Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Sunnis Miscalculate

Note: There's a lot of inside-baseball in this quickly-written post, and as such it may not be interesting to a general reader.

In my most recent column for the Prospect Magazine (August issue), I argue that the hard-line Sunni leaders who got elected as their community’s clarions against Shiite hegemony are being replaced with new faces that have acquiesced to the new realities of Iraq and can work with the ascendant Shiites.

This is happening because the most valuable negotiating card that the Sunnis have, that being the murderous insurgency they have waged against the New Iraq, is now burning in their hands.

The writing on the wall, which both the Shiite and Sunni political classes can read, says that the insurgency is tanking and breaking down, something that is also registering with American military and policy planners in Iraq.

With the insurgency ceasing to be a threat to established political dynamics in Iraq, the Shiites are turning confident and resorting to political hardball: either the Sunnis kiss-up to them and accept the status of junior partners in running the country or they can be relegated to a noisy, but ultimately irrelevant, opposition in parliament.

The latest dramatic showdown was orchestrated by the Sunni leaders who have most to lose from these mellowing developments; it was the work of Adnan Duleimi, who got voted out of his role as head of the ‘Sunni’ Consensus (Tawafuq) parliamentary bloc of 44 seats, and Khalaf Alayan, who is one of the top three leaders of the bloc along with Duleimi and Tariq Hashemi of the Islamic Party. Alayan is accused of colluding with terrorism, a charge that was freshly made once again a few days ago by President Jalal Talabani.

The most likely Sunni candidate who would be willing to play along, and play nice, with the Shiites and Kurds is Tariq Hashemi, whose party was an early participant in the political process from the days of the CPA’s Governing Council. But Hashemi got dragged into this—unhappily according to my sources—because there was no other way to keep the Sunni bloc united. Understandably, Hashemi chose to keep his position as Vice-President, even though the six Sunni ministers that answer to the Consensus bloc resigned yesterday along with Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zobaee. The Minister of Defence, who was chosen by the Consensus, chose to stay on in his role; Consensus had been clamoring for his replacement for many months now as they realized that he's his own man.

The Sunnis need to elect a new Speaker of Parliament—the most influential governmental position allocated to the Sunnis as part of the power-sharing agreement that created the Nouri Maliki cabinet—to replace Mahmoud Mashhadani, the current Speaker who’s on terrible terms with the other component blocs in parliament. However, finding a replacement has put Sunni unity under tremendous pressure, since the Islamic Party wants it for one of its own, either Ayad Samarrae (Duleimi’s replacement as head of the bloc) or Usama Tikriti, while Duleimi wants it for himself and Alayan is arguing that since Mashhadani was one of his own, then the replacement must be someone he ends up picking. Problem is, many of Alayan’s guys, such as MP Abdel-Nasir Janabi, are accused of terrorism, and there will be no way in hell such a candidate will be voted in.

Not only that, but choosing ministerial replacements will put more stress on an already frayed bloc, and latest accusations of terrorism against the Sunni Minister of Culture, who was Hashemi’s pick, have enveloped these leaders in a poisonous cloud of internal recriminations.

This desperate move of leaving the Maliki government was precipitated on the notion that such an act would embarrass the Bush administration in front of its congressional critics and would compel Bush’s guys on the ground in Baghdad to arm-twist Maliki into making more concessions to the Sunnis, who is a show of futility, demanded a set of impossible requests from Maliki to show good faith to them and gave him a week to fulfill those demands while fully realizing that Maliki wouldn’t be able to deliver.

But three things foiled the Sunni plan: Maliki is growing more confident and responded in a stinging critique of his own that was read out by his spokesman, the White House dismissed the Sunni boycott as internal political machinations that have no bearing on what counts for progress in Iraq, and Consensus leaders such as Alayan began to say some very radical and self-incriminating statements such as they would resort to armed struggle against the government should these demands go unheeded.

The other over-arching development that the Sunnis did not bank on is the joyous goodwill unleashed by Iraq’s soccer victory last Sunday, which changed the popular tone from one of sectarian tension to a call for moderation, unity and putting an end to sectarian rhetoric—a call that was echoed loudly, as seen on TV, in all the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The timing was wrong and the political cache of the Sunnis had been depleted, leaving Maliki to paint the Sunni leaders are ‘black-mailers’.

