October 12, 2007

The Shia Awaken

Hatched by Dafydd

We've talked about this in previous posts -- for example, in The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics -- but it occurred to me as soon as I began hearing about the "Anbar awakening" that the same dynamic would apply to the Shiite areas of Iraq: In short order, the Shiite militias were sure to go overboard in their thuggish, homicidal zeal, and begin brutalizing the Shia... just as al-Qaeda in Iraq did against the Sunni. At that moment, time would be ripe for a "Shia awakening," where Iraqi shia would turn on the militias that presume to speak for them.

Surprise, it's starting to happen... and even the New York Times has sat up and taken note:

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The Times does a remarkable job (for the elite media) of fairly and in unbiased fashion describing the mechanism of Shiite discontent (apologies for the long quotation):

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites....

The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.

Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.

Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

“Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.

“People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”

A mouthpiece for Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr carefully explained that all of the Mahdi Militia members committing criminal violence against Iraqis are actually -- by that very act -- not members of the Mahdi Militia... a useful and fluid redefinition that allows the militia to slough off all accountability for the violence that continues, albeit at a much slower rate.

And as Sachi has argued many times in this blog, when Sadr does return from Iran (like the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Muqtada Sadr was withdrawn to his host country Iran for "further consultations"), he will not only find that the remnants of the Mahdi Militia don't want him or any of his "loyal lieutenants" back, but that there's no more militia to return to anyway.

I may as well go public with a bold prediction I have privately made to several friends: Big Lizards predicts that the Iraq insurgency is going to collapse much faster than anyone has publicly dared suggest. First AQI dangles at the end of its rope (there's a nice visual); now the Shia turn on the Mahdi and Badr militias. So who's minding the insurgency?

The collapse of the insurgency would have happened much earlier, in my opinion, were it not for the intervention of foreign forces. No, I don't mean the United States and the Coalition... I mean Iran's aggressive warmongering and the foreign hirabis from central al-Qaeda. Both Iran and al-Qaeda -- the latter may be funded by the former -- saw a national or ideological interest in fomenting a civil war in Iraq.

However, because of the essentially tribal -- not sectarian -- nature of Iraq, coupled with a cohesive Iraqi identity binding the tribes together, both Iran and al-Qaeda were unsuccessful; there never was a real civil war in Iraq... not even in 2006, after AQI blew up the golden-domed al-Askiri Mosque in Samarra on February 22nd. Both sects carried out a long wave of gangland massacres; but neither fielded armies or set up shadow governments.

As it becomes clear that there never will be a civil war, and that the Iraqis have turned against the joint insurgencies (Sunni against al-Qaeda and Shia against Iran), rather than being driven by fear into the arms of their Islamist "saviors," I strongly believe the principals will pull back. In the long run, neither has the resources to remain engaged in a losing war.

This will happen months before the November elections; and the victory in Iraq will play a major role. Simply put, the Democrats have some small nits against the GOP, but they're old chestnuts such as abortion and tax cuts; the only major new argument was over Iraq. In the 2006 elections, the Iraq war appeared to be a loser -- and so too were the Republicans. But they didn't lose as much as the Democrats had predicted; many voters took a "wait and see" attitude.

And good thing they did. If the war goes as I predict, and the very significant drop in violence we've seen continues, accompanied by a significant drop in the level of U.S. forces in Iraq (possibly to as low as 75,000) and a concommitent drop in American casualties, Iraq will increasingly and correctly be seen as a historic American victory.

Bear in mind, this is no guarantee that the voters will reward the Republicans: A Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, and a Democratic Congress entered into World War I in 1917, won it handily in 1918... and in that same year, the GOP captured both houses of Congress. Two years later, Republicans solidified their congressional gains and added the presidency, all in a landslide. Even so, it's surely better for the sane party if Iraq is considered a victory, not a defeat.

Let's invite the Times to pen the Mahdi Militia's epitaph:

Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 12, 2007, at the time of 11:11 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Yeesh, no comments? I thought this was a fairly big story!

Is everybody still freaking out about what Lt.Gen. Sanchez (USA ret) said? That will be analyzed in the next post (or next to next, if I do the Watcher post first).


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2007 3:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: JasterMereel

A very interesting hatchling. And one that spawns many thoughts and questions:

These awakenings seem to me to be comprised of the following:

a. rejection of AQI, Sunni nationalist groups, Sunni and Shia death/revenge squads, and Iranian-backed Shia militias (Mahdi and Badr)

b. embracing of local/tribal security forces (Concerned Citizens Groups) to keep out foreign and extremist elements -- a kind of Don't Tread on Me philosophy -- with the goal being to allow the Iraqi people (not as a whole, but instead at the very local level) to live their lives as they wish and to avoid the violent oppression regardless whether it be religious, ideological, or criminal.

