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Thread: America's Future Ally

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    Council Member ali_ababa's Avatar
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    Default America's Future Ally

    New York Sun, 5 Sep 07: America's Future Ally
    For the past two months, I've been traveling around the Middle East for this paper, looking for trends, and it's no wonder why I haven't written anything throughout that time — nothing looks certain.

    My itinerary has taken me to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey — each of them has ongoing major stories — but it's been one long murky summer where much seems to be in flux. The one trend that seems crystal clear to me is that Iraq will make it; Iraq will turn out fine......
    http://talisman-gate.blogspot.com/
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 10-30-2007 at 07:57 PM. Reason: Edited content, added link.

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    ali_ababa, your posts are very interesting and insightful. Please keep them coming.

    and scenes of spontaneous jubilation and anti-sectarian slogans that were unleashed by Iraq's win in the Asia Cup soccer tournament were not a flash in the pan but rather a timely reaffirmation of the necessity of living together.
    Maybe not everyone agrees, it's just a soccer team after all, but I still think this was a big deal. There's just something about it that touched me.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skiguy View Post
    ali_ababa, your posts are very interesting and insightful. Please keep them coming.
    Ditto... I agree...

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Let me be the dour voice of doubt here.

    Ali Ababa - Are you Nibras Kazimi, the author of that blog entry? If so, I'd like to point out some holes in the argument as I see them.

    Al Qaeda tried to trigger a Sunni-Shiite war in Iraq for the last four years, but anyone using the term "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq is grossly misinformed in my book I'm looking at you, Senator Obama.

    During 2006, Iraq witnessed the appetizer course of what a civil war would look like, and Al Qaeda's Sunni shock troops lost their appetite; the Shiites would win easy in case of an escalation. In lieu of death squads and beheadings, Sunni-Shiite tensions now run through the legal channels of parliament and how ministerial posts are allocated. Politics have been reintroduced into Iraqi life, and it's only natural that an issue as thorny and still unresolved as sectarianism would be expressed through political machinations.
    There are still death squads, bombings, and beheadings going on in Iraq. The pace may have been reduced, but so have the available number of victims --- unspoken in this piece are the 2-2.5 million Iraqis (8-10% of the prewar population) that have fled the country and the 2 million more have moved into safer, more homogeneous neighborhoods or isolated camps. Anywhere from 100,000 - 300,000 Iraqis have died violently in the past 4 years, most at the hands of their fellow Iraqis. Over half of Iraqis have had family or friends killed, over a quarter have had family kidnapped. Unemployment is anywhere between 30-60%, the government is riven by violent factions often beholden to foreign powers, the most peaceful and prosperous part of the country forbids the flying of the national flag and no longer speaks the language, crime and disorder are rampant, the government nowhere has a monopoly on force, etc. etc. I think if you asked most other people in the region if they wanted to switch problem sets with Iraq, you wouldn't get many takers.

    The main Sunni bloc withdrew from the government so what? The worst threat they can administer is a noisy parliamentary opposition since the recourse to armed conflict is no longer an option. No Sunni politician can ask his constituency to carry arms against the new Iraq since this was all they've been trying over the last four years and it ended with defeat.
    The main Sunni bloc represents few Sunnis. Now the tribes and the insurgency --- quite a different story, and they seem hesitant to lay their arms down. What they may now want are paychecks from the government --- but this is hardly the same thing.

    The radical Shiites also have been broken: Muqtada al-Sadr can't control his own Mahdi army, the members of whom are now being rejected as hooligans when just last year even moderate Shiites looked upon them as the necessary counterforce to Al Qaeda's menace.

    But as the fear of civil war faded, so has the usefulness of Mr. Sadr's thugs. Iran has taken over parts of the Mahdi army and uses them as spoilers of America's plan for Iraq, but this approach has had little traction in instigating far-reaching chaos and these Iranian networks are being easily rolled-back by America and the Iraqi government, with the subtle encouragement of Mr. Sadr himself.
    I'd like to see evidence beyond the anecdotal that the Sadrists are being systematically rejected in Shi'i neighborhoods and towns across Iraq. And what exactly is the difference between "radical" and "moderate" Shi'i parties? Is it because SCIRI/ISCI has some clerics who speak English and hide their IRGC ties better?