But Maliki has many problems of his own: he must form a new cabinet and he must survive as the Prime Minister of this new cabinet, which is no easy task since he can’t absolutely count on his own Shiite coalition to deliver the votes in Parliament. For now, he is secure in knowing that his detractors cannot deliver the necessary numbers of MPs on a no-confidence vote, but he can’t be sure if his new cabinet, minus the Shiite components of the Sadrists and the Fadhila Party, as well as the independents, would have enough votes to pass the threshold of a simple majority.

The Shiite Vice-President, Adel Abdel-Mahdi, is getting egged-on by Bush’s political envoy to Iraq Meghan O’Sullivan to declare himself a candidate for Maliki’s job, but he is widely reviled by many Shiite politicians as an unpredictable opportunist who’s only good at charming gullible American bureaucrats and journalists. Plus, the dying head of the party that Abdel-Mahdi belongs to, Abdel-Aziz Hakim, is putting matters in order so that his son Ammar would inherit the mantle of leadership, and Abdel-Mahdi’s rise to eminence at this point would put that succession in jeopardy.

Another candidate angling for Maliki’s job is the former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who’s unlikely to succeed but may end up splintering the Da’awa Party into a dominant pro-Maliki wing and a renegade, but much weaker, pro-Jaafari faction; the end result being that Maliki wouldn’t be able to count on the full number of Da’awa votes in parliament.

Ayad Allawi’s candidacy is a non-starter for everyone involved, except for Ayad Allawi himself and a host of Gulf-based regional patrons and the media networks they control.

There’s also a host of other positions that need to be filled that Maliki can use to placate fence-sitters, but that will also create new enemies who had been promised a governmental role. The head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service is to be replaced, and a new person must be chosen as the head of the brand-new Counter-Terrorism Commission. This latest addition to a host of agencies that are supposed to make Iraq more secure, has a whopping 200 million dollar budget, as opposed to the 80 million dollars for the Intelligence Service, which got its first budgetary earmark this year when previously it was funded through CIA money.

In a telling lapse of misjudgment, or a devious ruse of fait accompli, Maliki suggested the current National Security Advisor, Mouwafeq Rubaei, as head of the new Commission, only to have the suggestion shot-down when presented to a cabinet vote a couple of days ago. Rubaei is widely detested among Shiite politicians as a self-aggrandizing no-talent who is propped-up by other no-talents in US and British intelligence circles, and Maliki may have known that his candidacy for the job would be rejected by the cabinet, thus allowing him to shrug his shoulders and tell Rubaei’s western patrons—who have a big say in who gets the role—that he did the best he could.

Further muddying the waters was the resignation of the Chief of Staff, Gen. Babekir Zebari, over a dispute with the Defense Minister. Zebari, survived the investigations into the massive corruption scandals that rocked the Defense Ministry under Allawi's tenure, and this probably happened through the political protection afforded by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who appointed Zebari to this position in the first case. No one believes that Zebari wasn't involved, and it's a good thing if he's finally gone, especially since he doesn't have any real stature as a leading officer.

Maliki may be secure for now in the fact that no one can agree on his replacement in such a confused, yet healthy, atmosphere of political jockeying. The sectarian-based coalitions that emerged from the last elections are breaking down as the threat of sectarian warfare diminishes further and further, and the Sunni insurgency grinds down to an allowable baseline of violence. But Maliki must act quickly and confidently to put his own stamp on a new cabinet of his own choosing, something that many doubt that he has the personal stamina and brain-power to do.

For now, it’s great for me to watch the Islamist parties fumble, with no dominant ‘leader’ emerging. Everyone is being forced to play politics within the rules of the game; no more military coups, no more ‘Great Leaders’. The Sadrists have shown themselves to be as inept and corrupt as all the rest, and the shrill Sunni voices are being supplanted by new political forces that can live with the huge cascade of change begun on April 9, 2003.

But Iraqis are still suffering from the ineptness of their public servants, and new and empowered managerial talent must be harnessed to improve basic services and revive the economy, and it's immoral to keep Iraqis waiting much longer.

The best case scenario would be early parliamentary elections in six months, with Maliki acting as a care-taker. But all the parties understand that this may greatly diminish their gains and will work to prevent it from happening; the Shiites will probably be unable to depend on a blessing from Grand Ayatollah Sistani this time around given their poor performance in power. An even-better scenario would be to turn parliamentary seats into district representations rather than slate-backed, but again, the current lack-lustre MPs would refuse that.

