Wednesday, June 07, 2006

what the neocons have wrought in Iraq!

Copyright 2006 The Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service

May 9, 2006 Tuesday


LENGTH: 7795 words





MR. HASHIM: (Joined in progress.) I think Tom Ricks
said it quite accurately -- (off mike) -- intelligence
about the insurgency has been remarkable for the
consistency with which it's been wrong.

The insurgency has developed into a very powerful and
virulent kind of insurgent action that has a broad
base support within the Sunni community, the Sunni
Arabs and the Sunni Turkmen. I spent my last
appointment in Iraq in Tall Afar, and the insurgents
in Tall Afar, notwithstanding what everybody said
about them being foreigners or people coming from
across the border, about 95 percent of them were
locals from three key Sunni Turkmen tribes in the
city. And the reason that they went into the
insurgency was most of them had lost their jobs as
police officers, teachers and army officers and
enlistees when the CPA, in its infinite wisdom,
decided that we should not have anything to do with
the Sunni community. It was going to be punished.

What has happened to the insurgency in the last few
months is they've tried to develop a political wing,
and there were a lot of trials and errors in the first
two years or so. But what we discovered is that
they're avid readers, at least in the section that I
was in -- avid readers of the history of the IRA and
how the IRA developed both an armed wing and a
political wing. And a lot of people actually believe
that they do have a political wing in existence in
some of the Iraqi Sunni political groups that are in
existence right now.

MS. GARRELS: What is that political wing?

MR. HASHIM: Well, we're not quite sure, but they do
influence people like the Association of Muslim
Scholars and some of the Iraqi Sunni politicians that
are playing a role in the government. And they did --
the mainstream Sunni insurgents did accede to a
cease-fire during the elections, and that was only
through contact with the Sunni politicians in Baghdad,
and I think went through, but I'm not quite sure, some
contact with the United States. But it's not
monolithic as an insurgency; that's one thing that
makes them very difficult to find a center of gravity.
The unfortunate thing is we have tended to magnify the
importance of Salafi jihadis and foreign influence in
the insurgency. But I dealt primarily with what I call
a mainstream Iraqi nationalist and tribal insurgents
who have in their view legitimate grievances, both
identity issues and material grievances. And I
concluded, after talking to a lot of them over the
course of my time there, that the most powerful force
was the identity issue, that we had destroyed the Iraq
that they knew, and we were given it to Iranian Shi'a,
and that they're fighting a second round of the
Iran-Iraq War.

MS. GARRELS: Nir Rosen. Do you -- how has the
insurgency changed with the rise of Shi'ite -- with
the rise of Shi'ite militias and increased? Has the
insurgency grown in strength because of this? Or are
they split because with Zarqawi? What is your -- how
would you describe them now?

MR. ROSEN: Well, I think the importance of Shi'a
militias, primarily Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and
the government's prominent role now, encourage the
Sunni insurgents to support or accede to the authority
of those three main groups: the Association of Muslim
Scholars, Saleh al-Mutlak, an Iraqi politician, and
Adnan Dulaimi. And they've given them authority.
Different groups have given those three parties
different authority.

MS. GARRELS: You're saying that they are becoming --
they are getting more involved in the political
process because of this?

MR. ROSEN: They have a much closer relationship. I
visited Saleh al-Mutlak and there was a commander of a
resistance group called the Salahuddin Brigade. The
Association of Muslim Scholar has always controlled
several resistance groups, and supported them with
weapons from their mosques. The main mosque in
Ghazalia was used as a weapons depot and you could see
them giving RPGs to people and stuff like that. But
that --

MS. GARRELS: What is their goal now?

MR. ROSEN: Well, the most important change is that the
Iraq is no longer about the insurgency. Iraq is now
about the civil war, and the insurgency has just
become the Sunni militia or the Sunni militias who are
fighting the Shi'a militias and who are protecting
their neighborhoods from Shi'a incursions primarily I

MS. GARRELS: So those who say that Zarqawi's efforts
to create civil strife has divided the insurgency.
What do you -- how -- well, you're saying it's

MR. ROSEN: No. It did divide the insurgency initially.
There was still some hope of an Iraqi -- or a
nationalist front. Muqtada al-Sadr fights with the
Shi'as, and Sunni resistance to the Iraqi nationalist
fights six months ago, until it became apparent that
the Shi'as had decided to actively take the fight home
to the Sunnis. About six months ago, Muqtada al-Sadr
sent a letter to various Sunni leaders, clerics,
asking them to condemn Zarqawi as an infidel. They
refused to do so, and this pushed them into the hands
of the other Shi'a parties who said -- he told his
people that we're not dealing with him anymore. The
way they explained it to him was that it's too
dangerous for us to condemn Zarqawi as an infidel. He
didn't accept their explanations. And starting about
then his men became much more active in killing
Sunnis. It's still not an overt thing, but the people
who are now killing Sunnis in Iraq are primarily
belonging to the Mahdi Army. The police in Iraq is the
Mahdi Army. The army in Iraq is the Mahdi Army.

