Saturday, July 28, 2007

Iraq... All Progress is Local

If it really bothered you that the Iraqi government took the month of August off while our troops sweltered in the 103 degree heat trying to keep a lid on the violence, this latest bit of information should send you running for the Maalox.

The New York Times headline spells out the latest outrage by President Maliki's government.... "As U.S. Rebuilds, Iraq Won't Act on Finished Work."

Yes, that's right. "Iraq's national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed [U.S. taxpayer] reconstruction projects.

"Of the 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion [of the total $21 billion rebuilding program], Iraq's national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million."


Like everything in Iraq the answer is complex. Few transfers have taken place since the current Shiite-led Iraqi government, which drags its feet on American intervention, took office in 2006 along with the new finance minister, Bayan Jabr, and under his watch the "transfer process ceased to function."

Jabr isn't a good guy. In his previous post as interior minister he was accused of running Shiite death squads out of the ministry. In his current position he is slow to release budget money to Iraqi government entities which would have to run the new projects at substantial expense.

Also, the imperialist Bush administration didn't get Iraqis involved in the planning stages of the projects, so "you end up with these kinds of problems at the tail end, where people don't know much about the program and they haven't bought into it."

So, finished projects are falling into disrepair as they stand idle, or unable to function because locals don't have the money, or training, to keep them running.

In the meantime, the Maliki regime ignores the concerns of Iraq's non-Shiites. "Maliki Aide Lashes Out Over Sunni Demands." (WaPo)

The Sunni Accordance Front announced Wednesday that its six ministers in Maliki's cabinet would quit the government permanently unless the prime minister made significant progress on its list of demands.

Demands such as.... a greater role in security matters.... removal of militia members from Iraqi security forces.... and release of thousands of its members believed to be unjustly imprisoned.

Maliki's aide dismissed the demands saying the group is using threats, pressure and blackmail and leaves little doubt Maliki will not comply with their demands before Wednesday's deadline.

The answer to many of these problems seems obvious, we need to regionalize Iraq so each faction has its own land and equal standing. Stop trying to prop up a government more intent on throwing up roadblocks and increasing the Shiite grip on power than on finding ways to cooperate with the different factions and U.S. efforts at rebuilding.

A case in point where this approach is working, "U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents.... Irregulars to Patrol Own Neighborhoods." (WaPo)

"The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces.... The initiative, which extends to all Iraqis, represents at least a temporary departure from the established U.S. policy of building formally trained security forces under the control of the Iraqi government."

Perhaps the most fruitful result of this new.... though Gen. Petraeus insists temporary.... security plan is that the Sunnis are more than willing to clear their neighborhoods of al-Qaeda forces.

Of course this plan is working.... because people are invested in their own neighborhoods.

Just as they would be in the expensive rebuilding projects in their neighborhood if they were given the training and support needed, instead of waiting on a reluctant , and nearly nonfunctioning, Maliki government to do the job.

Sen. Joseph Biden's federalization plan for Iraq seems like a no-brainer. It's a Way Forward in Iraq that will build on regional strengths, investing in all of the Iraqi people, not just the Iran-favored Shiite central government.

But then, when it comes to The Decider's seat-of-the-pants ideological and rigid political agenda, brains play no part in the equation.

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