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18 June 2007


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Cold War Zoomie

An NPR report on our teaming up with Anbar tribes sounded pretty even handed this morning:

NPR Story

Peter Principle

"In re the present government setup in Iraq. The Shia/Kurds have to win on the counter-insurgency battlefield to have this arrangement become 'permanent.' So far, they look like a bad bet."

They may start to look like a much better bet if the US pulls out and the Iranians move in. Which is one reason I tend to think the new tactical alliance with the Baath is aimed more at Tehran than at Al Qaeda. (Old wine in new bottles, etc.)

But, as always, the law of unintended consquences still operates. Kissing and making up with the Baathists, we frighten and alienate those in the Shia Islamist parties who might otherwise have looked upon the American presence as a useful check on Iranian influence (nobody likes to be a puppet, after all, even of their friends.) Malaki and company can do more it than just protest about it. They can guarantee an early and highly visible failure for the "surge," and/or lay the groundwork for Iranian intervention once President Hillary or President Fred finally give up and leave.

With Iranian support, I'd give the Shia parties and the Kurds better-than-even odds of prevailing over the Baath and Al Qaeda, albeit with enough scorched earth and mass graves to make Bosnia look like a Swedish kindergarten class.

FB Ali


"We should be privately planning on evacuating them and re-settling them".

I don't think the US needs to worry too much about that. All of them have large amounts of money stashed away in foreign banks. And they probably have their own evacuation plans ready.

W. Patrick Lang

FB Ali

I am unconcerned with the fate of those now looting Iraq.

It is the little people that concern me. pl


Colonel Lang: will you be posting on the Taguba report mentioned in S. Clemons blog yesterday? Thank you sir.

Just an ex grunt

To Sid3,

Is the tactic of supporting the Sunni tribes in taking out the foriegn fighters based on the assumption of losing, or on the assumption that without
the active assistance of those Sunnis we have no shot?

I personally don't believe that this tactic was devised by our officers and proposed to these tribes so much as it was the tribes themselves acting in retaliation for the brutality inflicted on them by these Jihadists. It's been going on for quite a while, and has recently snowballed.

We are just surfing that wave. Wisely so,IMO.
It's the only shot we have at reducing the Jihadist
perpetrated violence. How much of the total level of
violence that is, I do not know. But I would like to find out.

Cloned Poster

What's the adage of "learning from history?"; read this:

The massacres of the Assyrians in 1842-1847 and World War I genocide have taught the Assyrians a hard lesson. When the Special Commission conducted a voting among the population of Mosul regarding whether they preferred to be under a Turk or Arab rule, the Assyrians were one of the main reasons why Mosul was rewarded to Iraq because the Assyrians have refused to be under Turkish rule. Having failed to resolve the Mosul Province (Vilayet) issue at the Treaty of Lausanne (November 1922 - July 1923), British and Turkish delegates met in a Conference at Constantinople May 19, 1924. The British delegation under Sir Percy Cox (former high commissioner in Iraq) insisted on the inseparability of Mosul from Iraq and asked yet to attach the Hakkari Vilayet to Mosul too. The Assyrians were laying claims at this time for this whole region to be as a buffer zone between Turkey and Iraq. [Harry N. Howard, “The Partition of Turkey: A Diplomatic History 1913-1923”, University of Oklahoma Press, 1931, p. 337] During the proceedings of the conference, Fathi Beg, the Turks chief negotiator, stated that no cession of land to the Assyrians was necessary as they could still live in peace in Turkey! To this Sir Percy Cox replied that Fathi Beg’s assertion did not square with the Assyrians’ own views and that they had the most vivid memory of the treatment they have suffered in the past at the hands of the Turks. In a letter from Dr. Rev. W. A. Wigram to the editor of “The Near East and India”, wrote that if the British were not going to return the Assyrians to their original homes, then the Assyrians were to be provided with, and as Lord Curzon put it in the House of Lords on 17-12-1919, “either an enclave, or arrangements for a safe and decent existence.” The League of Nations promised the Assyrians “all their rights, including autonomy…” as the reward for assigning Mosul to Iraq (Turko-Iraq frontier. C. 400. M. 147. 1925. VII. P. 90) [Yusuf Malek (of the Iraqi Civil Service 1917-1930) “The British Betrayal of the Assyrians”, Chicago, 1935, p. 327]

The Iraq Levies, which was a British Force first comprising mainly of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans, did not impress the British, later this force became predominantly Assyrian, who practiced great discipline. This force had helped to bring stability to the newly born state of Iraq. The levy flushed north of Iraq region from the sporadic Kurdish insurrection and the expulsion of the Turkish irregulars in 1923. For these reasons, among others, the Iraqi Government pledged assurances to provide lands for the Assyrians in north Iraq. Sir Henry Dobbs, His Britannic Majesty’s Government representative in Iraq, quoted one of these assurances, which appeared in the Letters of Gertrude Bell, under statement by Sir Henry Dobbs. The letter says:

“…In order to reassure them (the Assyrians) as to their future, two successive Iraqi cabinets, those of Jafar Pasha and Yasin Pasha, officially pledged the Government of Iraq to provide lands in Iraq for those Assyrians who might be dispossessed of their original homes by the decision of the League of Nations and to devise a system of administration for them which would ensure to them the utmost possible freedom from interference. It can hardly be doubted that this liberal attitude on the part of the Government of Iraq had its influence on the deliberations of the Frontier Commission.” [Lady Bell, “The Letters of Gertrude Bell”, Vol. II, New York, 1927, p. 552] Read also, Annemasse (Mar Eshai Shimun), “The Assyrian Tragedy”, 1934, pp. 18-19.