MS. GARRELS: So, in other words, you're saying that
Muqtada al- Sadr, who projects himself as an Iraqi
nationalist who talks a lot of the time about uniting
Sunnis and Shi'a, says that it wasn't his people who
went off and killed Sunnis after the bombing of
Samarra, is in fact -- it is his Mahdi Army who is in
fact --

MR. ROSEN: Yes, right. I mean, nobody at this point
yet is overtly calling for a civil war or admitting
that they're going out and killing the other side.
It's the Association of Muslim Scholars against
Muqtada al-Sadr basically, but neither side is
claiming this at the moment. But following the Samarra
shrine bombing, Muqtada told his men: Now this is a
pretext for us to kill the Nowasib (ph). "Nowasib"
(ph) is maybe a pejorative way of referring to Sunni
for Shi'as. And they did indeed do that, and they do
that constantly.

MS. GARRELS: Although he had publicly denied that?

MR. ROSEN: Yes. Well, he has to.


MR. HASHIM: Well, I sort of agree with Nir on this.
What has happened -- if you look at the insurgency, it
had a platform or operational notion of how to make
our stay in Iraq as uncomfortable as possible. And I
read it extensively -- I mean, they put it on the
Internet, by the way -- tons of strategic operational
goals. They basically said: We cannot kick the
Americans out, because we cannot fight them force on
force, but we are going to make their stay in Iraq as
untenable, as uncomfortable as possible. And this --
and then they go through a targeting list of what is
going to be targeted -- institutions, oil industry,
people, security forces and police.

And they also say -- and let me just, for simplicity's
sake, talk about mainstream insurgents, meaning the
nationalists and some of the tribal elements and
former Ba'athist regime types -- said, okay, we're not
looking for sectarian strife. We don't really like the
Shi'a. And one of the most remarkable things I've
noticed in Iraq between Sunni Arabs and Shi'a Arabs is
that the sectarian issue has almost become ethnicized,
that the hatred between Sunni Arabs and Shi'a Arabs is
almost down to the point where it's ethnic, not just

And I noticed this in Tall Afar where Sunni Arabs
would refer to Shi'a as "sleazy," "slovenly,"
"backward," "back-stabbing," and "dirty individuals
from the south" -- on top of which they add polytheist
mushrikun and all kinds of calumnies against them. And
you see the reverse also happening among some of the
Shi'a, particularly some of the Muqtada fighters Nir

And so the gap has become ethnic, not just sectarian,
although they are both Arab, although Sunni Arabs -- a
lot of Sunni Arabs, and I talked to a former Sunni
army officer who said there's something ineluctably
non-Arab or anti-Arab about the Shi'a. They're a fifth
column for Iran. And my point is, well, you know,
Shi'aism was born in Iraq, not in Iran, and Iran only
became Shi'a in 1515. And it doesn't matter. It is
something that is Iranian, not part of our conception.
And then they would go into, Oh, we can handle our
local Shi'a. It's the Iranian so-called Iraqi Shi'a
who have come in who have made things very difficult
in the country, and Iraq is being handed to the Shi'a.

You see that also among the Sunni Turkmen. The Sunni
Turkmen, despite they're not Arabs, but they had
imbibed the Ba'athist conception of Iraq as a sort of
a Iraqi Arab nationalist state, and when talking to
this about them, they said, Well, Iraq is being taken
over by the Iranians. Now, when we look at the
targeting notion, a lot of the mainstream insurgents
say, We are going to target the police, the security,
and everybody involved with the new system -- which
means ipso facto targeting Shi'a. But then they're
targeting them as collaborators. It's almost a subtle
distinction. They're targeting them as collaborators
with the United States and with Iran -- not so much as
Shi'a. Now, the Selafis or the Zarqawis of this world
are targeting them as Shi'a, because of the way that
they see the Shi'a. So I talked to a wide range of
people in Tall Afar, both from the intellectual level,
and there's very few intellectuals in that city which
has just been ignored by Saddam for -- has very little
infrastructure. But what few were there, they would
say, Yes, we are being taken over by the Iranians, but
we have to live with the Shi'a -- who are a minority
by the way -- there is -- almost no Sunni accepts the
fact that Sunnis are a minority in Iraq.

The other thing is I talked also to Selafi Jihadis --
and don't ask me how I did, but I did -- and their
view has of the Shi'a is that they're beyond the pale.
And this kind of Selafi Jihadi point of view is
permeating some of the younger generation of the
populations. So I talked to a lot of kids, and I said,
What do you think of your Shi'a neighbors? "They don't
deserve to live here." "They don't deserve to live at
all, and they need to go back to the land of
mushrikun, the polytheist. So, you know, it's -- there
is a nuanced difference.

MS. GARRELS: But is, Nir, do you think -- I mean, the
divide between Sunni and Shi'a? How great is it now?
Is it a civil war or, I mean, let's perhaps not get
into the debate about using the word "civil war," but
is it in -- is the divide unbridgeable now?

