Talisman Gate

Monday, November 28, 2005

Iraqi Cauldron



November 29, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion >

Iraqi Cauldron

Nibras Kazimi warns of mutiny in Washington and aggression from Tehran

Three ingredients are necessary for failure in Iraq, and all three are being poured into the bubbling cauldron that is Baghdad at this very moment. The recipe includes Ba’athists believing that they have been given a seat at the table and thus have achieved a prelude to total victory, and the Islamists supposing that if they cinch these next elections, then they will get their theocracy.The third element is the cowardice of Washington offset by the bravery of American warriors, but we’ll get to that later.

The Cairo conference last week — where warring Iraqi factions were supposed to reconcile — was an unmitigated disaster. In an attempt to isolate the jihadists, America has uneasily embraced the Ba’athists it defeated on April 9, 2003, when Baghdad was liberated. The moral high ground has been ceded: as I had warned back in June, the “honorable resistance” is now the acceptable term among the Iraqi political elite for those who attack American soldiers. The American military command in Iraq is now using the term “rejectionists” and not terrorists to describe those who lob rocket propelled grenades at America humvees.

Therefore, those waging the insurgency for the past two and a half years walked away from Cairo feeling vindicated by victory. They had humbled the greatest power on earth; now keeling over in order to placate them. The murder of American forces — the same forces that defeated the Ba’athist regime — is now warranted and legitimized.But there’s a caveat that the Ba’athists did not mention: they no longer control the insurgency, nor can they effectively put it out. Zarqawi and his league of jihadists hold sway and have done so for several months, and whatever amount of deference the American cough up to the Ba’athists will not halt the murderous onslaught.

The Ba’athists are indeed doing well in delivering body-blows to Iraqi democracy, but the Islamists just one-upped them. After an abysmal run in office over the last eight months, their prospects for another landslide victory in the December elections were very slim — until yesterday that is.A source close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s “political office” has confirmed to me in a phone interview from Baghdad on Sunday afternoon that Muhammed Ridha Sistani, the ayatollah’s son, has instructed his father’s aides to put out the word to the faithful to vote for the United Iraqi Alliance list,headed by the likes of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq’s Abdel-Aziz Al-Hakim and current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.Whereas in the last elections the UIA list (also backed by Sistani then) contained a large number of secular Shia democrats, this time around it is a wholly fundamentalist list, subservient to strong Iranian influence.

The Iranians have been doing feverish polling around Iraq, and they concluded that their acolytes in the UIA list were in trouble. Somehow, they struck a deal with Muhammad Ridha, a diminutive busy-body who is also exceedingly ambitious, and the only person who could resurrect their political prospects. His message — delivered over the course of last week to Sistani’s representatives across Iraq — was “tell the people to vote for Islamist lists, and then tell them not to vote for small or marginal lists, to forestall the fragmentation or dissipation of the Shia vote.”This will be perceived by the Iraqi public as a de facto fatwa from Sistani in favor of the UIA list.

I’ve also been hearing that the Iranian leadership, and specifically the Revolutionary Guard puppet masters who are back in total control, have decided to change their policy vis-à-vis Iraq. They no longer want to strike a deal for better relations with the Americans; with oil prices so high, they feel that they can splurge on belatedly finding their revolutionary roots as their regime undergoes a mid-life crisis. They now believe that they can turn Iraq, or at least the Shia part of it, into a sister Islamic Republic.They have concluded that America will run away from Iraq, and all they need to do is get their militias ready and willing to take over in the aftermath.

Meanwhile in Washington, there is also a policy shift of sorts. Remember President Bush’s Inaugural Address last January? Remember when he said all those things about democracy and freedom? And how it was America’s mission to bring liberty to the Middle East?

Well, apparently, the State Department has decided that the ceiling for these goals is too high and that America should aim lower as it tries to rebuild places like Iraq and Afghanistan. What they are really saying is that the bad guys are winning and that in any case democracy is too difficult of a concept for these Middle Easterners; the best that can be hoped for is that they stop clobbering each other to death. And of course, they couldn’t call this new policy “Shameful Cowardice” — because that would just be too obvious—so they went with “Locally-Led Nascent Peace,” a power-point presentation coming to a briefing room near you.

