MIDDLE EAST BULLETIN: A Publication of Middle East Progress
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
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Today's News

Baghdad’s New Owners
by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Larry Kaplow (Newsweek)

The surge of U.S. troops—meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital—has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone.

When Gen. David Petraeus goes before Congress next week to report on the progress of the surge, he may cite a decline in insurgent attacks in Baghdad as one marker of success. In fact, part of the reason behind the decline is how far the Shiite militias’ cleansing of Baghdad has progressed: they’ve essentially won.

Iraqi Court Upholds Hussein Aides’ Death Sentences; Parliament Returns
by The Associated Press

Iraq’s parliament reconvened Tuesday after a month-long summer break but it was not immediately clear whether it would be taking up key benchmark legislation demanded by Washington.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi appeals court upheld death sentences imposed against "Chemical Ali" al-Majid and two other Saddam Hussein lieutenants convicted of crimes against humanity for their roles a massacre of Kurds, a judge said.

Shiites, Sunnis Meet for Talks in Finland
by The Associated Press

Representatives of feuding Sunni and Shiite groups met Friday at a secret location in Finland to discuss ways to end the bloodshed in Iraq, officials said.

The Crisis Management Initiative, a conflict-prevention group headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said it was leading the seminar to examine how lessons learned from peace processes in South Africa and Northern Ireland could be applied to Iraq.

Saudis Mull Next Move on Iraq Embassy
by AFP

Saudi Arabia is examining a report by a technical team which recently visited Iraq to decide its next move on reopening its embassy in Baghdad, a minister said on Saturday.

"A delegation went to Baghdad to undertake technical contacts to pave the way for the opening of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Baghdad," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar bin Obaid Madani told reporters in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Setting the Record Straight

Ultimatums or Strategic Approach?

"The challenge in Iraq comes down to this: Either the forces of extremism succeed, or the forces of freedom succeed. Either our enemies advance their interests in Iraq, or we advance our interests. The most important and immediate way to counter the ambitions of al Qaeda and Iran and other forces of instability and terror is to win the fight in Iraq."
– President George W. Bush, 89th Annual National Convention of the American Legion, August 28, 2007


"American military power will not be the solution. The time for more troops is past… We need strategic direction for Iraq that moves to ‘internationalize’ our efforts to help the Iraqis achieve a core of political stability."
–Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in the Financial Times, July 3, 2007

Iraq: The Neglected Diplomatic Offensive


Senator Casey

"The Bush administration continues to artificially divorce Iraq from its broader regional and international context."

A Regional Solution

My first official trip as a United States Senator last month confirmed my growing concern that the administration is too narrowly focused on a military solution for Iraq when it should also be preparing a comprehensive regional diplomatic initiative to help salvage a broken Iraqi government…

Rather than continue with a military surge that has not yet yielded sufficient political reconciliation, the White House should switch gears and pull together the required elements for a surge of diplomacy. Access the full article>>

Middle East Analysis

The U.N.’s Role in Iraq

by Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of foreign policy studies, Brookings Institution, and Brian Cullin, director of communications of foreign policy studies, Brookings Institution (The Washington Post)

The importance of diplomacy is rooted in Iraq’s sectarian civil war. The war in Iraq is not the United States against a single enemy but the United States interjecting itself among many enemies fighting each other. That war cannot be solved by military means. Even if the United States were to quell the violence in the short term, fighting would erupt again with an American withdrawal. Until there is a political compact among Iraqi parties, endorsed by neighbors and the international community, there will be no prospect for peace in Iraq. …

The passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1770 [this month] may offer the chance for a radical departure. …
To this end, the United Nations needs a team with a high-profile, respected leader. It cannot be business as usual. The lead negotiator should report to the secretary general and must be empowered to directly engage regional and international actors. No one should have the illusion that the United Nations will replace the U.S. military role in Iraq. Its role should be political. …

Eventually a judgment must be made on whether to try for a major meeting to broker an agreement — like the Dayton agreement for Bosnia. Such a meeting must orchestrate negotiations among an inner circle of key Iraqis while engaging in a more limited way a wider contact group of the neighboring states. The United States will need to sustain constant bilateral diplomacy throughout this process, coordinating at each step with the U.N. negotiator. Access the full article>>

Shiite Violence Threatens to Overshadow Gains

by Hamza Hendawi (The Associated Press)

Rivalries and violence between Shiite factions are threatening to overshadow progress US forces have made against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists just weeks before the top American commander and diplomat in Iraq report to Congress. An all-out, Shiite-on-Shiite conflict could plunge the oil-rich and mainly Shiite south of Iraq into chaos that could rival - or even surpass - the bloodshed across Baghdad and the center of the country for more than four years.