MR. ROSEN: Yes. And yes it is a civil war. Every day
you have a hundred bodies on the street. They have
been executed and tortured because they are Sunni or
Shi'a. There is no social space for like a
non-sectarian identity anymore. If you are a
non-sectarian Sunni or Shi'a, you have to be -- you
have to identify with your group, because only they
can protect you at this point. There is widespread --
you can call it now ethnic cleansing, because there
really is a form of racism between Sunnis and Shi'as.
If you are a Shi'a living in a Sunni neighborhood in
western Baghdad, for example, if you're lucky you are
going to receive a letter in your house telling you to
leave. More likely they'll shoot up your house at
night, they'll kill one of your men, they'll bomb your
house, and you leave. And this is an exodus that began
when Fallujah was destroyed in November 2004. All
these Sunni refugees from Fallujah came in to western
Baghdad and towns west of Baghdad, and they pushed out
Shi'as, took over their homes. Shi'as moved into Shi'a
Baghdad, began to do the same thing. This is happening
every day, everywhere in Baghdad.

MS. GARRELS: Can the U.S. play a role? Is the U.S. --
what role is the U.S. playing at this point?

MR. ROSEN: The U.S. I think is just one more militia
in Iraq at this point. When I was there, if the
Americans hit a Shi'a mosque the Sunnis were cheering.
When the Americans hit a Sunni mosque, Shi'as were
cheering. And both sides are aware that the Americans
are switching their support back and forth. Ideally,
of course, the Americans could strip the security
forces from the Shi'a militias. But were they to do
that they would just incur the wrath of tens of
thousands of Muqtada followers, because the police and
the army are absolutely Mahdi Army -- infiltrated.
It's the same thing. When you go to Mahdi Army events,
you see them walking around with police-issue Glocks,
police-issue handcuffs. The Americans gave them that.
The same thing with the army. They have Muqtada
al-Sadr posters in their offices and hanging on their
vehicles. And they fought the Americans in the past --
twice -- they call it their intifada -- they're very
proud of them -- the spring and summer of 2004. This
gives them legitimacy of real nationalists, not
collaborators. And --

MS. GARRELS: Do you see their numbers -- that Sadr's
strength is expanding?

MR. ROSEN: Yes. I was at a -- I went to see Muqtada
speak in Najaf about three weeks ago I think, and it
was like being at a Michael Jackson concert. I mean,
there were more than 10,000 people screaming. They
were so excited that they got to see Muqtada, because
it was a surprise -- usually one of his deputies
speaks. He came. They just couldn't believe it. They
were so lucky that they got to see Muqtada speak --
women who were equally excited. Everybody was rushing
for the fence so they could see them, so they could
shout their support to him. No other leader in Iraq
inspires that kind of emotion or charisma. I think
basically now if you're young and poor and Shi'a, you
are Mahdi Army. Whether it's official -- they actually
have divisions, brigades -- all that stuff. But
everybody supports Muqtada if they're a poor Shi'a.

MS. GARRELS: I was in Basra and in Najaf at the time
just about over the bombing of Samarra, and I must say
I was astonished in Najaf, a city that did not love
Muqtada al-Sadr, because of the divisions and damage
he caused there, but within an hour of the news of the
Samarra bombing spreading, there were well over 1,000
Sadr supporters in lock step. They were trained, they
were in formations, in groups. They had slogans,
sayings, songs that they all knew. I mean, this was
not an ad hoc group. And the population was shocked.
They thought that they guys had sort of gone away, and
they were out there. That was --

MR. ROSEN: There's a propaganda --

MS. GARRELS: -- feel that if there are local elections
in November that Sadr will clean up. Is that the sort
of thing you hear?

MR. ROSEN: More and more. I think the fact that there
were these big attacks, that Shi'a do get persecuted,
is only pushing them into the hands of Muqtada,
because he's their defender. He's the voice of both
the Shi'a victimization and the Shi'a defiance. So I
think if anything his numbers have increased. He's
gained more legitimacy, because he was part of the
government. He has ministries. In fact, one more
example of his ethnic cleansing is the ministry -- his
people control of the Ministry of Transportation and
the Ministry of Health. And as soon as they got there,
they emptied them of all Sunnis and all ideologically
inappropriate Shi'as. The ministry walls got posters
of Muqtada on them. You could hear Shi'a traditional
music playing. There were clerics sort of controlling
what was going on. He is incredibly powerful. He has
been from the beginning, from April 2003, but nobody
took him seriously then. Now they have to.

MS. GARRELS: What --

MR. HASHIM: Actually, Anne, let me add to that,
because I was in Baghdad in my second deployment --
actually my first -- April through end of 2003,
beginning the first few months of 2004, and I spent a
lot of time in Sadr City, and that's when the Mahdist
movement was beginning to really rise, and they were
creating the Mahdi Army and the popularity of Muqtada
al-Sadr. The Sadr family is regarded as a genuinely
Iraqi Arab clerical family, unlike -- and this is the
divide -- and we have this view that the Shi'a are a
monolithic bloc -- they're not.

The Sadrists do not like Iran very much, but I'm sure
they've dealt with it. They regard the Sadr family as
a genuine Arab Iraqi clerical family. And I interacted
with a lot of Mahdist Army militia, and the adoration
-- in Sadr City -- the admiration for Muqtada was
beginning to grow, and it was pretty apparent among
the young unemployed incredibly poor Shi'a of Sadr
City. In fact, they constitute -- and I -- a lot of
the people in the Iraqi army are, as Nir said, are
Muqtada supporters. A lot of them are from Diwaniyah
and Kufa and other places, and they come up to the
north to participate in operations in Tall Afar, and
they had to become very sectarianized. I had an
interesting interaction with one of them who said, "We
need to do a Fallujah on Tall Afar, and that the
Sunnis need to go to hell." And there was evident
tension also between them and the Kurds.

