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02 September 2006


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"Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader and president of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, banned the Iraqi national flag in the Kurdish region, claiming it represented the Baath regime.
KDP leader Barzani has constantly pushed for secession from the national Iraqi administration. He published a notice the previous day ordering the replacement of Iraqi flags with their Kurdish counterpart in all public buildings across the Kurdish region."

"Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Ask your commanders and diplomats if they've ever heard of Fort Sumter, Mr. Bush. If not, most any historian can explain it to you.


My apologies for double posting, and thank you for another wonderful and cogent analysis, Colonel.

With the Labor Day weekend marking the start of the election push, there's no reason to expect anybody in the administration will acknowledge the reality on the ground in Iraq. The myth-machine will be running in high gear to obliterate any inconvenient facts. Yet again there will be a turning point, and victory will be just around the corner. Any sensible strategic realignment or withdrawal will be craven cutting and running. It will be a hard path to tread, but only those who hate freedom and support the terrorists will shirk from their duty ...

The approved narrative has become as predictable and comforting as a toothache.

Green Zone Cafe

Some quotes from Iraq:

Sunni professional about Shia: "They're ignorant and dirty, they can't run Iraq."

Shia talking about Sunni: "They are Bedouin Arabs, people of the desert, all they know is killing. We [the Shia] are people of the valley, from the Sumerians, farmers, peaceful."

Kurd about Arabs: "I hate Arabs, I hope the Israelis kill them all."

John in LA

Many - if not most -of the post cold-war conflicts derive from a natural dissonance between "state" borders and natural ebb and flow of ethnographic life.

When the UN was formed in 1945, whatever ethnic groups controlled various countries around the world effectively "freeze dried" their states. And the geogrphic structures of these states were protected indefinitely by the non-violability of borders, Security Council recognition of these permanent borders and etc.

The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Uganda, Zaire, Rwanda, East Timor, Sudan all come to mind.

What's worse, many of these borders were drawn in European salons for the express purpose of creating permanent instability. The French, Brits etc., had a vested interest in dividing ethnic groups by driving borders amid them.

In this way, the White Man, the European, the West can stand in as the arbiter, the cop, the sargeant at arms to help this divisive lesser races sort out their problems.

Sound familiar? This was the formula in the early 19th century and the neocons and others would like a Pax Americana (called globalization, westernization etc.) guaranteed by the Security Council and a monopoly on violence forever.

When we speak of the neocons desire for democracy and etc., in my view, we are being too kind. The neocons are, again in my view, nothing but a pseudo intellectual branding of aggressive zionism.

Do the neocons propose bombing China to force democracy? Do they propose the imposition of American-sponsored government in Zaire? Do the neocons propose spending a trillion dollars to subjugate Pakistan's military government?

They don't. The neocons have only ever proposed one thing -- the American military invasion of Arab countries. The American occupation of military force on Arab countries.

The natural forces of tribe and language and religion go deep -- hundred or thousands of years. So the White Man imposition of borders and state structures over the past 50 is transient.

We can anticipate borders being rewritten on the ground, in real time, by local players.

Expect a Turkish-Kurdish war. Expect a Shiastan in So. Lebanon. Expect a Hamas overthrow of the West's client "king" in Jordan. Expect a civil war in Saudi Arabia. And expect the Saudi insurgents to propose a local Umma that consumes the GCC states.

This is what the Hizbollah and Hamas are doing in the Levant -- they are re-drafting borders. American forces will, given the Zionists' grasp on both Democrats and Republicans, likely spend another trillion dollars carrying out Israeli directives.

But, in the meanwhile, the real prize -- Iran, Gas and Oil resources -- will find their way to China and exploding East Asia -- through separate channels that do not involve the Americans' military/economic/energy marketing structures.

The Americans will be kicking down doors in Gaza city. The Chinese will be investing a few hundred billion in Iran, Central Asia and etc., and will be lifting those resources to Asia while the Americans still frantically try to make permanent the hastily drafted borders of the last century


This just in - Kurds ban the Iraqi flag in Kurdistan:

Northern Iraq is going to be just as bad as central Iraq in a couple of years. Kurds are going to ethnically cleanse it of Arabs and Turkmen. Turkey will be intervening in that war in a big way.