There is an all-out mutiny against Mr. Bush among the middling ranks of State and CIA bureaucrats. For several decades, those dealing with the Middle East invariably plugged into a complex matrix of oil and arms companies, academic circles, and play-it-safe careerists to give us the conventional wisdom: stability is good, change is bad. The mantra went unchallenged until September 11, 2001, when things had to change. For a brief period of time, these bureaucracies were caught off guard, but now they are trying to restore their past knee-jerk instincts. They have a government in exile consisting of the likes of Scowcroft,Tenet and Powell as well as fellow travelers in the left-leaning press, and there is a venal synergy to embarrass President Bush and the neo-conservative for attempting to change how things usually get done.

The prospect of an embattled White House caving in on its own self and grasping at any “exit”strategy,no matter how damaging,is saddening. The risk is that the White House will reach a deal with either the Ba’athists or the Islamists and settle for yet another generic Middle Eastern autocracy, or “mullah-crocy,” or whatever emerges from the frothy stew. So instead of “ma’am, your son gave his life for Operation Enduring Freedom,” the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery would be etched with the words “Operation Locally-Led Nascent Peace.”

And what would they say to all those Iraqis who are braving all sorts of dangers to make it to the ballot box? “Your little elections don’t matter as much as our midterm gubernatorial elections next year; after all, it’s going to be a tight race for governor of Rhode Island.”

Listen here, President Bush: now is not the time to recalibrate objectives away from democracy.Now is the time to focus: drive home the message to the Ba’athists that they have been defeated and that no amount of improvised explosive devices will change that fact. Tell the Iranians that should they choose to step on your toes then not only will their nuclear weapons facilities be blown to smithereens but so will their power and sewage plants; let’s see how popular their belligerency would sound to the run-of-the-mill Iranian then. And for heaven’s sake, curb those mutineers who are undermining the policy and morale of your administration.

Domestic press and political sniping may sting, but history will be unflinchingly cruel to your legacy should it involve wavering on Iraq’s democracy. Too much is at stake, not to mention too many lives.

Mr.Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Boom That Went Boom




November 16, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion >

Boom That Went Boom

Nibras Kazimi
November 16, 2005


From a purely logistical standpoint, the terrorist attacks that Zarqawi and his organization managed to pull off last Wednesday in Jordan were nothing short of astounding. They are also a measure of how much sophistication he had accumulated since trying to blow-up the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad two years ago. Zarqawi has wedded his zealous ideology to the know-how of Saddam’s well-trained intelligence service. And what we are seeing, rather than being the twilight of Zarqawi’s stature, is the beginning of his pan-Middle Eastern reign of terror.

About a month ago, I was having a very cerebral conversation with a Jordanian security expert about intelligence work, terrorism and the “worst case scenario.” The latter, we speculated, would be a coordinated attack against several targets, such as hotels, at the same time. In the back of our heads, there was the anomalous situation whereby Jordan’s security organizations were befuddled by the Katyusha rocket attacks on U.S. Navy vessels in the southern port of Aqaba back in August; they could not get a handle on the who, when, and what of the case.This was a quantum leap for the jihadist terrorist networks: confounding the much-proclaimed adroitness of the Jordanian mukhaberat, or secret police.

It is hard to put to the side the moral outrage at the sight of innocents torn-up by ball bearings, to dissect the nuts and bolts of this operation. But the Amman suicide attacks should be closely studied, since Zarqawi and the brain-trust around him have calibrated this one very well, and its intricacies would reveal how they are planning to expand their operations beyond Iraq.

First, Zarqawi had to test if his Iraqi networks were infiltrated by Jordanian intelligence, but clearly the Jordanians had no advanced warning of what was about to hit them. Zarqawi’s other logistical challenge was to smuggle in the explosive devices into Jordan. The land route from Baghdad to Amman is subject to very stringent security checks; as anyone who has recently waited for upwards of five hours at the border can tell you. However, Zarqawi found a way to bypass the regular border crossing and this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with livestock smuggling; if a sheep can surreptitiously make it over the border, then so can a Katyusha rocket.

