Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq, the unraveling (XXXVI): the lull before the storm?

Austin Grant Long, an assistant professor at Columbia University and an expert on counterinsurgency, was moved by an upbeat column by Fareed Zakaria about Iraq to write this comment: I am not sure when the last time Zakaria was in Iraq, if ever, but I am in transit back from a trip there and am ...

ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

Austin Grant Long, an assistant professor at Columbia University and an expert on counterinsurgency, was moved by an upbeat column by Fareed Zakaria about Iraq to write this comment:

I am not sure when the last time Zakaria was in Iraq, if ever, but I am in transit back from a trip there and am a lot less optimistic. The security forces are intensely politicized, Kirkuk is a bomb waiting to go off, Baghdad looks like a mix of Mad Max and the Berlin Wall zone (1,500 checkpoints in the city according to a couple of people interviewed and various ISF gun trucks at brief intervals along main roads), and corruption is endemic and massive at all levels of government. Many Iraqis are so disillusioned with democracy that turnout may only be a 33% or less in the upcoming election.  The outcome of the election, with greater fragmentation predicted, will likely make it harder not easier for the government to take required action even as U.S. leverage is dropping quickly. 

Austin Grant Long, an assistant professor at Columbia University and an expert on counterinsurgency, was moved by an upbeat column by Fareed Zakaria about Iraq to write this comment:

I am not sure when the last time Zakaria was in Iraq, if ever, but I am in transit back from a trip there and am a lot less optimistic. The security forces are intensely politicized, Kirkuk is a bomb waiting to go off, Baghdad looks like a mix of Mad Max and the Berlin Wall zone (1,500 checkpoints in the city according to a couple of people interviewed and various ISF gun trucks at brief intervals along main roads), and corruption is endemic and massive at all levels of government. Many Iraqis are so disillusioned with democracy that turnout may only be a 33% or less in the upcoming election.  The outcome of the election, with greater fragmentation predicted, will likely make it harder not easier for the government to take required action even as U.S. leverage is dropping quickly. 

 

To be fair, it is much less violent than two years or even maybe a year ago but given the astronomical levels violence got to in 2006-2007 I do not view this as an achievement of epic proportions.  Moreover, it is not clear this is not merely the lull before renewed violence in a couple of years.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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