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I realize we are about to embark on an historic day on Tuesday and that most attention is dedicated to that event, but I think it's important to keep abreast of stories like this as we approach the election.  Per the Chicago Tribune, the Sunni insurgents-turned-security forces are about to get a pay cut from the Shi'a-led Iraqi government. And apparently that's just the beginning.

Are the security gains in Iraq about to start unravelling? More below the fold.

It's important to remember that most educated analyses of the decrease in violence in Iraq have ascribed the majority of the improvement in security to the inclusion of former Sunni insurgents into a paid security force. While these militias are not integrated into the Iraqi security forces, they are paid to act as security by the government, with lower level personnel earning the equivalent of about US$300 per month.  However, reports in the media over the last 2 to 3 months have reported tension between these Sunni militias and the Iraqi forces, with US troops sometimes having to intervene to prevent violence. Now comes word that the Iraqi government will be making pay cuts down to US$250 per month.

We have all heard Barack Obama quote the Iraqi government's surplus. So money is certainly not the issue. The issue, unfortunately, is a little more insidious...

But the Shiite-led government is deeply skeptical about the existence of what amounts to an armed Sunni militia, many of whose members once fought with the insurgency. It does not intend to keep paying the Awakening forces indefinitely, warned Sheikhly, the government spokesman.

"We want reconciliation, but Iraqis believe in another way than Americans about reconciliation. When Americans try to achieve reconciliation, they buy it," he said.

There are about 100,000 such fighters. The Iraqi government has promised permanent positions in the security forces to only about 20,000.  The government claims it will try to find jobs for the other 80,000, but finding jobs in the current environment is easier said than done. So what will become of these men once they are phased out of government support? A renewed insurgency? A turn to criminal gangs? It's all possible, even likely. And what's more, the effect is doubled since these same men will no longer be providing security, and there will not likely be anyone to step into their place, at least not effectively.

One can sympathize with the Iraqi government's position. It wants armed forces under one roof and under its control. Not unreasonable. But phasing out these brokered security deals before political reconciliation and agreements on resource sharing have taken place serves to undue all that has been gained over the last 6 months.

This is why the "surge" has not "worked" to this point, and the whole situation is now in more jeopardy than it already was. I wish Barack had made his argument on this point more clearly. The "surge" was Part I of a two part strategy to move Iraq towards independence.  Part I was supposed to decrease violence so that Part II could take place: progress on political reconciliation.

Well, as mentioned above, the "surge" was not the main reason why the security situation improved, but it probably had a contribution, fine. However, the major FAIL by the Bush administration was that it laid NO groundwork beforehand to make sure that Part II actually happened.  They just threw more troops in, brokered some agreements with Sunni militias, and just expected the Iraqi government to all of sudden start making progress, something it hasn't done in the (how many?) years since they were elected. We have been hearing for months now about how well the "surge" has worked. Well, where are the fruits? Where? What progress has been made by the Iraqi government? I am unaware of any major breakthroughs. And now we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Iraqi government's partnership with the Sunni militias. I don't know if or when the situation will deteriorate once again, but it doesn't look good. I hope Barack Obama will light a fire under the backsides of the Iraqi government to get this process moving and get us out of there.

Originally posted to nefrocatracho on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:37 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  TJ (13+ / 0-)

    "As Ghandi used to say, 'By any means necessary,'" - Fake Steve Jobs, RIP

    by nefrocatracho on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:40:07 PM PST

  •  This day was going to come eventually (6+ / 0-)

    Presumably one answer in stopping the payment to all those Sunni grunts will be to make huge lump-sum payouts to Sunni sheiks, hoping they in turn will keep their guys in line.  However, Iraqi trickle-down is likely to be no more economically effective than American trickle-down is.  Then what.

    At the same time, things have heated up in the Kurdish north.  The engagement between PKK peshmerga and Turkish forces in the northern mountains is now continuous.  The re-unraveling of Iraq could end up with a situation even more unstable than that which prevailed in 2006.

    Democracy is not just about Election Day. The day after Election Day, you have to demand that the next President stand up for you, not Exxon Mobil ~B. Sanders

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:45:28 PM PST

  •  How will we know? Almost NO COVERAGE of Iraq (6+ / 0-)

    Few reporters left and they don't ever leave the Green Zone

    We've had little coverage of the CONTINUED REJECTION of ANY 'security agreement' with the US - the Iraqi government does NOT want the agreement the US seems determined to shove down their throats.  

    The ONLY thing that may prevent all out civil war is the election of Obama and a fundamental change in the US attitude towards Iraq, withdrawl and letting Iraq function as an independent nation - including the ability to negotiate contracts for THEIR oil.    Will this happen?    We'll see......

