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07 March 2011


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Farmer Don

The US troop withdrawal from Iraq has dropped off the media radar screen, so I googled a search to see how things were progressing, and found this article in Wikipedia under "Withdrawal of US troops from Iraq"

This is part of the article regarding the US's future in Iraq.

"Plans for the future
By October 2011, the US State Department (/wiki/US_State_Department) will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police (/wiki/Iraqi_police) and this task that will largely be carried out by private contractors. American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts will prevent potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army (/wiki/Iraqi_Army) and Kurdish peshmerga (/wiki/Peshmerga) forces.
The US State Department is reportedly planning to more than double the number of its private security guards (/wiki/Private_military_company), up to as many as 7,000. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones (/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle) and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress. The State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs (/wiki/MRAP_(armored_vehicle))) from the US military to expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320 and to create a mini-air fleet by buying three planes to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow to 29 from 17.
The startup cost of building and sustaining two US embassy branch offices in Kirkuk (/wiki/Kirkuk) and Mosul (/wiki/Mosul), of setting up two consulates in Basra (/wiki/Basra) and Erbil (/wiki/Erbil) and of hiring security contractors and buying new equipment is about $1 billion. It will also cost about $500 million to make the two consulates permanent. The police training program will cost about $800 million."

Col, does this seem likely to work for any length of time to you?

DIPLOMATS in $100 MILLION OUTPOSTS will prevent confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish peshmerga forces! How????

Double the number of private security guards. Don't the Iraqis hate these people with a special passion?

Eight high tech forts containing US advisors sending out convoys of reconnaissance drones and armored convoys of mine resistant vehicles into the country? With the recent overthrow of several middle east dictators, how could a set up like this not be the target of country wide protests? What government would be seen as legitimate that allows this to happen on it's soil?


What did we think was going to happen?

What are we going to do about it?

William R. Cumming

We will need those armed outposts and well defeneded Embassy during the forthcoming civil war.

Cato the Censor

At some point, I would venture that our presence in Iraq will be reduced to effectively zero. Will anyone in power at that point ask just what it is that we gained by invading this country in '03?

Adam L Silverman

Farmer Don: I can't, and wouldn't try to, speak for COL Lang, but what you have referenced will not work.


As for the over all news report, this isn't surprising at all. PM Maliki has been demonstrating his willingness to do this since before the 2009 Provincial Elections. During the Summer and Fall of 2008 he started leaning on the Sawha/Awakenings and SOI folks as they tried to organize fledgling political movements. Its one of the two reasons that we never saw a full fledged Sawha/Awakenings political party. The other is that because PM Maliki's government coopted the reconciliation and reintegration process for the SOI, we lost the ability to teach them how to organize for anything other than a tribally derived security force/militia. And to be honest, I'm not sure the Office of Provincial Assistance and PRT personnel really either understood the need to teach the Iraqis how to organize politically, let alone that it should have been considered an important part of governance development. And the reason for this is that they just didn't seem to have personnel with expertise in this, so it gets lost in the shuffle.

During that Summer and Fall, Iraqi Security Forces began rolling up SOI and Sawha personnel in places like Was it, where they literally arrested an SOI and Sawha unit that had formed and official political party to run in the Provincial Elections. Later on they went after the folks up in Diyala. PM Maliki would go on to create his own tribal councils, to further try to split the less urban (read less Baghdad) Iraqis, both Sunni and Shi'a. As we saw with the last Parliamentary Elections - he attempted to, and seems to have succeeded in arresting or forcing to go underground and on the run enough Iraqiyya bloc members to give him enough of a plurality to form the government. As a disclosure: of the three Iraqis elected to Parliament on the Iraqiyya list that PM Maliki issued arrest warrants for after the election, I know two of them. One, a leader in the Sawha/SOI who organized the Awakening in my brigade's OE before there were any US or coalition forces there (this was before the HBCT that we replaced even got there), I interacted with a fair amount and was gracious enough to give me over three hours on one occasion where he recounted to me the history of the clearing of Mada'ain Qada of extremists and al Qaeda in Iraq and other negative elements.

