Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Syria or Lebanon Model for Iraq?

Will Iraq adopt a Lebanese or Syrian model of governance? That is what is at stake in efforts to form a new government in Baghdad.

David Ignatius has written a good primer on what is at stake in the negotiations over forming a new government in Iraq: "Playing raw, hardball politics in Baghdad."

The US and Kurdish parties are trying to support a "national coalition government" and have produced a set of principles for the formation of a new government that they are calling the Salaheddin principles.

It's basically a road map for creating the kind of broad coalition that might stabilize Iraq and, at the same time, justify the vast amount of money and lives the Bush administration has expended on Iraq.

The Salaheddin document calls for a government made up of the four biggest parties - the Shiite alliance, the Kurdish alliance, a Sunni bloc known as the National Iraqi List, and Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.

The insistence on including Allawi is a direct assault on Sadr's faction, which believes (correctly) that Allawi tried to destroy Sadr and his militia when he was interim prime minister.

To enforce consensus, the Salaheddin document calls for a National Security Council that would include leaders of all the main political factions in the country and, according to the document, "outline policies ,that reflect national unity and reach decisions based on the principle of accord.'' The document also echoes the Bush administration's insistence that the leaders of the two key security ministries - defense and interior - "must be neutral or accepted by all the parties participating in the government.’’
Such a coalition would keep Muqtada al-Sadr from becoming the "king-maker" of the new government. It would also prevent the Shiite militias from consolidating their hold over the government security forces. In theory this is a laudable effort. If the militias consolidate their hold over the police and military, the Iraqi state will become another repressive instrument high jacked by security forces, much as Saddam's state was, only this time with Shiites at the top.

The problem with getting America's broad coalition to work is that it is likely to be extremely weak, much as the Lebanese government is. This would lead to government paralysis because each community, governed by its distrust and fear of the others, will seek to block reform and passage of new laws advanced by competitors. If this happens, the militias will continue to grow in power. The only difference will be that they will expand outside the structures of the state, rather than within the interior and defense ministries, increasing the probability of open civil war. It would seem that Iraq is stuck between the Syrian and Lebanese models of government. The Syrian model produces stability and unity at the expense of freedom and federalism. The Lebanese model produces liberty and communal protections at the expense of stability or effective central institutions.

The likelihood of establishing a successful Lebanese model in Iraq is small. Success requires that the various communities agree on the basic outlines of national identity and power sharing, issues which have yet to be settled in Iraq and which are unlikely to be resolved through dialogue. One need only point to the resettlement of the Kurds in Kirkuk, not to mention the underlying question of whether the city should be claimed as Kurdish or Arab, as an example of the tough decisions which will likely sink the Lebanon model. The level of distrust, fear, and anger separating Iraq's communities will, in all probability, doom bargaining. One need only read today's NY Times article by Tavernise about how sectarianism is destroying any sense of a common destiny in Iraq.
"Since the state was dismantled in Iraq, institutions have disappeared and people have withdrawn into their clans and tribes," Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, said in a recent interview. An analysis provided by one family court in central Baghdad showed that mixed marriages were rare to begin with, making up 3 to 5 percent of all unions in late 2002. But by late 2005 they had virtually stopped: the court did not record any in December, and last month registered only 2 out of 742 marriages.
My hunch is that the US will not be able to prevent the Shiite militias from consolidating their grip over the security apparatus. This trend is already well established and the major Shiite parties seem convinced that the only method to stop Sunni resistance is to crush it. The threat of withholding foreign financing will also not deter the Shiite militia leaders from their intended path of consolidation. They will figure that if only a strong central government can be established, Iraq will rebuild its oil business and finance its own future, unencumbered by US management or directives. Iraq is not Palestine, where the population, without the hope of producing a self-sustaining local economy, is truly hostage to Israel and external largesse.

6 Comments:

At 2/18/2006 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I didn't know that Syria was a 'model'.

If anything, Syria is a 'model' not to follow.

 
At 2/18/2006 02:45:00 PM, Blogger ghassan karam said...

It is unfortunate that the homo sapien sapien has not evolved to such a level of intelligence yet to enable the specie to learn from history. I believe that it was Winston Churchill who said "We learn from history that we never learn from history". It seems that we insist on repeating many of the mistakes of the past when any in depth and thoughtful reflection would have enabled us to avoid a lot of the hurt, misery and squalor that our actions bring about.

I have been cautioning about the potential to Lebanize Iraq for over two years know. Although the rapid toplling of the Saddam regime by the international forces led by the US brought about this sudden change I believe that the current crisis was inevitable. Whenever one is faced with an authoritarian regime that represents only one segment of society and that regime is bent to promote the interests of its tribe not only to the exclusion of 80% of the population but even at its expense then it must be clear that such a form of governance is not sustainable. The Iraqi Sunnis have in a sense performed in Iraq, albeit in a more ruthless way, the role that was played in Lebanon by the Maronitesand the role that is currently being played by the Alawites in Syria.

The adage that demography is destiny must be taken seriously especially in countries where democracy is equated with the franchise. We have always witnessed that in such circumstances voters have their primary allegiances to their tribes and thus elect those who share their electoral beliefs.

Whenever the oppressed are freed, they do not act to free others but unfortunately they become the oppressors. They just switch places with the oppresse. The result is a period of turmoil until the new realities become accepted by those who used to rule tyrannically and also until those who have become the new dictators, so to speak, learn that they must share power.

