2006 June 01 Thursday
Basra And Ramadi Big Iraq Troublespots

Organized cime groups and tribes (which are kinda the same thing) compete for control of heavily Shia Basra with death squads that kill members of competing groups or anyone who complains.

Now, Basra is the only city in Iraq under emergency rule, evidence of how far the city has careened off course. Locals say death squads openly patrol the streets and a police official reached by phone reports that at least 400 assassinations in the past two months.

Residents describe a political climate that is a cross between Al Capone's Chicago and Medici Florence. Politicians, corrupt policemen, and gangs are all vying with one another to determine who will come out on top. Some Shiite politicians there - as well as US and British officers - also allege that some of the groups are being provided money and arms by Iran, whose border is just 10 miles away.

While death squads have been trolling the city for over a year, the pace of the killing has picked up, and the target lists appear to have expanded, residents say.

"It made more sense when it started out. They were killing Baathists and officers from Saddam's army,'' says Ghazi, a long-haul trucker who makes regular trips to Basra, and asked that his full named not be used. "Now they kill Shiites, Sunnis, tribal leaders, doctors, engineers - just about anyone who opposes them politically."

The whole article is full of more insights.

Democracy in Iraq leads to the winners handing out contracts to their allies while the defeated factions take up arms to fight against a corrupt spoils system that doesn't give them a cut of the action.

This official also alleges that a lot of the city's government contracts are being steered to tribes that backed Waili for the governorship, and that other tribes that haven't been getting the business have been taking up arms.

American soldiers died to make this possible.

Basra is getting ethnically purified into a pure (but still heavily divided) Shia city..

The proportion of Sunni Muslims in Basra has declined from 40% to 15%, after three years of forced immigration, said the chairman of a religious authority in Iraq.

The chairman of the official Sunni Endowment in Southern Iraq said militias had targeted Sunnis in the country's second-largest city.

Once all the Sunnis have left the Shias will focus more of their ambitions trying to force each other to submit.

With some factions in Basra threatening to cut off oil shipments to the nearby port the central government sees real money at stake in the fight for Basra and therefore the Iraqi central government has decided to try to take control of Basra.

BAGHDAD, Iraq Police set up roadblocks Thursday around the oil-rich southern city of Basra as a monthlong state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went into effect.

Basra Gov. Mohammed al-Waeli said army troops and police fanned out around Iraq's second-largest city as part of a crackdown on rampant violence that has increased in recent weeks as rival Shiite militias fight each other for power.

Think those army troops represent a neutral fair force that stands against all militias and death squads? That seems unlikely. Probably officers in the Iraqi army have allies among one or more of the competing militias. So the Iraqi army's intervention is going to help some factions and hurt others.

Remember when the Bush Administration was talking about how the US military would start to pull down troop levels in Iraq in 2006? All that talk has fallen by the wayside as the violence has escalated. The rest of the US Army's 3500 reserves in Kuwait have gotten shifted to Anbar Province in order to try to take back Ramadi from Zarqawi's followers who control the city.

Recently about 1,500 soldiers of the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, deployed from Kuwait into western Iraq to conduct operations. This is precisely why this force has been stationed in Kuwait -- to provide General Casey and General Chiarelli with a flexible force that could be employed when the tactical situations so dictate.

The US military in Iraq is too small to control the place.

RAMADI, Iraq - Whole neighborhoods are lawless, too dangerous for police. Some roads are so bomb-laden that U.S. troops won't use them. Guerrillas attack U.S. troops nearly every time they venture out - and hit their bases with gunfire, rockets or mortars when they don't.

Though not powerful enough to overrun U.S. positions, insurgents here in the heart of the Sunni Muslim triangle have fought undermanned U.S. and Iraqi forces to a virtual stalemate.

"It's out of control," says Army Sgt. 1st Class Britt Ruble, behind the sandbags of an observation post in the capital of Anbar province. "We don't have control of this ... we just don't have enough boots on the ground."

Bush doesn't want to admit that the US military isn't big enough to control Iraq. To fix that problem would reduce domestic spending cuts, tax hikes, and a huge admission of error. Not going to happen. He doesn't want to admit to mistakes on such an enormous scale.

Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe reports that the US military has not weakened the Iraqi insurgency.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon reported Tuesday that the frequency of insurgent attacks against troops and civilians is at its highest level since American commanders began tracking such figures two years ago, an ominous sign that, despite three years of combat, the US-led coalition forces haven't significantly weakened the Iraq insurgency.

In its quarterly update to Congress, the Pentagon reported that from Feb. 11 to May 12, as the new Iraqi unity government was being established, insurgents staged an average of more than 600 attacks per week nationwide. From August 2005 to early February, when Iraqis elected a Parliament, insurgent attacks averaged about 550 per week; at its lowest point, before the United States handed over sovereignty in the spring of 2004, the attacks averaged about 400 per week.

If you get depressed by reality and not like to read sad and tragic news presented in unvarnished form then my advice is to seek out the "Happy Talk" blogs. You probably can still find bloggers who see reasons for optimism in spite of the US military's belief that the insurgency is undiminished. Never mind that the Shias are forcing all the Sunnis to leave Basra. Never mind that Basra is under control of rival religious parties and organized crime groups. You can find happy talkers who will assure you that things are looking pretty rosy.

The Sunni sheiks in Ramadi say they are not in control and they are afraid of Zarqawi..

Last week, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad conceded, in answer to a question about Ramadi in an interview with CNN, that parts of Anbar were under insurgent control. Ramadi is the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni province. The difficulties facing stretched-thin U.S. Marines in Ramadi suggest the continuing obstacles to a reduction of American forces in Iraq.

"We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi's fist is stronger than the Americans'," said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation. He was referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, an umbrella group for many of the foreign and local resistance fighters in Iraq. Local Sunni leaders often insist that the most violent insurgent attacks are by foreign fighters, not Iraqi Sunnis.

In Ramadi, "Zarqawi is the one who is in control," the sheik said, speaking to a Washington Post special correspondent in Ramadi. "He kills anyone who goes in and out of the U.S. base. We have stopped meetings with the Americans, because, frankly speaking, we have lost confidence in the U.S. side, as they can't protect us."

Some of the sheiks who tried cooperating with US forces are now dead.

I say we leave and let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves. The neocons need to reconceptualize. What we are seeing is street democracy. Hurray! We've established a teeming and vibrant democracy in the Middle East.

Update: Want to understand why the US intervention in Iraq is doomed to failure? See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back and read the posts and articles linked to there. In a later post I listed a number of reasons why attempts to establish democracy won't work in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular. All those posts and linked articles are far more useful for understanding Iraq than the latest media reports. On top of all those reasons Iraq has an average IQ of 87. They are too dumb to make representative democracy work well. Liberal myths about human nature are costing us terribly in Iraq. We need to abandon the myths. The myths have gotten too costly abroad and at home.

Update II: The Rand Corporation analysts James Quinliven and James Dobbins and a variety of retired generals agree that to properly occupy Iraq would require forces at least 3 or probably 4 times larger than the current US forces there. Bush clearly doesn't want to try to pay the price to make our will prevail in Iraq. The US people wouldn't want to either if he tried. So what is the point in staying? Also see my post "History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy".

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 June 01 09:26 PM  Mideast Iraq

gcochran said at June 2, 2006 12:43 AM:

Think it through: Iraq could be a real opportunity for the US. It could make some things clear, and that's worth a lot.

John S Bolton said at June 2, 2006 2:55 AM:

We're being taught that somehow, national unity is absolute value worth killing for, in Iraq; while, in America, we're told that increasing diversity is absolute value worth demolishing the nation for.
It's nation-building for Afghanistan and Iraq and Kosovo, and nation-demolition for a nation which contributes to the advancement of civilization, as America does, for now.

