BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 — Just past the main checkpoint into Sadr City, children kick soccer balls at goals with new green nets, on fields where mounds of trash covered the ground last summer. A few blocks away, city workers plant palm trees by the road, while men gather at a cafe nearby to chatter and laugh.
Sadr City, once infamous as a fetid slum and symbol of Shiite subjugation, is recovering, with the help of $41 million in reconstruction funds from the Shiite-led government, all of it spent since May, according to Iraqi officials, and millions more in American assistance.
But as Shiite areas like Sadr City begin to thrive as self-enclosed fiefs, middle-class Sunni enclaves are withering into abandoned ghettos, starved of government services.
What a great story, right? A victory for Bush Administration strategy? Not so fast. The secret is that the Shia Mahdi Army sectarian militia, using Sunni-killing death squads and ethnic cleansing, made Sadr City safe enough for economic recovery.
Many residents credit a Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, and its powerful political leader, the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, for keeping the area safe enough to allow rebuilding. Yet the Mahdi Army has also killed American troops and has been linked to death squads preying on Sunnis, making the district a potential target as American troops pour into Baghdad to enforce the new security plan.
Shias have flowed in from Sunni majority areas, rents are rising, the economy is growing, and signs of prosperity (by Iraqi standards of course) are showing up.
If the United States would let the Shias push the Sunnis entirely out of Baghdad then all of Baghdad would start rebuilding and the economy would boom. In other words, ethnic cleansing is the path to recovery. But under US supervision the ethnic cleansing could be done without killing. Help the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other. Help them settle in areas which are pure one group or the other.Short of that, a wall across Baghdad to separate the two ethnic groups might work to greatly reduce the disruptions from civil war.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 February 11 05:27 PM MidEast Iraq Partition|