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August 13, 2005

Regime Change in Baghdad

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Ezra has already mentioned the bizarre events that took place in Baghdad on Monday.  A bunch of armed Shiite militiamen entered Baghdad's municipal building, deposed the mayor, and installed their own guy in office.  The deposed mayor is unharmed -- apparently he wasn't in the building at the time -- but he has officially resigned, and he's fleeing the country. 

There's a bunch of things to be said about this.  How well can we be doing in providing security when thugs can just march into City Hall, kick out the old mayor, and install a new one?  How can you have a stable democracy when anybody with enough guns can put whoever they want into power?  How can we convince Sunnis to buy into the new Iraqi government when Shiites are using weapons to put people into office?  But the thing I really want to address is the way that this shows the error of so much right-wing talk about regime change. 

There are a lot of bad regimes in the world, and proponents of regime change often argue for changing them by simply pointing out their awfulness.  Then they just let their audience imagine what will come after -- perhaps, a democracy like ours, but where the people are a little browner on average.  In reality, the likely composition of the new government depends largely on who in the country holds the greatest force of arms, after the old government is eliminated.  In this case, that seems to be the Shiite militias that follow Muqtada al-Sadr.  They're consolidating their power in the south of Iraq now, keeping order while imposing stricter versions of Islamic law. 

Riverbend, as always, was right to be worried.  Even if civil war is averted, a likely future for much of the country is rule by an Iran-style Shiite theocracy which erodes women's rights and individual liberties, while terrorist movements make inroads among a decreasingly powerful Sunni minority.  I suppose, though, that the supporters of regime change will be able to fool themselves into being happy about Iraq turning into Iran-lite -- if there's anything they specialize in, it's fooling themselves. 

August 13, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink


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Ezra, read Juan Cole before you start thinking you know what's going on in Baghdad. The guy who got kicked out was voted out in the big election last January - remember that? -- but HE WOULDN'T LEAVE. The gunmen who kicked him out work for the party who WON THE ELECTION.

Posted by: JR | Aug 13, 2005 11:10:36 PM

Tamimi should have left long ago, yeah, but I don't see why he couldn't have been escorted by governmental security forces and not by the SCIRI's Iran-trained militia (I'll also point out that the militia, the Badr Brigades, is working with Iran's Quds Force in Iraq most likely to assassinate problematic Sunni leaders.) The SCIRI's independent move against Tamimi has underlined the split between the Jaafari's Dawa party and the SCIRI, as well (I wrote extensively on that particular issue here.) There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in Iraq that's being missed by the western press, I think.

Posted by: Justin Delabar | Aug 14, 2005 12:31:02 AM

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