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War in Iraq: Roundup of Analysis

Christopher Lyndon interviews Patrick Cockburn on Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr.

The New War in Iraq. Patrick Cockburn: “The US forces in Iraq are beginning a new war against a new enemy in Iraq. For five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the US was confronting (fighting) the Sunni Arab community — about 20 percent of Iraqis, or 5 to 6 million people. Now in the last few months it’s confronting a large part of the Shia community — those that are loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr, his Sadrist movement and the Mahdi Army, which really represent the Shia poor. But, you know, one Iraqi official who’s not sympathetic to Muqtada was saying to me the other day that the Shia are a majority of Iraqis and Muqtada’s followers are a majority of the Shia. So this is probably 30 to 40 percent of the whole population. This is a massive new confrontation that the US is undertaking in Iraq.” (Patrick Cockburn interview, Open Source)

Building Capacity in Iraq. The transition of security to Iraqi control and responsibility involves much more than merely building units and transferring equipment; the process includes building ministerial capacity for generation and replenishment of capability. The common point of view is that for the transition of control there must be a balance of meeting security requirements and transition activities, each as separate activities. The reality is that in Iraq there must be security while transitioning, and the two activities of security and transition are simultaneous and complementary. (Dr. Jack D. Kem, Small Wars Journal)

Who is Making Tehran’s Iraq Policy? I understand that it is now in vogue to talk about the IRGC in general and the Qods Force as the THE power in Iran (with consequential impact throughout the Middle East). I have not found this argument to be very convincing. My take continues to be that the military in Iran has traditionally been and continues to be under civilian control, even if the Guards hierarchy as well as its individual members have and do play an important role in Iranian politics. (Farideh Farhi, Informed Comments: Global Affairs)

Iraqi Kurds and Their Future. Erstwhile kings of the mountains, Iraq’s Kurdish parties have become kingmakers in Baghdad. No federal government can be established without them—and they know it.
This new role suits the Kurdish parties just fine, as it allows them to advance their agenda: to use a once wide but now narrowing window of opportunity to expand the territory and natural resources (oil, gas and water) under their control, as well as the powers they exercise within that territory. They hope thereby to build the foundations of an independent Kurdish state, an ambition that once and for all would allow them to trade in their barren mountain hideouts for a stable home in the fertile plains. How did the Kurds accomplish this remarkable makeover from hardened maquisards to polished politicians and administrators? What are its implications today for Iraq as well as the Kurdistan region? And what challenges lie ahead? (Joost Hilterman, International Crisis Group)

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