Zarqawi’s other challenge was choosing the appropriate symbolism associated with his first big regional terrorist act outside of Iraq. And for that, he chose to hew away at the truism that only non-Iraqi suicide bombers are involved in terrorist acts. He chose four Iraqi volunteers to deliver the following message: “our idea of the grand Islamic state does not categorize individuals as Iraqis or Jordanians; all Muslims are part of the Jihad.” His choice of targets was well-tailored for this sort of mentality; while lounging in one of Amman’s hotels, one was more likely to overhear Iraqi officials and foreign contractors — mostly “security professionals” or mercenaries bound or returning from Iraq — than Petra-bound tourists. There was a whole comfort industry that catered to those fleeing or finding respite from the chaos and mayhem of Iraq.

This environment catered to all the whims, including the libidinal. The three hotels that were hit are notorious for their dance hall bars where skimpily clad prostitutes hailing from Russia to Morocco congregate to do business. These bars, as well as the lobby areas, are heavily policed by the Jordanian mukhaberat whose job it is to keep this war-profiteering industry hassle-free and running smoothly.

On July 29, the New YorkTimes featured the story of Zaid Horani, a Jordanian jihadist that had been arrested last March by the local authorities after returning from a stint of fighting along with the terrorists in Iraq. As part of what compelled him to go, his mother volunteered that “He hated the Shiites.” Asharq Al-Awsat is a leading Saudi-owned Arabic language daily that translates and runs stories from the Times. The Horani feature was printed a day later in Arabic but the reference to hating the Shiites was removed.

Why would Zaid Horani, who is 27 years old, develop such hatred towards the Shia while growing up in a country that hardly had any Shias? Why would a Saudi-owned paper excise his mother’s quote? The conditions that bred Zaid Horani and his idol Zarqawi are obscure and multi-layered, but they are still there, and the Jordanian leadership has yet to address why these young Jordanian men came into being in the first place.

Amman has prospered on the plight of others. Most recently, a housing boom was driven by Iraqi cash fleeing the consuming flames of Baghdad. Before that, Jordan reaped the most — by hook or crook — from the blatantly corrupted United Nations Oil-for-Food program, and much of its elite were implicated.The final installment of the Volker Report even alludes to King Abdullah himself, by suggesting that oil coupons were awarded to Ziad Abu Al-Ragheb, identified in the Saddam-era Oil Ministry archives as “Director of Office of the King of Jordan.”That is a title he never held, but he is well-known pal of the reigning monarch. Most of the shady financial transactions went through the Jordan National Bank that is owned and managed by the family of current deputy premier, Marwan Muasher.


Iraqis demonstrating against King Abdullah II being awarded a doctorate degree from Georgetown University in March 2005

The Iraqi political and mercantile class that flanked the Ba’athist dictatorship is taking a long sojourn in Amman, where they are actively welcomed by the authorities; in fact, Saddam’s daughters were personally accompanied to safety by Prince Ali, the King’s half-brother. Furthermore, the king, his government and the state-influenced press have been strongly critical of any political progress in Iraq, and seemingly have played host and cheerleader to those waging the insurgency. Rather than warning of spawning Sunni terror networks, King Abdullah was fretting about a “Shia Cresent” and counseling a delay in the elections of last January.

Amman as a haven was booming, until it went boom. Jordan has weathered some severe regional storms in the past — Arab Nationalism and Palestinian terrorism,as well as Israeli backlash — but this one is different. A native son, Zarqawi, who just turned 39 on October 30, is announcing that he has come back to settle some scores and pat his vanities. He is giving vent to the anger among those who did not get to share the spoils of war by proxy.

So far, the outcry among regular Jordanians has been galvanizing. But it won’t last. Soon enough, the same stark societal contradictions that separated people into places of origin and financial rank will come into play, and the resentments will creep back to lend further fury to Zarqawi’s furnace. King Abdullah has spoken in the last couple of days since the bombings of a recipe for combating terrorism: intelligence sharing among the region’s governments and a press and broadcast campaign. There was no substantive talk of reform in order to seize the momentum of national unity and address long simmering hurts among the disenfranchised.

Jordan needs to take a long look at itself, and it can start doing that by looking at the layers that drove young Zaid Horani to become a jihadist. The Jordanians cannot afford to excise these hard facts from their national consciousness, or else, they risk more of what happened on Wednesday.

