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July 30, 2007

Southern Iraq: Failed State Falling Under Control Of "Warlords" Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Nearly all of the Western news coverage in Iraq centers around Baghdad, so one could get the impression that elsewhere in Iraq things aren't so bad. But one would be wrong. CNN reports that much of Iraq is devolving into failed state status, with various warlords fighting it out to define the limits of their turf. Think Somalia. CNN:

The fight between US-led forces and militants in and near Baghdad and the sectarian civil war raging in the capital has overshadowed another grim wartime reality — the factional strife in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland.

Experts who study the region attribute the instability to turf battles among "warlords" and their fighters in an unstable political and social environment that is coming to resemble a failed state.

"Iraqi politicians are progressively turning into warlords," Peter Harling, senior analyst with the Middle East Program of the Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group. What has been unfolding in the south, he says, is a "very crude struggle over power and resources."

"Violence has become the routine means of interacting with the local population," Harling says of the militias, which have filled the power vacuum after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"They see no interest in seeing a functional state emerge."

The south has always been relatively quiet compared with the mixed Baghdad and Diyala provinces and the largely Sunni Anbar province, where Sunni militants conducting large-scale terror attacks have emerged as the major foe of the United States.

But fighting has erupted between Shiite political factions in the southern cities of Basra, Diwaniya, Karbala, Nasiriya and Samawa in recent months, and U.S., British and other coalition forces have conducted raids on insurgents in those regions. [...]

The major movements in the south are the Sadrists; the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the longtime Shiite group led by Iraqi politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; the Dawa Islamic Party, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; and the Fadhila Party, which holds great power in Basra.

And there are fighters, such as al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, aligned with such groups. There are splinter and rogue elements among these groups, and there are smaller entities as well.

This factionalism goes against the notion that Shiite communities are united, says Jon B. Alterman, director and senior fellow of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies' Middle East Program.

"They are unified when confronted with Sunni or Kurdish power, but within the Shia community there are a variety of parties, with a range of different leaderships, all competing for power and influence."

Alterman says he sees the emergence of "warlords" who "are staking out their claims to different parts of Iraq." [...]

[O]n the ground, Alterman says, "the central government is not central to how politics works anymore. What matters are guns and money and access to resources." [...]

"In a place bereft of services and security, people look to a leadership that can protect them and feed them," Alterman says. [...]

Pang calls the environment the "militarization of local politics."

"Militias have entrenched themselves into the fabric of the society of the southern region of Iraq. They've assumed control of the oil. They've assumed control of the customs. They've assumed control of the police," Pang says. [Emphasis added]

So much for the claim that the violence in Iraq is caused by a centuries-old vendetta between Sunnis and Shia. (Which never made sense anyway — why weren't they killing each other pre-Saddam?)

I just cannot see how this particular Humpty-Dumpty gets put back together again. Much more likely: it will spread. Chaos, suffering, and collapse. Brought on by a small gang of lunatics and fools in the Bush administration. Who will never pay for their crimes.

Proof that time travel is impossible: nobody from the future came back to strangle Dick Cheney at birth. Or maybe it's not impossible. Maybe it's just that Earth's humans won't be around long enough to learn how.

Posted by Jonathan at July 30, 2007 05:51 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb