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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Doom and Gloom

We didn't see this coming, Iran 1979

No reason for optimism in Iraq
John Simpson

By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor


Doom and gloom

In 1978, as the revolution in Iran unfolded, it was clear to those of us who spent our days out in the streets, seeing the mounting violence for ourselves, that the demonstrators were losing their fear of the Shah and his forces.

At the time I often used to visit the highly intelligent and generous British ambassador in Tehran at the time, Sir Anthony Parsons. He insisted that the Shah would survive, and he assured the British government that this would happen.

Afterwards, with characteristic honesty, he wrote a book about why he got it wrong. The main reason was that his information came from the Shah's own ministers. It was too dangerous for his own diplomats to spend much time in the streets, finding out what was happening.

But the journalists could see for themselves that the revolutionaries were building up an unstoppable momentum.

It gives me no pleasure today to forecast further doom and gloom here in Iraq. But, as in Iran in 1978, the facts on the street contradict the assertions of the generals, the politicians and the diplomats.

Slow progress

Ever since the invasion in 2003, you have been more likely to turn out right if you were pessimistic than if you were an optimist. At the end of 2003 a well-known columnist wrote with immense assurance that there might be a spike of violence until early 2004, but that afterwards the trouble would die away. He could not have been more wrong.

Coalition officials assured us that the elections in January and December last year would result in a down-turn in the number of killings and bombings. They were wrong, too. Today the situation in Iraq is worse than at any time since the fall of Saddam.

It might be different if the politicians who were elected in the December election could agree to form a government. So far, though, they haven't made much progress.

The caretaker prime minister, Dr Jaafari, is increasingly unacceptable to the Kurds and to most of the Sunnis, as well as to the Americans. So far, though, no likely candidate has emerged from the Shia majority to take his place.

Now some senior Iraqi politicians are saying it could be June or July before a government is formed.

It matters, because the absence of effective government is a real encouragement to the insurgency.

This time, the politicians are taking even longer to get their act together. And in the meantime the worst of the violence is directed, not at the Americans or the British, nor even at the Iraqi police and army, but at ordinary worshippers at Sunni and Shia mosques.

The level of sectarian violence has dropped off a little in recent days. But Iraq hasn't turned a corner, and it doesn't even look like turning one.

If there is a good reason to be a bit more optimistic, I haven't spotted it yet.

And the news today wasn't any better.

Iraqi President Loses Try for Parliament

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 37 minutes ago

Iraq's president failed in a bid Monday to order parliament into session by March 12, further delaying formation of a government and raising questions whether the political process can withstand the unrelenting violence or disintegrate into civil war.

The deadlock came as snipers assassinated Maj. Gen. Mibder Hatim al-Dulaimi, the Sunni Arab in charge of Iraqi forces protecting the capital. A torrent of bombings and shootings killed 25 more Iraqis on Monday, ending a relative lull in violence. Officials also found four bodies.

At the heart of the dispute is a controversy over the second-term candidacy of the Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose most powerful supporter is the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The Sunni Arab minority blames al-Jaafari for failing to control the Shiite militiamen who attacked Sunni mosques and clerics after the Feb. 22 shrine bombing in Samarra. Kurds are angry because they believe al-Jaafari is holding up resolution of their claims to control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Gee, the HEAD of the Security of the Green Zone was sniped. I wonder how that happened?

One might think that might be the prelude to an attack on the Green Zone or a move by the Shia to take control, but there's no prelude to a civil war. Nope.

posted by Steve @ 12:48:00 AM

12:48:00 AM

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