Mr. Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No Coup in Baku





November 9, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion >

No Coup in Baku

BY NIBRAS KAZIMI

November 9, 2005
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/22755

Somehow, situated in a corner of the jagged Middle Eastern juggernaut, the little state of Azerbaijan has managed to reflect all the region's woes. It is concurrently blessed and cursed with oil, diversity, strategic importance, and way too much history. This nation of 8 million is also a testing lab for what comes next in America's global effort to spread democracy, and given the allegations of fraud during Sunday's parliamentary elections, things are not looking good.

The founding father of modern Azerbaijan, Mohammad Amin Rasulzade, died regretting having ever called his creation by that name. But he was in a hurry as nation states were popping up all around with the rapid collapse of the Tsarist Empire in 1918. Azerbaijan had been under the yoke of Russian imperialism for 130 years, and before that it was Iranian real estate for several centuries. It helped that the Safavid and later Qadjar dynasties lording over Iran were of Azeri ethnic stock. In fact, the cultural and political hub was always Tabriz, now in northwestern Iran, where most of the world's Azeris live. Their ancestors were Oghuz Turks who washed over this area in successive waves - first as shamanic nomads and then as Muslim conquerors - starting in the 11th century. And before the Turks came along, the early Arab conquerors found a nation called the "Azeris." But that only applied to those who lived south of the Aras River. Those beyond it, sandwiched between the upper and lower Caucus Mountain ranges, were called the Arans.

What the Arabs called the land of the Aran, Rasulzade called Azerbaijan. But then the Russians, this time as Soviets, gobbled up the two year-old state as part of Bolshevik expansionism. And this time it wasn't just sentimentalism for exquisitely fatty caviar, there was a far more important reason: oil. Black gold turned the inhospitable eastern Absheron peninsula jutting out to the Caspian Sea into the very heart of Azerbaijan. The Russians kept Rasulzade's namesake for their newest province, with Baku as its capital.

Left behind when the 20th century borders of Azerbaijan were drawn was an island of ethnic Armenians in a place called Nagorno-Karabagh that wanted to reunite with the neighboring Republic of Armenia. This problem has left about 50,000 Azeris and Armenians dead over the last 15 years, and displaced an other 1 million Azeris as the Armenians seized not only their little ethnic bubble but also sizable chunks of Azerbaijan proper.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new republic of Azerbaijan has had it rough. While it is currently holding its breath for an Orange Revolution ala Ukraine, Azerbaijan had its own dramatic ejection of the native Soviet-era leadership through a bloodless popular uprising back in 1992. But nobody was watching, and nobody was really interested in the democrats who came into power. All eyes were on Bosnia then, while the sound-byte savvy Armenians who were at war with the Azeris had powerful constituencies in Massachusetts, California and Marseilles, and hence, lots of American and international sympathizers and patrons.

During its brief democratic experiment, Baku was teaming with garrulous demagogues angrily recriminating against each other for the war that was going badly in Nagorno-Karabagh. They leveled charges of treason in between stints of outright thievery of anything of value. All sorts of foreign meddling added to the confusing chaos: Turkey believed that Azerbaijan was the stepping stone onto a "Turkish Century" as the gateway towards the Turkic speaking nations of the former USSR. The Russians still saw this area as their backyard, and certainly were not going to allow all that projected oil to flow without a cut. Ditto for Iran, that additionally worried about the separatist tendencies of its own Azeri population that had enjoyed a spell of independence after World War II, courtesy of the Soviets.

Democrats like Isa Gamber and Ali Kerimli didn't have much of a chance to hold things together, especially as a dark force was stepping onto the Baku scene: a man with unsettling blue-green eyes who had been one of a dozen in control of the Soviet Empire, the former Politburo member and native son Heydar Aliyev. Democracy fell apart, unlamented and discredited, and people looked towards the strongman Aliyev to restore some measure of stability to halt the slide into the abyss. And that Aliyev did.

In 1995, a decade-long project was started to tap the oil fields at the bottom of the Caspian and find a way to carry the hydrocarbon gook to world markets. In three years the output will peak at 1 million barrels per day, and this level will be maintained for a couple of decades. Not bad in a time of soaring oil prices. The oil had started flowing, in no small part due to the heavy-handed Aliyev era. But the famously testy Aliyev died two years ago, leaving his untested son, Ilham, to reign after him.

I met those same democrats, Gamber and Kerimli, now leading the opposition block, in Istanbul in June. They were telling anyone who would listen why a democratic Azerbaijan is important to the world, and how much of a catastrophe another five years of the Aliyev family rule would be to Azerbaijan. They are fine gentlemen but mediocre politicians, and were completely out of the league of the elder Aliyev, who set up a convoluted and knotty power structure to protect his autocratic legacy.

Baku gave the world its first oil barons of the 20th century, and is poised to recapture the get rich atmospherics of transient towns. But in 20 years, when the known reserves run out, what is to be left for the people of Azerbaijan? Interestingly, the international oil companies are trying to be on their best behavior in counseling economic diversification, while the local power elite itches to retire to the French Riviera with their wealth.

The much-maligned democrats seem not have done that well on Election Day. But the younger Aliyev was sufficiently spooked by any challengers to turn to fraud. He should not be patted on the back for this, in fact, he should be vocally denounced. Dictatorships should be subjected to the pornography test: the world knows it when it sees it. Claiming that the elections, albeit deeply flawed, were a positive step in the right direction is a way of infantilizing other nations, and their aptitude for democracy. What does America lose by embarrassing Aliyev? What is he going to do with the oil, drink it? Maybe this crop of democrats was too lackluster, but the behavior of tyrants should not go unchallenged lest the indignation factor among young people give way to resignation and cynicism.

Azerbaijan's problems reflect those of the Middle East: factions at war, prime locations for both terrorist and anti-terrorist bases (depends on who is paying), a corrupt elite with access to oil spigots, lots of apologists for tyranny and lots of angry young men. President Bush's rhetoric versus his actions in dealing with Aliyev will be closely watched by other regional tyrants and regional democrats, as well as regional terrorists.

Mr. Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com

November 9, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sounding the Alarm, or Sounding Crazy?





November 1, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version

Sounding the Alarm

BY NIBRAS KAZIMI
November 1, 2005URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/22365

ALERT: The pent-up frustrations of Sunni Islam - slowly simmering for three centuries - are about to burst. Brace yourselves for a decade of mayhem, bloodshed and the near-defeat of all that is civil and civilized. You think Iraq is bad, well, that is just the appetizer for the main entree: the all-out bid to resurrect the Islamic Empire. This is going to be bad, really bad. It may even involve nuclear warfare. Europe and Israel are going to get it almost as bad as the Shias.

History will record that democracy could have been the antidote to this ideological poison, but the dosage administered by the Bush administration was too little, too late. The jihadists will initially carry plenty of Muslim nihilists to their side as they score blitzkrieg raids and form mercurial Sunni triangles, trapezoids, and hexagons that eventually morph into an expansive state with a caliph as its ruler. To defeat this menace, America and much of the world that relies on the region's energy resources will sacrifice a generation of fighting men and pacific civilians. Did I mention that this will be really, really bad?

There is a fine line between being viewed as a crank or a visionary when peddling controversial visions of the future. Predictions often are a foolhardy business, especially if these fall in contravention of the consensus crowd. These days, my friends apologetically qualify me in respectable company as a colorful eccentric.

When I was an impressionable little boy, I watched a movie called "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow." It was narrated by Orson Welles and revolved around the prophesies of Nostradamus. For a young boy, the movie made a compelling argument that the 15th-century French seer got most of the events since his passing right, and then went on to discuss the parts of his prophecies, arranged in quatrains, that had not happened yet. In one of these, a man arises from the East (depicted in the movie as a Muslim) wearing a blue turban to challenge western civilization and engross the world in an apocalyptic war. I remember turning to my father in amazement, and asking, "But who would wear a blue turban?"

