Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nir Rosen on Iraq

Nir Rosen recently published a long and informative article on his reporting in Iraq. As a journalistic account it provides much information but in a somewhat difficult to assimilate fashion because of the way the subparts are strung together. But here is an important excerpt:
With the January 30, 2005, electoral success of the Shia parties, the balance of power between Shias and Sunnis shifted, initiating an apartheid process. In the ministry of health, pictures of Muqtada and his father were everywhere.... And in the ministry of transportation, walls were adorned with Shia posters, including some specifically supporting Muqtada. Sadrists instituted a program they called “cleansing the ministry of Saddamists,” with “Saddamist” defined so broadly that all Sunnis felt vulnerable. Ousted Sunnis were replaced by Shias with no apparent qualifications.... Efficiency dropped; the ministries of health and transportation barely functioned, and the ministry of the interior operated an anti-Sunni death squad. Its secret prisons were uncovered in November 2005.... Elections may have represented a victory for the Bush administration, but they also enshrined sectarianism more deeply in Iraq.
The bottomline, it seems to me, is that the very insistence upon Iraqi elections may have exacerbated sectarian splits between Shia and Sunni. This again underlines how devilishly complicated it is to intervene in a foreign culture, topple the existing government and then believe you will be able to easily and successfully take actions that will only have intended consequences. Apparently the U.S.'s actions in Iraq have frequently had the unintended consequence of fracturing the country into warring sectarian and tribal factions and encouraging civil war.

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