That PM Maliki is pursuing this course of action is not surprising at all. He has demonstrated several times that this is his modus operandi. Moreover, it goes back to our discussion on societal reconstruction: when have the Iraqis, including exiles like PM Maliki, ever really lived in liberal democracies? Essentially never. So to expect them to operate in a way other than what they are socialized too - strong man government or theocracy or despotism or some combination is expecting something that is very unlikely to happen.

Standard disclaimer: the views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College, the US Army, or the US Government.

William R. Cumming

I am looking for large scale refugee movement out of Iraq in next 24 months, perhaps largely Sunni.

And the five key retained compounds by US are necessary for listening posts. They will be defended against all comers by US forces.

William R. Cumming

Dr. Silverman! Where do you see Iraqi status in the Arab and Islamic World post US withdrawal?
What do their actual military capabilities look like one year from today?

Patrick Lang


Adam is on TDY. You will have to have me instead. Iraq's present government is viewed by the surrounding ARAB countries as an unfortunate occurrence that must be put up with for now. The Iranians are, of courses, pleased with the present government even as a de facto "rump," effectively of limited authority in Kurdistan and diminishing acceptance in sunni Arab majority areas.

Militarily, the country is no longer a significant factor in the regional balance of power. pl

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Cumming: I see Iraq as failing to transition to liberal democracy and a client of Iran's and within Iran's sphere of interest in the region.

The actual military capabilities are going to depend. If PM Maliki continues to direct them at his opposition or if the opposition engages in a significant return to violence, then I think there will be some defections, but overall the Iraqi Security Forces will do pretty well as they will have numerical superiority. If there is a full fledged sectarian dispute, which will as we've discussed here at SST will really be about resources, with religion only being used for cover and motivation by those seeking control of the resources, they're still likely to prevail again because they have superior numbers. Where one might potentially see breakdowns is in two places: 1) defections from the ISF by former SOI/Sawha personnel who go home to fight with their kin/former SOI comrades. I had a number of former SOI who had been transitioned into ISF express this to me directly. 2) If the dispute over Kirkuk turns into a full scale fight between the Kurds and the GOI, as well as the provincial authorities, then you're going to see a split. A sizable chunk of the Iraqi Army is Kurdish Peshmerga and they have long/often been the most effective IA elements, though the Arab members have made significant progress. If Kirkuk boils over, or if the Kurds try an outright breakaway of the autonomous regions, then we're likely to see the IA split and it'll be what's left of the IA and the rest of the ISF against the former Kurdish portions of the IA and the rest of the Pesh. In this dispute, provided one or more third parties will facilitate resupply for the Kurds, then I think the smart money would be on the Pesh.

Patrick Lang


"with religion only being used for cover and motivation by those seeking control of the resources"

I thought I had talked you out of this kind of thing. This is the equivalent of saying that the American claim to be fighting for liberty in the War of Independence was just cover for a grab fpr resources by the landed and mercantile classes. Or that the Union cause was merely a matter of internal imperialist consolidation on the part of the industrialists of the North. Hmmm. Seriously, these communities really do exist and they are not just a delusion of the masses. pl

Adam L Silverman

Sir: it's not that you didn't teach me better, it's that I think I expressed my thought inelegantly. If I may try to rephrase: a good deal of the Sectarian dispute is over resources whether ministries, water, land, etc. The average Sunni, Shi'a, or Kurdish Iraqi filters this through either the ethno-religious or ethno-national division that they fall into, which places the battle for control of these resources squarely within the identity of those engaging in the dispute. So while some of the elites and notables may have ulterior motives, for the vast majority of the members of each group the dispute is really about Shi'a control over a given mosque or Sunni control over a ministry or whether Kirkuk is an Arab city or one with a longstanding Kurdish legacy.

