Sunday, January 20, 2008

A ragged army fixing bayonets...

Under-reported story of the week; reported, of course, by Ackerman.

I think this is going to be very significant indeed. Roll back, if we may, to the winter of 2006; it had just become authorised knowledge that things in Iraq were unpeachy, Rumsfeld had just been thrown off the sleigh, and the Baker-Hamilton commission was about to report. If you were reading this blog back then, you'll know that one of the more significant people the commission spoke to was Iraqi veep Tariq al-Hashemi, panjandrum of the Iraqi Accordance Front (not to be confused with the Iraqi National Accord or the People's Liberation Front of Judea - splitters!) and general big cheese on the Sunni side of Iraqi politics.

Everyone who knows who he is (now including you) knows one of the reasons for his eminence's prominence is that he knows the men who know the NOIA; when the insurgents surged in January, I theorised that this was their response to what they saw as the betrayal of commitments made to them by the Baker-Hamilton crew via al-Hashemi. I also, as it happens, reckon the "awakening councils" have something to do with the guy; they seem to be made up of the most New-Old Iraqi Army subgroups of the NOIA, like the 1920 Revolution Brigade, the ones whose chief interests are the "Iraqi" and "Army" bits rather than anything more religious or revolutionary.

Anyway, TAH has just inked a carveup with the Kurds; they are looking at walking from the longstanding alliance with SCIRI and Da'wa that has basically held what passes for a government together since 2004. In return they stand to get their maximal territorial demands, most of Nineveh, Mosul, and Kirkuk; now, this is obviously poison to the 1920ers especially. Nineveh and Mosul are the home turf not just of Iraqi Sunnis but the Ba'athist and army establishment specifically. There's even a secret clause in there; now that's good old-fashioned diplomacy for you. Send the envoy!

What al-Hashemi's doing this for I've no idea; Spackerman reckons he's trying to give the current government the push, and really only getting to be king would be worth the desperate meat-hook risks he's taking with this. Maybe the US is tilting to the Sunnis further? Trying to line up the 1920ers and friends with Jordan, Syria, Saudi and the GCC Gold Credit Club? It's thinkable, I just thunk it, but the downside is quite simply that the whole counterinsurgency position in north-central Iraq and Baghdad would go to ratshit. Or is it the other way up? Are the CLCs/Awakeners/1920ers demanding their payback in the form of a Sunni takeover of government, essentially a legitimisation of their insurgent past?


"If it doesn't embrace it, you could have the different Sunni Awakenings coming together as a Sunni army that tries to overthrow the government, pushing the country into civil war," the aide said. "It's possible."

The other side to this is that the IAF-KRG agreement has called forward a countershindig determined to kibosh the treaty. This outfit includes Iyad Allawi's fanclub, Da'wa, and the Sadrists; what a bunch! And just for the weird, that cult is back and killing cops; now, by now I'd be astonished if any given cop in southern Iraq wasn't a Sadrist.

So it's Sadr's move: it always has been.

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