Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Al Askari Cascade
(or "the Persistence of Pessimism")

UPDATED
In the comments of the last post, there was a thread about the frustration with Zeyad's perspective at Healing Iraq. Anbar has awakened, but for Zeyad it seems, Iraq is still squarely in February 2006.

Iraqi Mojo said:
I think [since leaving Iraq and going to NYC] Zeyad has become enamored by leftists who've embraced him for slamming the US & Iraqi govt and reject anything positive out of Iraq.

While I'm also frustrated by Zeyad, his change occured before he left Iraq. I have my own opinion of how Zeyad moved from ardent, optimistic supporter of the end of Saddam's regime to pessimistic and nostalgic for the Bad Ol' Days. So, I'm putting it out to see how closely my sense of Zeyad's conversion squares with the perspective of others.


It came about in two stages:

  1. Zeyad's favorite candidate, Allawi, lost in a landslide two years ago to the sectarian Shi'a parter, he suffered the same ideological breakdown as those other erstwhile Sunni Arab, New Iraq-boosting Iraqi bloggers: 24Steps and Baghdad Treasure.

    It does no good to explain to him (or them) that the fault for the SCIRI/Dawa victory is shared with their own relatives who never ceased to compare the new Iraq unfavorably to Saddam's, thus helping to provide moral support to the insurgency.

    Let me lay it out: In December 2005, Iraqis voted for the party they hoped were most likely to make the insurgents and anyone helping them sorry they were ever born. The Noble Insurgency put Shi'a sectarian bigots to control of Iraq in 2005.
    -
  2. The second, and fatal, blow to Zeyad's hope for the new Iraq was the aftermath of AQI's destruction of the Samarra Shrine.

    From that time, Zeyad, backed a grassroots Sunni revolution against the new Iraqi government (who he already detested) because he saw it as backing the Mehdi militias who were targeting Sunni Arabs. To a great extent this was true: Many wings, including the police and Health Ministry went to war openly against all Sunni Arabs. Unfortunately, some of those Sunni Arabs needed going to war against. And by implication, Zeyad's position, justified all Sunni Arabs helping the bad guys which justified targeting all Sunni Arabs.
    -

Shortly afterwards, Zeyad publicly declared Saddam's deposal to be a mistake.

What's ironic, IMO, is that the destruction of the Samarra mosque initiated a cascade which led directly to the Anbar Awakening:

a) The Iraq Sunni Arabs (ISA) gave AQI a free-hand in their areas and found out what allying with AQI would really meant.

b) The attack and subsequent ISA alliance with AQI justified (for Shi'a) letting JAM take the gloves off against Sunni Arabs: This caused two subsequent results:

i) Sunni Arabs discovered "Oh. I guess we *aren't the majority ethnic sect in Iraq. Not by a long shot".

ii) The ISA got a taste of what owning an insurgency against their freely elected government would mean. They discovered what it was to make yourself a pariah to 80% of your country. They discovered that life as a refugee in Syria and Jordan was not as glamorous as it was made to look on TV. And so, many of their leaders turned their backs on the insurgency.

Without this cascade occuring first, I believe the Bush/Petraeus Surge would have failed as previous plans had. From February to November of 2006: That seems to be how long it took for the Sunni Arabs to change their practical perspective.

However, certain Sunni Arab bloggers (and I've named three of them so far) have never accepted the culpability of their ethnic sect for committing the "original sin" in Iraq of supporting the insurgency (either explicitly or implicitly), and rejecting the elections. From what I have read, the majority of the Anbaris, especially their leaders who stayed in Iraq have faced the hard truth that they made genuine, quite serious initial mistakes, and so they seem to see things differently. And, lo, violence in Iraq dropped 80%. And, lo, the Shi'a militias are losing support.

Update

Here's a good example of the willful delusion of one of the bloggers I mentioned in this post. In his comments section, the Sunni Arab 24 Steps to Liberty offered this explanation of why there was an 80% drop in violence in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq between May and August of 2007:

In 2005, when Ibrahim al-Jaafari was seated Prime Minister, the civil war was started in Iraq, noticeably in Baghdad. If we go back to any news outlet archives, we will find that the sectarian killings started in mid 2005. The Shiites started to kill and force out Sunnis from mixed neighborhoods, and the Sunnis started a campaign to kill Shiites and drive them out of mixed neighborhoods. After killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad and other places in Iraq, millions more were forced out of their homes, some fled to other neighboring and regional countries and others were displaced within Iraq. [this is all documented by the UN, U.S. media and organizations and other international sides.]

Therefore, two years later, the segregation was completed and the Maliki government succeeded in its plan-- Baghdad that is divided based on sectarian backgrounds and an Iraq that is divided based on sectarian and ethnic backgrounds. And that’s why, I say once again, there were less targets in the streets for the militias and insurgents to kill. And that’s why there is the illusion of “safety” in Baghdad and a safer Iraq.

My reply:

Actually, my memory is that until the Al Askari mosque was demolished in Feb 2006, the Shi'a Arabs were pretty roundly admired for not going to war against the Sunni Arabs for car bombs against their mosques and neighborhoods. I seem to recall that it was in Fallujeh, April 2004, that we first heard of sectarian cleansing against Shi'a Arabs and Kurds. Oh the poor victimized Sunni Arabs! Don't remind me of how they were pitifully forced to struggle against the odds in 2004 and 2005. You might make start sympathizing with Sadrists.

[So you say] this is the cause of an 80% drop in violence between May and August of this year...after a steady rise until then???If you are right, then shouldn't the violence have dropped steadily throughout 2006 as the neighborhoods became gradully more segregated? Or are you saying that it was the MALIKI GOVERNMENT who was planting all the car bombs and IEDs and started tapering them off in May?Pause for a moment...isn't it just possible that the drop in violence BY 80% over 4 months had a little something to do with AQI losing its strongholds in Anbar?

No response from 24. No surprise, really.

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