Maybe we should be planning on helping the little people, but you certainly can't believe it is going to happen. Currrent American foreign policy doesn't concern itself with such trivial matters. It's no way to conquer the world.


It seems to me that much of the analysis of Iraq's situation contains a flawed premise.
That premise is that american particpation is somehow independent of or above the factional infighting going on between the shia, sunni and kurds.

A better way to do the analysis is to regard american participation as just another faction in Iraq's political stew.

I believe that the other factional players *do* regard the american involvement this way (i.e. as just another factional player). I also believe that it explains their reactions to some of the american initiatives (e.g. benchmarks).


Also presumed is that this new strategy is part of an effort to create the conditions for a withdrawal within the next year or so. If not, it has numerous possibilities of making things worse.

I would argue that if this was a serious effort rather than PR, or the nth change of strategy, then it would not be publically pronounced as run directly out of/by the US military. Instead, the aid would come from an acceptable alternate source (Saudi? Iraq Gov't? other Iraqi group?), with some US verbal greenlight for domestic PR. This would allow tribals accepting aid not to later be forced to demonstrate their independence (as non-traitors non-collaborator with an occupier) by turning on the US.

(Of course if withdrawal really occurs, then this concern is moot).



which while likely part or all propaganda, illustrates the quandry.

Unfortunately, IMHO, this administration is trying to lock in the next administration to a continuation of the Iraq war, both to force a continuation of the US as a ME power, and also so the next admin will "own the withdrawal."

W. Patrick Lang


I don't think so. This was all in the news a couple of years ago. pl

Cloned Poster

Isn't it ironic that the US are arming the Sunni, and funding Abbas to destroy the demcratically elected Govt of Palestine?

How long before a Sunni/Kurd coalition in Iraq?

frank durkee

ISL. Whether that is their intention or not, and I belives and have so stated that it is, that will be th outcome. Bush has made it clear in statementsw that he sees this as an ongoing 'thing'. The new General is making the same pitch now also. One has to keep in mind that this group came into power to 'change' things both internationally and domestically.


The can that keeps being kicked down the street must be pretty flat by now.

"Blair's most senior foreign affairs adviser at the time of the war makes clear that Blair was 'exercised' on the exact issue raised by the war's opponents. Sir David Manning, now Britain's ambassador to Washington, says: 'It's hard to know exactly what happened over the post-war planning. I can only say that I remember the PM raising this many months before the war began. He was very exercised about it.'

"Manning reveals that Blair was so concerned that he sent him to Washington in March 2002, a full year before the invasion. Manning recalls: 'The difficulties the Prime Minister had in mind were particularly, how difficult was this operation going to be? If they did decide to intervene, what would it be like on the ground? How would you do it? What would the reaction be if you did it, what would happen on the morning after?

"All these issues needed to be thrashed out. It wasn't to say that they weren't thinking about them, but I didn't see the evidence at that stage that these things had been thoroughly rehearsed and thoroughly thought through.'

"On his return to London, Manning wrote a highly-critical secret memo to Blair. 'I think there is a real risk that the [Bush] administration underestimates the difficulties,' it said. 'They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it."



To Col. Lang:
Thank you for the critique. I will continue to plow ahead.

To Just an ex grunt:
Thank you for the insights as well. You ask if our aligning with the Sunnis is based on the assumption of losing (which I wrote), or on the assumption that without the active assistance of those Sunnis we have no shot.

Here's how I see it. Assuming that genuine diplomatic relations with the Iranians is not an option, then aligning with the Sunnis is our best shot to prevent Iraq from turning into an Al-Q haven. It also is our best shot -- one hopes -- to protect US troops as they pull out of Iraq. Finally, it seems to fit into a regional and strategic goal of an Iranian surrender.

Up until now, the assumption underlying the planning of the "surge" was that we could actually build a stable nation-state in Iraq -- one with governing institutions based on a Western model. So the aim of the "surge" under Gen. Petraeus was to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis according to the dictates defined in his COIN manual and based on the (anachronistic, imo) Trinquier-Galula template.

This new tactic -- seeking the assistance of certain Sunnis -- perhaps represents a "paradigm shift". The underlying assumption is that we are not going to achieve the goal of creating a Jeffersonian democracy and that, in reality, Iraq is in chaos and becoming an Al-Q haven.

You are right and I probably should not have used the word "lose" in the earlier post. Maybe I should have written that we have "failed to achieve the strategic goal of creating a peaceful and democratic Iraq" or something along those lines.

By the way, I still believe we can defeat Al-Q et al. if the USG simply comes up with radically different applications of the principles mentioned in Petraeus' COIN manual, particularly on a global level.

In my opinion, Abu Sinan revealed how to do so -- at least in part -- in one of his earlier posts.


posted today on the washington note


Still Losing? The June 2007 Edition of “Measuring Stability in Iraq”

Working Draft, Revised: June 20, 2007

Anthony H. Cordesman

Just an ex grunt

To Sid3:

Thanks for the reply. I'm here to learn and appreciate your expanded
comments. I don't disagree
with any of it.

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