Congressional critics and the western media may want to play up this political confusion as a sign that Bush is not making progress in Iraq, and they predictably will. But a fairer analysis would conclude that these are all healthy signs of the re-introduction of politics into Iraqi life. It may not even be as pretty as sausage-making, yet it puts to rest the Middle Eastern instinctual impulse for a short-cut to power through violence and tyranny.

25 Comments:

Blogger bg said...

++

thank you TG.. :)

as always, interesting & excellent analysis, information, etc..

ps: neither here nor there.. but for whatever reason..
while reading this, i couldn't help but recall that Maliki
once stated he wished he wasn't the PM, go figure.. :D

==

10:34 AM, August 02, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, a peek behind the curtain. Often, no actually 99.9% reports are concerned with outcomes of events in a bias view and pay little to no attention to the details of their cause. I find that the Sunni bloc, which as a minority before and after the war, are locked in a habitual process of forming fear to maintain order. This will only change when that generation has passed on. Iraq is a relatively young nation, if I recall the median age is around 26 or 27 yrs old. That's not a lot of experience in life, harder yet to expect them to understand the subtleties of Democracy or Government at large. It begs for a different result that is not based on tripping over a dime to pick up a nickle. That said, the Iraqi's have payed the lion share of treasure and life, not the U.S., as the media would have us all believe. It has been fear, and only fear that has kept the populace inside, it has not been their dislike of a new Iraq. I predict, that by the spring of 08 Iraqi's will rush all detractors with an iron fist, call for reductions in U.S. troops and begin making real demands of its neihbors.

Regards,

B.A.Hokom

12:44 PM, August 02, 2007

 
Blogger BrianFH said...

"The best case scenario would be early parliamentary elections in six months, with Maliki acting as a care-taker. But all the parties understand that this may greatly diminish their gains and will work to prevent it from happening; the Shiites will probably be unable to depend on a blessing from Grand Ayatollah Sistani this time around given their poor performance in power. An even-better scenario would be to turn parliamentary seats into district representations rather than slate-backed, but again, the current lack-lustre MPs would refuse that."

That has been my belief for some time; a successful no-confidence vote would be an excellent thing. I keep hoping they will trip into it!

1:12 PM, August 02, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nibras what is sunni arab political future in iraq ?


became Second-class citizen like Shī‘a onder saddam.

4:47 AM, August 03, 2007

 
Anonymous Don Cox said...

"nibras what is sunni arab political future in iraq ?"____The same as that of Roman Catholics in England. In other words, after a period of being kept under to discourage another grab for power, just taking their places in society as individuals. A Catholic in modern England is under no restrictions or limitations whatever. (Northern Ireland is different - still in the past.)____To put it another way, the Sunnis should have no political future. There should be no Sunni or Shia political parties.

5:16 AM, August 03, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nibras no one can say what will happen but i dont believe that shias are winning.specially that educated shias are a target for iranian backed parties...most of educated shias in iraq have left the country shia people in iraq hate the iranians but their leaders are puppet to iran..malki,sadr and hakim can not walk 5 meters in iraqi streets,they dont have futur in iraq.
of course the shia iraqi people are the losers because no one can help them and they are suffering from inside.

12:40 PM, August 03, 2007

 
Blogger Louise said...

"It may not even be as pretty as sausage-making, yet it puts to rest the Middle Eastern instinctual impulse for a short-cut to power through violence and tyranny."

Amen, brother! Here's hoping that shortcut dies a natural death. As long as politics is done the way you describe, Iraq will move forward.

The next election (let's hope there is one), will be a major milestone.

And yes, BG. I keep thinking of that, too. Maliki is not the leader Iraq needs right now, but in a democracy process is far, far more important than individual personalities. As long as the process is intact, the right leaders will come to the fore from time to time, and we'll see great strides when they do.

Hell, what Western nation has produced exactly the right president/prime minster each and every time? Real statemen come along only very infrequently, but when they do their legacy is to lay a strong foundation for the future, upon which many lessor men and women will stand, while in the service of their country.

5:44 AM, August 04, 2007

 
Anonymous gj said...

Nibras - it would be good to have your opinion of the latest Stratfor analysis, excerpts here:

http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com

suggesting a US/Iran/Saudi deal in the offing which would further explain the sunni political upheavals in Baghdad?