That, in turn, could shatter the relative unity in the Shiite mainstream - which has given crucial support to the US-led mission in Iraq - and deepen the predicament of embattled Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Clashes between rival Shiite factions have not been uncommon since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, but the most recent ones are by far the most ominous given their deadliness, scope and timing. For Washington, the danger of a full fledged armed conflict in southern Iraq could not have come at a worse time. …

The rivalry between Shiites in the south is mainly motivated by the pursuit of domination in the strategic and potentially rich Shiite heartland.

Beside the vast oil reserves, control of the south offers the wealth generated by the area’s shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, which attract millions of visitors every year and cash donations by pilgrims. The two cities also are prestigious seats of Shiite learning. …

The deeper roots of the conflict may be found in the makeup of the protagonists themselves. Al-Sadr’s supporters are primarily poor Shiites who gain from the services offered by the group and obtain a sense of empowerment through membership of the Mahdi Army. In contrast, the Supreme Council is perceived as a magnet of middle- and upper-class Shiites and enjoying the endorsement of the wealthy and traditional clerical leadership. Access the full article>>

Bush Shifts Terms for Measuring Progress in Iraq

by David E. Sanger (International Herald Tribune)

With the Democratic-led Congress poised to measure progress in Iraq by focusing on the central government’s failure to perform, President George W. Bush is proposing a new gauge, by focusing on new American alliances with the tribes and local groups that Washington once feared would tear the country apart.

That shift in emphasis was implicit in Bush’s decision to bypass Baghdad on his eight-hour trip to Iraq, stopping instead in Anbar Province, once the heart of an anti-American Sunni insurgency. By meeting with tribal leaders who just a year ago were considered the enemy, and who now are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a president who has unveiled four or five strategies for winning over Iraqis — depending on how one counts — may now be on the cusp of yet another. …

The White House insists that by flying into the tribal areas, Bush is not undercutting Maliki or cutting him loose. Instead, White House officials say that ever since his January speech, Bush has been pursuing a dual strategy, pressing for "top down" change from Baghdad as well as "bottom up" change from the provinces.

The current focus on the provinces, they say, reflects the fact that the White House overestimated what could be achieved by Maliki and his government, and underestimated the degree to which the local tribes developed a deep hatred for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is led by foreigners. Access the full article>>

Upcoming Events

Assessing the Situation in Iraq

Featured Speakers:
Senator Robert P. Casey (D-PA)
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)

Introduction by:
John D. Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress Action Fund

When: Friday, September 7, 9-10 am

Where: Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th floor
Washington, DC

RSVP for this event

Heard on the Street

Lack of Diplomatic Progress Constrains Options

Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), opening statement, SFRC Iraq hearing, July 19, 2007:

"We have to consider how diplomacy can change the equation in the region in ways that enhance our prospects for success in Iraq.

"Regional diplomacy is not just an accompaniment to our efforts in Iraq. It is a pre-condition for the success of any policy that follows the surge. We cannot sustain a successful policy in Iraq over the long term unless we repair alliances, recruit more international participation in Iraq, anticipate refugee flows, prevent regional aggression, generate new basing options, and otherwise prepare for future developments. If we have not made substantial diplomatic progress by the time a post-surge policy is implemented, our options will be severely constrained, and we will be guessing at a viable course in a rapidly evolving environment.

"I believe the most promising diplomatic approach would be to establish a consistent forum related to Iraq that is open to all parties in the Middle East."

