Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Richard Falk, On Power-Sharing

Ending the Ordeal of Iraqi Occupation
By Richard Falk
February 21, 2005

The essence of the difficulty involves ending the American occupation as soon as possible without provoking a bloody civil war likely to end with the re-imposition of an oppressive form of Baathist rule objectionable to the overwhelming majority of Iraqis. (...) It is significant, as well, that only a week before the elections the United Iraqi Alliance removed from its listing of campaign goals, 'an end to foreign occupation.' No reasons were given, but it seems rather obvious that in the existing situation the Sunni-led insurgency would quickly prevail without the protection of American troops. At the same time, the earlier presence of such a goal suggests that the Shi'ia movement is united with the insurgents in its commitment to end the occupation, and recover Iraq for the Iraqis. If negotiations between political leaders representing the main constituencies could affirm this common goal, and then ask themselves how best to reach such an outcome, there might yet be found a way to end foreign occupation without initiating civil strife.

Looked at from an insurgent perspective, the persistence of bloodshed and occupation cannot be a happy prospect. Their best scenario would be more of the same, surely a road to nowhere. It seems clear that the objectives of the resistance are to end the occupation in a manner that gives to the Sunnis and their allies in Iraq a major role in shaping the future of the country. But if this role is perceived by their adversaries as leading to the reimposition of Sunni authoritarian rule achieved by violence directed at civilians it will only extend the occupation indefinitely, and might even lend it legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis and the outside world. If the insurgent leadership even now signals a willingness to deal politically with the future of Iraq, and shows an interest in working out a power-sharing arrangement at the top, then there exists at least a slim possibility for a united effort to end the occupation without confronting Iraq and the world with the prospect of civil war. (...) Delay by the resistance in entering the Iraqi political process seems likely to encourage the United States to establish a permanent military presence in the country with the acquiescence of groups under threat. It may have been justifiable for Sunni elements to boycott the elections but it is self-destructive for the Iraqi resistance to behave as if its only option is spill civilian blood of their Iraqi countrymen and innocent foreign observers.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Consociational Democracy for Iraq - the hasty dismissals

It will be soon two years since UCLA sociology professor Andreas Wimmer expeditiously and carelessly dismissed all prospects for an Iraqi consociational democracy ( Download pdf, "Democracy and Ethno-Religious Conflict in Iraq," paper presented at the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law, Stanford University, May 5, 2003: pp. 16-17):
Most foreign policy makers currently seem to favor a power sharing arrangement for the future Iraq, such as the so-called consociational democracy.

At first sight, Iraq seems to fulfill several conditions that political scientists have identified as favorable for the establishment of power sharing arrangements: a small overall population size; a small number of ethno-religious segments; and a high degree of control of elites over their future voters. More importantly, Iraq’s oil should provide a good enough resource basis for allowing a generous policy of inclusion and power sharing. An escalation of distributive conflicts is easier to avoid in such circumstances than in a country of all pervasive poverty. However, Iraq lacks a political culture of moderation and compromise that many see as a necessary condition for a power-sharing arrangement to work in a sustainable way. If power relations between the groups change, leaders may not be prepared to re-negotiate compromise and the consociational regime breaks apart. This has been the case in Lebanon and many other countries with power-sharing arrangements. In fact, as one researcher has remarked, "the list of cases where consociational arrangements applied reads like an obituary page."

If this is the objection then it is one that is very precipitate. It is one that pays no attention to cultural, nationalist, Islamist, and even sectarian incentives for moderation and compromise. It fails to taking in the view that the "perils of cultural fragmentation" amongst which "a foreign threat" is effective at helping to motivate this sort of collaboration (Lijphart, Arend. 1971. "Cultural Diversity and Political Integration," Canadian Journal of Political Science IV:1 (March), p. 12.). Iraq nationalists--Sunni Arabs and Shi’i Arabs, the Sadrists in particular--have every reason for moderation and compromise in order for them to kick out the invader. And so do Iraq Islamists—probably more than 75% of the country’s Shi’a, 50% at least of its Arab Sunna, and up to 25% of Iraqi Kurdistan’s political forces. Finally, aren’t Iraq Sunnis—Arabs and Kurds--strong enough to convince the Shi’ites of the advantages of consociationalism, in general, and the equal sharing of power between the two main confessions, in particular?