Blue turbans were simply not sartorially common throughout the ages in the Middle East, and this question has haunted my superstitious mind ever since. The only Muslims sporting something akin to a blue turban were the Tuareg of Africa's Central Sahara, where a virulent jihadist movement is prevailing. However, a man who had chosen the nom de guerre "Al-Zarqawi" in reference to his home town of Zarqa has emerged over the last three years. Zarqa in Arabic means "The Blue One" and Al-Zarqawi would chromatically infer "The Bluish One." There, I said it and now everyone knows my secret dread: Zarqawi (or the Zarqawi Phenomenon) was prophesied 500 years ago, and the Middle East, and plenty of Europe, is going to go up in smoke.

Okay, so citing the occult is not firming up the credibility of my case. But I wonder what the early signals of Nazism's latent evil looked like, and did anyone - as the aforementioned film suggests - point out that Nostradamus had predicted the ominous rise of Hitler? Here too, "Zarqawism" as a phenomenon - one that emerged on the radical fringe of the jihadist fringe - is building up the region's tolerance for violence, and imbibing Middle Eastern youth with the myth that Islamic fervor can fight a superpower's military to a standstill; Zarqawi is making Uncle Sam yell uncle.

The Mehlis report came out last week, and it was spun - by the Mehlis team itself and by other interested parties - as an indictment of the Syrian regime. The actual evidence cited by Mehlis to prove this claim is flimsy at best. It all revolved around the testimony of two witnesses; one thoroughly discredited to the point where he has been arrested as a probable source of disinformation, and the second witness falls under the category of "too good to be true." The only compelling part of the report was the excellent analysis of the cell phone communications that probably were related to the Hariri murder. But there are two ways to look at this information: either to find any way, even if far-fetched, to pin it on the Syrians, or to look at the political and cultural context within which these communications took place. Based on what came out in the Mehlis report, this conspiracy was plotted and hatched in a Sunni Lebanese bubble, surrounding the northern Lebanese town of Trablous.

Three weeks ago, a mixed Lebanese-Italian troupe of actors tried to bring the aesthetic wonders of the performing arts to those who cannot afford such luxuries in Trablous. It was to be a mobile mime show traversing the congested streets of the impoverished Bab Ar-Ramel neighborhood. A snickering and curious crowd quickly turned into a fire-breathing and furious mob. Somehow, the art of mime was interpreted by onlookers as a "Jewish ritual." The troupe had to escape under cover of the Lebanese security forces as chants of "Allah is great" enveloped them. This is one of the major centers of Sunni Lebanon, and it has been "Zarqawised."

I hear myself repeating the same argument I had disdained several months ago: that if you bring down dictatorships then the void will be filled by crazy Islamists. I have come to believe that Zarqawi's organization views an unstable Syria as the bigger and better base of operations for its strategic goals. Zarqawi's outfit in Iraq was jump-started by recruits and money from the Syrian fundamentalist networks that had survived the Assad regime's clampdown in the early. These radical Syrians are now hoping to recoup their exponential winnings in Iraq and divert jihadist assets to their homeland. There is evidence suggesting that this is exactly what is happening: the foreign fighters in Iraq are heading back to their native lands to metastasize the jihad. These islands of "Zarqawism" are inevitable in the very heart of Syria, and are stepping stones to a larger nightmare.

St. Peter's Mosque?


This pent-up Sunni fury has very little to do with the Iraq war but is rather driven by the sense of impotence in facing a rapidly changing and developing world while the Middle East is caught in a time warp. Thus, the shortcut to glory is to resurrect a romanticized vision of an Islamic Empire. To understand why the Iraq war did not start or enable this movement, one should look at one of its most ambitious goals: conquering Rome. There is a revelation attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that both Byzantium's Constantinople and Italy's Rome would be occupied by victorious Muslim armies. Indeed, such armies managed to turn the seat of the Orthodox Christian faith at Constantinople's St. Sophia into a mosque some 600 years ago, and now the jihadists have plans to add a minaret to St. Peter's, thus forever changing the Vatican skyline. This is what we are dealing with, and it should be taken seriously.

America is the only nation that would have the wherewithal to do something about this impending danger but its political class is too absorbed in vengeful partisan blood-lust for what is perceived to be a failure of policy in Iraq. For the time being, while awaiting doom, I can only hope that I am indeed a quaint eccentric and that Nostradamus got it wrong.

Mr. Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com

November 1, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion >