Iraqi Vote - A Different Perspective

Sunday, October 16, 2005
The Iraqi people have overwhelmingly approved the new constitution via Saturday's referendum. Initial reports indicate that Anbar and Salahuddin , Sunni strongholds rejected the constitution by overwhelming majorities.

Both the US government and the Iraqi government ascribe the minimal violence that occurred on Saturday to improved efforts by Iraqi security forces. I would suggest that it is possible, if not probable, that the lack of violence was instead directed by Sunni leadership in an effort to provide a plausible rationale for continued resistance by Baathist deadenders operating from the two provinces. The referendum provides irrefutable proof of two things. 1)The vast majority of Iraqis approve of the new constitution and therefore, the government that will be elected as a result of its approval. 2)Two governates representing less than 9% of the total Iraqi population overwhelmingly reject the constitution and may very well refuse to be governed by those same elected officials.

While the Sunni may regard the rejection as providing a rationale for continued violence, the government coming into being will have every right to treat the two governates as being in de facto rebellion from day one of its existence. Pacification of a governate in rebellion occasioned some of Saddam's most vicious crimes against the Shia and Kurds. They are now taking over governance, the Sunni are (or will be) in rebellion and the Shia and Kurds may choose to deal with that rebellion with a degree of harshness that is commensurate with their own treatment at Saddam's hands.

Should the unfortunate scenario outlined occur - what would an appropriate response on the part of the US entail? Are we going to wind up fighting the new Iraqi Security Forces in order to protect Baathist thugs? How can the rebellious governates be brought to heel without the use of force and, if force is necessary, what right has the US to govern its application upon the Sunni in rebellion?

19 comments:

chuck said...

I think you are jumping a bit ahead of events. I would hope that the provinces will not be considered "in rebellion", but that further negotiations will take place. Nor to I think most Iraqis are ready at this point to resort to Saddam-like tactics against whole populations. Let us wait and see what developes. I think it will be interesting.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

what would an appropriate response on the part of the US entail?

I don't think we have any business sticking our nose into Iraq's internal affairs. Once a stable government has been set up and able to defend itself, our job is done. I might even argue that our job is already done, except that I realize that leaving a power vacuum there will only lead to further headaches and body bags down the road.

Rick Ballard said...

Chuck,

I listen for dogs that don't bark quite a bit. The Sunni have incurred huge blood debts over the past 2 1/2 years that are just added to those incurred by Saddam over the past thirty years. No payments have been made and Arab honor requires a settlement. The Sunni know it, the Kurds know it, the Shia know it and the US government knows it. It ain't gonna be sweetness and light in Iraq until the payment has been exacted.

chuck said...

The Sunni have incurred huge blood debts over the past 2 1/2 years

Or they can blame the Syrians and Saudis, something that is happening anyway. I have noted that a lot of honor killings of old Bathists have taken place. Gives me mixed feelings, as spending to much energy chasing down witches eventually leads to no good. I said the same to the Iranians here when they were happy to see the Khomeinists exacting revenge on the Shah's former minions. A revenge that didn't quite stop just where they hoped it would.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Rick,

I think another consideration to keep in mind is that the Shia are seriously beaten down. It takes a long time for people to learn to stand up for themselves against a group which has been oppressing them violently. There's a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Judging the time between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Black Power movement, let's say a century.

Rick Ballard said...

Chuck,

When the Iraqis get to 200 battalions I'm hoping for an Operation Syrian Freedom under joint command. We'll give 'em all the air, armor and artillery support that any general ever dreamed of.

I hope that Assad sees it coming and pulls a plausible Khadafi before its necessary. That way we won't have to change any acronyms - we can keep OIF and just extend its area of operations a bit. Give Iran the purple finger, so to speak.

truepeers said...

I guess Rick that this is one of those questions that demands the US get clear on what it is really trying to do in Iraq. Is neocon idealism still in the air? Is the plan still region-wide regime change? And are you seriously going to make a go of keeping Iraq together or are you just counting time until you can get out in advance of a civil war? I hope the former, so I hope the Americans can use their powers of persuasion to keep the revenge to a minimum and the positive outcomes of regime change to a maximum. I suppose that it is hoped that control of the oil wealth will buy a little circumspection from the Shiites and Kurds. That and the fact that in a civil war they'd better have either the Americans or Iranians on their side, or they will probably lose again. So which is the greater devil they have to appease?

JB said...

I'm hoping the Sunnis come to their senses. The constitution has been ratified, and they're frankly, SOL. From here on they have everything to lose by refusing to play ball -- as Mark Steyn says, a future as an Arafatistan-type squat, with no oil revenues is not a particularly bright move. The Constitution allowed such a scenario to take place, which is why they opposed it. But now that it has passed, any "rebellion" would be self-destructive to the max.

Rick Ballard said...

Truepeers,

As far as I can tell the plan is still regime change. The neocon PNAC stuff was never really in the air.

The US is the world's policeman by default - not by particular choice. Between mad mullahs and whacked out Wahabbis the worlds 'grease' was in a bit of peril and the situation did not appear to be improving. 9/11 provided a clear reason for the sheriff to clean up Dodge City. It's not quite there yet and the sheriff won't be leaving 'til it is. Democracy is the best way of putting together a posse and helping the citizens of Dodge pick up a little of the police work.If it works, that's wonderful, if it doesn't, the sheriff will still be there. His contract is not dependent upon democracy in the ME.

The Sunni would be very stupid to continue with open rebellion but they really haven't been given a true reason to quit. When Saddam and his henchman are hanged they may give up the game - and the revenge factor may be mitigated considerably. Every Shia and Kurd in Iraq knows that Saddam recruited his worst thugs from the Sunni tribes in al-Anbar. The thug tribes know that the Shia and Kurds know where they live and what they are. It's a bit of a conundrum and I haven't seen a way out of it after looking at it for more than two years.

The election is a beginning, I'm just not at all sure of what. I am sure that the US isn't going anywhere although I believe we'll cut troops there by 50% or so. After the Syrian and Iranian situations are resolved.

JB said...

Rick, is an intra-Sunni "sorting out" a possibility at some point or am I hopelessly dreaming?

terrye said...

Rick:

I read at powerline or somewhere that a couple of Sunni provinces actually voted for the constitution, leading them to believe the difference may be more one of geography than tribes. It seems there was a division among the Sunni, as was evident in the days before the referendum.

There will be another election in December and the Sunnis should concentrate on getting more representation and getting amendments in place.

Will there be a rebellion? I don't know, but the Sunnis are a minority and not all of the minority backs the insurgency..so I don't think this can be called a rebellion. I think there will be some level of violence for some time. [Look at the IRA.] The point is to minimize the violence to the point that it does not derail the process.

The Kurds and Shia were fighting to survive, the Sunni who are part of the mayhem are fighting for something else entirely and so comparisons are not really valid.

So far there has been no indication that the Kurds and Shia plan to massacre anyone. And I do not think the US will help them do that either. The Sunni are citiaens and the people of Iraq just voted on a Constitution that allows citizens certain rights. Even if they are Sunni.

Eric Blair said...

If the Shia and Kurds haven't started massacring by now, I don't think they're going to.

They honestly might not have the stomach for it, despite all the 'Arab customs' talk bandied about.

The current operations in Western Iraq appear to be closing down (certainly slowing down) the Jihadi pipeline. This will only continue.

The fact that in most places in Iraq, US and other coalition forces were invisible, and only the Iraqis themselves were policing and providing security for themselves would seem to indicate that they are on the road to stable government.

Knucklehead said...

It was always obvious that if the Iraqis were going to build a more modern form of government they'd have to fight it out for themselves. And we're seeing that.

I suspect we'll see a good bit of what JB mentioned, a Sunni sortout. the Sunni power structure can no longer run the entire thing but they haven't yet admitted that to themselves and reached the point of figuring out who is going to run their tribes.

If the Kurds and Shia are reasonably clever about it they'll put, and keep, just enough pressure on the Sunnis to force the issue. Break down the old thuggish structure and then exercise some restraint helping them build a new one.

I suspect this is possible but it isn't going to be easy or pretty and its going to take some time.

If I were emporer I'd put the the US role as guaranteeing Iraq against Iran and Syria and maybe even Turkey while they sort out the internal mess for themselves. That will look to modern sensibilities like a nasty civil war but I suspect it will be "reasonable" when compared with, for example, Palestinian or Balkan standards.

They'll get it done, it just won't look like what the UN lovers would like which is never ending negotiation amid never ending killing. I think the Iraqis will pay the blood price up front for the payback of the long term.

Then the US can help build them up into an "Arab Israel" of sorts that can kick the snot out of any and all of their neighbors should the neighbors decide they wish a good arse whuppin.

Not that anyone will remember my prognostication but by the time the Bush administration has to hand over the US reins Iraq will be basically internally secure and well on its way to establishing its external security. Five years out they are beginning to thrive, ten years out they make Iran look like the looney bin it is in comparison - they'll be on their way to looking more like "Switzerland on the Euphrates" than they do a tribal Islamic murder camp.

Iraq will be the nation that finally breaks the back of tribal despotism in the Middle East. It just can't happen quickly - it's at least a 20 year effort.

Syl said...

All I can say is that each time we've wondered if the Iraqi people would come through, they have.

They may go way to the edge, but they've refrained from leaping every time.

A lot of exuberance, energy, and everyone oh so opinionated. Bless them.

You see, as CNN said in a report yesterday, all surprised and all, "Iraq is a complex country".

Well, doh. So is America!

Our tendency, of course, is to over analyze. Understandable. But Iraq is more than Kurds vs Shia vs Sunni. But there seems to be an underlying consensus in Iraq that a constitution means civilization.

The Iraqi people will take it from there.

I just realized I've learned a lot from Sistani. He is a very tolerant father. He's not a nagging aunt. Though I'm just a single American watching from afar, that's the attitude I seem to hold too.

RogerA said...

Interesting question, Rick--I simply have no idea whats going to happen, but whatever does happen, I believe it will have to be an issue for the Iraqis.

I havent gotten my morning talking points from Wretchard yet, but my take is that this election demonstrates quite clearly the Sunnis are not monolithic--and I think that forebodes ill for al queda in Iraq, and the Sunni Arab world generally.

What, for example, might happen if a significant portion of the Sunnis decide to participate in Iraqi politics--even given their minority status. I think this would have a very salutory effect across the Arab world, especially after the US withdraws at the request of the Iraqi government.

We live in interesting times, indeed.

Seneca the Younger said...

"Take not counsel of your fears."

Rick Ballard said...

The "sorting out" that JB refers to and Terrye acknowledges is definitely happening. The Diyala and Ninevah governates were nominally Sunni due to Saddam's policy of rewarding Sunni loyalist with Kurdish property. It appears that the Kurds made sure that the Sunni Arab interlopers would be unable to grab that third governate.

A Kurdish - Shia coalition may be able to avert a bloodbath through the medium of the trials and executions of Saddam and his henchmen. That still does not rectify the rebellious status of the Sunni tribes in Anbar and Salahuddin. It might be better to think of this as tribes being in rebellion rather than governates. It may be a distinction without a significant difference but it is one way to ward off the efforts of the press and the UN mal pensants to give the tribal thugs working for Baathist deadenders the status of "freedom fighters".

Knuck's correct about the hoped for outcome - steady and clear pressure by the new government on the Sunni Arab tribal leaders to bring them to acknowledge that their only choice is between submission and death. I believe that it will take at least one very harsh example of that coupled with executions of the former Baathist leaders to bring the tribes into line.

Knucklehead said...

Rick,

It will be interesting to listen to the MSm wailing about what a horrid place Iraq has become throught the painful sorting out period. Hardly a peep out of them through the brutal decades of Saddam and his Baathist thugs but moving forward they won't let a political murder or death penalty execution pass without shrieking about it as if all before was peace and posters.

Syl said...

Knuck

"Hardly a peep out of them through the brutal decades of Saddam"

Well, there was all that complaining that our sanctions were murdering Iraqi babies.

So predictable, aren't they?