writes. "Only the Kurdish area is making real progress towards development."

The new Democratic-controlled Congress is especially likely to seize on Cordesman's blunt conclusion that the billions of dollars of U.S. aid earmarked to rebuild Iraq have so far been almost entirely wasted.

"Iraq has largely spent the flood of U.S. and other aid provided after the fall of Saddam (Hussein) as well as its oil food money," he writes. "Large portions of this aid have been spent on corruption, outside contractors and imports, security, and projects with poor planning and execution, which now are unsustainable."

Yet the need for effective aid is more pressing than ever, Cordesman warns. "Iraq will, however, desperately need major future aid to construct and develop if it can achieve political conciliation and security," he writes. "The U.S. committed $20.6 billion of $20.9 billion in aid funds as of September 20, 2006. It had obligated $20.1 billion, and spent $15.8 billion."

Finally, Cordesman documents the continued disaster area that is the Iraqi energy sector. "Iraq continued to produce less than 2.5 million barrels of oil per day (2.3 MMBD in September), and exported well under 2 million barrels a day. It was dependent on imported fuel and gasoline for more than 50 percent of its total needs," he writes.

Not all of the problems in energy productions stem directly from the war and the deteriorating security situation, he notes. "No major rehabilitation of Iraq's oil fields and facilities has taken place. Water-flooding and heavy oil injection continued to be major problems, and the ability to recover oil from producing fields average less than two-thirds of the world average."

Cordesman's assessments are blunt, frank, and almost uniformly depressing. But any successful U.S. policy in Iraq will have to start by acknowledging the stark realities he has documented.

Source: United Press International

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More US Troops To Help Garrison Baghdad
Washington (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
The US military is moving as many as three battalions from other parts of Iraq to Baghdad to beef up security in the violence-torn capital, a US defense official said Wednesday. The official said the US troops would not come from Al-Anbar, a vast western province where US marines have been fighting a bitter, long-running Sunni insurgency.

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