Tag: Turkey

Ingredients of success

I’m spending the day at the “The Arab Spring:  Getting It Right,” the annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in lovely Crystal City.  Here are a few highlights. 

The first session focused on the ingredients for successful democratic transitions.  Here are my quick notes:

Dan Brumberg, Georgetown, in the chair:

  • Systemic problems need systemic solutions:  if you get rid of torture, you need forensics.
  • Need process of consensus and pact-making.
  • Religion is an important dimension of identity that needs to be part of that process.

Jason Gluck, USIP:  constitution-making

  • People need to know why they need a new constitution.  What are the core principles they want enshrined there?
  • Egypt:  battles over timing, constitutional committee reflect lack of answers.  Exclusiveness undermines the constitution-writing body.
  • Tunisia:  using simple majority, not consensus, in committees writing the constitution, with little outreach to civil society beyond Tunis.
  • Libya:  only four months for constitution-writing, which doesn’t allow deep consideration or public participation.  Inclusivity is in doubt.
  • Process matters more than constitutional content.  Because it makes for legitimacy.  Making a constitution is a political, not a legal exercise.  It incarnates core values of the state and society.
  • Not a drafting exercise but a national dialogue about needs and aspirations.
  • Inclusive, participatory, consensual, transparent, deliberative processes are more likely to have good results.

Alfred Stepan, Columbia:  transition needs these elements:

  • Legitimate constitution written by a representative group.
  • A government results from popular vote.
  • Powersharing (with military or religious authorities) is not necessary
  • The government has to have real authority over policy.
  • Civil society more important in deconstructing autocracy than in reconstructing the state, which requires political society and leadership.
  • Major transitions (end of WWII, 1989) have required international support, but Arab awakening is getting much less external assistance.
  • Brumberg:  ironically, opposition consensus building happens more in autocratic society like Tunisia rather than in more open one like Egypt.

Tunisia has been successful because parties have been talking with each other and developing consensus (pact-making) for a long time (since 2003)

Laith Kubba, National Endowment for Democracy:  getting it right means avoiding chaos or crisis.  Indicators:

  • Military “neutralized” and under civilian control:  Tunisia OK, Egypt not and militias are the problem in Libya.
  • Security apparatus has to shift from protecting regime to protecting state.
  • Economic equity has to increase.
  • State institutions need to emerge that allow society to be free, including at local level.
  • Democratic culture, including associations, free but responsible press.
  • New elites emerging in political parties, youth groups, think tanks.
  • Education improving.

Big risk:  those who reject democratic culture as a foreign import.

Comment from a Tunisian participant, whose name I missed:

  • Traditional solidarity was important in Tunisia.  Reduced likelihood of revenge.
  • So too was role of women.

The second session focused on regional and global impacts:

Radwan Ziadeh, Syrian National Council and Carr Center, Harvard

  • Syria is not like Tunisia, Yemen or Libya.  It is  now more like Bosnia:  international community hesitancy, political opposition cannot deliver so Free Syria Army is taking over, regime crimes are systematic.
  • Hoping for protection of civilians in a safety zone along Turkish border by an Administration that includes people who made the mistakes in Bosnia.
  • Three hundred observers are insufficient.
  • Need for military action without UN Security Council approval, but UNGA (137 countries) and Friends of Syria provide cover.
  • Everyone looking for U.S. leadership, but Washington is inhibited by domestic considerations, lack of oil interest.
  • Arabs lack resources and legitimacy to act.

Brian Grim, Pew Research Center:  Religion and the Arab Spring

  • Government restrictions on religion are increasing in more countries and those with greater population before Arab spring.
  • Problem is especially strong in Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where constitutional guarantees for religious freedom are not strong and apostasy laws are prevalent, enforced both by governments and social hostilities.
  • Restrictions on conversion 80% in MENA, where both government violence and social hostilities are prevalent.