William R. Cumming

PL and Dr. Silverman!
So in the aggregate and I know this is overly simplistic has the division between Sunni and Shia in weaponary already taken place so that both sides have the equipment now they could utilize in any forthcoming civil war?
And the Kurds are the best armed? These questions derive from the notion that political power may well come out of a gun barrel!



"..for the vast majority of the members of each group the dispute is really about Shi'a control over a given mosque or Sunni control over a ministry or whether Kirkuk is an Arab city or one with a longstanding Kurdish legacy."

I can't elegantly explain, but this doesn't just seem right to me; it feels too simplistic and like the religious beliefs of a people are being glossed over. Lost in translation perhaps but maybe in the emotional sense? Perhaps our culture doesn't have the right frame of reference to understand the experience of another's religious belief?

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Cummming: Weapons are available to all sides. Every Iraqi male over a set age is permitted to own one AK 47, so if anyone was wondering what a society were every household is, essentially, armed looks like - its Iraq. The question that I think you really want to know is if you get a Sunni/Shi'a fight or an Arab and Kurb fight who is going to have what weaponry above and beyond the basics. My guess is that in the former the Shi'a who control the state have an advantage in terms of conventional military hardware, but that the Sunnis will supplement their basic weaponry with IEDs, RPGs, things like that - just like they've done in the past. If you get an Arab/Kurd fight that splits the security forces I would expect to see the Kurds to try to hang onto their units military equipment.

Adam L Silverman

Fred: The problem isn't that we don't have the right frames, but that we've got a layered problem that is multiple things at once. I have hundreds of pages of interview notes with sheikhs, imams, SOI leaders (some overlap in those three), local non-elites, and displaced persons were they all describe the Sunni/Shi'a dispute either explicitly or implicitly as not being about the differences in theology or dogma or worship, and make it very clear that they all have both near and far relations that are from the opposite sect. They then go on to explain the issue is who is going to control neighborhoods or businesses and in the case of the Salman al Farsi Mosque in Salman Pak - who will control the waqf (endowment), which controls large amount of commercial, residential, and agricultural property in the Salman Pak area. This is a predominantly Sunni enclave surrounded by Shi'a. If the mosque is under Shi'a control the Sunnis worry they'll loose their homes, businesses, and farms. Even more they were the Shi'a will bring in the dreaded Iranians to supplant them. So is this about religion or sect identity? Yes. Is it about resource disputes between members of the different sects? Yes. So its both these things. COL Lang is absolutely correct to correct the way I failed to clearly indicate the importance of the identity component, but the Sectarian dispute is also more than that as it is inextricably linked to the resource control issues in Iraq as well.

Patrick Lang


"..the Sectarian dispute is also more than that as it is inextricably linked to the resource control issues in Iraq as well."

Sure because these communities are truly that and often endogamous. The people in your community are not just people you go to church with. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks Dr. Silverman!
You correctly interpreted my question. And I would assume that Iran would provide logistics directly to the Shia post US withdrawal?

Has Saudi Arabia ever provided any type of logistical support outside the country as opposed to financial support to their co-religionists or "friends"?


these communities are truly that and often endogamous.

Once I read somewhere there are in fact a rather big number of intermarriages between Sunni and Shia. Or is this statement also slightly fulfilling what the people interviewed perceived as something the interviewer wanted to hear?

Adam Silverman notes this too. Or is this more common among local elites, which are the people he interviewed?

But may I ask one of my typical nitwit questions?

ISF = Iraqi Security Forces? Military and Police?

IA=Iraqi Army? Part of ISF.

And the SOI, Sons of Iraq, the Sunnis have no political representation, and they are only among the police forces but not part of the army?


sorry, I added a sentence at the wrong place:

Concerning statements about relatives in the other groups:

Adam Silverman notes this too. Or is this more common among local elites, which are the people he interviewed? Or is this statement also slightly fulfilling what the people interviewed perceived as something the interviewer wanted to hear?