2:13 PM, August 04, 2007

 
Blogger Jaguar b. p. said...

Let's not lose sight of what is actually happening here. America attacked and occupied Iraq for no reason.
The free Iraqis will resist (peacefully or otherwise), and the lowlifes will collaborate with the crusaders and murder alongside them.

Your puppet government is a joke like World War 2 traitor regimes in Europe collaborating with Nazi Germany

I wanna quote you another comment from Liveleak.com:

[ Big pro-war conservative here and let me tell you the surge isn't working. Either level the entire country or GTFO. Who gives a s--- about democracy in Iraq? We conservatives need to quit pretending we do.

Set a four mile cordon around the oil infrastructure, kill anyone that comes near it, and let the country fall apart.

The right position -was- an intellectually honest one until we started acting like we care about the Iraqi people. ]


I think that says it all.

2:23 PM, August 04, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

Jaguar b. p. said...

blah blah blah, buh blah blah blah..

==

4:31 PM, August 04, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in fact ,the americans have calculated that iraq will be divided so they can dominate the southern part of iraq which is a sea of oil,so the deal was done with iran and the usa replaced the iraqi army by iranian backed militias who are full of hatred towards the iraqi people...now the situation is out of control , iranian intelligence are using all means to weaken iraq in backing qaida and the government militias in the same time ,the americans are enduring more than 50 attacks a day and 20% of the american army suffered from injury or dead,this is the worse period in iraq history in which all the enemies of iraq agreed to humiliate the iraqi people.

4:11 PM, August 06, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

more sad news for the enemies of freedom..

Positive News From Iraq Is Causing Perceptions to Change

excerpt:

[Michael Yon reported yesterday on the positive signs he is witnessing in Iraq:

I, like everyone else, will have to wait for September's report from Gen. Petraeus before making more definitive judgments. But I know for certain that three things are different in Iraq now from any other time I've seen it.

1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive Al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.

2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than it was in 2005. It is not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come.

3. Gen. Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.

And yes, in case there is any room for question, Al Qaeda still is a serious problem in Iraq, one that can be defeated. Until we do, real and lasting security will elude both the Iraqis and us.]

yes, keep up the momentum Iraqis, you can win
this war & get around to healing you're country!!

==

4:31 PM, August 06, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

speaking of Iran, sad news for humanity.. :(

Iran has just carried out the largest wave of executions
since 1984.. WSJ.. BY AMIR TAHERI, August 6, 2007..

Domestic Terror in Iran

excerpts:

[It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of "Allah Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: "Alhamd li-Allah" (Praise be to Allah).]

[The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.]

[The campaign of terror also includes targeted "disappearances" designed to neutralize trade union leaders, student activists, journalists and even mullahs opposed to the regime. According to the latest tally, more than 30 people have "disappeared" since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21. To intimidate the population, the authorities also have carried out mass arrests on spurious grounds.]

[There are, however, an unknown number of unofficial prisons as well, often controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or militias working for various powerful mullahs. Last week, human rights activists in Iran published details of a new prison in Souleh, northwest of Tehran, staffed by militants from the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah. According to the revelations, the Souleh prison is under the control of the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, and used for holding the regime's most "dangerous" political foes.]

[According to Rajab-Ali Shahsavari, leader of the Union of Contractual Workers, 25,795 unionists have been fired since April. He estimates that now over 1,000 workers are losing their jobs each day, as the regime intensifies its crackdown.

Worse still, the number of suspicious deaths among workers has risen to an all-time high.]

[The nationwide crackdown is accompanied with efforts to cut Iranians off from sources of information outside the Islamic Republic. More than 4,000 Internet sites have been blocked, and more are added each day. The Ministry of Islamic Orientation has established a new blacklist of authors and book titles twice longer than what it was a year ago. Since April, some 30 newspapers and magazines have been shut and their offices raided. At least 17 journalists are in prison, two already sentenced to death by hanging.]

don't even try to tell me
that Allah wishes this evil..

==

4:39 PM, August 06, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

analmouth @ 4:11 PM, August 06, 2007


you must be AQ's answer to the COTW's Beauchamp US..

dang, i miss Baghdad Bob.. at least he was 'amusing'.. :D

==

5:50 PM, August 06, 2007

 
Blogger Jaguar b. p. said...

Anything on the 100,000 missing Kalashnikovs, Old Lady BG?

