“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Would an Iraqi Tito help? Would it prevent a much worse scenario?

The dream of an Iraq democracy is over. It is never going to happen. That is my opinion and is obviously open to discussion and other points of view. Regardless, it will have no affect on what will ultimately happen in Iraq.

There is no scenario that will see a smooth change of governments in a democratic fashion.

At best, Iraq will end in a Yugoslavia-lite or it will go directly into a fragmentation mode with ethnic cleansing and come apart in a bloody brutal fashion. Could an Iraq Tito help? Should we encourage that or make it happen?

There clearly are even worse options. The Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, based in Washington , contemplates a worse situation.

US must abandon Iraqi cities or face nightmare scenario, say experts

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 30 January 2007
The Independent

The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month.

Everywhere looms the shadow of Iran. In a "war game" testing US options, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution found that, as the descent into civil war gathered pace, confrontation between the US and Iran intensified, and Washington's leverage on Tehran diminished. Civil war in Iraq would turn Iran into "the unambiguous adversary" of the US.

Indeed, everything indicates that that is already happening. The study appeared on the same day as the Iranian ambassador in Iraq told The New York Times that Tehran intended to expand its influence in Iraq. US commanders now claim that thousands of Iranian advisers are arming and training Shia militias.

Nonetheless, the Brookings report urges the creation of a regional group to help contain a civil war. That would see exactly the contacts with Iran and Syria that the Bush administration steadfastly refuses. An alternative in the report would be "red lines" which, if crossed by Tehran, could lead to a military attack by the US on Iran.


  1. Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    How America's Conflict with Iran Will Begin ...
    January 24, 2006

    The first open signs of an American collision with Iran will occur in Iraq, after the liquidation of the major [Shiite] militias and paramilitaries allied with them. This will expand the basis for animosity. But the scenarios that Bush's team is painting are similar to those which led to the expulsion of Saddam from Kuwait and eventually ended his rule. That war was not because Saddam expanded Iraq by a few more miles (by occupying Kuwait), but was due to the fear that Kuwaiti oil - added to Iraq's already vast oil resources - would have made Iraq the central power in the most dangerous region in the world.

    It doesn't matter to the United States who rules the region in terms of whether they are Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd. It is rather the fear of who will control these oil reserves that explains Washington's current skirmishes with Iran. While Iran is essentially outside the interests of the American oil industry, it is a sensitive region geographically.

    Therefore, any Iranian foothold in Iraq - whether through its Shiite allies or through historical ties from when the Persian Empire ruled many regions of the world - will result in the same American reaction. If Iran is permitted to control the vast oil resources of southern Iraq - which adds an economic and geographic dimension to this crisis - and in addition to this, Tehran's possession of nuclear weapons, even on a limited scale, then the entire Gulf region will be under threat of becoming a great oil reservoir for Iran. Thus the nuclear issue makes the present situation far more dangerous than it has hitherto been.

    Strategically, such thinking is not new, and perhaps recent events have changed some of the parameters and policies; that is, those who took on the adventure of occupying Iraq never imagined that this would create such strategic and security problems and encourage the creation of a nuclear Iran.

    And as we have already said, America’s interests rise above partisan or narrow national interest. For example, its unequivocal refusal to allow China to annex Taiwan is not because Taiwan constitutes an American military and strategic base; it is due rather to the fear of the “up and coming” superpower [China] gaining Taiwan's advanced technological and human capital. These fears are identical those that attended Saddam's annexation of Kuwait, or Iran's possible annexation of southern and middle areas of Iraq.

    This means that a war against Iran could be imminent, and securing oil sources will be the major goal; not the sectarian or nationalistic goals that some might think, based on what is happening in the region right now. Even the issue of fighting terrorism is in synch with these goals.

    The grand strategies often remain beyond the imagination and hopes of smaller countries ...

  2. Anyone read of changes in refueling capabilities in the Black Sea region and/or increased Nato naval assets in the Mediterranean?

    Just read Kaplan's Imperial Grunts; some of you might find it interesting

  3. Iraq had a Tito figure.
    He was removed by US force of arms.

    Would not have removed him been a better scenario?

    Tito, or Saddam ruled with fear. If Mr Maliki had control of all the levers of Power, in Iraq, perhaps he could induce some fear in those that disrespect the Federal Iraqi Government.
    Perhaps not.

    If we have to wait for the Shia militias to be liquidated, prior to a collision with Iran, there will be no collision, soon.

    We have not liquidated the Sunni Insurgency of 25,000 men
    The Mahdi Army and Badr Brigades account for well over 50,000 men.

    They will not go quickly nor quietly into the night.

  4. Iraq had a Tito figure.
    He was removed by US force of arms..

    Saddam went to the last stop, nicotene deprived, and muttering about the Persians. He knew what it took to run Iraq and could not believe that his old allies could not figure it out. Maliki , to survive could pick a model, Tito or Saddam or a hybrid. If he picks a model prefered by the US, he will die on the job.