Michael Brenner


It is exceeding difficulty to pronounce on these issues for three reasons: the "War' was multiform since we faced several armed opponents; and it was being fought as much at the political level as the military level; and, finally, the aims and purposes of the intervention shifted constantly. How we define 'end' and 'success,' therefore, remains fluid. Permit me the unconventional response of drawing a picture of what Iraq will look like in five years time, and each of us can assess its likelihood what that scenario would mean in terms of answers to the questions posed.
Here is my vision of Baghdad, New Year's Day 2014.

The President will be a Shi'ite general. The office of presidency will have been enhanced relative to the Prime Minister through constitutional amendments. Formally, it will resemble the French 5th republic. General 'X' will be a secular Shi'ite who passed muster with Ayatollah Sistani (or his successor) by paying dutiful attention to public displays of devotion to the Faith. In this, he will be in the mold of American politicians who 'find Jesus' the day before they decide to run for national office. He may or may not have been an officer in Saddam's day. He will have gained popularity by kicking the Kurds out of Nineveh Province and confronting them successfully over Kirkuk. Some small blood will be shed but no civil strife to match a blistering war of words. This will make him a hero among Sunni Arabs as well as Shi'ite Arabs. His actions will have toughened the stance of the then government in bitter dealings with the Kurds, a question made all the more compelling by a prolonged decline in oil prices and, therefore, revenues.

General 'X' will win office by garnering about 65% percent of the vote in an election that is only slightly rigged. On this basis, he will pass as a shining example of Arab democracy - helping Washington to finesse the overriding strategic fact that it has been shown the door. General 'X's' government will bring Iraq much closer to Iran than to the United States. Economic and cultural ties will be particularly intense. Cordiality in all directions will be the leitmotif of his foreign policy. It will aim at keeping the Americans off Iraq's back and mollifying Sunni states in the region. On the Iranian nuclear issue, he will follow a studied course of neutrality and keep a low profile.

There will be a vestigial American military presence - confined to a limited number of bases. Standing up to the Americans in rejecting President's Obama's plans to maintain a bigger force with greater discretionary powers will add to his popularity. Our grandiose Vice-Regal Embassy will have no more than a few hundred personnel instead of the 1,300 expected. There will be ample time for recreational activities.

General 'X' will seek to consolidate his power by using oil revenues as the all-purpose emollient. He will work through tribal leaders and provincial governors who, for the most part, will be fellow military men. Any faction that gets out of line will be slapped down - hard. That's the advantage of having a military hero in power. If really clever, he'll insert into his Inaugural Address the phrases: "With malice toward none; with charity toward all. 'In other words, Iraq will look not that different than the country as it would have been in the wake of a post-Saddam military coup. Two significant differences: the Shi'ites rather the Sunnis will at the top of the heap; relations with Iran will be intimate rather than frosty. That is what will be called 'success' in many retrospective accounts of the American adventure in Mesopotamia.

I just ran across this from that famed strategist Lao TZU:

"If a ruler behaves as if he invented the world, He will do no good at all;

The earth is a sacred vessel - and it cannot be owned;
If you try to possess it, you will destroy it;
If you try to hold onto it - you will lose it."

Or, in current American vernacular, maybe it's time for our masters in Washington 'to chill out'



The devils in the details, or in this case the clarity. Thank you very much for the detail.

"...Salman al Farsi Mosque in Salman Pak - who will control the waqf (endowment), which controls large amount of commercial, residential, and agricultural property in the Salman Pak area...."

This is far more clarity than this:

"...with religion only being used for cover and motivation by those seeking control of the resources"

This is an economic argument, it does not appear to be a discretely religious one.

Adam L. Silverman

LeaNder: Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I thought I put a response up, but I'm using the iPad while on TDY and it seems to sometimes be hinky when interacting with Typepad. Combine that with getting stuck because of the weather and we get a delay. So from the top:
IA is Iraqi Army
ISF is Iraqi Security Forces
GOI is government of Iraq
SOI is Sons of Iraq
WTF is water treatment facility (didn't see that one coming, did you???)