Caryle Murphy, Woodrow Wilson Center:   A View from the Gulf (especially Saudi Arabia)

  • Arab Spring affects Saudi Arabia externally:  Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq.
  • Saudi effort is to manage and keep it away from the Gulf.
  • Foreign policy activism:  GCC confederation?  First step with Bahrain?
  • Riyadh is disappointed in the U.S., lack of confidence in U.S. willingness to intervene.
  • Arab Spring also affects Saudi Arabia internally:  TV, internet and Twitter have made young Saudis more aware of the rest of the world and want to be more like it.  Ditto those studying abroad.
  • But impulse is still evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Unemployment is the big youth problem.  Government is aware but will it move fast enough to accommodate youth demands for jobs and more freedom?
  • Society still very conservative, political consciousness very limited, including both secularists and Islamists.
  • Petitions for constitutional monarchy, Umma party formation led to government clampdown.
  • Eastern Province:  Shia very unhappy.
  • Religion is a focus of debate, which is important because it is the foundation of legitimacy.

Aylin Unver Noi, Gedik University (Turkey):  Regional Alignments

  • Ankara has shifted foreign policy towards Middle East.
  • Sunni resistance camp emerging, pro-Palestinian, Islamist-led, democratic governments.
  • Revolution in Syria would cause it to join this camp, as Jordan might.
  • Turkey concerned with Kurdish aspirations, especially PKK activities in Syria.


Tags : , , , , , , ,

What Allawi can do

I had a visit today from Iraqis concerned about Prime Minister Maliki’s growing closeness to Iran and his push to concentrate power.  I thought it might be useful to record what I told them.

In my experience, the U.S. administration is well aware of Maliki’s push to concentrate power and concerned about it.  The Americans want the 2014 elections to be reasonably free and fair.  They know full well that the judiciary is not independent and that Maliki is pressuring the press.  But their primary focus has been on the election commission, which has to be truly independent in order to pull off a recognizably free and fair election.  The arrest of the head of the commission on a minor corruption charge and the threat of a parliamentary investigation led by Maliki’s own is creating anxiety.

The Americans don’t view Maliki as an Iranian stooge, as many Iraqi Sunnis see him.  He accepts their support when it suits him and helps him to stay in power.  Nor is he backing Bashar al Assad’s continuing rule in Syria.  Iraq has blocked overflights from Iran that were resupplying Damascus.  The Americans think Maliki is legitimately concerned with who replaces Bashar al Assad and determined that it should not be a sectarian figure, who would necessarily be Sunni.

What about Kurdistan President Barzani’s complaints that Maliki is in effect holding the Defense and Interior portfolios for himself?  The Americans know that is a legitimate complaint, even if I have been told that Maliki accepted an Iraqiyya nomineee for Defense who was then withdrawn.  But Barzani undermined his position by threatening to hold a referendum on independence for Kurdistan, even though he knows full well that the international community will not recognize the result.  It looks to some in Washington as if the Kurds, asked for an accounting of how oil money is being spent, responded belligerently, turned off the tap and took up a cry for independence that has no serious chance of success.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 Iraqi election, there was a good deal of support for Ayad Allawi.  Iraqis voted for change and people in Washington were inclined to think they should get it.  Only in the summer did the Americans seem to shift to support Maliki, largely because Allawi seemed unable to assemble a majority in parliament, which is what he needed to govern.

Allawi and Iraqiyya, I went on, have not proven to be effective either within Iraq or abroad.  Allawi’s many op/eds attacking Maliki in the English language press are fine–he is entitled to speak out.  But when was Allawi last in Washington to talk with people, both in public and in private?  And if he is going to speak out against Maliki, why are his people still in the government?  Iraqiyya is trying to have its cake and eat it.  It might do better to go into opposition.  If it won’t do that, it needs to focus on getting some things done within the government.

There are several areas on which they might focus.  First is ensuring that proper procedures are applied in nominating military commanders and procuring equipment for the Iraqi armed forces.  Iraqiyya complains about these issues, but it never seems to get anything done to change the situation.