Start praying for another Saddam, because the alternatives are worse.



So is partition the answer? Or will just be another artificial construct? Sen. Biden likes the idea:

". . .to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won't and don't want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can't defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that's exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.. ."

(NYT, Op-Ed, May 1, 2006)

John Howley

The Intl Crisis Group issued a report on Iraq and the Kurds in July: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4267&l=1.

The Iraqi Constitution calls for a referendum on the status of Kirkuk by the end of 2007 (i.e., soon!).

I have seen media reports that the Kurdish parliament is considering a draft regional constitution that includes Kirkuk as part of the Kurdish region (which it is not now). Such a change is a "red line" for Turkey (and probably Iran, too).



A friend of mine for the last year has been proposing that we just turn Saddam lose and rearm him. He knows how to quite things down.

Humpty Dumpty has falled off the wall and all the kings soldiers and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. How appropriate.

cynic librarian

Colonel Lang, Excellent analysis here. I'd note, again, that all of this plays into the neocon game plan. I think that the talk about democratization etc. is merely a way of making that plan palatable to the rather idealistic sensibilities of Bush.

The only form of democractization that he neocons hope to establish is the imperial republican's notion of client state in Iraq. All other concerns are simply window-dressing.

With a weak central government in Iraq, the US will continue to impose its will to expand further destabilization in the region. The present anarchy in Iraq allows Iran to look like it is gaining influence; but this appearance only makes the neocon call for invading/attacking Iran look stronger. Whether or not that influence is real is really beside the point.

Just as long as it looks like Iran is gaining influence--to a president whose grasp of socio-cultural or geopolitical realities is tenuous at best, to a press that relies on the think-tankers who mouthe neocon platitudes--is all that counts.

On a more macroscopic level, the pieces continue to fall into place for an eventual invasion/attack of Iran. The Israelis have a forward operating base in Kurdistan. While in a more precarious situation, the US troops can simply reinforce its rear and swivel toward Iran and either feign an attack on Iran's western border or actually use it as a base for special ops tactics.

The wildcard in this scenario is Turkey and its continuing concern about Kurdish guerilla groups based in Kurdsitan. They've already made incursions into Kurdish terrotory to attack these groupos and they've bombarded the guerilla camps. Interestingly, they've done this in seeming coordination with Iran, which has also bombarded these guerilla positions.

No doubt, the State Department is taking strong measures to assess Turkey's intentions here, perhaps promising more economic aid. We must remember that it was Turkey's refusal to allow US troops to use it as a base for invading northern Iraq that caused Rumsfeld conniptions.

Babak Makkinejad

Cannot Iraq be modeled after Lebanon? Or Malaysia?

The European nation-state model is not applicable to large parts of the world: India, Africa, China, Malaysia. Why beat a dead horse?

Babak Makkinejad


Kurdish independence is a chimera.

If Kurds have not forged a state over the past 2500 years, there is no reason to suppose that they will any more successful now.

Iraqi Kurdistan is, in my opinion, a tribal (con)federation of Barzanistan & Talibanistan.


A closer look appears to indicate that there have been, and are, two groups pushing US policy in the Arab and Muslim world. They have different goals, but appear to be agreed on means. One group is the American Likudniks (or Zionists), whose aim is to disrupt any actual or potential threat to Israel. The other is the Cheney-Rumsfeld clique, which aims to seize control of as much of the world's oil sources as possible, thus assuring US hegemony (which is also assured by building up overwhelming military power). This group appears to believe that a powerful, aggressive Israel will help the US in achieving its goal (hence the alliance between the two groups).

What both groups don't seem to understand are the limitations of destructive military power as a tool of policy, and the reaction such use can produce, which can nullify the gains brute force may achieve.

John in LA

If the Kurds declare independence, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Shia Iraq, together with Sunni Iraq will invade and do everything possible to kill the new nation in the cradle.

The abandonment of the Kurds was the single biggest piece of unfinished business in the Post WWI Middle East.