But the thing about Muqtada al-Sadr's movement is he's
modeling it, in my view I mean -- it was evident -- on
the success of Hezbollah as a social movement and as a
guerrilla outfit in a political movement. After his
two --

MS. GARRELS: Well, that started under his father in

MR. HASHIM: Yes, who viewed and has told us his son
has met with an unfortunate accident in 1999. But,
yes, he's trying to build up -- in fact, after the
father was killed, much of the cadre that he was
trying to build up in Sadr City went underground and
came out when the regime fell, and then established a
social movement as well as a militia group, and they
train outside Sadr City. They were terrible at the

I got involved in a fire fight with them, the unit I
was with, and they set up these makeshift training and
shooting ranges, and so they're trying to be as
serious as a political movement, a guerrilla movement
and a social movement for the destitute Shi'a.

MS. GARRELS: What role does the U.S. military, in your
view, play now in Iraq?

MR. HASHIM: What role?

MS. GARRELS: I realize I have to, since you are -- you
can't speak in your official capacity -- you made that
clear -- so

MR. HASHIM: I obviously can't agree with Nir that
we're a militia, so -- but -- on an official basis. We
are in this position right now actually wherein we're
not shaping events, we're reacting to them. Iraq is in
the midst of an insurgency, a civil war, and massive
organized crime, as well as state failure. And what we
can do at the counterinsurgency level, whatever
principles or means we can adopt or train for, may not
work in dealing with a civil war between the
communities there. It may not work with organized
criminal activity. So it's almost as if we need to
develop a set of parallel principles and modes of
operational conduct for insurgencies, civil war,
dealing with organized crime, and dealing with state
failure. And even with the resources and the financial
as well as the incredible human resources we have, it
may be too much to ask of the United States military.
And my view is why are we not reacting to events
rather than shaping them. Once you start reacting to
events, you cannot impose a solution. You go along
with the flow.

MS. GARRELS: I'm going to now move to throw the
questions to the floor. Please wait, as usual, for the
microphone, and speak directly into it. And I would
ask that you stand, state your name and your
affiliation. And, please, ask only one question, and
keep it concise to allow as many people here in the
room to ask questions as possible.


Q George Packard from The New Yorker. What is the
strategy of -- (off mike) -- now? Could you hear the
first part of that?

Do they want their 20 percent? Do they want power
back? Do they accept any power sharing with Shi'a? Is
it possible to know what their strategy is? For
example, in Dora, southern Baghdad, they are
absolutely ethnically cleansing it of Shi'a. It's not
the strategy of politics as we know it. It seems to be
more a strategy of trying to regain power in Baghdad.
What do you think?

MR. ROSEN: Because it's such a diverse movement, it's
hard to say what their strategy is. But I do think
that they're in a self- defense mode right now,
because the main killers now, in Baghdad at least, are
the Shi'a militias. They have all the power. The
Sunnis are trying to seize territory, but I think if
there's still an Iraqi nationalist voice left for a
non-sectarian identity, for an Iraqi identity that
includes Shi'as in a way that you are among the Sunnis
-- Shi'as just don't need that any more. I think
Shi'as are very confident, the Shi'a militias really
-- that they can control Baghdad. And Sunnis struck
me, starting in the fall of 2005, of just being very
terrified for the first time, being on the defensive,
whereas until they had been very aggressive. They are
now afraid of the Shi'a militias. They are afraid of
Badr and of the Mahdi Army. If there's a strategy, I
think it's purely to defend themselves. They struck me
as just very scared --

MS. GARRELS: I mean, I've heard the Sunnis say that --
I mean, suddenly they look at the Americans not as
friends, but certainly in many ways as almost their
protectors in some instances now. Would you agree with

MR. ROSEN: There is a -- I think if anybody is afraid
of the Americans leaving at this point it's the
Sunnis. The Shi'as just don't need the Americans
there. They have control. And I've heard Sunni
resistance or insurgent members say that to the
Americans, "Leave now, there will be nobody to protect
us" -- not that the Americans are really protecting

Q My name is Roland Paul. I'm a lawyer. I'm sure
there's something wrong with this, but maybe my asking
it you can correct it. You know, the American success
in Fallujah occurred in November of '05, an then the
Sunnis voted in enormous numbers in December of '05.
I've been wondering maybe -- and you mentioned that
because some of the Shi'as said, Why don't we do a
Fallujah in Tall Afar? -- why shouldn't the Americans
or somebody conduct something similar to Fallujah? And
I know from good authority that we decimated that
place building wise, but in some places, Ramadi being
one of the examples, or some other places, maybe that
would be an effective counterinsurgency operation --
if you could tell me why I'm wrong.

MR. HASHIM: That's really not counterinsurgency. This
is extermination. If the U.S. wants to exterminate the
Sunni population, that is a strategy which I think is
unethical and morally repugnant.