Second is protecting human rights.  Iraqiyya is far from distinguishing itself in making human rights its signature cause.

Third is insisting that at least some significant portion of Iraqi’s oil leave the country to the north (to Turkey) rather than virtually all of its being exported in the south, where it has to pass through the strait of Hormuz under the watchful eye of the Iranians.  A big pipeline to the north would require agreement among all the political forces in Iraq, but that in my way of thinking is its greatest advantage.  In any event, those who want Iraq tied more tightly to the West should be pressing for it.


Tags : , , ,

Think twice

With U.S. officials saying–malgre’ moi–that the Annan plan is already failing, the White House is pledging to ramp up pressure on Syria.  The House Foreign Affairs Committee has also held hearings looking for policy options.

They aren’t finding many, other than the now tired safe areas, humanitarian corridors, no fly zones and other euphemisms whose only real utility is to initiate what would no doubt be a lengthy and frustrating international military intervention with an uncertain outcome.  Arming the opposition is another standby, but the perils of doing that have become more obvious with the continued fragmenting of the Syrian National Council, which was supposed to serve as the opposition “umbrella” and conduit for money.  It just isn’t clear who might eventually benefit from the arms. Giving weapons to Sunni-dominated insurgents in Syria could have repurcussions in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and beyond that would not be in the U.S. interest.

The one point of consensus in the testimony is provision of greater support to the in-country opposition, including intelligence about the movement of the Syrian security forces.  This is eminently reasonable, but even those who say

The regime has had a far harder time dealing with civil resistance over the past year than armed resistance

still advocate support to the armed resistance, presumably to gain influence over it.  That’s too bad, since armed resistance tends to discourage the more effective nonviolent resistance.

We can always tighten sanctions, or get someone else to tighten them, but it is in their nature that the easy and more obvious restrictions get done first.  The extension of financial and travel sanctions to more and more marginal regime figures may net a few bad guys, but the marginal utility is likely to be low, unless we happen to hit a regime fixer more important than he appeared to be in the first round.  A look at who is still buying Syrian oil might turn up something interesting we could accomplish, and it would likely be useful to extend some of the sanctions on Iran’s banking system to Syria.  But let’s be clear:  doing that will unquestionably make life even harder than it has been for ordinary Syrians.

The sad fact is that there is  not much else we can do to raise the costs to Bashar al Assad, unless we are prepared to take military action.  Despite White House mumbling about ramping up pressure, my sense is that we are nowhere near that decision.  There are good reasons for this.  Apart from all the tactical difficulties of attacking Syrian forces that are inside major population centers, the Administration’s top priority has to be mounting a credible military threat against Iran’s nuclear program.

An attack on Syria without UN Security Council approval could end Russia’s support for the P5+1 negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program, and any prospect for UNSC approval of action against Iran.  We also run the risk that an attack on Syria would not go well, or that it would chew up U.S. assets like cruise missiles, or that it would provide Iran with intelligence on our capabilities that would make an attack there less effective.  You don’t want to get into a scrap in Syria if your top priority is Iran (that’s true even though I would oppose an attack on Iran).

This leaves the main U.S. focus in Syria on diplomacy, in two directions:  Moscow and the Syrian opposition.  The renewal of the UN observer mission in Syria comes up in July.  We need Moscow to bring Bashar al Assad into full compliance with the Annan plan by then.  At the same time, we need to get the Syrian opposition in compliance, by ending its counter-productive use of violence.  This is what none of those testifying at the House have been willing to say.

If we get to July without the Annan plan implemented, then we will need to consider withdrawal of the observers as well as the use of military force.  I understand perfectly well the arguments in favor–there is no doubt in my mind that Bashar al Assad is capable of continuing the crackdown and committing much greater atrocities than he has so far.  And I understand why some U.S. government officials (and President Sarkozy) are trying to create the impression that military action is likely, even though it isn’t.

