WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.
A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.
The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.
This article has become a big news story. But what is news about it? That Iraq is getting steadily worse? We all know that. That the US military knows this? Regardless of their public statements we know they know the score. They are deeply involved in the fighting. They know how bad it is. So why the big reactions to the article? It means no one can pretend that Iraq is not getting worse. Truth has to come from some unimpeachable source when the truth is especially ugly and undesired. Otherwise lots of people will find reasons not to believe it.
Curiously, Iran and Syria are listed as factors that make the violence worse in Iraq. But they are way down the list after many other factors. Someone please tell the neoconservatives that they are clueless once again. No, Iran is not the author of the mess in Iraq.
According to the slide from the Oct. 18 briefing, the variables include “hostile rhetoric” by political and religious leaders, which can be measured by listening to sermons at mosques and to important Shiite and Sunni leaders, and the amount of influence that moderate political and religious figures have over the population. The other main variables are assassinations and other especially provocative sectarian attacks, as well as “spontaneous mass civil conflict.”
A number of secondary indicators are also taken into account, including activity by militias, problems with ineffective police, the ability of Iraqi officials to govern effectively, the number of civilians who have been forced to move by sectarian violence, the willingness of Iraqi security forces to follow orders, and the degree to which the Iraqi Kurds are pressing for independence from the central government.
Chaos in Iraq has been steadily increasing.
These factors are evaluated to create the index of civil strife, which has registered a steady worsening for months. “Ever since the February attack on the Shiite mosque in Samarra, it has been closer to the chaos side than the peace side,” said a Central Command official who asked not to be identified because he was talking about classified information.
In the Oct. 18 brief, the index moved still another notch toward “chaos.”
If the US military isn't going to be allowed to fight the Shia militias I figure the chaos will only go down once the Shiites have driven Sunnis from areas that have both Shiites and Sunnis.
BAGHDAD – Shiites from the crowded Baghdad district of Sadr City are reveling in what they deem their "victory" over American forces after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of US and Iraqi checkpoints surrounding the area.
The checkpoints - manned by US and Iraqi troops for a week in an effort to find a kidnapped US military translator of Iraqi descent as well as snare an alleged death-squad leader - had snarled traffic and bred growing anger in the slum.
They also provided Mr. Maliki with a chance to further assert his independence after weeks of friction between Washington and Baghdad - just days before US midterm elections, in which the Iraq war has become a defining issue.
Aides to the premier have said that they want to take advantage of the vote, and the unpopularity of Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, to expand Maliki's authority. The new assertive tack is boosting the portrayal of Maliki as commander in chief.
The rosy scenario has America-defying Maliki so boosted in the eyes of Shia Iraqis that they all support him when he some day cracks down on Shia death squads. I'm picturing flying pigs.
The Shias blame us for the bombings in Baghdad even as their militias carry out lots of the attacks and as they purge the Sunnis.
In Baghdad, an increasing number of Shiites believe that the US is more to blame for violence in Baghdad than Sunni insurgents - a once-common accusation that largely disappeared last February, when sectarian bloodletting surged after destruction of a key Shiite shrine. Some even accuse US forces of deliberately planting bombs to stoke more violence.
"The bombs came after the Americans came. When they are there, they are controlling security, so who is to blame?" says Ali al-Saidi, an Internet cafe owner. "When [US forces] entered Sadr City, we were worried. When they leave, we feel safer."
"The Americans are trying to make trouble in Sadr City," asserts Abu Ali. "They want to return Sadr City and the Mahdi Army to a war situation."
Our soldiers are dying so that Iraqis can develop paranoid deluded fears about our intentions.
I'm thinking the power has shifted so far toward the Shia militias that the US desire to see the Iraqi government crack down on al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is just a dream. Not gonna happen.
One happy talk Bush Administration theory is that an Iraqi unity government's own military forces will eventually get control of the streets and make the Sunni and Shia sides stop killing each other. Well, that's looking unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Shia militias instead might scale up their attacks against Sunnis in Baghdad.
The armed Shiite death squads in Sadr City could increase their attacks against Sunnis across the capital, in the worst-case scenario. At a minimum, the action could send the wrong message to Sunnis — that their rivals in the Shiite militia can act with impunity and with political cover at the highest levels.
That could severely undercut the U.S. goal of strengthening a national, unity government to stabilize Iraq.
It also could leave the American military mission in limbo: U.S. officials are highly unlikely to keep Americans troops aggressively patrolling Baghdad's streets against militia-run death squads, if their hands are so tied that soldiers can't act.
The soldiers at the bottom already say they can't act against the Shia militias that are trying to kill them and that are trying to kill any Sunnis they can get their hands on. Now, maybe if the US continues to cave in to Shia Prime Minister Maliki this will strengthen him so he can consolidate more power in the government. Then Maliki can undercut the Shia militias. And then again, maybe not too. Maybe the Shia militias will keep killing Sunnis because the Sunnis keep killing Shias and Maliki will continue to let the whole thing go on. Another possibility: Maliki can not stop the militias. So his support of them doesn't matter.
If US forces pulled out of Baghdad the Shias would win in street fighting. There are more Shias and they have the Iraqi government's resources to help the Shia militias. In a simple democracy the majority rules. The Shiites are the majority. Therefore the US military's current job in Iraq is to thwart the will of the majority.
In the face of Shia death squads the Sunnis have become more willing to cooperate with American forces. But this cooperation has Shias thinking the US now favors the Sunnis and that this makes the US the enemy of the Shia majority.
Growing suspicions among leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite majority that the United States is shifting its favour toward once dominant Sunnis are fuelling the tensions that have broken into the open between Baghdad and Washington.
Iraq's ethnic Kurds share the concerns, which senior Shi'ite Muslim officials say are at the root of the public spat over security between Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush's top officials in Iraq.
"We feel there is an American-Sunni agreement under way ... to give Sunnis more authority," a senior Shi'ite government official said, before Maliki's dramatic order on Tuesday for U.S. troops to end a blockade of a Shi'ite militia stronghold.
"This will only escalate the situation."
My practical suggestion: Help the Sunnis move away from the Shias. Arrange trucks to move them to Sunni areas. Either that or just withdraw and let the Shias fight to put down the Sunnis and to force the Sunnis to submit to Shia dominace. Once it is clear the Shias are dominant the Sunni Arabs will face two choices: submit to Shia rule or secede to create their own smaller and poorer Sunni country.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 November 01 10:09 PM Mideast Iraq Decay|