4:00 AM, August 07, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me a break. The fact the author on this site keeps refering to the Accord Front sectarians as Sunnis shows his sectarian hated.

I am a Sunni and I support the Awakening and support Maliki's idea of replacing the sectarian Accord Front with nationalist Sunnis picked by Sheikh Sattar from his movement.

The Accord Front was the only political game in town for the Sunnis in the past. It no longer is liked or respected by Iraqi Sunnis and there is a new game in town.

8:09 AM, August 07, 2007

 
Anonymous gawad said...

Hi Mr. Kadhimi,

What is an "inside baseball"?

Hi Jaguar B.P.,

I think you missed me but I am back and I will tell you that a low life criminal like yourself should know better than to talk to a woman in a rude way like you do. I thought that your long bearded short dishdasha wearing Salafi terrorist would observe Islamic practice and not talk to women who are not family, but typical of hypicrit like yourself to be harrassing a women on the internet for everyone to see. You and your lot are evil and anti-Islam and the true believers will defeat you.

8:56 AM, August 07, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

anonymous @ 8:09 AM, August 07, 2007

that is your opinion.. i disagree, i believe the author of this blog reports the facts as he knows them to be.. as for his opinions, if they come across as bias to you, then perhaps you should look into your precognative motives as to what you read into things..

i'm happy to hear you support the "Awakening", so do i.. however, it's more than the "Awakening" of Sunni at this point in time.. but i will say, thanks to the Sunni, the "Awakening" involves all sects from all walks of life.. yet i feel i must note that there would not be a need for an "Awakening" had the Sunni not collaborated with AQ in the first place, as things would have most assuredly been a heck of lot better for all Iraqis if not for the "road to nowhere" insurgency..

as for your previous crap post @ 4:11 PM, August 06, 2007, nuff said..

==

10:59 AM, August 07, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

jaguar b. p. @ 4:00 AM, August 07, 2007

well given the way you spout off, i might presume they're
up your you know what.. but perhaps you can tell me??

==

thank you gawad @ 8:56 AM, August 07, 2007

but i don't believe this jerk is an Iraqi,
more like an AQ wanna be troll..

==

11:14 AM, August 07, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as for your previous crap post @ 4:11 PM, August 06, 2007, nuff said..

That certainly was not me. You are also full of it. The Sunni people didn't work with the terrorists. The Saddamists did. I know idiot Shia sectarians see all Sunnis as Saddamists, but they certainly not.

The US military did not let good Sunnis organize against the terrorists and Saddamists before 2006. Without being allowed to organize the only militias in town where the bad ones, and the US kept moving from town to town so no one wanted to say anything about them or they would be killed.

11:11 PM, August 07, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

Anonymous said...

in fact ,the americans have calculated that iraq will be divided so they can dominate the southern part of iraq which is a sea of oil,so the deal was done with iran and the usa replaced the iraqi army by iranian backed militias who are full of hatred towards the iraqi people...now the situation is out of control , iranian intelligence are using all means to weaken iraq in backing qaida and the government militias in the same time ,the americans are enduring more than 50 attacks a day and 20% of the american army suffered from injury or dead,this is the worse period in iraq history in which all the enemies of iraq agreed to humiliate the iraqi people.

4:11 PM, August 06, 2007

==

Anonymous said...

as for your previous crap post @ 4:11 PM, August 06, 2007, nuff said..

That certainly was not me.

and who said it was you?? all you had to do was check the time & the post.. as far as me being full of it.. eh, if shit were nickle's, we'd all be rich..

==

12:37 AM, August 08, 2007

 
Blogger bg said...

++

re: anonymous @ 11:11 PM, August 07, 2007.. that wasn't you.. okay, i see what you mean now.. but i'd like to know exactly how is one expected to tell one anomymous from another??

==

12:42 AM, August 08, 2007

 
Blogger Jaguar b. p. said...

[ You and your lot are evil and anti-Islam ]

That is your opinion. We believe you to be evil because you take the side of taghut in this war

But I think we can both agree that there are American islamophobes, running islamophobe websites.
They openly attack Allah the Sublime and Exalted, and they openly insult the Seal of the Prophets.
And they are war supporters, supporting the Crusaders in Iraq.
And you are on their side, fighting with them
so I think it's pretty clear who's on the side of islam and who's on the side of unbelief.

5:58 PM, August 11, 2007

 
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