But President Obama is unlikely in the middle of an election campaign focused on the economy to take us to war, yet again, in an Arab country Americans don’t care much about.  Withdrawal of the observers without the subsequent use of force would leave Bashar al Assad to crack down even harder, which is what he did after the departure of the Arab League observers.  That would not be a good outcome.

We need to be thinking twice about Syria at every stage.


Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Peace picks next week

Too much this week, and too many things at the same time on the same days, but here are my best bets:

1. The Arab Spring, a Year On: How’s America Faring? WWC, 9:30-11 am April 23

Nathan Brown
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University and Former Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center

Ellen Laipson
President and CEO, Stimson Center

Michael Singh
Managing Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy


Aaron David Miller
Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center

Political changes in the Arab world have created a new landscape for the United States. Join us as four experts on the region and its politics examine the impact of these changes on hopes for democratization and Arab-Israeli peace, as well as the future of American influence and interests.

6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
2.  Pakistan-India Trade: What Needs to be Done? What Does it Matter? WWC, 9:45 am-4:15 pm April 23

Last fall, the Pakistan government announced its intention to grant Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India, replicating a decision made earlier in New Delhi and potentially laying the groundwork for greatly expanded trade between the two South Asian neighbors. While fundamental disagreements in the relationship remain unresolved, Islamabad’s MFN decision suggests that it is prepared to deepen trade ties even while progress on core political and security issues continues to lag. Optimists assert that increased trade can build constituencies in both countries for more cooperative bilateral relations between the two long-time rivals.

Recognizing the potential significance of trade in the Pakistan-India relationship, the Woodrow Wilson Center will host a one-day conference on April 23, 2012, that focuses on MFN as an important step toward expanding Pakistan-India commercial linkages. What further steps on both sides need to be taken to establish a fully operational MFN regime?   What are the economic and businesses cases for and against expanding bilateral trade?  What are the primary domestic obstacles in each country to increased Pakistan-India trade?  What are the socio-economic arguments for enhanced bilateral trade ties, and who will most benefit?

RSVPs are required. Please RSVP by sending an email to asia@wilsoncenter.org


9:45 Registration and coffee

10:00 Welcoming Remarks

Robert M. Hathaway, director, Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson Center

Munawar Z. Noorani, chairman, Fellowship Fund for Pakistan

10:15 Panel I: Moving forward on MFN

Ijaz Nabi, visiting professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences, and Pakistan country director, International Growth Center

A view from Pakistan

Arvind Virmani, executive director, International Monetary Fund, and affiliate professor and distinguished senior fellow, George Mason University

Perspectives from India

Ishrat Hussain, dean and director, Institute of Business Administration (Karachi)

Dissenting views

Chair: Robert M. Hathaway, director, Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson Center

12:30 Luncheon

1:00 Luncheon keynote address

Zafar Mahmood, commerce secretary, government of Pakistan

Chair: William B. Milam, senior scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center

2:00 Panel II: Broadening the debate

Amin Hashwani, founder, Pakistan-India CEOs Business Forum

Social issues, civil society, and security

Nisha Taneja, professor, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)

Non-tariff barriers, infrastructure deficiencies, and high transaction costs

Kalpana Kochhar, chief economist for South Asia, World Bank

Regional implications

Chair: Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate, Woodrow Wilson Center

4:15 Adjournment

RSVPs are required. Please RSVP by sending an email to asia@wilsoncenter.org

This conference has been organized by the Wilson Center’s Asia Program and Program on America and the Global Economy, along with the Fellowship Fund for Pakistan.

This conference has been made possible through the generosity of the Fellowship Fund for Pakistan.

