2006 November 24 Friday
Iraqi Refugees Increase By Thousands Per Day

Internal flight out of fear is over 1000 per day.

More than 1,000 Iraqis a day are being displaced by the sectarian violence that began on Feb. 22 with the bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra, according to a report released this week by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, a U.N.-associated group.

This increasing movement of Iraqi families, caused by the lack of security and by the growth of armed local militias and criminal gangs, is adding to the already chaotic governmental situation in Baghdad, according to U.N., U.S. and non-governmental reports released over the past weeks.

Take these estimates with a grain of salt. Iraq is far too dangerous a place for accurate measures to be made. But, yes, lots of people in Iraq are moving out of fear.

We can not stop Iraq from falling apart. The Bush Administration's plan for democracy has been embraced by Iraqis who see democracy as coming out of the barrel of a gun. Every bomb and bullet is a vote.

A few thousand more Iraqis per day are fleeing the country entirely.

Many residents, especially professionals, are fleeing the country in larger numbers. The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees said earlier this month that up to 2,000 Iraqis a day are going to Syria and an additional 1,000 a day to Jordan. Overall, the High Commissioner estimates that since the war began in March 2003, 1.6 million Iraqis have been displaced internally and up to 1.8 million are living outside the country.

The internal partitioning is well under way even while the Bush Administration, many US foreign policy analysts, and leading Iraqis all argue that Iraq must be kept together. To repeat what I've said before: The partitioning could be carried out with far less bloodshed if we helped the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other. Humpty Dumpty breaking apart in slow motion provides much more time for people to get killed.

Anthony Cordesman says we pretend there is a national government in Iraq.

"We pretend there is a national government, but it's a coalition in which ministries have been divided among the political parties," according to Anthony H. Cordesman, an intelligence specialist who holds the Arleigh Burke chair in strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Ministries have become spoils, and since there is no civil service they hardly run at all," Cordesman said in an interview after a recent trip to Iraq.

It is not too late. Saddam Hussein is still alive. He knows how to rule these people. He'd have to kill several families and torture others. But he'd know how to suppress a civil war.

It is important to understand why democracy fails in the Middle East. See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development to learn why.

The situation is desperate. Laura Rozen says a Bush Administration which sees almost no options with a plausible chance of success might decide to ally with the Shias against the Sunnis.

AS SECTARIAN violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?

A U.S. tilt toward the Shiites is a risky strategy, one that could further alienate Iraq's Sunni neighbors and that could backfire by driving its Sunni population into common cause with foreign jihadists and Al Qaeda cells. But elements of the administration, including some members of the intelligence community, believe that such a tilt could lead to stability more quickly than the current policy of trying to police the ongoing sectarian conflict evenhandedly, with little success and at great cost.

Since the Bushies won't withdraw their only option is to side with the Shiites. The Shiites are the majority and so by majoritarian logic they should rule.

The Gray Lady reports the Sunnis and Shias can barely tolerate each other.

Some officials say, though, that the problems among Iraqi leaders run far deeper than a rearrangement, even a sweeping one, can fix. Shiites and Sunnis are barely able to tolerate one another, and the tense relations make progress on improvements all but impossible.

“No matter how many new ministers, they are still going to have the same institutional problems,” said one American official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to discuss the subject publicly. American policy is about to change, and the shift will emphasize effectiveness over sectarian balance, the official said. “Instead of having a rainbow coalition, they will have people who can get stuff done,” the official said. “I think the U.S. will take a more hands-off approach.”

Laura has more on this at her blog.

The record bombing deaths of Shias in Sadr City have sparked plenty of Shiite militia attacks on Sunni mosques.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 24 — Defying a government-imposed curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in central Iraq today, shooting guards and burning down buildings in apparent retaliation for a series of devastating car bombs that killed hundreds of people the previous day in a Shiite slum, residents and police officials said.

As the death toll from those bombings rose above 200, gunmen drove through several neighborhoods in Baghdad and the nearby provincial capital of Baquba, taking aim at mosques with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the Muslim holy day, when many Iraqis go to mosques to pray.

As long as the question of which group rules Iraq is undecided the Sunnis will keep killing Shias and Shias will keep retaliating. Legislators loyal to Shia cleric and militia leader Moqtada al Sadr want the US to leave. They say that'll quell the violence. I suspect it will unleash the Shias to put down the Sunnis. Will the Sunnis be able to battle the Shias to keep them out of the Sunni triangle? They might. Many Shias will see the Sunni triangle as far from their own clans and therefore no business of theirs. So a US withdrawal could lead to either a full partition or a de facto partition under a confederation.

If we are going to ally with the Shias against the Sunnis what's the sense of staying? We could ship arms to the Shias and they could put down the Sunnis all by themselves. Then Bush can declare the result a success for democracy.

If we unleash the Shias and stay then once the Shias succeed against the Sunnis they'll turn against us. I get the sense that Bush isn't thinking that many moves down the chessboard.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 November 24 01:28 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

JJ said at November 25, 2006 5:18 PM:

"I get the sense that Bush isn't thinking that many moves down the chessboard."

Is he ever?

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