2006 December 24 Sunday
Baghdad Ethnic Cleansing Continues

The inevitable continues unabated.

Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials.

For the first years of the war, Sunni militants were dominant, forcing Shiites out of neighborhoods and systematically killing bakers, barbers and trash collectors, who were often Shiites. But starting in February, after the bombing of a shrine in the city of Samarra, Shiite militias began to strike back, pushing west from their strongholds and redrawing the sectarian map of the capital, home to a quarter of Iraq’s population.

I've been saying for years now that we are basically marking time in Iraq while the Shias and Sunnis ethnically cleanse their own areas of influence. The Sunnis had the upper hand at first because were more angry about their fall from power. But the Sunnis have so enraged the Shias (the Samarra Golden Mosque bombing was the final straw) that the Shias are striking back relentlessly. The Shias are more numerous and control the government. So they are winning battles for control in areas along the boundary of the Sunni and Shia spheres.

Bush wants to "surge" some US troops into Iraq for 6 to 8 months. In the short term that might slow up the rate of ethnic cleansing. But since the new US focus is on training the Iraqi military and security forces I predict this latest change in US strategy will increase the rate of ethnic cleansing. Why? Because the Shia-dominated Iraqi military and security forces help the Shia militias do ethnic cleansing. The more Iraqi Shias we train in the art of war the more will be available to join the Shia militias and help the Shia militias purge Baghdad of Sunnis.

What I want to know: Once the Shias dominate just about all of Baghdad and once the areas with mixed Shia and Sunni populations all over Iraq become pure Sunni and pure Shia what will the two sides do next? Will they negotitate a confederation? Or will they split by mutual agreement? Or will the Shias take the war to the Sunni areas to try to force the Sunnis to submit?

I figure neither the Shias or Sunnis want to accept rule by the other. But neither side wants to admit they don't get to control all of Iraq. Yet the Shias and Sunnis do not want to fight far from their tribes. So I do not see one side winning a conventional battle for control of whole country. But I also do not see them admitting any time soon that they are better off divorcing. So I do not see how it will turn out. Anyone have any guesses?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 24 01:26 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

John S Bolton said at December 25, 2006 12:09 AM:

Civil wars in which de facto partitions appear, often go on for decades.
They may go quiet for years at a time, especially when stable boundaries have been fortified.
The partitioning of Baghdad is well underway; the result might be like Jerusalem, Nicosia, Belfast, Beirut, Berlin.
Divided cities are a source of much embarassment to those who make an ideal of brotherhood and anti-discrimination.
On their theory, not only such cities, but national boundaries are something which does not arise from human nature.
There is some group which it is acknowledged generally within a territory, is the one to which loyalty is owed above the foreigner.
Nations can exist on such a basis, but not on the borderless tranzi nonsense.
Nation-building by internationalists cannot succeed except by accidents contrary to their assumptions.
They jabber about national reconciliation, as if all that was needed to make a nation was a wish.

Ned said at December 26, 2006 7:55 AM:

Interesting discussion from Strategy Page on the current messy situation in Iraq. Well worth reading the whole thing (http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/iraq/articles/20061226.aspx).

Randall Parker said at December 26, 2006 11:36 AM:


I read the whole thing and think Strategy Page are spinning. They have been very wrong on Iraq. Now they would have us believe only Saddam loyalists and some Jihadists are ruining it for all the Sunnis. But the base of Sunnis who oppose Shia rule is far larger than they would have you believe.

As for staying to help the Shias win while staying democratic: Is that the goal? The Shias are going to win in any case. Staying will not make the resulting government any better.

As for staying to help reduce the Sunni deaths while the Shias win: We could do that better by paying for the Sunnis to move away from the Shias.

Strategy Page has moved closer toward my analysis. But they still want to paint the US military as a key element in how things turn out for the better (relatively speaking) in Iraq. I think they are wrong. Slowing the rate of ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis will just cause as many deaths over a longer period of time. The Sunnis are less likely to surrender unless things get much worse for them.

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