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
3.  Afghanistan: Regional Economic Cooperation and Unleashing the Private Sector: Keys to Successful Transfer, Rome Auditorium Johns Hopkins/SAIS, 12:30-2 pm April 23

Summary: Sham Bathija, senior adviser minister for Economic Affairs to the Afghan president, and Noorullah Delawari, governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, will discuss this topic. Note: A reception will precede the forum at noon. For more information and to RSVP, contact the SAIS Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at caci2@jhu.edu or 202.663.7721.
4.  The Implications of Democracy and Dynasty: The Foreign Policy Futures of the Two Koreas, Kenney Auditorium SAIS, 2-4 pm April 24
The US-Korea Institute at SAIS and
the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution
The Implications of Democracy and Dynasty:
The Foreign Policy Futures of the Two Koreas

April 24, 2012
2pm – 3:30pm
Kenney Auditorium
1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036


Dr. Sang Yoon Ma
History and Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center
Associate Professor, School of International Studies at the Catholic University of Korea

Dr. Alexandre Mansourov
Visiting Scholar, US-Korea Institute at SAIS

With Introduction by:

Dr. Richard C. Bush
Director and Senior Fellow
Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution

Moderated by:

Dr. Jae H. Ku
Director, US-Korea Institute at SAIS

On April 11, 2012, South Korea’s ruling conservative party scored an  unexpected victory in the 2012 National Assembly elections while a series of political events in North Korea worked to solidify the succession of Kim Jong Un. Please join Dr. Sang Yoon Ma and Dr. Alexandre Mansourov in discussing the results of these events and their policy implications for US-ROK relations, and North Korea’s foreign policy strategies.

5.  A Conversation with Turkey’s Kurdish Leadership, Brookings, 3-4:30 pm April 24

Turkey’s approach to lingering problems in dealing with the Kurdish minority at home and in the region is once again at a critical juncture. From the prospects for a new constitution to Ankara’s Syria dilemma, virtually all the pressing issues facing Turkey have a Kurdish dimension. Most recently, Prime Minister Erdogan declared that his government is ready to engage in a political dialogue with the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the Turkish Parliament. Given past failures at dialogue and at finding a mutually-acceptable, peaceful, and democratic solution to the problem, will this time prove different? What do the Kurds of Turkey and those of neighboring nations want and is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ready to meet Kurdish demands?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM


Saul/Zilkha Rooms
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Contact: Brookings Office of Communications

Email: events@brookings.edu

Phone: 202.797.6105

Register Now
On April 24, the Center on the United State and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) will host a discussion exploring these and other important questions related to Turkey’s Kurdish minority, featuring Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of BDP, and Ahmet Turk, an experienced politician currently an independent member of the Turkish Parliament. Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Ömer Taşpınar will provide introductory remarks and moderate the discussion.After the program, panelists will take audience questions.


Introduction and Moderator

Ömer Taşpınar

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe

Featured Speakers

Selahattin Demirtaş

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)

Ahmet Türk

Member of Turkish Parliament
Co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK)

6. (Re)Building an Effective Central Government in Afghanistan and Iraq, RTI International, 12 noon April 25

 When: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Where: RTI International, 701 13th Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, D.C.

Please join the SID-Washington Governance, Corruption & Rule of Law Workgroup for a panel discussion examining state-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The sustainability of governance reforms in Afghanistan and Iraq is a key concern for both the US and its partners, and for citizens of those countries. What has been learned about what works to build, or rebuild, effective government? What challenges remain to be addressed? SID-Washington’s Governance, Corruption, and Rule of Law Workgroup will host a discussion with Larry Cooley, President, Management Systems International, to explore answers to these questions.


Larry Cooley, President, Management Systems International (MSI)

Workgroup Co-Chairs

Derick Brinkerhoff,  Distinguished Fellow, International Public Management, RTI International

Tomas Bridle, Technical Area Manager, Responsive Government Institutions, Economic and Democratic Governance, DAI

Please bring your lunch to enjoy during the event.


Tags : , , , , , ,

A deal not to make a deal?

Eric Shu, jack of all trades around peacefare.net, offers another write-up, this time of Monday’s Carnegie Endowment event on Negotiating with Iran: Istanbul and Its Aftermath.  Eric becomes available next month when his Middle East Institute internship expires.  Anyone out there need a fine Mandarin-speaking assistant with an excellent Brown education?