Everyone hates the Kurds for the simple reason that they control the water of the entire region. The aquifers of Iraq, syria, Turkey and Iran largely begin in Kurdistan.

It has been observed in this blog that Israel's water largely resides under the West Bank.

Water is blood. Just ask the Mexicans from whom the United States separated their watered provinces.


Nabil: Turkey and Iran are allready shelling Kurdish positions.


Is Turkey going to be able to live with an independant Kurdistan, which can use the Kirkuk oil revinues to support efforts for independance amongst the Kurds of southern Turkey?

What sort of cooperation exists between Turkey and Iran regarding Kurdistan?

I can't pretend to know the answers to those questions, but the possibility of partitioning off Kurdistan leading to a wider regional war seems very real to me right now.

W. Patrick Lang


I did not publish your comment because you imply that I am a part of a conspiracy of some sort.

If you wish to malign me do it elsewhere. pl

W. Patrick Lang


One does not "seize control of the world's oil." That is a primitive idea. Oil is a fungible commodity. Those who possess oils sell it and always will. The price is determined 1-by longstanding contracts or 2-by the daily price on the world spot market for what is left over from the long tem contracts.

Every barrel traded into the spot market directly affects the world price.

Do you imagine that the people you are talking about would not pay for the oil? Do you realize how disruptive such a thing would be to the world economy? This is the last thing they would want.



There is a credible view out there that, with the approach of "peak oil", fungibility is no longer enough. To ensure supply you have to control the sources. That is why China is going into Africa and S. America. And the US wants to control the ME; friendly sheikhdoms are no longer sufficient.

Oil scarcity is going to be even more disruptive.

W. Patrick Lang


Interesting, but I am as yet unconvinced with regard to the "peak oil" theory.

I have been hearing that sort of thing all through along life and new sources of energy always appear. I am inclined to think that this will continue.

In any event, the thought of Cheney/Rumsfeld as plotters at that level of sophistication....

Does your theory envision a kind of mercantilist world in which only the possessors of oil are assured a supply? pl

Tom Griffin

There's also the issue of who profits from the sale of oil.

Saddam Hussein was willing to sell oil to the west even during the 1973 embargo, but he used that wealth to build up Iraq as a regional military power.


"Oil is a fungible commodity." -PL

Amen! Market players believe this and act in that manner. Another myth is that high oil prices substantially benefit multinational oil companies. On the contrary the higher the oil price the less beneficial to oil companies as their agreements with the owners of the oil source are based on revenue sharing agreements with declining percentages as certain revenue levels are reached. In many cases there are even caps. What this does is completely whack the reserve assumptions on oil company balance sheets and projected revenue streams from wells.

Pricing volatility can be managed. Producers and consumers hedge prices in the futures market providing liquidity to these markets. Pricing is primarily determined by supply/demand. Speculation and fear are also part of the price equation. Today, supply and demand are evenly balanced at around 85 mb/d. However, demand is expected to be 120-130 mb/d by 2020 with China and India expected to increase their demand over 100% from current levels. One of the issues is that there have not been any major discoveries of light crude in the past 2 decades. And current projections are for 8% average decline in the current wells which implies that these wells will only produce around 25 mb/d in 2020. So other wells have to produce 100 mb/d in 2020 to meet the projected demand. Saudi Arabia which is currently a major swing supplier extracts 90% of its crude output from 7 super giant wells which were all discovered in the 40s-60s and accounts for around 7.5 mb/d of production today. Venezuela has extremely large reserves of heavy crude and Canada has reserves in tar sands that rival Saudi Arabia. The issue with heavy crude and tar sands are the energy intensity to extract and as a result costs and depletion rates are higher. If demand growth continues at current levels we are approaching scarcity economics in light crude as well as in dry gas. And oil and gas markets could remain tight until refineries retool for heavy sour crudes and heavy crude and tar sand production become meaningful. Or of course consumption growth abates.

