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British Navy guarding Iraq


The HMS Richmond in the Arabian Gulf guarding oil infrastructure vital to the people of Iraq
Image: MoD

Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, returned from his last trip to Iraq and reported that the tide had turned and the country is "working". Children are going to school, business is being rejuvenated, killings are down. If this is true it is due in part to Britain’s protection of Iraq’s vital oil industry.

Given the British service men and women who are risking their lives, Ajami's report carries very interesting and underreported news about Iraq.

In a Powerline report, Ajami says,

The Kurds have what they want - autonomy. They don't really want independence because, despite their oil reserves, they rely on oil revenue from the south. Moreover, they do not want to have to deal with Turkey and Iran alone. Finally, they hold their share (or more) of the key government positions.

The Shiites also have what they want - the upper hand. They decisively and irreversibly won the Battle of Baghdad, and it's now their government. Naturally, therefore, they are heavily invested in the success of the state. In addition, as a matter of pride, they want to prove that they - the much maligned and ridiculed Shia Arabs - can govern. They realize that this means some accommodation for the Sunnis, and they are increasingly willing to accommodate them now. . .

For their part, the Sunnis bet on al Qaeda and the powerful Sunni Arab states, and lost. As a result, they now are switching horses, working increasingly with the U.S. to defeat al Qaeda and with the Iraqi government upon which they rely for revenue.

Ajami disputes the conventional wisdom that the current government is dysfunctional. He finds that the government is paying its debts and distributing money (including oil revenue) to the provinces. The parliament is functioning as a parliament should, passing laws and budgets, etc. US congressional "benchmarks" may not have been met, but that's largely irrelevant. For example, the Iraqis have not passed an oil law, but oil revenue is being shared, and "rather equitably." Ajami, an Arab, adds that it's not the Arab way to do this sort of thing according to a formal written instrument. Similarly, there may be no "national reconciliation" as the U.S. defines it, but the three factions manage to get things done together. Finally, corruption is still widespread, as it invariably is in Arab countries, but outright plunder has diminished sharply under Maliki, who Ajami regards as generally "clean."

. . .One certainly should not accept Ajami's views uncritically, but neither should one reject them simply because they are optimistic and don't comport with the mainstream media's narrative.

It’s up to the Iraqi people to show they value the sacrifice of British service men and women. Pray they do.