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March 28, 2008

Iraq in 30 Seconds
Posted by Moira Whelan

News has been coming fast out of Iraq, and folks are collecting information and trying to decipher what is going on. At this time, most analysts are saying the situation is unclear. One contact of mine working in Iraq gave this quick assessment which is interesting:

Best case scenario: the Iraqi central government seizes this opportunity to demonstrate strength and unity. They hold strong and isolate the problems in Basra. They gain confidence going forward, but ultimately 1/3 of Iraq becomes ungovernable.

Worst case scenario: the Iraqi central government and the military do not step up, and all hell breaks lose. 

I’m not saying this is absolute, but bottom line, I think “bleak” is a good description at this point.


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Most likely scenario: Central government institutions underperform badly. Most Iraqi forces underperform, in varying degrees of badly. Maliki extends the (here, "turn-in-your-weapons") period, hoping no one notices the lack of follow-through (that's already happened once). Sadr ends up politically strengthened. Some kind of result, that simply pushes the can down the road, is, eventually, either negotiated or just uneasily happens--way, way, way later than expected. And, in the meantime, more misery, more rubble, more dead.

I'm by no means an Arabic-speaker or Iraq- or FP-expert. But this has been the "rinse, repeat" scenario time after time after time there. You almost never go wrong betting on it--or basing your expectations on it.

Sorry if this sounds jaded or cynical. But seriously, how many times has this been wrong in major, consequential ways?

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