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Kahl on measuring progress in Iraq.

Extracts: In terms of security, there has been a reduction in sectarian murders and insurgent attacks in areas where there are either more American troops or more cooperation between U.S. troops and local Sunni sheiks and militants, or both. … Politically, there has been no progress in Baghdad. There has been political progress in Anbar among the Sunnis, but this is not sectarian reconciliation or even “accommodation” since Anbar is homogenous. Politics has regressed in the south as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), SIIC (and its Badr militia), and the
Fadhila Party violently compete for local dominance. … To the degree that there is progress in Iraq, it is all “bottom-up” rather than “top-down.” The central government is broken. It is a corrupt, failed state. All the “progress” is occurring via ad hoc arrangements at the local and provincial level. Moreover, bottom-up progress may, paradoxically, be undermining top-down progress, as U.S. cooperation with Sunni sheiks and former militants exacerbates Shia paranoia. … There are no George Washingtons or Kemal Ataturks in Iraq and, even if there were, Iraq’s central institutions can’t be fixed and wielded in a way to produce stability from the top-down anytime soon. … Continued decentralization and separation might lead to a relatively stable equilibrium if it is structured in a way that addresses the security dilemma (both among communities and between localities and the center) driving the conflict. A perfect three-way Shia-Sunni-Kurd split into homogenous regions (i.e., a “soft partition” as in Bosnia) is unlikely. There will be substantial mixing in many parts of the country, and perhaps a desire for a unified “Iraq” among much of the population, for the foreseeable future. But, all politics in Iraq is becoming local, the central government will remain weak, and U.S. policies must be designed to accommodate this reality.

For more, see Colin Kahl (2007), CNAS Policy Brief: Measuring Progress in Iraq. Available here.

Via Laura Rozen.

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