2006 March 05 Sunday
Ethnic Cleansing Continues In Iraq

Ethnic cleansing is happening in Iraq and the Iraqis call it tahjir.

In some neighborhoods, they drove minorities away from their homes—the apparent beginning of an ethnic-cleansing process that Iraqis call tahjir, forced emigration.

Some claim this is religious cleansing rather than ethnic cleansing. But the Shias and Sunnis are effectively acting like ethnic groups.

The scariest factor is the rise of militias, particularly evident in the two weeks since the bombing of the Askariya Mosque. All the main political parties have activated their armed groups, and neighborhood outfits have been arming themselves. Insurgents keep stoking the hatred. And moderate Sunnis complain that the Shia-dominated military and police have stood by whenever Shia militias have rampaged in their neighborhoods. Even some Shiites are chagrined. "When we arrest people at the checkpoint, the [Shia] militias from the party come, and say 'Release them'," says Capt. Mahmoud al-Ebady, a Shiite who directs the 21 checkpoints on roads leading into the capital. "They are well connected with the Ministry of Interior and sometimes the minister himself, and usually we have to let them go." A checkpoint commander, Maj. Ammar Zengara, summed up the country's three biggest problems: "Militias, militias, militias. Everyone has one."

The Shia retaliations will probably lead to more Sunni retaliations. These Sunni retaliations will lead to what? Can you guess? Oh, of course you can: More Shia retaliations.

When people can't get along I think the best thing to do is to separate them. We ought to help Sunnis and Shias move back and forth to sort themselves apart.

Expert types think Iraq may be acting like Humpty Dumpty.

The International Crisis Group served warning yesterday that the “Sunni-Shiite schism . . . threatens to tear the country apart”.

In a report entitled The Next Iraqi War?, it said that the scenes of mayhem that followed the Samarra bombing were “only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster”.

“Iraq’s mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing instability and violence to many areas,” it said. “Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites, and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community.”

The ethnic cleansing has already been going on between the Kurds and Sunnis since the initial US invasion. The Kurds have been forcing Sunnis out of cities where the Kurds want to reestablish a majority. The Sunnis have been forcing Kurds out of Sunnis cities such as Fallujah. Now the Shias are firmly into the game of purging and cleansing and internal migrations.

The expert types think that an Iraq disintegration could destabilize the entire region.

"Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilize the entire region," the document says.

Since "the entire region" includes lots of oil fields this could be bad for the world economy. It sure is a bummer we are spending all that money on Iraq rather than on energy research. We could be researching molten salt reactors, thin film photovoltaics, next generation batteries, and other neat stuff that would provide us with real benefits. Instead we are mired in Iraq not doing any good.

Rocket launchers are used to drive home the point that Shia laborers should find a new address.

BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher.

"It's 6 p.m.," Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you."

Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses.

Jim Hoagland argues the Sunni and Shiite acts of violence are judged by a double standard.

The neighboring Arab states have helped shape the perception that Shiite violence directed at Sunnis is somehow different — and more dangerous — than the violence used at first by Saddam and now by Sunni guerrillas, whether they are Baathist remnants, the Wahhabi fanatics of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or a combination of the two.

In this view, Sunni-originated violence can be tolerated or even rewarded; Shiite violence is "civil war" that must be prevented.

The Sunni regimes of these Arab states kept quiet or actively helped in Saddam's long reign of terror over the Kurds and the Shiites.

The burning of thousands of Kurdish villages or the draining of the marshes in the south to inflict death and force huge population movements was not "civil war" to these regimes or to their official and corporate friends in Washington, London and elsewhere.

Basically, if the majority Shias carried on like the minority Sunnis there'd a whole lot more dead bodies. On the other hand, maybe if the Shias had gotten a lot tougher from the very beginning this would have intimidated the Sunnis out of carrying on their insurgency.

Writing from Beirut for The New Republic Annia Ciezadlo says the Shias and Sunnis in Lebanon might be building up toward having another civil war.

n the streets of Beirut, you hear it again and again: Sectarian tensions are higher today than in 1975, when the country plunged into its 15-year nightmare of internecine carnage. "This polarization is much more threatening for me than a frank war where people are killing each other," says Lokman Slim, a founder of Hayyabina ("Let's Go"), a civil society group that promotes a secular Lebanon. "In fact, we are living in what some sociologists call the 'priming period.' Mentally, they are ready to fight.

Tensions have been growing between the Shia and other sects in Lebanon since February 14, 2005, when a massive car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni potentate with a large popular following. That most Lebanese Shia were aligned with the country's Syrian occupiers--and Hariri's probable killers--didn't help Sunni-Shia relations. They deteriorated further when Nasrallah held a huge pro-Syrian rally last March in downtown Beirut. A colossal anti-Syrian protest followed on March 14, and the battle lines were drawn. Over the next year, as more bombings and assassinations followed, communal relations just got worse.

Ciezadlo thinks the US is managing to compete with Syria as most hated external force.

The Bush Administration has not set off a flowering of liberal democracy in the Middle East. What democracy comes is distinctly Islamic. In some countries that ends up being the democracy of the majority sect with the power of the state aligned against the minority religious factions. In Lebanon the democracy takes the form of a contrived constitutional balance between religious factions and that balance is not stable.

The US isn't going to make the Middle East a peaceful secular liberal happy place. So far we've yet to improve the place at all and if anything have made it worse while also increasing their hatred and resentment of us. We ought to abandon the notion that these people can be reshaped in an even semi-Western mold. I think the US ought to make a huge technological push to obsolesce oil and then cut back US involvement in the Middle East to a very minimal level.

I've been for Partition of Iraq for about two and a half years now. I agree with William Odom when he says that all the reasons for staying in Iraq have it exactly backward.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 March 05 06:02 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

John S Bolton said at March 6, 2006 1:56 AM:

Failure of American policy in Iraq appears to be assured, at least where success would be a peacable kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb. Apart from certain liberal quarters, though, the rest of the world might see civil war there as an American-orchestrated situation where we kill moslems through proxies, for our own revenge purposes. From the way the world, and in particular, the third world, interprets military situations, American policy is successful; it kills enemies.

Rex said at March 6, 2006 5:41 PM:

The master thief of the Arab world, Ahmad Chalabi, has managed to gain control of the oil ministry in the midst of great turmoil. The man has a remarkable ability for political survival.

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 6:38 AM:

This is a test after a severe spam attack and database repair.

Note that some March 7 comments were lost due to the spam attack's effects on the MySQL database. Sorry.

Bob Badour said at March 7, 2006 7:46 AM:
Militias, militias, militias. Everyone has one

Let's see: We fight in Afghanistan to build a strong central government to replace scattered warlords and their militias. We fight in Iraq to replace a strong central government with scattered warlords and their militias.

What was the strategic objective again?

Søren Renner said at March 11, 2006 9:00 AM:

Molten salt reactors!

Dan Morgan said at March 12, 2006 4:10 PM:

Kurdistan is already partitioned. Read Michael Totten's account of a vist to there. He says: "The Peshmerga are completely responsible for security in the region. The Iraqi army doesn’t exist up there. The Kurds will not allow it. The Pesh take orders from no one but their own semi-autonomous government."

The chances of going from semi-autonomous to integrated with the rest of Iraq seem pretty slim to me - even a decade or two from now. From semi-autonomous to fully-autonomous seems more likley. For now they seem to be a part of Iraq in name only - mainly to avoid trouble with Turkey, the U.S., and Iraq.


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