Juan Cole’s “whodunnit” post on Iraq attacks

Juan Cole provides good analysis here in his latest post on Iraq. He makes a few mistakes, however.

1. Mr Cole states that “these bombings are a sign that elements in the Sunni Arab community are not reconciled to the rise of Shiite and Kurdish rule over Iraq.” Yet, for his conclusion maintains that “the solution is for the Obama administration to play hard ball with al-Maliki in getting him to pursue national reconciliation.”

The problem here is that any national reconciliation attempt by Maliki would be futile if indeed the problem, as Mr Cole suggests, is at the outset the Sunni Arab failure to accept the reality that they no longer dominates the seats of power, since the actual remedy for this would be to give the Sunnis an unjust increase in powers that overrides those constitutionally and equitably afforded to other groups like the Shias and Kurds.

2. Mr Cole states that “Sunni Arabs would not benefit from any kind of partition, even soft partition, since they don’t have any developed hydrocarbon fields in their part of Iraq.”

Not exactly, given that the Iraqi constitutional explicitly provides for the country’s resources to be allocated across regions and governorates on a per capita basis. This mistake is made all to often by Iraq commentators – a misperception among many that inflate Sunni/Shia/Kurd tensions.

3. Mr Cole states “If, in turn, the main problem is that al-Maliki is pursuing a vendetta with elements of the Sunni Arab nationalist leadership, and they are lashing back out at him, then a return to having US troops patrol Baghdad would not in fact resolve the problem. They might be able to make big bombings harder. But these bombings have been going on since 2003, and many big sanguinary explosions were set off under the nose of US troops all through those 6 years. Especially if this is a political struggle, a short-term US military would not be the right solution.”

Indeed, bombings have continued. But it’s been some time since we last saw in Baghdad an attack of such sophistication and magnitude as the one on Wednesday. Such attacks may have been expected in the volatile north, but to have them take place in some of the most securest areas of Baghdad does not say much about the Iraqi army’s ability to assume the business of security.

That they were able to get so close to the ministries gives plausibility to allegations that the terrorists had inside help: how else does one get up to 30ft near a ministry with a lorry packed full of explosives? Iraqi manned checkpoints cannot therefore be trusted at this point.
The Iraqi security forces, it should be noted, is still as sectarian as if not more sectarian than the Iraqi population itself.

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