Q I think we -- (off mike).

MR. ROSEN: Not really. Some of them.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. HASHIM: I mean, I don't know if you understand the
extent of the hatred that Fallujah has generated for
the United States -- not just in Iraq, but in the
Sunni Muslim world, and among Shi'a in Lebanon. And if
you go to Turkey, people held up placards saying,
"We're all Fallujans now." This is the most secular
pro-American Muslim country you can imagine. It's been
a turnaround in recent months. And, frankly,
extermination strategy in counterinsurgency is the
absence of strategy. And did we go into Iraq to
exterminate the Sunni population? This will prove to
the rest of the Muslim world -- which happens to be 85
percent Sunni rather than Shi'a -- that this is the
entire strategy of the United States. We can't go
around destroying cities of the Sunni heartland just
to prevent an insurgency. And Fallujah certainly did
not end the insurgency.

MR. ROSEN: If I can just add, both the Fallujah
operation and the one in Mosul that followed convinced
Sunnis that they were now the oppressed underclass in
Iraq, that they were being regarded as the enemy.

And I was in Somalia, just to add to what he said, I
was in Mogadishu this summer, and there were men
walking around with Fallujah T-shirts, and there was a
shop named after Fallujah. I was in Pakistan not long
after that, and there was a magazine that I bought in
Urdu, dedicated to the heroes of Fallujah. We really
created this myth of Fallujah in the Muslim world.

Q Susan Woodward, the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York. Both of you in different ways
have emphasized that all groups in Iraq are not
monolithic. I think we were aware of that our first
year, in the kind of sort of really good reporting of
people like Annie. But that's gone. I hear you both
saying -- and I may be wrong -- that that -- you're
saying that intentionally to an American audience,
because you think we don't know that any more. If I'm
right, what would you recommend to U.S. policy,
particularly -- not on the military side but on the
civilian side, and political if you will, to take
advantage of that to get us out of this mess? Is there
something we could do that's different?

MR. HASHIM: A policy option to get out of Iraq, is
that what -- we need to --

Q (Off mike) -- not monolithic. In reality it's still

MR. HASHIM: I'm not sure that this is well understood
by the administration, and I'm again, just to
reiterate, our understanding of Iraq has advanced at a
very glacial pace ever since 2003, which there was no
understanding. It was all politicized -- what's the
term I'm looking for when the talking heads will come
out and say, Well, Iraqis are going to greet us with
flowers and everything and so on, especially in the
south. But let me add the fact that the Shi'a -- and I
talk to a large number of them -- they hate us for
'91, because we didn't come to their aid. And, yes,
they're going to be happy we liberated them from
Saddam, but they don't want us to stay, and they told
us that. I mean, I had interactions where they say, We
think you're just going to overthrow the tyrants and
just stay and use our oil. They are convinced that we
are there for oil.

The other thing is that -- which we believe and
continue to believe -- is the Sunnis would accept
being overthrown from power and roll over and play
dead. And, if they won't, the application of salutary
violence on them -- you know, the notion that they all
understand force -- will get them to stop. This hasn't

So when I say understanding has advanced glacially,
it's more at the civilian level than the military. I
think the military with all the resources, the
attenuated resources it has, has done a tremendous job
of building up what I call a human-cultural mapping of
Iraq. But whether this will affect our policy or not
-- the only policy we have in our hand right now,
which the Iraqis can't really effect unless they plead
for us to stay, is to leave. But to stay in Iraq and
affect the situation in Iraq will require a kind of
bartering and dealing and understanding of the country
at a level far deeper than we have.

MS. GARRELS: Nir, do you have --

MR. ROSEN: Well, I'm happy that I'm in a profession
where I can just diagnose the problems and not offer

I don't think there is a solution in Iraq. I think at
this point it's just too late. The U.S. doesn't really
have much influence. Khalilzad is not trusted at all
by the -- the American ambassador -- by Shi'as because
he's a Sunni, and they view him primarily as a Sunni.
I think there is absolutely no hope for anything to
get better right now. In fact, I think that the civil
war will get much worse and draw on neighboring
countries. And the sooner that the Americans at least
recognize this, that will be against our policy, that
things are so much worse, that there is a civil war. I
think that should be the first policy, is honesty.

MR. HASHIM: I've also heard him being -- I mean by
both Sunni and Shi'a -- being referred to as a
freemason and as an Afghan Jew.

MR. ROSEN: And an American monkey in a Shi'a speech,
as I heard in Sadr City.

MR. HASHIM: Yeah, conspiracy theories are rampant.

MS. GARRELS: Frances?

Q Frances Fitzgerald, also the New Yorker. The next
question has to be: What happens if the U.S. gets out
in a relatively short period of time?

MR. HASHIM: Oh, I think personally I think it will
leave Iraq -- I mean, we have a civil war right now, a
low-level civil war. And anybody who says there isn't
really has no understanding of the level of violence
approximates a civil war. We've kept the lid on it so
far by our presence. I mean, we do have the largest
militia there that tends to have some impact, or what
some people would say our presence there contributes
to that. However, be that as it may, if we do leave
the level of ethnosectarian hatred in Iraq is at such
a level that I think they will have a civil war. And
what happened over the past several months is Iraqi
communities have created a narrative of one another
that is exclusionary. So if you're a Sunni you're an
Iraqi, but the Shi'a are not Iraqis -- they are Shi'a.

And you don't go up to the next level and accept them
as your fellow citizens. And the same thing for the
Shi'a. And it's the sort of narrative that occurred in
my mind with the breakdown of Yugoslavia in 1990, the
narrative that each community was created -- and you
take the Serbs, going back to the defeat at Kosovo,
and the death of Lazare against the Ottoman Turks. And
they dredge that up to create a modern nationalism,
exclusionary nationalism. So you have the Sunnis and
Shi'a doing that to one another. And the Kurds of
course will have 13, 15 years to create a narrative of
Kurdish nationalism that is exclusionary as well.

Now, most young Kurds that have grown up since the
imposition of the no-fly zone are fiercely Kurdish
nationalists. They don't see themselves as Iraqis. The
few Kurds who still want to be Iraqi, the older
business people who believe that being part of Iraq,
once its problems are solved, could -- would be a
bigger market than just Kurdistan. But also a lot of
these guys are now looking toward Turkey to see, okay,
How do we dissipate Turkish delight for us and
business may play a role in that. But what's happening
is what we call the ancient hatred theory. You don't
go to war with somebody just because of ancient
hatreds -- you weave it into a modern narrative of
exclusionary nationalism, tied to the existence of
militias, one of the biggest indicators of civil war,
and one of the biggest promoters of civil war are
militias. When the state loses its ability to control
the legitimate -- the monopoly to control the
legitimate means of violence, and it falls into the
hands of militias that protect their respective
communities, this promotes ethnic antagonism towards
the other.

MS. GARRELS: Nir, what's your attitude if the U.S.
were to leave?

MR. ROSEN: Yes, the civil war that exists now would
get worse, and you would see -- (inaudible) -- ethnic
cleansing. The Kurds would use that as an excuse to
finally become independent, which they're dying to do.
I think the Kurds are going to be the primary
beneficiary of the civil war. I think the idea of the
Iraqi nation- state wouldn't be important any more.
Sunni Arab tribes in the west belong to tribes that
exist in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Syria. Their
tribal kinsmen would come in to defend them, and I
imagine Iran would lend a hand to the Shi'a. I don't
think the Sunni Arab world would tolerate a Shi'a
Iraq, and they'll do their best to prevent this from


Q Hi, I'm Eugene Staples. Does the government of Iraq
have any relevance at all? It would sound to me like
it does not, in what you're saying.

MR. HASHIM: I'll let you answer that. (Laughter.)

MR. ROSEN: The government of Iraq is just a bunch of
militias that have control of various ministries,
mostly Shi'a and Kurdish militias. So if they have a
role it's a negative one. I think the events in the
Green Zone have always been irrelevant for what's
really going on in Iraq and more of a show for us back
here perhaps.

The appointment of Maliki as the new prime minister
was hailed as some breakthrough, which is a mystery to
me, because he's, if anything, more extreme than
Ja'afari, and with a close relationship with Syria,
which you would think would scare the Americans. And
so it's the same ideology of the predecessor. I think
perhaps the Americans wanted to identify this as some
milestone -- finally we've got a new prime minister.
The Sunni politicians wanted to say they had some
influence that they managed to prevent Ja'afari from
becoming prime minister, and they got this other guy
who is an unknown. So at least they have some street
credit. But in reality I think, if anything, the new
government is more sectarian with the appointment of

Q Thanks, Sheri Fink, Harvard School of Public Health.
Back when I was there in 2003, I was impressed to the
extent that just regular people really just were sick
of war, decades of war, and wanted a chance for peace.
And I'm curious to the extent that you get to talk to
regular people, or to the extent that they exist any
more, have they changed their view? Are they -- have
they really shifted from that view?

MR. ROSEN: Well, I think I had the same impression as
you in 2003, and I still have it as regular people are
sick of war. I mean, daily life still exists in
Baghdad and other parts of the country. The markets
are open, unless there's some incident that prevents
them from being open. People still try to have a
normal life going around the violence as much as they
can. But I think the militias are more of a defensive
thing. When your neighborhood is attacked by Shi'as,
you're naturally going to join, at least temporarily,
the Sunni militias that are protecting your
neighborhood. And the Shi'a of course have been much
longer victims of this Sunni onslaught, so they join
the police and security forces in part just for a
salary, but also they're operating on self-defense.
The people are sick of war, but war has come to them,
and they don't have a choice.

MR. HASHIM: Could I just add to that? I think also
what you meant was -- I mean, my personal interactions
with Iraqis were largely very different from Nir's,
so, you know, when they see somebody in uniform they
-- it's somewhat different. But in 2003 I had the
opportunity to go out into the streets, both in
uniform and out of uniform, and I realize in
retrospect that I'm doing -- I'm going out into the
streets of Baghdad when I was first based there in
civvies was not the smartest thing to do. But I
managed to go into coffee shops, bookstores, and I'd
sit down and talk to Iraqis at length. And one of the
questions -- they were almost anecdotal that sort of
an unscientific polling of mine was, Do you think the
prospect of harb ahati (ph) or harb ahliya, which is
civil war, breaking out in Iraq is a possibility? And
quite a lot -- most of the time in 2003 people say no,
this is absolutely impossible -- we're all Iraqis, we
intermarry and so on. They are problems that we will
recover from this ordeal. We've had ordeals since 1968
when the Ba'ath took over, then the Iran- Iraq War,
then Desert Storm and sanctions and so on. And almost
no Iraqi I talked to in 2003 entertained the
possibility of what we call a harb ahliya.

In 2004, I heard it a little bit more. And 2005 I came
back with a totally pessimistic and bleak view of
Iraq. The narrative they created about each other will
propel them. And I'm not fatalistic, but there are
certain structural factors that contribute to civil
war. They exist in Iraq. I did a comparative analysis
for Yugoslavia and with Lebanon, and some of these
very factors that existed in those countries exist in
Iraq right now.

Q Wendy Luers from the Foundation for a Civil Society.
Is there a civil society in Iraq? And has all the
efforts that have been taking place from both little
effort from the United States, but a lot of effort
from Central Europe and former Yugoslavia to try to
engender some of the women and other programs of young
(O-4 types ?), et cetera? Is any of that happening
underneath the surface?

MR. ROSEN: Well, certainly in Kurdistan it is
happening. Kurdistan is an oasis of peace compared to
the rest of Iraq. Although it's still a dictatorship,
so even members of civil society can't criticize
Talabani or Barzani too much. But there's a striving
civil society there I would say. In the rest of Iraq
there are some women's groups, in Baghdad and
elsewhere, but it's very dangerous for them.
(Inaudible) -- I think honor killings have increased
dramatically. It's just dangerous for anybody who
doesn't belong to some militia- related movement to
survive. Even the media is not completely sectarian --
newspapers, radio, television -- it's all Sunni or
Shi'a, and quite vitriolic about the other group. I
would say that within Arab Iraq those efforts have

MR. HASHIM: And let me just add to this -- and then I
have to leave.

Civil society depends, in my view, on also a thriving
middle class -- intellectuals, technocrats who
participate in that. And there is an outflow of Iraqi
middle -- what the remnants of the Iraqi middle class,
which can be the foundation for building up an
effective civil society, is taking off from Iraq. And
the interesting thing is a lot of the Sunnis who are
leaving, quite a substantial number have left for
Kurdistan. This tells you quite a bit about the extent
of relationships between them and their Shi'a
co-ethnicists, so to speak.

But I'm sorry I have to -- thank you very much.

MS. GARRELS: The meeting will continue. Unfortunately,
Professor Hashim has to get a train. But Nir will stay
on. Please. (Applause.)

Q Gregory Maniatis from the Migration Policy
Institute. I have an impossible counterfactual for
you, but he got off easy.

If we had never involved ourselves with Iraq, and
there had been a different administration in the
United States, what would -- what's your best
assessment of what Iraq would look like today?

MR. ROSEN: It would be the same, unless Saddam had a
heart attack or something. The reign of terror would
have continued, I am sure. I mean, it was impossible
to remove Saddam without foreign intervention. I'm not
supporting intervention or condemning it, but I don't
think there's any other way to get rid of him. The
regime had control over Iraq.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROSEN: Following his removal? I think following
Saddam there would have to be some sort of realignment
of power. But I don't think we had to have a civil
war. Sectarianism didn't exist in the same extreme way
that it does now. I think we did some things to
contribute to that by accident. Iraqis right away,
even April-May 2003, were warning about the Americans
want to create a civil war, the Americans are
promoting sectarianism -- because they want a pretext
to remain in Iraq forever. Obviously there are
ridiculous conspiracy theories, but American blunders
did encourage sectarianism. The vacuum on April 9th,
2003, was filled immediately by sectarian militias,
primarily the Shi'a ones, but anyone with a gun, a
cleric, a tribal leader.

The exile movements were mostly sectarian --
(inaudible) -- the Kurds, who weren't exactly exiled.
The way we disbanded the military and security forces,
the Ba'ath party; alienated the Sunni population -- to
them de-Ba'athification meant de-Sunnification,
because Shi'a Ba'athists could be rehabilitated -- and
they were by Muqtada's movement and others. The
creation of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council was a
sectarian one. We viewed Iraqis as components -- a
certain number of Sunni, Shi'a, Kurds. And the Sunnis
and Shi'a know this, and they were getting louder and
louder in their protests: There are no Sunnis, there
are no Shi'as -- we're all Muslims, we're all Iraqis
-- in the response to what they perceived as the
American sectarian way of looking at them. So I think
by our blunders we encouraged this.

Of course the fact that Sunnis either boycotted the
security forces or threatened to leave, handed those
over mainly to the Shi'as. They boycotted the
government, giving it over to the Shi'as and the
Kurds. So they also made some strategic errors that
sort of left them out of the Iraqi state. But I don't
think a civil war has to happen.

Q Joe Magroten (ph) with CBS News. The U.S. military
had several opportunities to take out, to kill Muqtada
al-Sadr since the invasion, and I'm wondering if they
had actually succeeded in doing that what would the
situation on the ground look like today?