    Do not expect to see many more purple fingers. maliki would be smart to select the Yugo model.

    The Yugoslavian Constitution of 1946 provided for wide autonomy to the six new republics of Yugoslavia, but military and economic power remained in the hands of Tito and the Communists.
    Maliki could do worse than following this model. Tito was not afraid to excercise power, neither should Maliki.

  5. 2164th: Do not expect to see many more purple fingers. maliki would be smart to select the Yugo model.

    The Sunnis won't sit for it while the memory of wielding the power is still in living memory, which of course can be redressed by killing all the Sunnis. The Kurds are already autonomous in all but name, and giving up their military and economic autonomy to a "Tito" in Baghdad is not on the table. But the word on the street is that Cheney struck a deal with KSA to step on Iran a little bit in exchange for $20 a barrel oil. So the enemy of the week is Iranian infiltrators.

  6. Willingness to employ violence...

    It seems that Saddam was able to handle the Shia militias both directly during the Iranian conflict, afterwards; also after the first Gulf War.

    25,000 sunni arab or 50,000 persian shias

    One could just as easily put forth 100,000 Pesh Merga who will fight either group

  7. At best, Iraq will end in a Yugoslavia-lite or it will go directly into a fragmentation mode with ethnic cleansing and come apart in a bloody brutal fashion.

    I don't see "fragmentation" as being a bad thing. Not at all. I think each ethnic and religious group should be allowed to fight for its own democratic future. We should support fragmentation everywhere possible, and break down the tyranny of dictatorship and empire. The groups that democratically choose a political agenda and a foreign policy that complements our interests will win our political, diplomatic, military, and economic support.

  8. Well, elijah, there were reports of the Kurds deserting, in large numbers, rather then deploying to Baghdad, for the "surge". Whether a totally accurate representation, or not, I have no idea.

    The Pesh Merga will defend Kurdistan, but seem to have no great desire to soldier outside the Homeland.

    We have already replaced one Iraqi Prime Minister, that did not fit the US mold, why we thought his Press Secretary would be more mallable, only time will tell.

    But to replace the second PM, Mr Maliki, with someone that is even less an Iraqi patriot, is going to be much more difficult, for US.

    After Diem, it did not get "better", for US, but some folk never learn from history.

    Six to eight months, then the caca will hit the fan, in DC.

  9. More than likely, bargaining over the final status of Kirkuk will have a say in their role

  10. Considering the 60% shiite population, a repressive shiite government should have no problem running a shamocracy.

    Maliki has a pretty clear course - making Iraq a shia dictatorship with the blessing of the Iranians.

    Maliki will play ball as long long as those damn gringos that put him in power inadvertently advantage this. Like smiting aQ or Baathist insurgents.

    Maliki becomes obstructive when the gringos play against this end. Things like confronting Iraq, trying to clean the Badrists out of the police, or setting the IA againsts the Mahdi army.

    Tito was a Croat (minority). DR is right, we hung the Iraqi Tito. Maliki the shiite doubtless feels no need to pamper the minorities, no more than Slobodan did.

    Thats gonna be messy. Figure the potential ethnic cleansing could be in the order of 5 million people.

    More than twice as many as Kosovo, more than all Bosnia, more than Darfur. More than enough refugees to completely destablize Jordan, Saudi and Syria all at once.

    Fun for all.

    Of course, we could go after Iran and extend the madness all the way from the Jordan to the Indus.


  11. Democratic Senator Joe Biden has been saying for months he is running for president. He makes it official on Wednesday.


    Biden acknowledged his campaign would generate little of the buzz surrounding the celebrity candidates New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

    Even he was moved by his colleagues' trailblazing candidacies, Biden said.

    Declaring Candidacy

  12. "Biden must be a closet Shia. Likes to flagellate himself."

    Bob, you are a funny man.

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  15. If Iran is permitted to control the vast oil resources of southern Iraq - which adds an economic and geographic dimension to this crisis - and in addition to this, Tehran's possession of nuclear weapons, even on a limited scale, then the entire Gulf region will be under threat of becoming a great oil reservoir for Iran.

    If Iran does gain possession of Iraqi oil reservoirs, then its systemic economic problems will simply be buffered, and its economic collapse postponed. As Iranian commitments (perhaps to extend its regional influence via Foreign Legions) expand in the Gulf, so will the necessity to divert increasing amounts of funds to such elaborate operations and networks - making sure the beast is adequately satiated.