In Iraq the Sunnis have not yet accepted their diminished role and the Shiites and Kurds are still at the phase of getting even. This cannot last. The transition will be painful but reality will eventually filter through and all players will be forced to cooperate.The ideal solution, will not occur for decades, if it ever does, will be to banish religion from the public square.

My major disagreement with Joshua Landis is the difference betwwen the Lebanese and the Syrian models. He suggests that they are different while I argue that ultimately they are the same. Actually the Lebanese model of internal dialogue and cooperation is way ahead of the Syrian model. Syria appears to be different only because of the artificial measures that have prevented the various groups from expressing their identities. When I gaze into my crystal ball I see a process of Lebnanonization of Iraq under way and a pocess of Lebnanonization of Syria waiting to take center stage.
Lebanon has shown that the process can be ugly and messy but it is an inevitable phase that these countries must pass through. It is inevitable.

 
At 2/18/2006 05:08:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Very strange, we have the choice between freedom and security, we can not have both, this is wrong we must have freedom, it is human rightfreedom garantee diginity, and will lead to economic improvement,freedom lead to security and stability, freedom will get rid of sectarian power, if we have freedom, then no sect will force its will on the other sect otherwise this will not be freedom, in freedom we will have the right to arm ourself, this will make it difficult for army officer to stage a coup, to survive when everyone is armed , they have to to be willing and agree to talk rather than fight,seperate and loose your right to national resources, such as OIL, divide is the sure way to loose,as freedom flourish, and the people feel its advantage, and reep its fruits, they will get togather again, yes there is a period of chaos, and fight,as it is goining on now, but later on smart leaders will find out the benefit of getting togather and unite there is saying in Damascus (your best friend is the one you fought with previously).
In Iraq arming the different groups, will force dialogue, I am not afraid of seperating into three countries Kurds,Shiites, and the sunnis,as this will make it difficult to survive, certainly it will lead for the sunni to unite with syria,the kurds in the north will be isolated they will suffer till they agree to unite with syria , the shiites in the south will find it convient to work with Iran initially, this will cause problems to Iran who has arab in the southwest(Alhamra) and will split from Iran later.the revenue from the oil must be shared between the three parts, or war might ensue, so the south will always have trouble.this means it will be better for them to stick togather.

 
At 2/18/2006 05:19:00 PM, Blogger why-discuss said...

karam, are you implying that Lebanon is going through a phase.. A phase leading to what? Lebanon ressembles very much the Lebanon of 1976 with the difference that the militias are not as organized and armed. The same allegeance to inept leaders, to religious group or to foreign powers, opposing view of the lebanese identity, arrogant display of hatred. Lebanon is back to square one.. I don't wish that for Irak. While I think Irak is struggling with complex problems, Iraqi have much more ressources and a stronger and coherent sense of their arab identity thanks to their history and Saddam (see the germans). They are mostly moslems, with a limited natural allegeance to the West and ultimately they will find way to co-exist.
Let God preserve Irak from the vicious circle of a lebanization!

 
At 2/18/2006 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

"My major disagreement with Joshua Landis is the difference betwwen the Lebanese and the Syrian models. He suggests that they are different while I argue that ultimately they are the same. Actually the Lebanese model of internal dialogue and cooperation is way ahead of the Syrian model. Syria appears to be different only because of the artificial measures that have prevented the various groups from expressing their identities. When I gaze into my crystal ball I see a process of Lebnanonization of Iraq under way and a pocess of Lebnanonization of Syria waiting to take center stage.
Lebanon has shown that the process can be ugly and messy but it is an inevitable phase that these countries must pass through. It is inevitable."

That's what I always said. Unless you want to live under a dictatorship forever, it's either lebanization or partition. There's no way out.

 
At 2/20/2006 02:13:00 PM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Hi Josh,

Are you drinking behind our backs. You know, people do it. .

Do you hate the Iraqis so much that you even consider the thought of ruling Iraq under the "unique", leg showuing, ass-licking, apple polishing, blood sucking formula.

Imagine the soft spoken, lady like tigers of the Lebanese forces and Al Ahrar and Al Kattaeib who killed hundreds on the basis of the religion writte on the ID, raped whoever they could during the war, stole the country blind since God knows when, and then, returned as Parlemtarians and statesmen????? Imagine what a field day they will have in Iraq.

At the Syrians were consitant men with a consistant policy, they built thier country while fighting western enemies since the thirties and since the first US organized coup in the area. THey died for thier cause, stubborness, or nationalism, but they were consustant. Rightly or wrongly. How could you dare compare the with the Lebanese system, fotrmula or position, which is ready to sell it sole to the highest biddder at the first moment, and then change its shirt and go -taking along the wife and attempting to appear modern- and sell the same with the attachment to the new bidder.

And which Lebanese form are you talkking about, is it the one when all Lebanonses householdes came from a certain part/sect of the country untill Fateh arrived and the Shiiats became the power they deserve to be, or are you talking about the current "demokratiya-tawafukia" who the current Lebanese politicians now refere to after fearing that Nassrallah is the real king of the land.

And imagine little "kimmo" Junblat, or the shy Siniora handling regional issues with thier newly aquiered "frankness" with nieghbours being Turky, Iran, Saudi, Syria, Kuwait and Jordan.

And with Iraq's Oil, My God. They will have a day. Solidair will be a little joke compared to that. And all of a sudden we will discover that Bremmer, Allawi and Wolfwitze were white, well intentioned, smart and uncorrupted Angels compared to their lebanese counterpart.

Come on, they could not manage little teeny meeeny Jabal Lobnan, and you want to give them a go at Iraq.

Have mercy man.....

 

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