MR. ROSEN: I think Shi'as would have gone completely
insane if that would have happened. They would have
thrown themselves at the Americans. I mean, you also
heard people saying, We're willing to die for Muqtada.
I believe that thousands certainly were. We would have
lost the Shi'a population completely -- which we did
anyway -- so I don't think it would have made much of
a difference. I mean, he would have been a martyr. He
always claimed to be seeking martyrdom. He wore the
white shroud when he gave his sermons that you wear
when you're expecting martyrdom, things like that.
It's impossible to know, but I think it would have
been much worse.

MS. GARRELS: Sir, in the back.

Q Anthony Barnett from Open Democracy. Could you say,
in view of the polarization with Iran, what the views
of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'a would be if there is
a growing polarization with the United States and

MR. ROSEN: I think his relationship with Iran is very
complex. He and his followers are quite hostile to
Iran. I know personally being half Iranian that they'd
always make jokes about that when I was there. They
are very concerned about Iranian intervention and the
Iranian threat within Iraq. They don't want to be
controlled by Iran. But Muqtada has of course said
that should Iran be attacked by America he will help
defend it. Iran is still a Shi'a country, a relatively
friendly country compared to the U.S.

I don't think an American attack on Iran, such as
you're asking, would result in a Shi'a fifth column in
Iraq attacking U.S. forces. But you would probably see
a lot more of those kinds of attacks, and you would
see the Shi'as much more hostile. This is more proof
that the Americans are against the Shi'as, things like

I think Sunnis in Iraq aren't particularly happy with
that. But I just don't know more than that.


Q Thanks. Jane Arraf, Council on Foreign Relations.
Nir, first, neither of you has really mentioned the
Ayatollah Sistani, and I'm curious as to why you think
that is, whether you think that is, whether he's not

The other thing is we all know that there are
divisions within the Shi'as, right? It's not just the
Badr, it's just not the Muqtada al-Sadr people -- it's
the Badr organization --

MR. ROSEN: Absolutely.

Q And I've met, as you probably have, young Iraqis who
don't support Sadr. Could that be a stabilizing factor
in a sense, the fact that there are divisions in the
Shi'a community that could prevent it from spiraling
further into a bigger civil war?

MR. ROSEN: Well, the problem with those types of
people who -- maybe they're even a majority -- they
don't have a militia, they don't have any voices, they
don't have any representatives. They do, but nobody
very important, nobody with any real power, I don't
think -- nobody who would prevent this in any way. And
should they, I think they would just be assassinated.
I mean, there are Shi'a divisions, but -- and I think
that between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps and the
Fadila (ph) followers of Aqubi (ph), they still share
this antipathy towards the Sunnis, and many of them
towards the Americans as well. I do think that they
are going to be fighting each other. They have in the
past, and they will in the future. But I don't see any
space for non-sectarian voices in Iraq today.

He hasn't lost his relevance, but he's still the most
important Shi'a authority in Iraq. But the most
beloved Shi'a leader in Iraq I think is Muqtada. They
also sort of I think been drawing closer together.
Muqtada supporters began carrying posters of Muqtada
and Sistani. Muqtada now has sort of legitimacy
because he's part of the Sistani-backed party.
Sistani, I think within the civil war in Iraq, perhaps
because Sistani, still perceived by Muqtada followers
as an Iranian, might just not make him that relevant
for the infighting. I mean, part of Sadr's appeal and
Badr's appeal is that they are Iraqi. And I think that
within the context of the civil war that's more
important. When it comes to other issues, Sistani's
fatwas obviously are adhered to. Even Muqtada has
called for restraint officially, but I just think that
Shi'a men are growing more and more sick of having to
be restrained. And Sistani I don't think can hold them
back any more.


Q In your last minute -- this is Gary Sick, Columbia
University -- do you -- it's very popular right now to
push the idea of the United States taking on
responsibility for sponsoring partition or some kind
of division of the country into three different parts.
And I wonder what your take is on that proposal?

MR. ROSEN: Well, I don't think the people whose last
names are Biden, or any other American name, should be
the one to setting Iraq states, and I don't think the
Iraqis do either. I think also Iraqis from the
beginning, and other Arabs, were terrified of the
Americans coming in and dividing Iraq, and you would
hear them mentioning Yugoslavia. Most of those people
actually believe the Americans would come to divide
Iraq. I mean, if we were to do that, leaving aside the
fact that this would have exacerbate the civil war,
this would certainly create the perception throughout
the Arab world and Muslim world this is our intention
from the beginning, to destroy Iraq -- Iraq being one
of the most important Arab nations -- or used to be.
And how would you do that? I mean, you have the mixed
cities, Baghdad mostly -- Kirkuk, other towns. You
wouldn't be able to tell though just by dividing them
-- I mean, some process of ethnic cleansing is
required, and it's going to be violent and bloody. So,
no, I don't think that will work, but I don't -- I
can't think of anything else that would work. At least
they're trying to offer a solution, unlike the

MS. GARRELS: Well, thank you very much. Well, we've
just had another depressing night in Iraq --
(laughter) -- but with new voices and interesting
ones. Thank you very much. On this wonderful note, the
meeting is closed. Thank you. (Applause.)


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