To the substantive question about inter kinship relations. Virtually everyone my team mates and I talked to from elites and notables to internally displaced Iraqis to the linguists we used all told us the same thing: their families and their tribes were all mixed Sunni and Shi'a. Either they had a mother from a different sect and/or tribe, or a spouse, or in laws, or cousins. Even the folks we interviewed from the Sayid tribes (there are three Shi'a tribes that claim direct descent from Prophet Muhammed: the Husseini, Hassani, and Musawi) told us they had Sunni relations largely the result of marriage. We would often be told that "we're Sunni here, but our cousins in Basra are all Shi'a, because everyone in Basra is Shi'a" or "we're Shi'a, but our relatives in Anbar are Sunni, because everyone in Anbar is Sunni". In our area there was one mixed tribe- the Shamori that had large numbers of both Sunnis and Shi'a in the same area. One of the Iraqiyya members of parliament elect that PM Maliki issued an arrest warrant for last year to change the outcome of the election is a Shamori; Shamori Toga if I recall correctly.

As to your other question regarding the SOI and their representation: In Anbar in 2009, when the Awakenings/Sawha folks look poised to win the provincial elections, it initially was called for the Sunni expatriate party that was aligned with PM Maliki's governing coalition. This was resolved fairly quickly, but it did appear that it would lead to violence for a time. Prior to this in 2008, as I've mentioned, when the SOI/Sawha in one area of Wassit Province tried to organize a political party to contest the provincial election they were rolled up by ISF - and I learned about that from simply reading the newspaper! Reports have filtered in off and on since 2008 that the SOI/Sawha in Diyala has been a target of ISF. And a good chunk of these folks ran under the Iraqiyya banner in the 2010 parliamentary elections rather than on a Sawha Party slate. I think the problem is several fold: 1) the political development work in Iraq focuses on structures and institutions and how to use them and get them to function, not on how to organize politically, 2) even accounting for the Shi'a members of the SOI/Sawha, you're still talking about a minority of the population, so while you'll see some wins at the provincial level, at the national level, while you might see a minority bloc of seats won by the Sawha/SOI folks, unless they were needed to push a coalition over the electoral threshold they'd likely have little real power, which perhaps explains why they largely organized under the Iraqiyya banner last time.

Adam L. Silverman

Professor Brenner:

From your keyboard to the Deity's ears (to paraphrase).

Unfortunately I don't think its going to play that way. Both sides, including the Sunnis who can't win as they don't have the numbers) have made it clear that there are large scores to settle. And that they're waiting for us to leave so they can. While some of that is most certainly hyperbole, I don't see how there isn't significant bloodshed between now and 2014. Additionally, while it is plausible that a strongman general could take over, I don't think the result would like as it would had a military coup simply deposed Saddam Hussein. Had that happened the military, composed of both Sunnis and Shi'a, would have been able to work something out that preserved order between the sects, while doing some redistribution knowing that the latter had to be done, while the former was paramount. The spoiler here would have been the Kurds, as they may be in the actual timeline we're in. While Sistani is sort of a wild card, the succession to him is itself muddied and if not handled right may likely be the cause of some significant internal to Iraq and external vis a vis Iran tension. Finally, the shadow of Iran will loom large over any Shi'a majority government in Iraq for some time.

William R. Cumming

IMO the willingness to have a collaborative and cooperative relationship between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd has not been developed and in fact has been hindered by de facto US policy in Iraq. The US has continued to choose sides to make some sense of its totally confused intervention in Iraq. MY guess is lot's of bloodshed internal to Iraq followed by Iraqi resurrection as a power in the region. Iran has to begin wondering what it is creating in the Iraq it believes it can dominate post US withdrawal.


Thanks, Adam, unfortunately my mental knowledge matrix or grid is absolutely limited on both on pre- and post 2003 Iraq.

Don't worry about answering late. I was highly aware I shouldn't ask the question at all, but simply go back and read all your articles on the topic, and maybe digest a couple of Wikipedia articles as a start.

Your first paragraph is easy to understand the second only makes me aware that I miss basics here.

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