Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for September 8th, 2008

The Sahwa of the South

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 8 September 2008 0:00

The ”Council of the Tribes of the Sons of the Arab South” (various versions of the name occur but the leadership figures seem constant) has called for the ministers of electricity and trade to be sacked. This council is an interesting example of tribal cooperation in the far south (Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan) where the anti-Iranian theme is extremely pronounced and where there are calls for better relations with Arab Gulf states. In other words, combining local regionalism, Iraqi nationalism and pan-Arabism, this represents the quintessential sahwa of the south – except that Washington’s preference for working with Nuri al-Maliki, ISCI and others with a more pro-Iranian attitude prevents it from replicating the Anbar experience south of Baghdad.

Posted in Iranian influence in Iraq, Iraqi nationalism | Comments Off on The Sahwa of the South

Biden Gets Specific on Iraq – Again

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 8 September 2008 0:00

Immediately following his nomination as Democratic VP candidate, there were certain signs that Joe Biden was playing down his plans for an “active federalisation” of Iraq. However, now he is picking up where he left off. The following quotes are from “Meet the Press” on 7 September, along with some annotations in brackets:

“Everything that’s working in Iraq has been the bottom up approach, not a strong central government imposing. And the truth of the matter is the only way you’re going to make this–sustain it, the question is, how do we leave and leave a stable Iraq behind? Without a political settlement, Tom, we’re going to be back there in another year or two or three or five.”

[Here Biden reiterates a common misunderstanding of the Iraqi constitution. The Iraqi constitution outlines a hybrid asymmetrical federal system under which the various parts of the country can choose between remaining under the central government OR becoming a federal region – through specific procedures. Biden violates both these features: first he rejects the idea of asymmetrical federalism by excluding the possibility of some provinces remaining under the central government, then he goes on to push for a “settlement” instead of accepting the gradual evolutionary process foreshadowed in the Iraqi constitution.]

“MR. BROKAW: But the Iraqi government didn’t like the idea [i.e. Biden’s “plan”]. Maliki…

SEN. BIDEN: Well, the Iraqi government–Maliki didn’t, but the rest of the government liked it.

MR. BROKAW: But he is the head of the government. It’s their country.

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah–by the way, it is their country, but he’s the head of the government, but he’s the head of the government whose popularity is very much in question, and the election itself.”

[Biden apparently hasn’t noted that except from the Kurds and their partners in the Maliki government (ISCI), pretty much everyone else in Iraq is against his plans. These days, even ISCI seems to have second thoughts with regard to the wisdom of soft partition.]

“MR. BROKAW: Five years from now, do you think Iraq will have relative stability and democratic principles in a central government?

SEN. BIDEN: If there is an Obama-Biden administration, yeah. If there is a John McCain administration and Sarah Palin, I think it’s probably not going to happen, because John does not view this in terms of the region. I never heard him speak about how he’s going to integrate Iraq into the region where you have these competing interests that exist.”

[This is the truly frightening part. Integrate Iraq into the region?? After it has first been soft partitioned a la Biden? Sounds bad if you consider yourself an Iraqi.]

Posted in Iranian influence in Iraq, Iraq and soft partition | Comments Off on Biden Gets Specific on Iraq – Again