Wimmer imagines the following remedy:
To substitute for a culture of moderation and compromise, a strong outside hand may be needed to bring the parties together when they cannot agree on how to divide the cake and, if necessary, to enforce a compromise and raise the costs of defection. In Northern Ireland, the British and Irish government have effectively forced the conflicting parties into a "coercive consociationalism." Without similar coercion over a prolonged period of time, it will take only a few months in Iraq for the Kurdish North to declare itself independent and Kirkuk its capital, for the Shii to establish a de-facto independent state ruled by and alliance of clergy, tribal elders and urban bazaaris. If a power sharing arrangement is what Iraqis and American foreign policy makers choose as the country’s political system of the future, the centripetal drive will have to come from the outside.

The alternatives are two: either to hand control over Iraq’s democratization to another body with more legitimacy, such as the United Nations, or to favor a different institutional designwith less centripetal pull than a power-sharing arrangement.

While Wimmer agrees at least on the U.S. military presence in Iraq being part of the problem, rather than of the solution, he apparently can’t conceive any legitimacy beyond the United Nations’; in any event, not the legitimacy imagined by a Middle East connoisseur like Patrick Seale:

An outside power cannot easily impose a political system on a country against the wishes of its inhabitants. Elections are meaningless in the absence of some form of national reconciliation. In all this, Iraq's neighbors can play a helpful role. They can host meetings of Iraqi political leaders. They can provide guarantees to beleaguered communities. They can mediate a cease-fire or a truce between warring parties. And they can persuade militant groups to hold their fire.

They could even offer to send peacekeeping troops into Iraq to replace American and British forces. Iran and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Syria and Jordan all have an interest in a stable Iraq, at peace with itself and its neighbors, and free from foreign influence.

In other words, we’re going to need two equal "strong outside hands"--a Shi’i and a Sunni one.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Before the Election Results

Sadr reaches out to Iraqi Sunni clerics for coordination
2005-02-08 04:46:01
BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraq's firebrand Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who had called for a nationwide rebellion against US-led forces last year, reached out to Sunni clerics for coordination, spokesman for a Sunni association said on Monday. "A delegation from the office of Sadr visited the headquarters of the Muslim Scholars Association and met with Harith al-Dhari, head of the association, for coordination between the two parties," said Abdul Salam al-Kubaisy at a press conference. Kubaisy declined to give further details but said the talks were concentrating on coordination between the two factions on Iraqi affairs in the current situation. "We would welcome any national comprehensive dialogue built on methodological bases and the separation between resistance and terrorism, because some are trying to relate the Iraqi resistance to Zarqawi group and loyalists of the former regime," said Kubaisy. "The dialogue should lead to the withdrawal of the Americans from our country," he said.

New at FPIF:

How Much Power Will the New Iraqi Government Really Have?
By Stephen Zunes
February 8, 2005
Much attention was paid in the run-up to the January 30 elections in Iraq regarding how the lack of security in much of the country, combined with the decision by major Sunni Arab parties to boycott in protest of recent U.S. attacks on several major urban areas, could thereby skew the results and compromise the resulting government’s credibility. Related concerns include the prospect of this election and the government that emerges exacerbating the divisions between Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. Perhaps an even bigger question is what kind of power this new government will actually have. It also remains to be seen as to whether the United States will allow the new government likely to be dominated by Shiite parties with a strong Islamist and nationalist agenda to assert their authority. Will the United States really defend freedom and democratic rule in Iraq if it results in a government that pursues policies seen to be contrary to American strategic and economic interests? Or like Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the absence of any operational, financial, or logistical links to al-Qaidawill "the establishment of democracy in Iraq" prove to be yet another deception of the American public in order to justify the U.S. takeover of that oil-rich nation?

