McClatchy is alarmed at the rapid deterioration of relations between Kurds and Arabs in the north of Iraq. The victory of the Sunni Arab nationalist party, al-Hadba', in Ninevah Province has dealt a setback to the Kurds, who initially controlled the province's governing council and whose paramilitary, the Peshmerga, was deployed in parts of the province with Kurdish populations. The Kurdistan Regional Government has already erased the provincial divisions among Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaymaniya, and would like to absorb much of Ninevah Province, as well. The Green Line separating Kurdish territory from Arab is being redrawn and challenged, to the benefit of the Kurds.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a centralizer, has come into conflict with the Kurds over his desire to restore an effective central government.
Some of the alarmism on this issue derives from Iraqi-Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who says that Obama should intervene to settle outstanding Kurdish/ Arab disputes before the US troops draw down.
Informed Comment on Afghanistan:
President Barack Obama has decided to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, on the grounds that "the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention". Civilian deaths from political violence increased about 40% in 2008 over 2007, reaching over 2000. They will be sent to the Pushtun south and east of the country, where guerrilla fighting is expected to pick up with the advent of warm weather. The BBC says, "The deployment will be made up of 8,000 marines, and 4,000 army soldiers, plus another 5,000 support staff." The Marines will begin arriving in May.
What we saw in Iraq was that the sheer number of troops did not matter so much as how they are deployed and for what purpose. I hope that these troops are used well.