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Old 02-06-2012   #21
tequila
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Civil wars require two sides. I doubt that the Sunni 'side' is far too divided and weak to stand up to any sort of Maliki/ISCI/Sadr alliance, beyond the odd assassination and terror bombing, which the latter mostly use to continue the trend towards greater clampdown on the Sunni community.

What we are seeing, I think, is the creation of a ramshackle, corrupt police state carved up into fiefdoms run by the Shia religious parties, with a Kurdish condominium in the north. Any genuine civil war will be between these parties, but I'm optimistic that the Kurds and the Shia parties will come to a reasonable accomodation, if only because the prizes are great enough to share. The internal political struggle in Iraq will look much more like one of Saddam's purges from the 1970s, which were plenty bloody, but not a full-blown civil war.
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Old 02-07-2012   #22
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Default Iraq's groups divided internally

There's not really a State of Law-SIIC-Sadr alliance.

After the 2009 provincial elections, the Supreme Council lost almost all of its local power, and that was followed by a large defeat in the 2010 parliament vote. When the government was being put together Maliki successfully split the SIIC from its former militia the Badr Brigade.

The Sadrists were the reason why Maliki won a second term, and have been the closest party aligned with Maliki. Maliki is trying to undermine them as well, by embracing the League of the Righteous special group that just decided to join the political process. It's leader Qais Khazali was a follower of Sadr's father, and Maliki is hoping to use that to weaken his dependence upon Moqtada.

These kinds of splits are seen within all the major lists. Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Movement almost split during its recent boycott with some factions wanting to work with the premier and others wanting confrontation. The Kurdish KDP and PUK now face the Change List and two smaller Islamic parties. All of these divisions is what allows Maliki to stay in power because there's no real unified opposition to him, although many parties dislike him.
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Old 02-07-2012   #23
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Default Iraq Still A Deadlier Place Than Afghanistan

In the West, Afghanistan has garnered far more press than Iraq in recent years. The deployment of additional troops under President Obama, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq were the two main causes. The media made it appear that Afghanistan was a far deadlier conflict than Iraq, which no longer has a full blown insurgency, and suffers more from a very serious terrorist threat. Statistics just released by the United Nations however, show that far more people died in Iraq in 2011 than in Afghanistan.

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Old 02-07-2012   #24
tequila
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWing View Post
There's not really a State of Law-SIIC-Sadr alliance.

After the 2009 provincial elections, the Supreme Council lost almost all of its local power, and that was followed by a large defeat in the 2010 parliament vote. When the government was being put together Maliki successfully split the SIIC from its former militia the Badr Brigade.

The Sadrists were the reason why Maliki won a second term, and have been the closest party aligned with Maliki. Maliki is trying to undermine them as well, by embracing the League of the Righteous special group that just decided to join the political process. It's leader Qais Khazali was a follower of Sadr's father, and Maliki is hoping to use that to weaken his dependence upon Moqtada.

These kinds of splits are seen within all the major lists. Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Movement almost split during its recent boycott with some factions wanting to work with the premier and others wanting confrontation. The Kurdish KDP and PUK now face the Change List and two smaller Islamic parties. All of these divisions is what allows Maliki to stay in power because there's no real unified opposition to him, although many parties dislike him.
So would it be safe to consider the Sadr movement as being in a state of full fracture, or is there still a dominant faction centered on Muqtada?
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Old 02-08-2012   #25
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Default Sadrists

Historically, the Sadr Trend has gone through dozens of splits because it was not a real organization, but more a loose confederation of groups that took general direction from Sadr. They haven't split recently however, and are riding high after the 2010 election. They got the most positions in the new government in return for ensuring Maliki a 2nd term. The premier is now trying to break off some of their followers using the League of the Righteous, but it's yet to be seen whether that's going to work or not. Sadr seems to be taking the threat seriously as he issues an attack upon the League at least once a week.
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Old 02-09-2012   #26
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Default The US Embassy in Iraq

I've never been to Iraq, not a US citizen, but this story about the US Embassy in Iraq is too important to ignore.

Quote:
BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/wo...half.html?_r=1

A few questions: Why does the US need 16,000 people in Baghdad? (That's an entire division). How does the US expect ordinary Iraqis to feel when US drones still buzz over their heads and a Vatican-sized embassy looms over the horizon?

This, however takes the cake:

Quote:
Within days, the salad bar at the embassy dining hall ran low. Sometimes there was no sugar or Splenda for coffee. On chicken-wing night, wings were rationed at six per person. Over the holidays, housing units were stocked with Meals Ready to Eat, the prepared food for soldiers in the field.
http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/...sy-in-baghdad/

Are you telling me that the US embassy cannot source sugar from Iraq? Six chicken wings per employee for 16,000 employees comes to about 48,000 chickens per Chicken night?

This suggests that we could easily be moving through 96,000 chickens per Chicken night if there is no rationing.

