Monday, March 31, 2003

Well, it would have been easier to negotiate with these guys earlier. Before we went into Iraq. We assumed they hated Saddam so much that they would revolt at the first opportunity. According to Newsday,

"Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim has sent instructions to his supporters and secret cells in Basra, Najaf, Karbala and other southern Iraqi cities not to start an uprising or support the American-led coalition in any way, according to two of his top advisers. Al-Hakim also issued a "message to the Iraqi people" last week urging them not to side either with the United States or the Iraqi regime."

Well, possibly if we had privately made it clear at the same time we were seeking security council approval for the Iraqi invasion that we would not invade unless we had a deal he would be playing a different tune. I don't really believe the problem is that we didn't support the last Shi'a uprising with troops - alliances tend to be fluid in Iraq. It's partly that he wants to make the Iranians happy, and has nothing to lose since we're already shedding our blood whether his people shed theirs or not. He still needs to earn the support of the Iranians, but ours is already committed. Part of it is, let's face it, sheer genuine hate. He seems to hang out with the hard line Iranian clerics. Also, of course, nobody has even supported occupation of their country by a foreign power when they had any other choice.

Do we still have any negotiating leverage at all? It's worth thinking about, since this guy may be a major force behind the non-Shia revolt. He seems to spend a lot of time in Iran. If we had some other credible Shia leaders who wanted to deal with us it would at least give us a lever to start talking. Our most recent plan seems to have been to keep the Sunni government in place with some new Americans near the very top, at least for now. There seem to be problems with that too.

Al-Hakim further antagonized the United States last month after he dispatched 1,000 fighters to set up a military camp in northern Iraq, an area outside Iraqi control and administered by Kurds. The Bush administration is worried the Badr forces will serve as an Iranian proxy and further complicate the situation in northern Iraq. The area is controlled by two competing Kurdish factions, and Turkey has threatened to send troops in if the Kurds try to expand their territory.

Since we don't seem to be going according to the original government plan, it's possible some serious negotiations could convince some Shia leader that they had a stake in the new government - especially one who would be excluded from Al-Hakim's plan. It would be pretty tough to give away enough power to make some Iraqi's feel part of the new government, while keeping enough to actually build a stable government, but I'm not sure it would be harder then the way we're headed now. Of course, that wasn't how we did it in Germany and Japan. Via Not a Fish, here's IRAQI HISTORY VS. AMERICAN IDEALISM*, by Ofra Bengio and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, from the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, with some reasons that model may be difficult to implement.

Or am I just grasping at straws? We've stated we are willing to shed a lot of American blood in the course of this invasion. Realistically, we have to admit we're willing to shed a lot of Iraqi blood too. Of course we did rebuild countries after shedding a lot of blood. Read the article I linked to in the preceeding paragraph if you haven't already. It mostly talks about the Iraqi history of resisting occupation, it doesn't really get into the fact that all factions will still have supporters outside the country - or that we are already indebted to the Kurds.

No comments: