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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, April 1, 2006

Iraqi nation? What Iraqi nation?

Writing in the London Review of Books, journalist Patrick Cockburn says that Iraq's religious and ethinic divisions have put the country well on the road to splitting into three parts: Kurdish, Shi'a, and Sunni.

Iraq is divided and the insurgency is strong, but the real reason for the collapse of Iraq is the weakness of the state. Ali Allawi, the finance minister, told me that corruption had reached Nigerian levels and that the government is just a parasitic entity living on oil revenues. It?'s not merely that a percentage of spending disappears into official pockets: entire budgets vanish. The US and Britain are trying to push Iyad Allawi forward as a sort of super-minister in charge of security. But while he was prime minister in 2004-5, the whole $1.3 billion defence procurement budget disappeared. Millions more were spent on a contract to protect the vital Kirkuk-Baiji oil pipeline but the money was embezzled. The few men hired to guard the pipeline usually turned out to be the same men who were blowing it up. Ali Allawi says the insurgency is largely financed by oil smuggling, and 40 to 50 per cent of the vast profits go to the resistance.

The moment when Iraq could be held together as a truly unified state has probably passed. But a weak Iraq suits many inside and outside the country and it will still remain a name on the map. American power is steadily ebbing and the British forces are largely confined to their camps around Basra. A 'national unity government' may be established but it will not be national, will certainly be disunited and may govern very little. 'The government could end up being a few buildings in the Green Zone,' one minister said. The army and police are already split along sectarian and ethnic lines. The Iranians have been the main winners in the struggle for the country. The US has turned out to be militarily and politically weaker than anybody expected. The real question now is whether Iraq will break up with or without an all-out civil war.

Most probably war is coming, but it will not be fought in all parts of Iraq. It will essentially be a battle for Baghdad between Sunni and Shia Arabs. 'The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the fighting,' a Kurdish leader told me. 'The soldiers obey whatever orders they receive from their own communities.' The parts of the country with a homogeneous population, whether Shia, Sunni or Kurdish, may well stay quiet. But in greater Baghdad, sectarian cleansing is already taking place. The place bears an ever closer resemblance to Beirut thirty years ago. The Shia Arabs have the advantage because they are the majority in the capital, but the Sunni should be able to cling on to their strongholds in the west and south of the city. The new balance of power in Iraq may be decided not by negotiations, but by militiamen fighting street by street.

Via Cursor.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:33 AM | Get permalink




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