Quote of the Day: Think Mogadishu

What will happen to Iraq? Think Mogadishu, small warlords controlling various neighborhoods, militias preying on those left behind, more powerful warlords controlling areas with resources, such as oil fields, ports, and lucrative pilgrimage routes and shrines. Irredentist Sunni militias will attempt to retake their lost land, but they will be pushed into the Anbar Province, Jordan, and Syria, where they may link up with local Islamist militants to destabilize Amman and Damascus. Some will look to fight elsewhere; unable to continue the jihad in Iraq they will find common cause with Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and others alienated from their societies and hateful of Shias. The new rump Shia statelet, including Baghdad and the South, will be quarantined by the Sunni states in the region and pushed inexorably into Iranian hands whether Shia Iraqis want this or not. It will be isolated and radicalized, and Shia militias loyal to Muqtada al Sadr, Abdul Aziz al Hakim, Muhamad al Yaqubi, and others will battle for power.

[…]

The American occupation [of Iraq] has been more disastrous than the Mongols’ sack of Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq’s human capital has fled, its intellectuals and professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, the political elite. They will not return. And the government is nonexistent at best. After finally succumbing to Iraqi pressure, the Americans submitted to elections but deliberately emasculated the central government and the office of the prime minister. Now Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is the scapegoat for American failure in Iraq, and there are calls to remove him or overthrow him. But talk of a coup to replace Maliki fails to understand that he is irrelevant. Gone are the days when Baghdad was the only major city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled the country. The continued focus on the theater in the Green Zone ignores the reality that events there have never determined what happens outside of it. Iraq is a collection of city states such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Ramadi, Erbil, and others, each controlled by various warlords with their own militias. And the villages are entirely unprotected. Maliki will be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there will be no new elections, since they can’t be run safely and fairly anymore, and the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over.

– Nir Rosen, No Going Back

As they say, read the whole damn thing. And weep.

Related:

Elsewhere: Interview with Tobias Billström, Sweden’s Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, on how the EU needs to share the responsibility for providing safe haven to Iraqi refugees – and how aid must be allocated to Syria and Jordan, the two Middle Eastern nations with the highest influx of refugees:

Sometimes I think it is an irony that Sweden – a country that did not take part in the Iraq War, was not part of the alliance, did everything it could in order to speak for peace, and is farthest away from the conflict in geographical terms – receives the most refugees. To my mind that is rather strange.

[…]

In some ways we have made progress. But the next thing – and that is important – is to try and bring aid to Syria and to Jordan, the two countries in the region that have received a combined total of more than two million Iraqi refugees.

If we don’t do that, sooner or later there will be a political destabilisation of Syria and Jordan, which will lead to even more problems. We must ensure that the refugees receive aid and that they can sustain themselves.

Also see Spiegel International on Iraqi refugees in Sweden, which, as intimated by Billström, is one of the only Western nations that stepped up and did the right thing by allowing a sizable number of Iraqi asylum seekers to settle within its borders post-invasion. Alas, as Gregory Katz reports, “that open-arms attitude has changed, and a backlash has developed against the immigrants.”

Coda: Andrew J. Bacevich, on accepting responsibility:

How, if at all, can the US discharge its obligations not only to the people of Iraq but to our own soldiers as well?

For the war’s supporters, confident that that the “surge” is working, the answer is clear: fight on, winning the victory that Iraqis and the troops both deserve.

For those opposing the war, it’s not so easy. However much they may want out of Iraq, few are willing simply to disregard the moral quagmire into which the nation has waded. Leaving Iraqis in the lurch certainly qualifies as problematic. Yet for those who see the war as wrong or ill-advised or merely lost, continuing to send American soldiers to fight and die in such a cause is equally untenable.

A morally acceptable approach to closing down the war will resolve this conundrum, ending the conflict in a way that keeps faith with ordinary Iraqis and with our own troops. In short, the war’s opponents must align their moral concerns, which are complex, with their seemingly straightforward policy prescription.

That alignment becomes possible if we recognize that America’s obligation is not to Iraq but to Iraqis. As a nation-state, Iraq – awash with sectarian violence and lacking legitimate institutions – can hardly be said to exist. We owe Iraq nothing.

In contrast, we owe the Iraqis whose lives we have blighted quite a lot. We should repay that debt much as we (partially at least) repaid our debt to the people of South Vietnam after 1975: by offering them sanctuary. In the decade after the fall of Saigon, some half-million Vietnamese refugees settled in the United States. Here, they found what they were unable to find in their own country: safety, liberty, and the opportunity for a decent life. It was the least we could do.

The least we can do for Iraqis today is to extend a similar invitation.

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