  •  fundamentals are not good (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ActivistGuy, linkage, nefrocatracho

    I've been writing about finance for a while and I just picked up food issues. We've got a total breakdown of global banking and the effects are getting into our food supply. Got a piece going up on this in about fifteen minutes but basically the British are talking about food concerns like they had starting in 1940 when Nazi Germany's submarines were trying their best to strangle them and they're not the only ones under the gun.

    I feel like I'm standing on a beach somewhere, watching the waters suddenly and dramatically recede. It's coming, people, and I think it's too late to do anything about it.

     With that sort of a backdrop a bugout from Iraq is one option and a draft to get some fresh troops in there is another. The status quo won't hold.

    •  The food situation in Iraq sucks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jimreyn, nefrocatracho

      That part of the world has been a food exporter for well in excess of 5000 years.  In the past 5 years, they've become a net food importer.  

      Democracy is not just about Election Day. The day after Election Day, you have to demand that the next President stand up for you, not Exxon Mobil ~B. Sanders

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:58:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  In the context of the financial meltdown (0+ / 0-)

      the situation really looks dim, you're right. As the food situation and other economic issues deteriorate, how much will the current crisis fuel more anti-American sentiment? Recession is fertile soil for sowing the seeds of extremism.

      "As Ghandi used to say, 'By any means necessary,'" - Fake Steve Jobs, RIP

      by nefrocatracho on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:03:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  faulty premise (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "security gains" gives the "surge" credit where it isn't due.

    I think for the thousands of Christian families ethnically cleansed from Mosul this month, the "security gains" exist in the alternate reality that is John McCain's brain.

    •  Fair enough (0+ / 0-)

      Although I don't give the majority of the credit to the "surge", but two brokered agreements with insurgent groups.  But you are right, "security" is in the eye of the beholder. And the happenings in Mosul are underreported.

      "As Ghandi used to say, 'By any means necessary,'" - Fake Steve Jobs, RIP

      by nefrocatracho on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:19:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Should make sure to check Juan Cole (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cgirard, nefrocatracho

    regularly as he always has great information daily about the real conditions over there.

    1 - paying off the Sunni's via the Awakening. But remember the Awakening Sunni's are not the only disaffected Sunni groups. Some of the Sunni/Sunni violence recently has been from non-awakening types as well as from the awakening types that have not been rolled into the new Iraqi led program.

    2 - Ethnic cleansing.  Baghdad used to be a very mixed city and now has almost now mixed neighbourhoods and is almost entirely Shi'a.  The point about Christians in Mosul is well taken.  The country has been largely ethnically cleansed with our consent if not outright connivance.

    3 - the sequestering of US forces into their bases and reliance on air attacks. This is not to say that missions don;t happen.  But an increasing reliance on air support has minimized US troop casualties while increasing the percentage of collateral damage.

    4 - What Woodward was talking about which is rumoured to be black ops assasinations.  This is not really secret, the US has been used by Dawa in the past and ISCI (indirectly) against the Sadrists and in many cases our muscle has allowed the settling of old scores. All such programs end up doing this just as in Vietnam we wasted much time and alienated many people by eliminating competing South Vietnamese elements that we learned had nothing to do with the North - but that our Thieu's and Diem's, 'Big' Minh's and Kao Cy's felt nervous about having around for their own political ambitions.

    When we leave, the lack of enforcing the political reforms will leave a very dangerous situation. Maliki is supported by the largest faction - ISCI, the Shi'a Iranian based movement whose principal figures are the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (Iraq's most influential cleric) and Abdel Mahdi, who is the political leader and currently Iraqi Vice President.  But al Maliki is not ISCI..he's a compromise without a base to compare with ISCI and the Sadrists.  The Sadrists are Shi'a but their appeal is mainly nationalist.

    The Kurds have many powerful independent sponsors and feel more than the autonomy they had when Hussein was around.  They'll want the oil rich parts of the north and probably have enough force to keep it - but that will mean a major political situation.

    The Sunni's are going to be disenfranchised.  No real groundwork has been laid.  The supposed intergration of Sunni's into the police never happened. Last figure I heard was a total of 300 of the thousands and thousands that were supposed to be in. So more out of work guys with guns and no vote.

    Then add on the lack of clean water and power. The millions of displaced internally or abroad.

    We've lessened the violence somewhat...but remember, we're talking 30-60 incidents every single day.  Imagine if we had two in the same month in the US!!!We'd be in lockdown. his blog informed comment - I start my day with it. We owe our men and women to stay informed.

    "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by SteveP on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:23:59 PM PST

    •  Thanks for that info (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and for the link. We need more information coming out of Iraq, there's so little out there now.

      "As Ghandi used to say, 'By any means necessary,'" - Fake Steve Jobs, RIP

      by nefrocatracho on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:29:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's amazing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        How effectively this administration has cut off all information....scary stuff. After all, we do have 150K of our servicemen and women over there and who knows how many contractors.

        "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

        by SteveP on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:31:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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