This thing is beyond parody , and it points to a trend I've observed in Nigeria - Fortress America. Diplomacy is a contact sport and if it is too dangerous to contact people, then there is no point being there.

(P.S: Do American embassies around the world all import their chicken wings?).
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Old 02-10-2012   #27
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Default Time to shrink

I've no idea about the US diplomatic non-diet, but the huge embassy illustrates a possible American DoS principle: start large, get smaller.

Sadly it is a reflection of how assumptions create requirements that lead to construction plus and oh dear, we're wrong.

Time for the USA to dramatically reduce the staff and contractors in the embassy, plus the super-consulates elsewhere. At least it will not be the Imperial British exit from Kabul in 1842 or Saigon.
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Old 02-21-2012   #28
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Default The Saddam Tapes, An Inside Look At Saddam Hussein’s Regime In Iraq Based Upon Thousa

Here's another interview I did. This one is with David Palkki of the National Defense University about a book he co-edited called The Saddam Tapes. It's based upon hundreds of captured audio files from the Saddam times and goes through his foreign and domestic policy like the wars he fought, sectarianism, dealing with the rise of Islamism, WMD, etc. There's also a video that goes along with it of all the editors. This is the first of the two-part interview. Enjoy.

David Palkki is the deputy director of the Conflict Records Research Center (CCRC) at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. The CCRC was created by the Secretary of Defense to provide scholars with access to captured documents from Iraq and Al Qaeda. This includes hundreds of papers and audio files from Saddam Hussein’s regime, some of which became the basis for the newly released Saddam Tapes co-edited by Kevin Woods, Mark Stout, and David Palkki. The book provides invaluable insight into everything from Saddam’s foreign policy, to his dealings with Iraq’s ethnosectarian groups, weapons of mass destruction, and United Nations’ sanctions and inspections. Below is the first of a two-part interview with David Palkki, which covers Saddam’s dealings with the United States, Israel, Iran, the Arab world, and the three wars he fought from 1980-2003. What emerges is a man that was obsessed with conspiracies against his country, while trying to place Iraq as the leader of the Middle East. Saddam often spent long hours with his inner circle discussing these matters, but he consistently miscalculated how other countries would react to his policies, leading to one foreign policy crisis after another for three straight decades.

Interview

Video
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Old 02-22-2012   #29
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Default Part 2 of interview

Part 2 of my interview with David Palkki is now up. The second half focuses upon Saddam's domestic politics, sectarianism, WMD, weapons inspections, and the defection of his son-in-law in 1998.

David Palkki is the deputy director of the Conflict Records Research Center (CCRC) at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. He was the co-editor, along with Kevin Woods and Mark Stout of the recently released The Saddam Tapes. The book was based upon hundreds of captured tapes of Saddam and his inner circle discussing foreign and domestic issues from the 1970s to the 2000s. The first part of the interview covered Saddam’s foreign policy. The second half delves into how Saddam treated Shiites and Kurds, Islamism, weapons of mass destruction, the United Nations inspections, and the defection of his son-in-law Hussein Kamal in 1998. Overall, what The Saddam Tapes revealed was a dictator who spoke his mind both privately and publicly. Rather than a mad man, Saddam held wide-ranging discussions with his top advisors. The problem was he often miscalculated foreign affairs, but was much better at controlling his own people within Iraq.

2nd half of interview
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Old 03-01-2012   #30
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Default Kenneth Pollack, And What’s Wrong With Much Of The Conventional U.S. Wisdom On Iraq

Kenneth Pollack of the Brooking Institution’s Saban Center has been a longtime American commentator on Iraq. At the beginning of February he published an article entitled “Iraq’s Endless Political Crisis,” which appeared in both The Atlantic and The National Interest. While he got some points right, he repeated some of the most common fallacies of Western analysts. One is the belief that the Iraqi National Movement (INM) is a unified entity, with a shared view that stood up to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The other is seeing Iraqi politics through a sectarian lens, namely that there is one Sunni party, the INM, which must have a seat at the government table for Iraqi politics to be fair and democratic. Neither of these points stands up to close scrutiny.

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Old 03-05-2012   #31
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Default More Iraqis Becoming Involved In Conflict In Syria

Starting in March 2011, Syria faced a series of public outbursts against President Bashar al-Assad that turned increasingly violent. Syria’s neighbor Iraq immediately became concerned over those turn of events. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and many Shiite parties in Iraq were afraid that Sunni militants would take power if the Syrian government fell, so they started providing diplomatic support as well as sending fighters to Damascus’ aid. At the same time, Al Qaeda in Iraq saw an opportunity to take advantage of the growing chaos next door, smugglers thought that they could make a quick buck selling weapons to the Syrian opposition, and some tribes that straddled the border felt that they had to help out their compatriots. This is a dramatic turn of events as Syria use to be the source for foreign fighters and other militants infiltrating into Iraq to sow chaos, but now the tables are turned, and various Iraqi groups are going into Syria to assist both sides in the growing conflict there.

