Friday, November 25, 2005

No Taxation without Representation?

Austin Bay reports (along with many other sites) that at least four "insurgent" organizations are seeking "negotiations" with the Iraq government:

The four groups include the Islamic Army of Iraq, the 1920 Revolution Brigade, the Mujahedeen (moo-jah-hih-DEEN’) Army and al-Jamea Brigades. But the country’s most feared terror organization, al-Qaida in Iraq, is not among them. It and two other Islamic extremist groups are believed to have staged many suicide attacks.

While Bill Roggio reports on continuing operations in the Anbar province.

Ramadi, the capitol of Anbar province, has long been the focus of a struggle between Coalition forces and the insurgency. Recently, we discussed how the Coalition is attempting to address the Ramadi problem by slowing bringing in Iraqi troops and pairing them off with U.S. units, and trying to avert a full scale operation like the one conducted in Tal Afar.

Coalition forces continue to press small scale offensives in Ramadi, which are designed to target specific neighborhoods as well as outlying areas of the city. Mountaineers in the beginning of October was one such operation, designed to disrupt activity in the south of Ramadi, and gain control over a bridge crossing the river.

The most recent operation is Panther, which is aimed at the Sufia region of Eastern Ramadi. About 150 Iraqi Army Soldiers and 300 Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team [2BCT], 28th Infantry Division are involved in Panther, which is “a continuation of operations to capitalize on three key al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents captured in Ramadi, during the month of November.”

Powerline is reporting from another source that the Cairo conference seemed to have some interesting side lines from the State Department:

Hand it to Secretary of State Rice. She knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. When asked on CNN this week her reaction to a communique signed by Iraqi leaders on Monday that recognized a "legitimate right to resistance," she said, "I think what they were trying to do was to get a sense of political inclusion while recognizing that violence and terrorism should not be a part of resistance."[snip]

The State Department, according to Iraqi officials I've spoken with, put tremendous pressure on elected leaders to attend this parley in Cairo. And the see-no-evil reaction to the results of these deliberations suggests something potentially more ominous. The Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, for example, reports that American diplomats on the sidelines quietly pushed for the statement calling for an eventual timetable for withdrawal of American troops. And there are now new reports that Foggy Bottom in particular would like to build on the progress of the Arab League's renewed interest in Iraq and urge the armies of its member states to build a force to stabilize the country.

At the same time, Iraq the Model reports on new election laws which include representation by province (like the British model or close to the US representation established by state, but with only one house):

As you all know, Iraq was considered as one electoral circle in the last elections but this time it will be different; each 100,000 citizens will have one representative in the parliament and Iraq will be divided into 18 electoral circles (see numbers below), i.e. each province will constitute one circle and a certain number of seats will be allocated to each province/circle according to its population count.

Read the rest.

Is this a coincidence? I don't think so. There were two major concerns of the "legitimate" insurgency:

1) Being a minority with little representation in Parliament.

This was no small matter. As noted by Iraq the Model brother, Omar, the last two elections had Iraq as one big representative pool with all parties contesting all seats throughout Iraq. Which meant that it was a fore gone conclusion that the Shia and Kurdish parties would get the majority of seats in Parliament and the remaining seats would end up distributed between many smaller parties, some of which were still coalition parties with little representation from those Sunni areas currently contested.

The truth is, Sunni specific parties will most likely never have a majority in Parliament again. What they hope for is enough of the seats to become an effective and necessary coalition partner with one of the two major blocks in parliament or to have enough seats that the Kurdish and Shia blocks cannot achieve 2/3 votes necessary to pass laws without forming a coalition with or getting buy in from the Sunni representation from the major Sunni areas. This will force both parties to compromise with the Sunni "major minority", giving them the ability to achieve some of their demands and keep them from being ignored in the state hand out of ministries and money.

During the run up to the referendum in October, the distribution of oil profits to the provinces for projects and infrastructure was a point of contention. Resolution of this issue and probably the new election laws led to several Sunni parties giving the nod to their constituents to participate in elections. There were many hold out areas still in Anbar. With continuing military pressure eroding their forces and base of power and new election laws, it's apparent that these Sunni parties see the power that they had gained from boycotting the previous election slipping away. This was the leverage they used to get concessions to the constitution. Once the permanent, four year government is elected, if the Sunni actually boycott December elections, they will lose all leverage. The continuing improvement of Iraqi security forces means that they will be militarily defeated.