Thought provoking blogging in Another Day in the Empire:

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Enlists his Family for Suicide Missions
Kurt Nimmo
February 08, 2005
If you were a radical fundamentalist Muslim, determined to wage holy war against the United States and Israel, would it make any sense to kill fellow Muslims, possible comrades in the struggle, and target influential Islamic clerics? Let’s say Muslims invaded the United States, determined to convert all us infidels to Islam, as the Strausscons say they want to do, wouldn’t it be not only counterproductive but also completely irrational for Catholics to run around blowing up Protestant churches or assassinating Lutheran religious leaders when the enemy is obviously the Islamic invaders? Such behavior would serve absolutely no purpose.
Moreover, once again thanks to Seymour Hersh, we know, and the Pentagon has confirmed, U.S. covert operations are under way in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere in the neighborhood, this in addition to Israel’s covert ops. How do we know Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is not a U.S. or Israeli covert op contrivance? And why is this possibility never mentioned by the corporate media? Well, of course, it is not mentioned because the corporate media gets all its information from the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Everything else is dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Remarkably, this passes for "journalism."

For my devalued dollar, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a person operating in Iraq, does not exist.

From the Arab American Institute:

The Challenges Facing Post-Election Iraq
James Zogby
February 7, 2005
Even before the final tallies are announced, the attitudes of Iraq's electorate can be culled from an exclusive pre-election poll commissioned by Abu Dhabi Television and conducted by Zogby International of New York (ADTV/ZI). The poll helps to identify voter concerns and reveals details of the challenges facing the new Iraqi government.

A Deeply Divided Nation
The ADTV/ZI poll's projections of between 43% and 60% turnout were borne out in the election, so too was the sectarian divide in voting patterns. While some US officials have trumpeted the turnout rate, comparing it to US numbers, such comparisons are invalid and dangerous. The turnout, itself, was sectarian, with 80% of Shi'a and 69% of Kurds indicating their intention to vote, while 76% of Sunni Arabs stated that they would definitely not vote. The different expectations and motivations of each group were also clear. Shi'a felt empowered and were voting for control of the government, and Kurds were voting as an expression of their autonomy. The Sunni Arab failure to vote was a function not only of threats, but a clear expression of their growing sense of disenfranchisement. This is a dangerous divide that must be closed. If the winners do not act to enfranchise the Sunni Arab community and create a unifying Iraqi national agenda, the outcome of this election could serve to deepen the sectarian split and exacerbate the insurgency.
Two key sets of numbers to note are the majority of Sunni Arabs who say that the violence in Iraq is legitimate resistance (53%) and the substantial majority of Arabs, both Sunni (82%) and Shi'a (69%) who want the US to leave, now that an elected government is in place. Only Kurds want the US to remain (51%) until "safety and security are restored to the country." Of particular interest here are the attitudes of the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. Their positions on both the insurgency and US presence are closer to those of the disenfranchised Sunni Arab community, than they are to other segments of the Shi'a community. It should be recalled that insurgents in both of these groups fought together against the US within the last year. Depending on the direction taken by the new Iraqi government and the US military, this tinderbox could be re-ignited once again.

On 1 February, Peter Galbraith, a long-time advocate of Kurdish
independence, was given the lead space in The New York Times to repeat his
call for division. The very next day, Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, repeated his argument that "the
only workable government would be a confederation with three largely autonomous regions". On 7 February, it was the Wall Street Journal’s turn to give editorial space to Kanan Makiya, the most prominent Iraqi advocates of US-style federalism for Iraq, one who wants Iraq neither Arab nor Islamic,
only pro-American (see Edward Said’s critique from 2002):

The Shiite Obligation
By Kanan Makiya
February 7, 2005

The size of the turnout, irrespective of the outcome, establishes that the Iraqi elections will go down in the history books as a defining event in the future of the Middle East. For those millions of ordinary Iraqis who risked making the ultimate sacrifice by braving the bombs and the gruesome killings, this moment is what the 2003 war was all about.

In spite of the many failings of the occupation regime that ended in June 2004 … Therefore I am both a happy man today, and a worried one.
When the Shiites become the majority in a duly elected Iraqi National Assembly, they will inherit the great burden of a fractured and deeplyatomized country filled with minorities, all of whom have known suffering of one sort or another. How will they shoulder that responsibility?

A fateful moment of truth came in March last year, during the debate over the interim basic constitution. A conflict erupted not over the authority of the interim government or its shape, but rather over the very distant and abstract notion of how the permanent constitution should be ratified. At issue was the all-important question of minority rights and federalism. Specifically, the most contentious item of the draft was Article 61(c), which held that no future permanent constitution could be ratified if two-thirds of voters in any three governorates rejected it.

Article 61(c) embodied a principle previously widely accepted by the democratic Iraqi opposition in exile; namely, that an Iraqi democracy had to be principally about minority rights, and only afterwards bout majority rule. In other words, the rule of law took precedence over public opinion and populist sentiment. After intensive discussion, the Iraqi Governing Council succeeded in reaching a consensus, and the crisis was overcome. Nevertheless, the incident showed that the idea of Iraq as a pluralist and accommodating whole was at odds with the Shiite sense of political entitlement arising from their own previous suffering. The most fundamental truth of post-Saddam politics in Iraq is that only the Shiites are in a position to stop the legacy of dictatorshipfrom snatching victory out of the jaws of its own demise in the shape of escalating confessional and ethnic violence in the years to come.I said that in 1993, but the point is a thousand times more relevant today.
The debate over Article 61(c) prefigures the most fundamental political struggle that will take place in the National Assembly ofthe new Iraq -- the struggle over what it means to be an Iraqi. As the majority in the coming National Assembly, the Shiite leadership will be at the forefront of this struggle. The selfish sectarian impulse, however understandable and natural, needs to be turned on its head into a new political idea that embraces the whole country, one that is neither Arab nor Islamic, but Iraqi.

From the Islamist CDLR forum, strongly critical views of Shi’ite strategies:

Iran and Iraq – Blunders of the Ayatollahs
Yamin Zakaria
February 5, 2005
How quickly the people have forgotten the staged celebration in Baghdad as the US soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein symbolising victory. It was the aerial shots (ignored by the mainstream media who focused on the close-up pictures of individuals) that showed the real image: in a city of five million, the small square was not even full. Claims of eight million voters turning out or 72% turn out (note 72% of the registered voters as opposed to the eligible voters) in the recent Iraqi election has already been retracted; and if millions did turn out where are the aerial shots showing the masses lining up to vote, CNN-TV and certainly Fox-TV would not have missed that opportunity. Despite the media propaganda a significant section of the Shi’ite population including Moqtada as-Sadr and his followers did not vote. Note, the mainstream media only asked those who voted giving a close-up picture as opposed to an aerial view!
On the contrary the spin doctors forget; - the voters were also propelled by the same objective as the so-called ‘insurgents’ (freedom fighters) which is to get rid of the US occupation. The voters opted for a political route believing that once a Sistani-endorsed government comes to power it will have legitimacy and the authority to ask the US to leave. But why would the US construct this election as a positive outcome for George Bush?
In the unlikely event, if the UIA (that will eventually form the core of the new Iraqi government) confronts the US on behalf of its electorate demanding its immediate withdrawal, the US would retaliate. She should start to push her agents notably the Kurdish elements, likes of Iyad Alawi and other treacherous elements firmly embedded inside Iraq and then start a campaign of assassination of the US opponents which would be easily blamed on the Iraqi freedom fighters. It is only then the Shi’ite followers of Sistani might realise that political clout is ineffective without the backing of force as other Shi’ite leaders like Moqtada as-Sadr has already pointed out.

But, how does Iran fit into this equation? … Instead Khamenei has gambled with elections, playing the political game with the US may prove to be blunder in the long run. It is still not too late for Iran to alter its posture and ensure that the UIA pursues a policy to actively expel the US and exposing the treacherous elements within.
Not only Iran should develop Nuclear weapons but declare its possession and the willingness to use such weapons in self-defence. Every nation has the right to defend itself. The only destabilising force is the US presence in the region; they are the real foreign fighters or state terrorists. Iran should help to supply nations with these weapons as the US supplies the illegitimate state of Israel; and should threaten to flatten Tel-Aviv if their cities are threatened by the US-Israeli forces; - then observe the neo-con hawks transform into neo-chickens!

