Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sticking to the essence of the plan…

I've been reading and hearing a lot about options "other than democracy" for Iraq being considered by Washington.
I couldn't find the time to search for the original report but I found this recent article that mentions the report and comments on it:

But last week came the new nugget: an anonymous "military affairs expert" attended a White House briefing and reported: "Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy. Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect, but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy."

Most interpretations for the anonymous statement expect those alternatives to be in the form of a coup replacing the current government in Iraq with a puppet government loyal to America and lead by a new dictator.
Since the whole story is built around a statement from an anonymous expert and since no clear scenario has been provided, I'm going to offer the Iraqi version of the story that also comes from anonymous experts but with a scenario that looks reasonably formulated from a structural point of view. The report was published on the Iraqi website of Sot al-Iraq, a website run by Iraqi intellectual mostly in exile.

The scenario or "plan" predicted by the author of the story says that the US is going to offer Iraqi military and government one last chance to control the situation and prevent the sectarian violence from turning into open civil war and suggests that America's decision to end in more troops to Baghdad was made to give PM Maliki's government a real chance to curb sectarian violence.

This "last chance" doesn't lack a deadline and according to the report the deadline is supposed to be somewhere between September and October, so if the military effort succeeds, plan B will be ruled out and the policy in Iraq will remain unchanged, probably even allowing the US to revive its plans of troop-level reduction by end of 06.

However upon failure of military efforts and if civil war breaks out the report says the following steps will be taken:

1-Declaring Iraq a zone of genocide and referring the Iraqi file back to the UN Security Council under resolutions 1483 and 1546.

2-After getting appropriate new resolution from the UNSC, the US and allies return to assume all security responsibilities in Iraq.

3-Dismising the current Iraqi government and parliament.

4- Appointing a US military leader for Iraq.

5-The constitution of Iraq remains active but with articles concerning governance suspended.

6-Appointing an Iraqi civil administration consisting exclusively of technocrats with no religious, sectarian or ethnic leanings to assist the US lead military administration in running the affairs of the country.

7-Holding general elections in the country under international supervision at least 2-4 years from the beginning of the implementation of the plan.

In a cruel environment like this and in the shadows of many shortcomings I can feel that many observers, and especially more among Iraqis tired of violence and incompetent leaders, find plan "B" attractive and I don't deny that I too was enthusiastic about it the first time I heard of it at a moment when the war reached its toughest stages with some radical powers doing everything to impose their plans on the rest and silence voices of any sort of opposition, but now that I took some time to think it over I found that this plan or any similar one will represent several steps backward and may even take us back to the time before the 9th of April.

On the domestic level in general, the doubts among the masses that America came only to replace one dictator with another and not to spread democracy will become a fact and will send a message that America hasn't changed its policies yet.

On the regional level that would be exactly what authoritarian regimes in the region want and would give them a chance to declare the war ended with a victory for dictatorships. The failure to prove wrong the theory that the middle east isn't yet ready for democracy will significantly add to the power and reputation of religious extremism which will become the only power antagonizing the dictatorships. However those dictatorships still feel they are capable of repressing, exporting or redirecting this extremism against mutual enemies like religious minorities or liberal groups…

So what can be done to make progress?

In my opinion we should continue along the basic objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom in establishing democracy and the rule of law and offering enough protection for this democracy until it can sustain itself, i.e. what we need is an enhanced plan "A" based on determination to finish the mission.

I think the main duty of American troops who probably find themselves with little meaningful duties to do is presence itself. The mere presence of these troops is so important to stop the extremists and anti-democracy powers from disrupting the mission or halting it so as long as these troops are in Iraq those enemies will not have the capacity to alter the course to their benefit.

Still, those enemies will keep conducting their limited operations in order to deplete the resources and frustrate the Iraqi government and the coalition troops in the hope that this would lead a withdrawal of the coalition.

My assumptions come from reading and hearing what extremists of either sect say and from even direct personal conversations with followers of those extremists; on one hand there are the remnants of the Baath and former army and radical Sunnis who count on their ability to regain control like they did back in 1991 when they repressed the uprising with relatively little effort and those still have hope that they are able to exterminate or herd the untrained, not-accustomed-to-handling-power masses.

On the other hand the plans of radical Shia leaders seem to be more realistic given what they accomplished on the ground and given their ability to overcome the mistakes of 1991 by building political and military foundations in the provinces capable of directing action.

The point is that, for either group, the ambition to do something big to change the face of the country (that can be sparked by escalating a simple incident at any time) will face the wall of the coalition presence in Iraq and this can be seen clearly in the claims of these groups when they say that the American presence is hindering Iraq's effort to restore security while the fact is that the American presence is the obstacle stopping them from taking over the country and marginalizing if not eliminating their rivals.

In this manner, the mere physical existence of US troops in Iraq is doing a crucial service in protecting the newborn democracy.

What can be added here is some enhancements/corrections to the original plan "A"…

We the Iraqis should tolerate the results of our choices and this is a key point in the process of learning and practicing that seems to be our only means to make progress, so the next four years are going to be an important lesson for us on the importance of careful choice making and the American troops can help us finish this lesson by assisting the people and the government (its moderate reasonable powers) in reducing the influence of armed militias and disarming the community. This process will be no doubt long and tiresome but it's necessary since we have gone this far.

There's also another act, other than military force, that can support and empower democracy and pluralism, this is the free world's mission to support patriotic liberal powers in Iraq. These are the powers that radical and fascist powers want to deter and neutralize through assassinations, intimidation, Takfir or accusations with treason, all backed by effective propaganda machines funded by outside parties.

To make it simple, in addition to the presence of military forces we also need to garner all kinds of support to the liberal, secular, truly pro-democracy powers. It is no secret that Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria support extremists of both sects so why not America and other friends of democratic Iraq offer grater, or at least equal, support for the liberals/moderates?

In the brutal war the world is fighting against terror and extremism, many of the rules of engagement whether political or military need to be reconsidered and maybe changed from what had been known for decades and as long as the enemy is striking below the belt and fears or respects no referee, a new and improved policy should be adopted when it comes to offering support to allies.

This way the process can be lengthy, boring and difficult but success will be certain.
Of course there are no guarantees that results will change much for the best within only four years from now but definitely extremism will have the shorter end of the stick then and positive outcomes can be even further accelerated if the world took stricter measures to neutralize the hotbeds of extremism in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

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