However, if they come on line now, they can stave off continued military erosion of their bases of power, allowing them to save face and become political power houses from their districts.

Which leads to the second major issue:

2) Amnesty for past and present actions.

These groups know that their hands are dirty from the Saddam era right through this "insurgency". They are dirty with the blood of Iraqis and Americans. They also know that there are certain groups, particularly the Shia, who are not quite ready to give them a pass. Steven Vincent wrote about the death squads up until his death in Basra. The Iraq Ministry of the Interior was recently raided and alleged "terrorists", all Sunni, were found to be malnourished, abused and possibly tortured.

The Iraq the Model blog has mentioned several times that, while many groups are demanding a time table for a US withdrawal, the Sunni may be shooting themselves in the foot since the US and coalition force presence keeps a lid on a potential over boiling pot of reprisals. In which case, the Sunni would greatly suffer. With indication that the US is going to withdraw forces and leave security largely to the Iraqis, these groups need to be legitimate and protected by the government. The only way that happens is if they join the political process and their region is seen as largely "peaceful".

Don't take this wrong, because it doesn't mean that violence is over. As noted, Al Qaida and a few homegrown Islamist organizations are not intent on negotiating. They still want either Iraq as a whole or some large area to set up their "emirate". Further, it's likely that small off shoot non-Islamist "militia" will continue some sort of violence ongoing until most of the Sunni feel comfortable in their protected minority status both politically, demographically and financially. Think "Israeli/Palestinian Conflict" or Sien Finn and the IRA with "legitimate" political parties using their arrangements with these groups to unleash occasional violence as leverage during tight political moments, with cessation of violence a negotiating tool.

Unfortunately for Iraq, this means that violence will stay inside their borders for years to come, with or without US forces. It may be that the violence is much more low key. Except for the Islamists. That's another story.

What's interesting is that this has probably been the plan for some time. Maybe since the end of the last elections. The administration has been accused of not articulating their plan very well. Looking at it from this near "end game" position, I'd say that they have been saying it in very general terms for sometime: seek political resolution while continuing military action. Also from this position, it's clear why they weren't articulating this plan with specifics.

Would you really telegraph your punches that much?

As Clausewitz once wrote, war is the continuation of politics. Or, better explained in his own words:

The more powerful and inspiring the motives for war,... the more closely will the military aims and the political objects of war coincide, and the more military and less political will war appear to be. On the other hand, the less intense the motives, the less will the military element's natural tendency to violence coincide with political directives. As a result, war will be driven further from its natural course, the political object will be more and more at variance with the aim of ideal war, and the conflict will seem increasingly political in character.*3

When people talk, as they often do, about harmful political influence on the management of war, they are not really saying what they mean. Their quarrel should be with the policy itself, not with its influence. If the policy is right—that is, successful—any intentional effect it has on the conduct of the war can only be to the good. If it has the opposite effect the policy itself is wrong.*4

As I've noted and so has Winds of Changes, this necessity has left the administration in a difficult position. Hands tied, taking punches from their political opponents, the Democrats, who must know both the plan and the administrations need to keep it on the down low.

This makes Rep. Murtha, not just an emotional vet suffering from PTS, but an extremely good political actor (I mean that in the Thespian sense).

The Sunni have played a good game, but it was always a losing game. What they were fighting for wasn't necessarily a return to Ba'athist Iraq, but, in a more refined concept of Michael Moore's "minute men", "no taxation without representation". We've always had a plan and we've seen it in play the last few months with elections and military action in Anbar. War as the continuation of politics.

It doesn't cure the Islamist problem. As noted, that can only be done through military means and that will include Iraqi military and security. I certainly wouldn't count them among the "minute men".

The Democrats have played a good game, but their strategy doesn't necessarily gain them an automatic win in 2006 or 2008. I disagree with Donald Sensing at Winds of Change that the Republicans, much less the president is "supine" on the mat. Not from a partisan position, but because all they have to do is get Iraq violence down to a minimum, keep the political momentum going in Iraq and start bringing home troops by June (or earlier) and they can claim a victory, recounting the strategy and pointing to the "victory" for many months to come prior to the election.

Even better, if they manage to kill or capture another major Al Qaida figure before next elections, they can count "big coup". Another recently noted that the Democrats may have played into "Rove's hands", by shooting all their ammunition too early in the game.

In short, we have a plan. It's working. We're winning.

The policy is good.

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