"Iraq" Falls Apart
- "Iraq" Falls Apart
By PATRICK COCKBURN
Iraq is disintegrating faster than ever. The Turkish army invaded the
north of the country last week and is still there. Iraqi Kurdistan is
becoming like Gaza where the Israel can send in its tanks and
helicopters at will. The US, so sensitive to any threat to Iraqi
sovereignty from Iran or Syria, has blandly consented to the Turkish
attack on the one part of Iraq which was at peace.
The Turkish government piously claims that its army is in pursuit of
PKK Turkish Kurd guerrillas, but it is unlikely to inflict serious
damage on them as they hide in long-prepared bunkers and deep ravines
of the Kurdish mountains. What the Turkish incursion is doing is
weakening the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish
zone, the creation of which is one of the few concrete achievements of
the US and British invasion of Iraq five years ago.
One of the most extraordinary developments in the Iraqi war has been
the success with which the White House has been able to persuade so
much of the political and media establishment in the US that, by means
of 'the Surge', an extra 30,000 US troops, it is on the verge of
political and military success in Iraq. All that is needed now, US
generals argue, is political reconciliation between the Iraqi communities.
Few demands could be more hypocritical. American success in reducing
the level of violence over the last year has happened precisely
because Iraqis are so divided. The Sunni Arabs of Iraq were the heart
of the rebellion against the American occupation since 2003. In
fighting the US forces they were highly successful.
But in 2006, after the bombing of the Shia shrine at Samarra, Baghdad
and central Iraq was wracked by a savage civil war between Shia and
Sunni. In some months the bodies of 3,000 civilians were found and
many others lie buried in the desert or disappeared into the river. I
do not know an Iraqi family that did not lose a relative and usually
more than one.
The Shia won this civil war. By the end of 2006 they held three
quarters of Baghdad. The Sunni rebels, fighting the Mehdi Army Shia
militia and the Shia-dominated Iraqi army and police, and also under
pressure from al Qa'ida, decided to end their war with US forces. They
formed al-Sahwa, the Awakening movement, which is now allied to and
paid for by the US.
In effect Iraq now has an 80,000 strong Sunni militia which does not
hide its contempt for the Iraqi government which it claims is
dominated by Iranian controlled militias. The former anti-American
guerrillas have largely joined al-Sahwa. The Shia majority, for its
part, is determined not to let the Sunni win back their old control of
the Iraqi state. Power in Iraq is more fragmented than ever.
This all may sound like good news for America. For the moment its
casualties are down. Fewer Iraqi civilians are being slaughtered. But
the Sunni have not fallen in love with the occupation. The fundamental
weakness of the US position in Iraq remains its lack of reliable
allies outside Kurdistan.
At one moment British officers used to lecture their American
counterparts, much to their irritation, about the British Army's rich
experience of successful counter-insurgency warfare in Malaya and
Northern Ireland. "That showed a fundamental misunderstanding of Iraq
on our part," a former British officer in Basra told me in
exasperation. "In Malaya the guerrillas all came from the minority
Chinese community and in Northern Ireland from the minority Roman
Catholics. Basra was exactly the opposite. The majority supported our
enemies. We had no friends there."
This lack of allies may not be so immediately obvious in Baghdad and
central Iraq because both Shia and Sunni are willing and at times
eager to make tactical alliances with US forces. But in the long term
neither Sunni nor Shia Arab want the Americans to stay in Iraq.
Hitherto the only reliable American allies have been the Kurds who are
now discovering that Washington is not going to protect them against
Very little is holding Iraq together. The government is marooned in
the Green Zone. Having declared the Surge a great success the US
military commanders need just as many troops to maintain a semblance
of control now as they did before the Surge. The mainly Shia police
force regards al-Sahwa as anti-government guerrillas wearing new uniforms.
The Turkish invasion should have given the government in Baghdad a
chance to defend Iraq's territorial integrity and burnish its
patriotic credentials. Instead the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has
chosen this moment to have his regular medical check up in London, a
visit which his colleagues say is simply an excuse to escape Baghdad.
Behind him he has left a country which is visibly falling apart.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and
daily life in Iraq', a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle
Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His forthcoming book
'Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq'
is published by Scribner in April.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To leave this list, send an email to: