Monday, August 20, 2007

Moqtada al-Sadr and Me

In a debate in a thread at "Harry's Place" I was challenged to explain my position in relation to the existence of foreign troops in Iraq. I responded with an argument which I later gave the following title -


My case ran as follows, although it was later elaborated upon in the thread -

(1) Coalition forces in Iraq operate a very mixed role. They stimulate opposition, yet offer some sort of protection against terrorism. They could be replaced by troops from Islamic nations (other than from nations bordering Iraq). The wealthier nations in say the G8, would need to provide the funding via the United Nations - so US money would need to be forthcoming, whilst looking for ways in which the piper did not play the tune. The Iraqi Parliament would need to accept this alternative. For whilst the Iraqis did not ask us to invade them, they should have the say over the terms of our removal.
(2) There is also a need to remove the 2nd largest foreign force in Iraq. These are mercenaries provided by private security firms. These could be removed at the same time as the Coalition troops. In the meanwhile urgent action needs to be taken by the UK and other Governments (along with Iraq's) to control the operations of firms which are subject to their authority.

Now I find that Moqtada al-Sadr (of all people) is seemingly coming up with something similar. It is time for some serious discussion and bargaining to take place.


Bob Piper said...

I have some sympathy with the points you make Harry, but with some trepidation. For decades liberals advanced the theory of some form of UN peacekeeping force in the North of Ireland as a solution. The reality is that whatever the composition of the peacekeeping force, it will have to be prepared to use force, and the use of that force will be interpreted as favouring one side or another. Callaghan originally sent in the army as a 'peacekeeping' force to protect the catholic population in the North, but almost inevitably that turned in to an army of occupation and I suspect a UN force would have been interpreted in the same way. Being shot at by UN forces on Bloody Sunday (or baton charged on Orange marches for that matter) would not make anyone feel better about it.

The reality, I suspect, is that the occupation forces will eventually have to sit down and talk compromise and exit strategies with the leaders of those described as insurgents... unpalatable as that may seem.

Harry Barnes said...

Bob; I accept the difficulties you raise, especially as Islamic UN-supported forces would need to be other than just well intentioned troops in blue berets who stood by whilst chaos surrounded them.

But there is another interesting analogy which can be made in relation to the situation you raise of Northern Ireland. It was when Gerry Adams appreciated that he was in a position where he needed to go beyond the tactic of the armelite and the ballot box, that he began to see a way forward by seeking to enter into an agreement with forces which Sinn Fein had previously been in opposition to. In some ways Moqtada al-Sadr is now in a similar position. The fact that he seems to favour a replacement for US and British forces, at least opens up possibilities towards the working out of a deal which will be unlikely be just a repeat of the Belfast Agreement. For one thing, it may first need to involve discussions with wider forces of the insurgency and terrorism. Even the propect of a UN backed Islamic force could effect the possibilities for (and in) such negotiations.

I am convinced, however, that we need to find a way other than (a) the continuation of the coalition troops' activities and (b)troop withdrawals and nothing else. Those advocating (a) or (b) find difficulty in answering each others criticisms.

Bob Piper said...

I suspect we're not far apart on that Harry.

Johnny Guitar said...

I agree with you on point number two. As far as the first point goes I am not too sure. The term ‘Islamic troops’ is one I find a tad troubling. If the ultimate aim is to nurture a fully functioning democratic Iraq wouldn’t the idea of an Islamic UN force be counter productive? Which Muslims states will these troops overseeing the construction of democracy be drawn from? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Pakistan? Syria? Not exactly countries David Dimbleby would find much work in for an election night special.

I am still on the unreconstructed Hitchensite wing of the debate. This conflict will either end in success or failure. Failure is withdrawal and the fall of Iraq into a continuous cycle of violence with no end in sight or else a victory for the totalitarian forces that are causing so much havoc. Success is a free and democratic Iraq, and a resounding defeat for the jihadist’s international aspirations.