    The likelihood that Iran would actually use the revenue generated from oil and gas to substantially upgrade its infrastructure will be constrained by

    a) whoever takes over Ahmadinejad and Khamenei: the degree to which the mullahs have control over the direction of foreign policy and their calculations for the long term

    b) the insatiable quest for power that will consume these Foreign Legions - Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Mahdi Army in Iraq - and the pressure to milk oil and gas in order to keep up with financially sustaining states-within-states, subversive operations throughout the region

    And we haven't even begun talking about investment in Iran - the entire region would certainly be rendered utterly unpalatable and unstable should the Sunnis regard Iran as threatening their own oil reserves, thereby further deterring patrons like China and India from pouring in cash to help the Iranians with their decrepit infrastructure.

    Personally, I fear that Iran's forceful acquisition of Iraq's oil reserves might provide it with enough time to acquire nuclear weapons. Any economic collapse after that is irrelevant.

  16. The deletions were the administrative assistance of curing harrison's hiccups. It was not a case of comment cleansing.

  17. Ah thank you, deuce. I was about to ask doug about the trashcans again.

  18. management does not sleep at the bar.

  19. Saudis are our friends

    Dozens of al-Qaeda suicide bombers from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan are crossing into Iraq from Syria every month, a senior US official said yesterday.

    [...] He said that 75-80 per cent of the estimated 75 suicide bombings a month were carried out by foreigners, and that Saudi Arabia and Sudan were the most common countries of origin. But he emphasised that the Saudi government was doing its utmost to take on al-Qaeda.

    Despite this statistic, the article remains reminiscent of all other articles these days that talk all about Iran, but nothing emphasised on the KSA.

    And of worth mentioning: Syria has been exceptionally quiet for quite a while - have they begun distancing themselves from Iran?

  20. Trish,

    As long as they don't vote their own flavor of jihadi Shria government to rule over others, I don't see what is the problem. Why should it be US foreign policy to maintain tyranny and empire, particularly jihadi empire(s)? What is the logic in that? Would you have liked the French and others to have adopted that foreign policy with regards to British tyranny in its American possessions? Why the double standard?

  21. > The dream of an Iraq democracy is over

    I think Iraq will stabilize as a democracy because they have no other choice. United they stand, divided they fall. The Arab Shiites in Southern Iraq will gladly take aid from Persian Shiites in Iran, but they don't want Iranians to occupy their territory.

    I think the world is better off letting this play out. The only thing we need to do is guarantee that outsiders like Iran won't invade Iraq.

    A big, big part of going forward from here is political. We need to know what the Saudis are willing to do. We need to know what Turkey is going to do. And we need to know what the Iraqi sects want, especially what the pieces of the Iraqi insurgency are going to do.

    The US needs to think it all through and have allies. And at least according to articles, it sounds like we have joined the Sunni / Israel coalition.

  22. > the article remains reminiscent of all other articles these days that talk all about Iran, but nothing emphasised on the KSA.

    Yes, and especially in Iraq, where by definition the root cause is the insurgency, the Sunnis. If and when the insurgency ceases fire, then Iraq would have peace and democracy. Yet all we ever hear about is fears and complaints about how the Shiite government might be sectarian.

    Yet this is what the Sunni Insurgency does every day: kills & kidnaps outsiders, bombs oil, electric, water lines to make everyone's life such a hell that they will hate the current government; refuse for the most part to participate in the government, police force, military, etc.; call the current government, democratically elected, an occupation force; attack not only the "occupation" forces and government officials, but terror bomb Shiite civilians; the Sunni political figures refuse to condem these attacks on Shiite civilians, although they usually pretend that they done by Al Qaeda (which are in Sunni territory, and are mostly Iraqi Sunnis).

    The democratically elected Shiite / Kurd government has the right of self-defense and the right to use whatever amount of force they need to put down armed rebellion in their country. I think it is time to get out of the way and let them do it. By whining about Shiite internal politics and tying their hands, we could end up aiding rebellion, and being partially responsible for the Shiites who die every day in car bombings.

    We definitely could have a final round of peace talks before letting the Shiites loose. If the Sunnis are willing to cease fire, we could provide them protection, rather like the Kurds in the past.

  23. The tricky act of balancing interests between "coalition" partners should not be lost on us, wu wei. If this truly is a Sunni-Israel-US alliance, how far will our support go as to ensuring the predominance of Wahhabism and Sunni-sponsored terrorism over a crumbling Persian regime? And will that lopsided, unconditional (as it seems to be in danger of teetering over the edge of such) support instead channel into momentum that will eventually and inevitably move against Israel's and our interests in the region?

    The risk of being hamstrung by promises made in this coalition is rather high, and it seems to present itself as a microcosmic entity in Iraq: support the Shiites, risk angering Sunni regimes; support the Sunnis, Iraqi Shiites work against us, paving the way for Iranian takeover.

    More reports these days focus on Shiites getting killed by Sunni insurgents and aQ, while reprisal attacks have dropped considerably (or underreported). While this shows amazing restraint on the Shiites' part, what it says about the Sunni insurgents is much more telling.

    Haven't heard anything new about the possible truce that was put forth as a plan earlier. Did the deal collapse already?