Once the battle is brought closer to their door step their brave words behind the US military firepower would soon be replaced with the surfacing of their shylock nature. This is not aggression but legitimate self-defence considering the Iraq episode, the US cannot be trusted it always speaks with the two tongues as the Native Americans would tell you after centuries of persecution.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

After the Election

The reasons, that Palestinians and Iraqis lined up and voted -- January 9 and January 30, respectively -- under occupation, are discussed in:

What did the Palestinians and Iraqis Vote For?
By Patrick Seale
February 3, 2005

What is the reality behind these elections? What did Palestinians and Iraqis actually vote for?

In both cases, the elections took place under foreign occupation. This inevitably meant that they were neither totally fair nor wholly legitimate. In Iraq, in particular, there were few polling stations or foreign observers. Many Iraqis were afraid that they would not get their monthly food rations if they did not vote. Some said that, in order to collect their rations, they had to sign the voter registration forms.

Nevertheless, those Palestinians and Iraqis who decided to cast their vote, and those who were able to get to the polling stations in spite of the difficulties and dangers, did so for one overriding reason: to get rid of the foreign occupiers.
In Iraq, the United States has patently not given up its ambition for bases, for control of oil and reconstruction, for the establishment of a government friendly to the U.S. and to Israel -- in a word, Washington’s objective would seem to be to convert Iraq into a U.S. client state by means of a long-term American military presence.

Just as Mahmud Abbas is having to negotiate with Islamic and secular militant groups to persuade them to give his "softly-softly" approach a chance, so any new Iraqi government will have to negotiate with the various strands of the shadowy Iraqi resistance, including the Ba’th party, the Islamic factions, and cells of former army officers.

None of these negotiations in the Palestinian territories or in Iraq are likely to succeed, nor will they bring about security and order for any length of time, unless they hold out the prospect of an Israeli and an American withdrawal.

In The Guardian:
"No amount of spin can conceal Iraqis' hostility to US occupation."

The Vietnam turnout was good as well
By Sami Ramadani
February 1, 2005

On September 4 1967 the New York Times published an upbeat story on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime at the height of he Vietnam war. Under the heading "US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror", the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting". A successful election, it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam". The echoes of this weekend's propaganda about Iraq's elections are so close as to be uncanny.

Would Sunni Arabs loose no matter what they do--guess who's wishful thinking is this? Would they even if they decide finally to have a political strategy; namely, one of equal power-sharing between all the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq?

The Shiite Earthquake
By Juan Cole
February 1, 2005

The guerrilla war being waged by some Sunni Arabs will not end with the elections. Their leadership is committed to destabilizing the country, pushing the Americans back out, and mounting yet another coup. The resistance consists largely of ex-Baath military along with some religious radicals (very few of whom are foreigners). They have enough munitions, money and know-how to fight for years, though in the end they will lose. The Sunni Arab populace continues largely to support the guerrillas. Over half in a recent poll said that attacks on the U.S. military in Iraq are legitimate.

Note, Cole informs us that "Sunnis constitute some 90 percent of the Muslims in the world, but are a minority of 20 percent in Iraq." It is not clear whether he means that world Sunnis are ethnically Arabs or that Sunnis make only 20 percent of Iraq's population--this could be some lapsus.

In the International Relations Center (IRC):

The Future of Iraq and U.S. Occupation
By Noam Chomsky
January 26, 2005

What I’ve just read from the business press the last couple of days probably reflects the thinking in Washington and London: "Uh well, okay, we’ll let them have a government, but we’re not going to pay any attention to what they say." In fact the Pentagon announced at the same time two days ago: we’re keeping 120,000 troops there into at least 2007, even if they call for withdrawal tomorrow.
And the propaganda is very evident right in these articles. You can even write the commentary now: We just have to do it because we have to accomplish our mission of bringing democracy to Iraq. If they have an elected government that doesn’t understand that, well, what can we do with these dumb Arabs, you know? Actually that’s very common because look, after all, the U.S. has overthrown democracy after democracy, because the people don’t understand. They follow the wrong course. So therefore, following the mission of establishing democracy, we’ve got to overthrow their governments.