The strategic dimension relates to the long term supply contracts and the exploration and production agreements. Putin's action with Yukos is a reminder of how dicey this business is for investors. In a temporary scarce resource environment "allocations" become important and hence the push by China and India to invest in E&P deals. Not dissimilar to the technology business when demand temporarily outstrips supply for chips. In such situations for example, Intel provides preference to Dell over a small white-box maker. In the short term a supply disruption that takes out 10% of world supply can seriously hike prices. IMO, the use of oil as a strategic weapon by countries like Iran is overstated. Iran has no major industry or agricultural production to offset oil revenues. They need to sell oil more than others need to buy it today. They have a very youthful and growing population and a moribund economy and developing their oil and gas resources is very important. Note that as Iraq's oil was taken offline it did not impact world supply as Russia, Iran and Saudi were able to increase their production. Although light crude and dry gas are "strategic" resources in the short term I believe both suppliers and consumers want a stable market in their own interests.


Col. Lang,

As Henry Kissinger said, "Control energy and you control the nations."

Regardless of whether 'peak oil' is true or not, Western oil company and foreign policy leaders act as if they believe it's true, and in the US those entities have converged. Theories similar in effect to Peak Oil aren't new to the 21st century; even when world reserves weren't in question, local supply in most countries was, and given the last century's experience a strong case can be made that (in wartime) only the possessors of oil are assured of its supply.

As for Cheney/Rumsfeld, yes, they envision themselves at the pinnacle of "a kind of mercantilist world in which only the possessors of oil are assured a supply." There is ample evidence, much of it coming out of their own golden mouths, that they've consistently stressed the strategic significance of direct possession of Mideast oil above all else. They and PNAC subscribe to the publicly expressed logic that American economic hegemony cannot be maintained absent continuing military hegemony, and to the strategic wisdom of fighting and winning WW3 before it starts.

In their minds, the dominance they seek requires direct military possession of ME oil with new bases placed to protect fields, facilities, and pipelines. Control of the Oil Triangle precludes China, Russia, or India from challenging US hegemony together or separately for a century to come.

Obviously, things aren't going so great with that plan. Far smarter to have invested all that devious effort in looking for and developing new sources of energy, and in new infrastructure designed to best take advantage of them.


The other problem with attempting to control Middle East oil is the long supply line to get it to the United States.

I am not saying that the Neo Cons are not attempting to do this. I do not know. but they are it is rather infantile thinking.

If the rest of the world (Russia, China, Western Europe and people living in the Middle East) see the United States and Israel attacking or invading Iran over oil, then through guerilla actions they could prevent commerical quantities of oil from being delivered.

We can see how effective a few people in Iraq have been at preventing oil from being brought back on line.


"These mechanisms of democracy do not yield the results the "neocons" had hoped for because these mechanisms are not transformative. They are merely expressive of what lies within the collective minds of the people voting."

Brilliant point.

John Howley

More bad news....

I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader
By Gethin Chamberlain and Aqeel Hussein in Baghdad
(Filed: 03/09/2006)

The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.

"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."



The only explanation that makes sense to me is that Iraq was a neo-con ideological project that has gone awry.

Even GHWB recognized the Iraqi "pressure cooker" and described the consequences of toppling Saddam in his book. In late 2002 there were a few lonely voices that predicted the possibility of "tribalism" that remained just below the surface going amok. Of course they were shouted down in the "we're going to kick a.." moment. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al were determined to experiment with their ideological project and were unwilling to listen to voices of caution.

Saud al-Faisal, the then Saudi foreign minister in an interview a few weeks before the invasion predicted,
"The US and British troops would be bogged down in Iraq for years. There would be civil war between Sunnis and Shias. The real beneficiary would be the government in Iran.

"And what do the Americans say when you tell them this," I asked? "They don't even listen," he said."

And Cheney's invasion rationale to Faisal, "Because it's do-able."

GWB may have been caught in the "hype" of the moment and believed the neo-cons and felt this would enable him to become a transformative President with the next stop Mt. Rushmore. Iraq has become the signature of his Administration.

Iraq in many ways resembles Yugoslavia after the demise of Tito and the release of the "pressure cooker" lid. Maybe they go the way of the civil war in Lebanon and after exhaustion they could achieve a semblance of peace with a political settlement. I am afraid the Iraqi adventure has dramatically weakened US credibility and has provided a blue print and training ground for our adversaries to grind us down in a future conflict.

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