Would you agree that they consist of just those two things? (Not that those two elements are not considerable and remarkable...) I guess my point is, the awakenings are one thing, but then what? Where do they go from there? Will they accept the national government and be willing to live in peace with all Iraqis? The answer is probably "Yes, so long as..."

I'm just curious to know what you think those conditions are. (Obviously, these include oil revenue sharing.) I think our victory, the reduction of American troops in Iraq, the independent, peaceful, America-allied, democratic Iraq will be most assured once the vast majority of Iraqis accept the belief that their lives will be best-off by exercising their votes instead of their triggers.

Will these awakenings result in the long-term, peaceful acceptance of the Iraqi national government and the Iraqi constitution? Or will the Sunni elements want a do-over now that they have decided to play nice? Will the Shia elements that have already abandoned the Mahdi and Badr militias and entered the government now be in a position to accomplish their Shia-promoting goals (such as the Shia-dominated Interior Ministry), or are they seen as having had good intentions but were simply choosing bad, violent, ill-advised means -- which were understandable considering their decades of Sunni/Baathist oppression under Saddam?

What should American/Coalition forces do (new or increased actions) to help accelerate and solidify these awakenings?
What is the state of the rogue elements with the Iraqi Security Forces? How much are they a threat to undermine trust in the ISF and national government?
What should American agencies (military and civilian) do to encourage the increased acceptance of democracy and the national government, as well as the balance between the national and local governments (analogous to America's federal vs. state's rights)?
What should America do to inoculate Iraq from the Iranian meddling virus? We can talk about troop reduction all we want, but unless we have built Iraq's defenses (I'm not talking military), the Iranians will insinuate themselves into the Iraqi government and institutions as they have been from the beginning. I read somewhere that the most likely goal of Iran as it relates to Iraq is to co-opt the Shia elements within the national and regional governments and power structure, then to attack Iraqi Shia mosques in false-flag operations to incite the Shia to attack back at the Sunnis (as they tried with the Golden Dome mosque). Though it did not seem to work then, so I'm not sure how this theory holds more water now... Perhaps they had not co-opted the Iraqi Shia to a large enough degree back then to encourage an all-out retribution. (Or was that AQI that conducted that operation, and now Iran might see that course of action as potentially successful, if they can get their pieces in the right places on the chessboard?) Your thoughts on Iran's probable methods from here on out?

I will now continue with your scheduled programming and read your Sanchez hatchling -- hopefully you've already hatched it.

The above hissed in response by: JasterMereel [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2007 10:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: JasterMereel

Woops. I should have read "The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics" hatchling before I hissed. Can I pull my forked-tongue back in my mouth and retract and update my first comment, now that I have gained more insight to your thoughts on the points I made?

The above hissed in response by: JasterMereel [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2007 11:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I hope you are right on all counts.

As for the election I think the Democrats might end up going with domestic issues, that is their strong suit.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2007 7:55 AM

The following hissed in response by: howardhughes

If Iraq is moving forward politically and economically and away from war as appears, the proof will show up in the flow of oil. As production increases and money and jobs flow to ordinary Iraqis, the war will quickly become a memory. Iraq may well become one of the largest producers in the world having a substantial influence on the price of oil. A substantial decrease in the price of oil over the next five years may,ironically, produce more problems for Iraq. Hopefully though, they will diversify their economy as the Kurds are doing. In fact the entire Middle-east may decide it is time to get down to business and become a working part of the modern world.

The above hissed in response by: howardhughes [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2007 8:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: kstills


Excellent news, and hopeully the good news can continue.

I've been looking for a site which has primarily political information regarding Iraq, as it seems that the military portion of this war will be winding down. (Given the political situation continues to improve, that is).

Can you recommend a site, or do you cover the political side on a thorough basis on your site? Sorry if that sounds ignorant, but I came here on a link from Powerline.

The above hissed in response by: kstills [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2007 8:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I've been looking for a site which has primarily political information regarding Iraq...

Darned if I know. I've never seen such a site.

Iraq the Model is the best inside-Iraq blog, and the brothers who run it (and whose English is excellent) often talk about politics; but they focus on many other things as well. Anyway, their posting has been sporatic lately.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2007 2:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin


I've been looking for the same thing, too. ITM, like Dafydd said, is the closest thing out there, but nothing like a Bill Roggio or a Bill Ardolino following the day in, day out happenings of the Iraqi government. Maybe this is something someone should look into.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2007 4:29 PM

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