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Old 03-06-2012   #32
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Default Deaths See Large Drop In Iraq From January To February 2012

After a series of articles warning that violence in Iraq was increasing, and that the country might be on the verge of a new civil war, the number of deaths was cut nearly in half in February 2012. Rather than marking a new trend in security, January’s high casualties were simply a result of the large number of targets available during the Shiite pilgrimage of Arbayeen to Karbala, and insurgents trying to make a statement after the U.S. troop withdrawal in December 2011. With only one mass casualty bombing, and an especially bloody day when militants were able to carry out attacks in seven provinces, February returned to the norm of monthly casualties.

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Old 03-07-2012   #33
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Default Not All In Iraq Want To Get Involved With The Syrian Conflict

As more news stories emerge of various groups within Iraq aiding one side or another in the emerging Syrian conflict, some recent reports highlight that not everyone is interested in their neighbor’s affairs. A few Iraqi insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs in Anbar have both announced that they would not be getting involved in Syria.

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Old 03-08-2012   #34
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Default VIDEO: RPG-29 vs M1A2 Abrams Tank

This is a video released by the Iranian-backed League of the Righteous. It shows an RPG-29 being fired at a M1A2 Abrams tank in Baghdad. The RPG-29 is supposed to be one of the few handheld anti-tank weapons capable of penetrating the armor of most Western main battle tanks. An RPG-29 was supposedly able to penetrate the armor of a British Challenger 2 tank in August 2006 in the city of Amarah, which is the provincial capital of Maysan province. Maysan was a strong hold of Shiite militias and Iranian-backed Special Groups at that time. The American military believed that Iran began sending a few of the weapons into Iraq in 2006. Some reports claimed that Lebanon’s Hezbollah was smuggling the rockets into Iraq via Syria.

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Old 03-17-2012   #35
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Default The forgotten contractor?

A very odd BBC report, which clearly awaits the prisoner's release, so remains unconfirmed.

Opens with:
Quote:
An Iraqi militant group says it has released a former US soldier it had been holding since last year.
Ends with:
Quote:
The BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad says the announcement appears to have taken everyone by surprise, including the US.
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17416733
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Old 03-21-2012   #36
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http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...q_war?page=0,0

Currently a major focus on the part of the Army is capturing and applying "lessons learned from the past 10 years." Above article offers some insights that should be woven into that process.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 03-24-2012   #37
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Default Iraq the reality of Iraqi power

Two lengthy scholarly articles, by British academics which appear to reach similar conclusions on where Iraq is today and notably the role of 'security'.

Tody Dodge ends with:
Quote:
Iraq today has a set of over-developed coercive institutions increasingly placed at the service of one man, its Prime Minister. The clear and present danger this poses to Iraq’s nascent democracy, its civil society and its population is obvious.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/toby-do...nuri-al-maliki

Charles Tripp starts with:
Quote:
Violence in Iraq is not a throw-back to some more ‘primitive’ past, driven by dark passions dredged up from history. On the contrary, it has a logic and a constitutive power of its own fully in line with the contemporary experiences that Iraqis have undergone both before and after 2003. Moreover, it seems to be regarded by those in power as a good deal less troubling than public accountability.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/charles...olence-in-iraq
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Old 04-05-2012   #38
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Default Violence In Iraq Continues Downward Trend

Headlines said that March 2012’s death count in Iraq was the lowest since the 2003 invasion. That was only based upon the Iraqi government’s official figures, which have been highly questionable. They have consistently been the lowest of the three organizations that maintain numbers on Iraqi deaths. Two of those three did show declines in casualties from February to March, but they were not their low points. Last month, did mark a low point for attacks, and continued the downward spiral of violence in Iraq seen in the last few years.

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Old 04-09-2012   #39
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Default Which Direction Is Violence Heading In Iraq?

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011, the upswing in violence in January 2012, and the on-going political crisis in Baghdad had many in the West declaring that not only was security deteriorating in the country, but that it might be heading towards a new civil war. Several commentators have recently taken up this argument, including Michael Knights of the Institute for Near East Policy, James Dubik and Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War, and Becca Wasser of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. These predictions seem to be premature, because while attacks and deaths went up as the United States withdrew its forces at the end of 2011, they have since dropped back down to their previous level. Most trends in violence continue a downward spiral.

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Old 04-12-2012   #40
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Default What’s Wrong With The Iraqi Government’s Figures On Deaths In The Country?

In February 2012, the Iraqi government released its official figures for casualties from April 2004 to the end of 2011. It had over 69,000 deaths for that time period. That count was 40,000 less than other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq. During the height of the civil war, the country’s ministries’ numbers were comparable to other groups, but since 2011 they have consistently been the lowest. While some Iraqi politicians have claimed that the official counts miss many deaths, it could also be argued that the statistics are being politicized by the prime minister who controls all of the security ministries.

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