As for talks with the insurgents, it shouldn’t be something that is rushed into. Despite what some disillusioned individuals within the StWC might think, these people are neither Sinn Fein nor the ANC. And as for Sinn Fein it should not be forgotten that talks were only conducted with them when it became clear that it was they who wanted the way out of the Irish conflict and not the British.

It took six years to defeat fascism in Europe. It took a quarter of a century to defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland. If success in Iraq lies somewhere in between would perseverance not be worth it?

Harry Barnes said...

Johnny Guitar; my formula ruled out Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria as well as Kuwait and Turkey under the qualification "other than from nations bordering Iraq". There are another 51 Islamic Nations in the world. A force could be negotated via this world world-wide Islamic Conference -

I appreciate that Sinn Fein needed 30 years to come round to a position it should have started from and that it was only when it finally understood that it could not win the armed struggle that it started to negotiate.

But US politics might not provide such scope and the Iraqi situation calls for action on an international scale which (apart from bits and pieces) did not apply to Northern Ireland.

If we can't reach agreement on an alternative to the current arrangments in Iraq, then I agree that we are stuck with them. But we should try to make progress.

My link to the "Harry's Place" debate keeps disappearing. I will add it in a comment below when I can.

Harry Barnes said...

Johnny: it was on at thread of 5 August here -

Harry Barnes said...

Better still -

Harry Barnes said...

Johnny - I give up!

mrs k said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alec said...

Harry, I would agree with you that the continued presence of Coalition troops may be prolonging the situation - the British and Americans' almighty firepower, albeit less so on empathy on one or both sides - which merely provides the structure for the hot-heads and medieval pogromists to carry on.

Yet, even if the Western coalition is replaced by Muslim troops from countries not bordering Iraq, which do you suggest? Which do not have their own states of emergenies or insurgenies to content with? Furthermore, it's a bit, dare I say it, inverted-Edwardian to suggest that the Iraqi civilians and security personel falling like insects, whom I assume are Muslim, are being targetted because of the Infidel occupiers.

If America were to fund any subsequent Islamic-led force, of course it would be impossible to silence the piper. And, even if he were, the rationale which sees market-goers or non-Muslims are viable targets, is hardly going to be mollified by 'so-called' Muslims there at the behest of America.

Harry Barnes said...

Alec Mcpherson; I can only suggest an approach and not a worked-out and detailed plan. Any plan would, of course, have to result from negotiations amongst the nations concerned. In addition to discussion via the United Nations, a key body is "The Organisation of the Islamic Conference" which is made up of the following 57 nations -

I ruled out the involvement of troops from the 6 nations surrounding Iraq, who might be seen to have their own self-interested agendas. Nations facing serious internal problems such as the Lebanon, Afghanistan, Palestine (which is included in the 57) and the Sudan would obviously be unable to participate. Other possible nations such as Bangladesh might need all their troops at the moment to handle their own problems such as the floods.

But many of the remaining nations might be able to supply troops. To start with examples from different areas of the world; we might have Indonesia, Pakistan, Mosambique and Eqypt.

Major US funding towards the running of such a force, would enable it to meet internal US demands for the withdrawal of its own troops - without merely "cutting and running". The funding formula (involving also the rest of the G8) would have to be agreed to via the United Nations prior to any troop replacements.

Troops from Islamic Nations will need to be prepared to remain in Iraq for a considerable period. Whilst the removal of US and UK troops might tone down the insurgency somewhat, it is unlikely to produce any significant reduction of terrorist activity. (Although I appreciate that insurgency and terrorist activities have become interconnected.)

The Iraqi Parliament would have to agree to such a replacement force. It gives an opportunity to define such forces terms of engagement and command structures. Although it is still a long haul solution, it gives the opportunity for Islamic nations (including Iraq) to show they can help solve problems stirred up by Western actions.

Iraqi Kurdistan reasonably operates its own controls on its internal situation.If it can get agreement to extend its area of jurisdiction in the north this might help in security terms.

As the fall-back position is that the Coalition troops remain, this could help to stimulate the way forward which I suggest.