    The Islamists, both Sunni and Shiite, have disgraced themselves in running the country and providing basic services. The Sunni Islamist Speaker of the parliament, Mahmoud Mashhadani, put it best when he said, during a recent TV interview, that their governing performance has "failed miserably" and that the Iraqi voter will punish Islamist parties in the next elections.
    Really. What parties, exactly, are going to challenge the Sadrists, al-Dawa, and SCIRI/ISCI? What secular technocrats? Where are these good-government parties, and more importantly where are their militias?

    Indeed, Iraq has gone very far in resolving the crisis that are pandemic to the Middle East, or at least it can be argued that Iraqis have turned a corner away from the worst case scenarios: they have rejected the multi-headed evils of dictatorship, jihadism, and civil war. Not only that, but armed with a legitimate parliament and a spanking new constitution, they are on the right path towards democracy, modernism, and national unity something that can't be said for other powder kegs in the region such as Syria and Saudi Arabia.
    Where is this legitimate parliament he speaks of, or the "spanking new" constitution? Is that the constitution which the "legitimate parliament" cannot even begin to agree on how to amend?

    As for the regional "powder kegs" --- did Mr. Kazimi feel safer in Damascus or in Baghdad? Some 2.5 million Iraqis seem for some reason to prefer the powder keg dictatorships of Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc. to the democratic, modernist, unified Iraq.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ali_ababa View Post
    Lebanon is a mess:

    Not only that, but armed with a legitimate parliament and a spanking new constitution, [Iraqis] are on the right path towards democracy, modernism, and national unity
    Doesn't Lebanon have a parliament and a Constitution? Didn't they have a civil war and stop it?

    According to the CIA

    Per Capita GDP

    Iraq: $1,900.
    Lebanon: $5,900

    Unemployment Rate

    Iraq: 25-30%
    Lebanon: 20%

    Life Expectancy

    Iraq: 69.31 years
    Lebanon: 73.15 years

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    Doesn't Lebanon have a parliament and a Constitution? Didn't they have a civil war and stop it?

    According to the CIA

    Per Capita GDP

    Iraq: $1,900.
    Lebanon: $5,900

    Unemployment Rate

    Iraq: 25-30%
    Lebanon: 20%

    Life Expectancy

    Iraq: 69.31 years
    Lebanon: 73.15 years
    The figures in the CIA World Factbook tend to be dated as soon as it is published. But even slightly more accurate inexact per capita GDP estimates of roughly $7,440 for Lebanon and $1,220 for Iraq are only faint indicators of the stark difference between the countries. In any case, I feel it is petty to bicker over real differences on the ground by avoiding context through the recital of cold statistics. However, for those who enjoy perusing comparative statistics, I recommend the EIU's Risk Tracker - the gold standard of open-source services of that nature.

    Ali, as others have stated, I do appreciate your insights. However, in the post in which you began this thread you very blatantly exaggerate existing problems in several neighboring countries in order to frame the minimization of problems in Iraq. Still, an interesting post - usually the spin is the other way 'round.

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    Fair enough. The key point is that Lebanon ended a civil war, had elections and a constitution, reconstruction, a stronger economy than Iraq, economic growth, concerts by western artists like Fifty Cent, was held up as an example of how well US foreign policy was working, there was no oil to argue over and then things went downhill.

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    Council Member ali_ababa's Avatar
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    I would just like to point out that i did not write this article - it is from a blog. I find it interesting and particularly liked this article.

    I put the address of the blog at the bottom of the article.
    I'm sorry if this was not clear enough.
    Last edited by ali_ababa; 10-30-2007 at 05:43 PM.

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