Monday, June 25, 2007

Go and Surge No More

The answer to Iraq's horrific violence cannot be
an illusory military surge that aims
to bolster the existing political structure
and treats the dominant parties as partners.
- International Crisis Group
In its latest report, the influential International Crisis Group warns that Iraq is on the brink of collapse and that, if the US and Britain want to avoid that, they'll have to stop backing the same Shia bosses that rule the government in Baghdad.
"Far from building a new state," their Iraqi partners "are tirelessly working to tear it down," warns the ICG.
The think tank criticizes the US/UK coalition's "surge mentality" as counterproductive and points to Basra where British forces first gave it a go. From The Guardian:
"Operation Sinbad was a 'superficial and fleeting' success, and ended with British troops being driven off the streets in what was seen as an ignominious defeat by the city's militias, now more powerful and unconstrained than before. Some British data about its achievements, particularly about improved police performance, 'defies credibility', the group notes.

"The key failure in Basra, argues the report, has been the inability to establish legitimate government to redistribute resources, impose respect for the rule of law and ensure peaceful transition at the local level - a lesson it says has to be learnt across Iraq as a whole.

"'Basra's political arena remains in the hands of actors engaged in bloody competition for resources, undermining what is left of governorate institutions and coercively enforcing their rule. The local population has no choice but to seek protection from one of the dominant camps. Periods of stability do not reflect greater governing authority so much as they do a momentary - and fragile - balance of interests or of terror between rival militias.'
"'Should other causes of strife - sectarian violence and the fight against coalition forces - recede, the concern must still be that Basra's fate will be replicated throughout the country on a larger, more chaotic and more dangerous scale. The lessons are clear. Iraq's violence is multifaceted, and sectarianism is only one of its sources. It follows that the country's division along supposedly inherent and homogeneous confessional and ethnic lines is not an answer. It follows, too, that rebuilding the state, tackling militias and imposing the rule of law cannot be done without confronting the parties that currently dominate the political process and forging a new and far more inclusive political compact.'"
From a purely Iraqi perspective it's hard to disagree with the ICG's take on these surges. What they don't mention, however, is that the current surge is as much about Washington politics as Iraqi security. The "surge" was pitched to George w. Bush by the neo-cons such as Kagan as a way of rescuing his legacy and it now must be played out so that the US president can craft a scenario in which he can blame the Maliki government for failure and then withdraw US forces from an "undeserving" Baghdad government. It's all political theatre but, then, losing a war of this strategic magnitude is bound to be.

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