Yesterday, CAP’s Brian Katulis appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss recent developments in Iraq with John Nagl of the Center for a New American Security. Here, Katulis suggests an explanation for why declining violence has not led to political progress among Iraq’s leaders:
KATULIS: The notion of the surge, that if we decrease violence and make people feel more secure, would lead to political transition and progress on that front, I think we should question it. Because if you look at key fundamentals, if you look at what the surge has actually done, it may have in fact frozen into place a very fractured and fragmented country.
A key feature of the surge, for instance, was providing support to the Sons of Iraq — an independent security force, largely Sunni, but with some Shiites involved. I worry that the story of Iraq since 2003 has been a story of a country that has fractured and fragmented, and what happened during the surge, in a sense, [was that] rather than creating greater incentives for the different Iraqi factions to come together on the key issues that still remain unresolved — Kirkuk, Article 140, the oil law, the budget, a whole host of issues — rather than achieving progress, we may have actually impeded it by freezing into place a very divided society.
Recent reports of the Iraqi government’s military offensive against leaders of the Sunni Awakenings underlines Katulis’s point about the downside of the surge strategy. By empowering these Sunni militias, many of whom were former insurgents and allies of Al Qaeda, the U.S. created alternative, competing bases of power to the Shia-dominated Iraqi central government. Whether this strategy would translate into stable Iraqi state hinged on the question of whether the government of Nouri al-Maliki would be willing to accommodate these militias, either by incorporating them into the Iraqi security services, or providing them other jobs. The offensive against the Awakenings indicates that the the answer to that question is “No”: Read more