Over the weekend of April 14-15, Istanbul hosted negotiations between the P5+1 (United States, China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany) and Iran, the first official meeting since the talks broke down in January 2011.  Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief and lead representative of the P5+1, stated afterwards that the talks were “constructive and useful.” No concrete agreements were reached other than to schedule another meeting on May 23 in Baghdad.

What does this mean for the players involved? Is this a success or another ploy by Iran to drag out the negotiations, giving itself more time to enrich uranium?

At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Monday, April 16, Karim Sadjadpour, associate at Carnegie and author of Reading Khamenei, moderated a discussion that focused on the nuclear negotiations with Iran and the political ramifications of the meeting.

Vali Nasr, newly appointed Dean of JHU-SAIS and former senior advisor in the State Department, began the discussion with an argument for “maintaining the status quo.” He viewed negotiations with Iran as an issue that the Obama Administration should not deal with until after the November elections. Obama’s supposedly off-mic comment to Medvedev last month regarding missiles is also relevant here: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Nasr then pointed out that it would be difficult to justify a war with Iran, especially during this election season. He closed his opening remarks with a question: can they make a deal about not making a deal?

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and former State Department official, provided a similar evaluation of the recent negotiations. Takeyh argued that inconclusive diplomacy is beneficial as it provides space for diplomatic conversations to continue. In this case, the talks led to a scheduled meeting at the end of May for more serious negotiations. Takeyh also pointed to the difficulty Iran has in giving up its nuclear weapons aspirations. As a country with multiple adversaries in the region, it is in its own strategic interests to acquire these nuclear weapons capabilities.

As the director of the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie, George Perkovich focused his statements on Iran’s nuclear program. He opened with a description of how Iran pursued multiple pathways to developing the capacities needed for a nuclear program, rather than committing at the start for a weapons program.  Perkovich also pointed out that Ayatollah Khamenei recently stated that “the Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons” and considers it a “big sin.”  Regardless of how much truth is in the statement, it provides space for a negotiated compromise.

At the end of the discussion, the panelists were asked for historical templates that might be applicable to Iran. The speakers all mentioned North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, but agreed that historical frameworks were unlikely to work. The context, leaders, and factors of each situation are different.  Deals and negotiations are “living organisms.”

The Istanbul meeting was essentially a talk about talks. The speakers expect the status quo to hold through November, but the Baghdad meeting in May provides some possibility for positive developments.

Tags : , , ,

U.S.-Iraq relations after the withdrawal

I’m speaking at noon with Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman and former Iraqi UN Deputy Perm Rep Feisal Istrabadi at the Middle East Institute (the event is at SEIU, 1800 Massachusetts).  Here are the notes I’ve prepared for myself  (but I’ll vary it depending on what they say):

–Tony Blinken, speaking last month at Center for American Progress, said:  “Iraq today is less violent, more democratic and more prosperous…than at any time in recent history.”

–There are some indications that violence, especially from Al Qaeda in Iraq, is up since late last year.  But even if true, Tony’s statement sets a low bar and the gains are still reversible.

–If our goal is a “sovereign, stable, self-reliant country, with a representative government that could become a partner in the region, and no safe haven for terrorists,” we are not there yet.

–On security, Iraq still endures an unacceptably high number of attacks:  deaths per month in politically motivated attacks are way down from the peak, but they are still sufficient  to keep sectarian tensions high, which is what Saddam Hussein loyalist Izzat al Duri said was intended in his recent video.

–The economy is not really in good shape.  High Iraqi oil production helps Baghdad’s budget and moderates world prices, which Americans like, but it does not an economy make.

–Democracy in Iraq does not yet include an independent judiciary, protection of basic human rights, vigorous parliamentary oversight, effective provincial and local governments or fulfillment of many constitutionally mandated procedures.