Rick Darby said at June 2, 2006 2:23 PM:

I used to wonder how the politicians and commanders could allow the battle of Verdun in 1916 to go on for 10 months with an estimated 250,000 deaths, and many more wounded. You'd think, wouldn't you, that after, say, 50,000 men had been killed and the net result was a front line that moved back and forth a few kilometers, some bright spark would have said, "Hmmm. Maybe there's something about our strategy that needs a re-think."

Yet I can now watch something like the same psychology in action in my own lifetime, a phenomenon I never thought I'd see. The casualties in Iraq are nowhere near as horrendous, but the political thinking seems equally stuck. If the reality doesn't match the plan, then the reality must be mistaken, because the plan is right.

We should salvage what we can -- maybe insist that the duly elected government, even if it is not long for this world, grant us permanent military bases -- and split. We've given the Iraqis an opportunity to get out from under a terrible dictator, and from here on it should be up to them to sort themselves out. If they want to have a civil war, there's no reason we have to place ourselves in the middle of it. No, it's not a good outcome. We will live with the fallout from the occupation debacle for a long time. But if you don't think it could get worse, just see what happens if we carry on as we have for the past three years.

Randall Parker said at June 2, 2006 3:27 PM:


I told you that a year or two ago.

But it is still not clear to me that the correct lessons will be learned. Too many people have a vested interest in not noticing the obvious.

Still, the Iraq Debacle does help make lessons learned on the margin. Some people have got to accept truths about human nature that they didn't want to face.

Kenelm Digby said at June 3, 2006 3:35 AM:

Rick Darby,
Never but never underestimate the power of political vanity.
In general, politicians are very vain and shallow people, who through sheer force of arrogance, and the danger of being publicly exposed as being wrong, will go on, bull-headedly pursuing the same failed policies no matter what the cost to the nation is in terms of lives, prosperity or if indeed the very existence of the nation is threatened itself.
If you don't believe me, history is littered with countless examples of this destruction in the name of vanity.
Perhaps the biggest proof of this thesis is the continuation of the diastrous immigration policies in all of the White western nations, that will ultimately and certainly destroy the Western nations in the most horrible crullest way possible, and make the slaughter of Verdun seem like the proverbial "vicarage tea-party".
Anyone with an ouncwe of intelligence and sensitivity and a balanced unprejudiced mind cansee this, but the elites in order to pprove themselves, persist in this madness.

Big Bill said at June 4, 2006 7:42 PM:

One word of warning. The neocons hate gentile America and will hate us even more for not fighting the Iraqis until Israel is safe. They are going to punish us. They are going to force us to accept hundreds of thousands of Iraqi killers and collaborators as our penance for not saving Israel. They are going to start talking about how we American gentiles are weak, gutless, disloyal betrayers of good decent folk like the Iraqis, and that the least we can do is welcome several hundred thousand Iraqi "democrats" and "freedom fighters" to our bosom.

David Gelernter, a loyal Zionist, has recently started this up with his talk of American gentiles "betraying" the Iraqis in a recent editorial, calling us gutless and untrustworthy if we quit. Be sure to read his gentile guilt essay at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/151alsid.asp for a taste of what is coming.

Expect other members of the tribe to pick up the drumbeat as the inevitable disaster becomes obvious. Start organizing now. Ask them why, if the Iraqis are such wonderful civilized democrats, the Israelis are not adopting a few hundred thousand of them. It seems , as democrats they would be a worthy addition to Israel, wouldn't it? And after all, Israel is right next door right where refugees should go, and not across the ocean a world away.

I thought we went to Iraq because of Weapons of Mass Destruction. They are gone now. It is time for us to leave. But the chaos still threatens Israel, and so the Zionists say we must remain. Gentlemen, we will be punished. They will ruthlessly use our principles of Duty, Honor, and Loyalty against us until we accept the Iraqi "refugees" in our midst as an admission of our guilt and shame--as though we got into this to help Iraqis! Read Gelernter and see how fast the neocon ground is shifting under our feet.

We are approching the end game, gentlemen, all bets are off. Fight for your people and your nation as best you can. Believe me, they are fighting for their people, their nation, tooth and nail, fist and claw.

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