Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunni, Shia, & Kurds

In one of the comments that were left on a prior post it is mentioned that the technocrats are mainly Sunni because Saddam's regime favored them over the others. I want to mention a few historical facts to try and shed light on a common belief that I believe needs to be fixed. Let me start by saying that Saddam Husain is a tyrannical dictator that would not think twice to kill anyone that crossed him or challenged him or posed any risk to his power. He harmed the Iraqi people, Kurd, Shia and Sunni alike and was ruthless in doing so. Saddam was just in one thing and that was distributing his wrath.

To say that his regime was a Sunni regime however is not entirely true. Of the 55 deck of cards that US forces distributed of the senior Iraqi leadership 35 or 36 were Shia. The majority of the Baath Party members were Shia, one of the largest branches of which used to be named Al-Thawra and which many of you now know as Sadr City. What was overturned in 2003 was not a Sunni regime but a tribal or clan based kleptocracy and what truly changed is the Ottoman system that the original Iraqi State was built upon (the remnants of the Ottoman Empire). This system included the officer corps as well as the bourgeoisie and other classes.

In reality, the reason that many of Iraq's middle class was Sunni is a demographic and historic issue more than a political one. The Sunni composed the majority of urban residents in the center and north who were merchants, officers, politicians, etc. whereas the population in the south have historically been rural farmers and marsh dwellers. This is one of the primary reasons that there are specific classes of people. It is also of note that the secular Shia are the ones that lived in places like Kadhmiyyah who were the well off urban class. I am mentioning this to undermine the somewhat simplistic posture of a Saddam's government was a Sunni one. This is not to say that he did not begin a purge of Shia professionals post 1991 after the Intifadha uprising, which he did sometimes with impunity but simultaneously one of the major problems in the Sunni street is its disarray and that is because Saddam killed off all of its effective leadership and did not allow parties to form or other civil society groups, specifically I recall an incident when he gathered some of the prime sheikhs of Anbar and killed them off because they were perceived to be against him.

In the end, these artificial divisions in the Iraqi population have been entrenched to the degree that instead of looking at professional Iraqis as Iraqis we have to refer to them as Sunni, Shia or Kurd, and so long as we do so we will not realize the dream of an advanced Iraq where all can compete fairly based on their ability and not their sectarian or ethnic identity.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


It is uncanny! The night I wrote about Baghdad being too quiet I was awakened by the sound of an explosion. That day I was thinking that I knew something was wrong and today again the sound of another explosion rocking western Baghdad. What is sad is not that not only do these explosions continue, but that the people pay the price for the politicians' recalcitrance. It is also interesting that the press today is reporting that the embassy is trying to understand this lull and the Iranian role, while it should be crystal clear, they figure the bombing campaign did not work through the summer to get troops out, the best way to do it now is to make people feel that they have won by calming the situation so that people will call for the troops to leave. It seems to me that this should be realpolitik 101. It will also be interesting to see how the different political groups will react when the longer term security agreement needs to be signed between the US and Iraq. I believe it will be then that US diplomats will see where political loyalties really stand.

The government continues to show its sectarian nature and yet it seems as people turn a blind eye to it. The question is can the present political class navigate Iraq out of its present rough political waters? The answer is clearly no...I believe it will take a new generation of people who can get past their sectarian differences and look for the good of the country. The reality is now all are vying to shape the new Iraq and unless something dramatically changes this will continue for the next 5-7 years until the new political order and system in Iraq is set. Sunnis feel they can reverse some of the damage that the Shia Ideologues have done and Shia want to cement the system where they rule as religious ideologues and not as platform politicians and the Kurds are content to see the instability continue so that they can continue to build Kurdistan at the expense of the rest of Iraq. The United States probably wants political disarray so that it can gain the best arrangement for long term agreements in Iraq and Iran continues to play the political groups against one another in a grotesque divide and conquer strategy. All of this is happening at the back door to the Gulf countries who seem completely oblivious to what a Shia religious state in Iraq would mean to their security.

Sorry for the incongruence of thoughts, these were a few thoughts that came to mind as I was reading through some government paperwork...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It is too quiet!!!

Everyone inside and outside Iraq is talking about the renewed security in Baghdad and the significant drop in violence. People attribute it to the surge that has taken its course and increased the presence of forces on the streets of Baghdad and other places, while others also cite the better training of the Iraqi security forces and the Baghdad security plan. I think it is a combination of many factors but one issue continues to bother me at the back of my mind. The security plan started in February and the surge started in May/June (the real surge when troops had actually arrived), violence levels spiked in May, June, July, August, and September and then very suddenly as if a light switch had been turned off, subsided! This was coupled with a sudden absence of mortar and rocket fire on the Green Zone. I can't help to think this is someone playing with Iraq's destiny. Someone figured upping the violence during the months before the Crocker/Petraeus report would hurt the Americans politically and now they may have figured calming the situation is the best way to get them to leave. Calls have already started for US troops to withdraw and the media is reporting that the PM is considering lifting the nightly ban on vehicles. It does not make sense...please don't misunderstand, I as well as many Iraqis are happy to see Iraq return to normal and for US troops to return safely to their families but this just doesn't feel right and I hope that it is not another twist in the unending saga of the ebb and flow of violence and politics in Iraq.
I think people should take a more sober look at the situation and not be overly optimistic because the fundamental issues that stoke the violence have yet to be resolved. The violence was a manifestation of the political power contest for the right to lay the foundations of the "New Iraq" it happened in a zero-sum political environment where instead of working together to forge a new vision for the country, groups would think that if a political opponent gained it automatically meant their loss. This situation has not yet entirely changed among the present political class in Iraq. Granted there may be a sense of exhaustion by many but I don't believe the underlying problems that helped fuel the violence in Iraq have been resolved and therefore a greedy neighbor or other power wishing to capitalize can easily play one group against the other and reignite the violence. The real resolution to this problem can only come in the form of a political resolution akin to India's framing of a several hundred page constitution where all had a say; a system where all felt enfranchised and felt that at least they had equal opportunity because of their citizenship and not their sub ethno-sectarian identities. I may be thinking idealistically, but realistically if Iraqis can come together and realize a common vision and start talking economic, social, and health policy we will take a step towards building a functional state and truly eliminating the need for political, ethnic, or sectarian violence by eliminating its source.

The Technocrats...

Sitting in a meeting today I was discussing with a friend the need to find Iraq's non-sectarian technocrats and make sure they are nominated as Iraq's ministers in the impending cabinet shift. Then the question came, where are they? They are in Amman, Syria, and other countries because of decisions taken after 2003 that disenfranchised many of them or they left because of a seemingly organized campaign to empty Iraq of its secular professional civil service and middle class elite exchanging them with uneducated religious zealots who always seem to have a chip on their shoulder.
Regardless, what must happen in order for Iraq to be fixed is for an organized campaign to return the doctors, educators, scientists, etc. It is only with a true reversal of the aforementioned brain drain can we begin to patch Iraq together. Absent that we will continue to have a government both on a local and national level filled with incompetent ideologues who attain their positions not because of skill but patronage and therefore corruption will continue because they are beholden to whoever put them in that position.
Iraq is salvageable if we can get these people back into Iraq and working past narrow sectarian interests for the good of the country. Parties must understand that running an opposition movement from the outside is a completely different ball game than running a country! The PM is a representative of all Iraqis and not his narrow ideological base, this must be a cornerstone policy in the upcoming cabinet re-shuffling.
QUALIFIED IRAQIS COME HOME! If you feel you are one of them please e-mail and I would be happy to forward your information on to friends in high places....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lonely Night

I'm a sad woman tonight. Just took the hubby to the airport. He's heading back to Baghdad. Have to keep up a cheery air for the girls. Love you hubby and miss you much.