Background Basics

Guide to Iraqi Political Forces

Dawa Party
A Shi’a Islamist party, proclaims adherence to democracy so long as it does not contradict the prevailing interpretation of Islam. A parliamentary alliance between Dawa, SIIC, and the two main Kurdish parties was formed in August 2007.
Prominent Leaders: Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari
Seats in Parliament: 36

Dawa Party – Iraq Organization
A splinter from the Dawa Party which broke off when much of Dawa’s leadership was forced into exile during the Hussein regime; linked back up with Dawa after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Prominent Leaders: Abdul Karim al-Anizi
Seats in Parliament: 12

Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC)
The SIIC is the “establishment” Shi’a party, willing to work in government and with foreign interlocutors – especially Iran and the United States – to secure its interests. A key domestic political priority for the SIIC is the establishment of a Shi’a super-region in the south. Enjoys a very close material and political relationship with Tehran, though has recently tried to change this image.
Prominent Leaders: Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, Abdul Aziz Hakim, Minister of Finance Bayan Jabr
Seats in Parliament: 36
Militia: Badr Organization. The SIIC is engaged in a power struggle with Sadrists throughout southern Iraq.

Led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the Sadrist movement is a powerful Shi’a Islamist movement known for its populism and nationalism. Sadr’s movement is generally thought to represent the poor Shi’a underclass and the movement is at least rhetorically hostile to Iran and its influence as well as US presence. It is engaged in a struggle for power throughout southern Iraq and opposes federalism. It withdrew its cabinet ministers in the spring of 2007.
Prominent Leaders: Muqtada Al-Sadr, Ali al-Shammari.
Seats in Parliament: 29
Militia: The Mahdi Army, widely believed responsible for the sectarian cleansing of Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad.

A Shi’a Islamist party whose support is based primarily in the major southern city of Basra. Considered an early spin-off of the Sadrists. Fadhila is paranoid about external interference in Iraq and favors federalism with a three-province region of Basra, Maysan, and Dhi Qar provinces. Withdrew from the Shi’a United Iraqi Alliance coalition in early 2007 after it failed to get the Oil Ministry portfolio.
Prominent Leaders: Abdelrahim Al-Husseini, Mohammed al-Waili
Seats in Parliament: 15
Militia: Like all local political groups, Fadhila and its militia have been involved in Basra’s worsening violence.

Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP)
The Sunni Islamist party considered to be an Iraqi offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The IIP has become the main representative of Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi political process. It advocates a reversal of de-Baathification, a crackdown on Shi’a militias and their influence in the Iraqi government, and constitutional revisions. The IIP generally opposes the coalition presence, efforts toward regional configurations and federalism, and any oil law that would deprive Sunnis. Withdrew ministers from government in August of 2007
Prominent Leaders: President Tariq al-Hashimi, Ayad al-Samarrai
Seats in Parliament: 44 (combined in coalition with the Iraqi People’s Conference)

Iraqi People’s Conference (IPC)
An embryonic Sunni Arab political conglomerate of tribal, technocratic, and Islamist views. IPC is opposed to the coalition presence in Iraq. Withdrew ministers from government in August of 2007.
Prominent Leaders: Adnan Al-Dulaimi, former parliament speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani
Seats in Parliament: 44

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
One of two main Kurdish parties in Iraq, controls the eastern Kurdish region. Unlike the major Sunni and Shi’a Arab parties, it is secular and pro-Western. The PUK’s paramount objective is the protection of Kurdish interests by maintaining an autonomous Kurdish region that controls its own oil. It is a rival of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Prominent Leaders: President Jalal Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih.
Seats in Parliament: 53 (combined in coalition with the Kurdistan Democratic Party)
Militia: Both the PUK and KDP legally maintain peshmerga militia forces, some of which have been incorporated into the Iraqi national army.

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
The KDP is the oldest Kurdish party in Iraq and controls the western Kurdish region. Considered more focused on eventual Kurdish independence and statehood than the PUK, and dominates the top leadership positions of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The KDP area of influence’s border with Turkey has allowed it better access to trade and therefore greater prosperity than has the PUK’s Iranian border area.
Prominent Leaders: KRG President Massoud Barzani, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
Seats in Parliament: 53 (combined in coalition with the PUK)
Militias: The KDP and PUK both continue to maintain peshmerga militias under legal sanction from the national government.

Iraqi National List (INL)
The INL’s ideology is secular, nonsectarian, liberal, and moderately nationalist. Its support dropped in the two 2005 elections as sectarian identity emerged as the defining characteristic in Iraqi politics. It withdrew four of its five ministers from government in August of 2007.
Prominent Leaders: Iyad Allawi
Seats in Parliament: 25

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