Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Iraq War Parties

An Attempt at Categorization

The image of the Iraqi scene in terms of the US versus insurgents or terrorists was dominant for much of the time since the American invasion of Iraq! It is basically an extension of the "with us, against us", "good guy, bad guy" view. On one side we have the US forces (and allies), the democratically-elected Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces. On the other side are the insurgents (or terrorists!) Syria and Iran. More sophisticated souls understand that the Iraqi security forces have been infiltrated by the insurgents.

A nice, tidy picture! Alas it is not sufficient, or even true.

The other, currently more dominant, three-color Sunni-Shiite-Kurd picture of strife in Iraq is also tidy! Alas, it is also incomplete, and even misguiding!

These two visions seem to be enough for a large number of people all over the world. Many people try to accommodate the news items they see and read within the categories offered by these visions. Yet, much remains inexplicable. Most people do not bother to contemplate further! It must be something to do with the "crazy" part of the world!

Yet, many people, including many Iraqis, are so confused! For example, people cannot understand how an Iraqi 'nationalistic resistance' can target and kill so many innocent Iraqis.

The picture is so complex! It is like watching a movie in different and spectacular colors changing in slow motion! Watching that picture unfold for more than three and a half years makes it look even more confusing! This, to my mind, has been the difficulty with understanding what has been happening in Iraq. So many forces! So many different means and manifestations! So many violent methods! Yet, people need simplifications; they need tags. This is my attempt at over-simplification!

An analogy to this attempt is the color system. A picture with a profusion of colors can be reduced to more elementary colors – ultimately three (RGB, red, green and blue)!

The three basic elements of violent forces in Iraq:

Putting aside subjective values of good and evil for the moment, the task is to attempt to 'categorize' the various forces at play in present-day Iraq since the invasion. The objective is to understand the otherwise inexplicable events of senseless violence.

For that purpose, I propose the following broad categorization to describe the multitude of active forces that have been using mostly violent means to pursue their agenda in Iraq:

R- External-agenda Forces
This group includes the American administration and the US army, coalition forces, forces with international anti-American agenda (such as Al-Qaeda), countries that wish the US campaign to fail and the US to be bogged in the Iraqi quagmire, Countries of the region serving their own interests

G- Iraqi-agenda Forces
Forces of National Resistance, Baathists, "nationalistic" religious forces and Sectarian forces. This group must also include the two main Kurdish parties and a wide assortment of Iraqi political parties.

B- Criminal gangs
Pure criminal gangs out for money and the power associated with it, taking advantage of the absence of Law and Order to loot, rob banks, kidnap and murder; Criminal gangs in the service of any of the above forces willing to pay for their services to bomb, kidnap, sabotage and create chaos.

Putting different groups in a category does not necessarily mean that they are allies. More frequently than not, the opposite is true. Furthermore, entities within a single sub-group can have widely differing and conflicting objectives. For example, within "counties of the region" group, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait have widely differing objectives and motives and use different means.

The picture is complicated for several reasons. One of which is that most groups do not publicly declare their true intents and positions. Another main reason is that the degree of interaction between the various groups is truly astounding, hence the spectacular range of colors! The most widely used vehicles have been funding and guns! The result: mostly red, innocent blood and a gray, devastated country.

Nevertheless, this picture may provide a better basis for analyzing the various forces at play in Iraq today than the "with us, against us" vision or the Sunni-Shiite view! The only assumption I make is that each group pursues its own interests and objectives without moral qualms.

This picture may serve to understand better what has been taking place in Iraq over the past few years. But, more importantly, it may serve to help look ahead at possible solutions out of the present quagmire… and why the task is so formidable! But that is another story for another day. All I wanted to do in this post was to introduce this view.

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