–Looking to the future, there are three fundamental threats to Iraq that might vitiate U.S. efforts there:

  • First is the threat of breakdown:  an Iraq that becomes chaotic and dysfunctional, a more or less failed state like the one Prime Minister Maliki took over in 2006.
  • Second is the threat of breakup:  an Iraq that fragments along ethnic and sectarian lines, with broad regional consequences as each of the neighbors seeks advantage.
  • Third is autocracy:  fear of breakdown or breakup may motivate Maliki, or someone else, to centralize power and refuse to transfer it in accordance with the will of its people, expressed in verifiably free and fair elections.

–None of these Iraqs can be the kind of partner the United States seeks, but I won’t spend much time on the first two possibilities.  It is the third that worries people these days.

–We need an Iraq that respects the rights and will of its people.

–The question is what influence we have, apart from the usual diplomatic jawboning, which Jim Jeffrey and the embassy have mastered beyond a shadow of doubt.

–There are four specific potential sources of U.S. influence in today’s Iraq:  arms, aid, oil and what—for lack of a better term—I would call relationships.

Arms transfers, some people say, give us “leverage”:  we should make providing our support conditional on Iraqi adherence to democratic norms, or meaningful power-sharing, or depoliticization of the security forces.

–Those are all worthy objectives, but this seems to me easy to say and difficult to do.  Once you’ve embarked on a program of transferring F-16s, it is going to take a big issue to override the vested interests involved.  Conditionality would encourage the Iraqis to get their arms elsewhere.

–The best we can do it seems to me is to make it clear—preferably in writing in advance—that none of the weapons systems the U.S. provides can be used against Iraq’s own citizens exercising their legal rights.

–We should also make it clear that we will cooperate only with a professional army under civilian control.  But Iraq’s specific governing arrangements are no longer ours to determine, so long as they remain representative and democratic.

Aid is a more flexible tool.  It should be targeted towards democracy and rule of law.  I would focus on encouraging a more independent judiciary and promoting a civil society that will demand real democracy while carefully monitoring government expenditures and corruption.

–To be clear:  there is no reason why the U.S. should still be spending hundreds of millions in Iraq for economic and agricultural development.  The Iraqis have more than enough incentive, and their own resources, to do those things.

–Iraqi resources come from exported oil, more than 90% of which is shipped through the Gulf under Iranian guns, even when the existing pipeline to Turkey is operating.

–This is where we have so far failed clamorously:  shipment of Iraq’s oil by pipeline to the north and west—once Syria undergoes its transition—would help to reduce Iranian pressure on Iraq and align Iraqi interests with those of Europe and the United States.

–Of course this means Iraq’s oil, and eventually gas as well, would have to traverse Kurdish and Sunni-populated territory, which means domestic political reconciliation is a prerequisite.

–Some will see that as an insurmountable obstacle.  I see it as a challenge, one well worth overcoming.  Iraq should be tied umbilically to Turkey and the Mediterranean, not to Hormuz.

–Finally:  relationships.  American influence inside Iraq comes in part from good relationships with the main political players, with the obvious but I hope declining exception of the Sadrists.

–While they may still resent the occupation, Iraqis of most stripes look to the Americans for protection.  Iraqis of all stripes believe that the United States is vital to re-establishing their country’s regional role.

–We should be ready and willing to help, expecting however that Iraq will align with the United States where it really counts:  right now, that means supporting the P5+1 effort on Iran’s nuclear program and the Arab League plan for Syria.

–And it means pumping as much oil as possible into a world market concerned with the prospect of war with Iran.

–Just a word in conclusion about the long term.  Maliki, whatever his virtues and vices, is not for ever if democracy survives in Iraq.

–We need to use the Strategic Framework Agreement to ensure that our institutions and Iraq’s institutions, our people and Iraq’s people, our economy and Iraq’s economy, our culture and Iraq’s culture, are tied closely together.

–I’ll be glad if the Assistant Secretary tells me I am wrong, but I have the impression that we still have not learned how to fully exploit the potential of this agreement to sharply increase the interconnectedness between Iraq and the United States.

Tags : , , , ,