On the Middle East Tweedledee would not be an improvement over Tweedledum.
He called for the United States to “work with partners to organize and arm Syrian opposition groups so they can defend themselves” — a policy that goes somewhat further than Mr. Obama’s but falls short of the airstrikes advocated by Republicans like Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Well, at least he's not advocating boots on the ground.
Overthrow of minority dictatorships in the Middle East just leads to dictatorship of the illiberal majority and ethnic cleansing of Christians. Why should the US government favor this?
By tracking the amount of light emitted by Baghdad neighborhoods at night, a team of UCLA geographers has uncovered fresh evidence that last year's U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not have been as effective at improving security as some U.S. officials have maintained.
Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit, the team reports in a new study based on publicly available satellite imagery.
"Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict. "By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left."
A few years ago I was arguing that the best way to end the inter-ethnic violence was to speed up the ethnic cleansing by helping the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds move away from each other. That would have reduced the number injured and killed. But such realism is too far from the lame mainstream of politically correct America.
The Sunni areas of Baghdad were getting darker at night even before the surge. They've stayed darker.
The night-light signature in four other large Iraqi cities — Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit and Karbala — held steady or increased between the spring of 2006 and the winter of 2007, the UCLA team found. None of these cities were targets of the surge.
Baghdad's decreases were centered in the southwestern Sunni strongholds of East and West Rashid, where the light signature dropped 57 percent and 80 percent, respectively, during the same period.
By contrast, the night-light signature in the notoriously impoverished, Shiite-dominated Sadr City remained constant, as it did in the American-dominated Green Zone. Light actually increased in Shiite-dominated New Baghdad, the researchers found.
Until just before the surge, the night-light signature of Baghdad had been steadily increasing overall, they report in "Baghdad Nights: Evaluating the U.S. Military 'Surge' Using Night Light Signatures."
"If the surge had truly 'worked,' we would expect to see a steady increase in night-light output over time, as electrical infrastructure continued to be repaired and restored, with little discrimination across neighborhoods," said co-author Thomas Gillespie, an associate professor of geography at UCLA. "Instead, we found that the night-light signature diminished in only in certain neighborhoods, and the pattern appears to be associated with ethno-sectarian violence and neighborhood ethnic cleansing."
We are wasting our time, money, and blood in Iraq.
"The surge really seems to have been a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted," Agnew said.
..."The U.S. military was sealing off neighborhoods that were no longer really active ribbons of violence, largely because the Shiites were victorious in killing large numbers of Sunnis or driving them out of the city all together," Agnew said. "The large portion of the refugees from Iraq who went during this period to Jordan and Syria are from these neighborhoods."
It makes sense that ethnic cleansing would have eventually led to a decline in violence. The surge might have helped too. But another factor that helped was the split of the Sunni tribes away from foreign fighters. My guess is that American cash had a lot to do with it. Part of that cash came in the form of security jobs for Sunni fighters. But I bet substantial amounts of cash came in briefcases and suitcases for tribal leaders.
As Christians, the Comannys had learned to keep a low profile. They even stayed in their house after many Muslim neighbors fled the daily chaos when sectarian bloodshed between Shiite and Sunni militants broke out in 2006, making this one of Baghdad's most embattled districts.But the hand-scrawled note at their door was the final straw. The message commanded the family to select one of these options:
-- Convert to Islam.
-- Pay a fee of nearly $300 monthly for "protection."
-- Leave the area.
Failure to comply would result in death.
The protection money is a large sum as measured by Iraqi wages. Also, there's no guarantee that the money will really buy protection. So the Christians have to flee to relatively safer areas in Iraq or try to find a country they can flee to. Taking flight is expensive. Once they arrive in a new area they lack jobs and a place to live.
The United States government and the cheerleaders for the war set in motion the events that caused this to happen. The Christian women now must cover themselves in burqahs and can't go to places they used to go or work at jobs they used to have. All the Christians who remain live in fear. Christian George W. Bush made this all possible.
The number of Christians is dwindling and would dwindle much more rapidly if Western nations would let them in.
While meaningful numbers are difficult to come by, the last Iraqi census, conducted in 1987, counted 1 million Christians, although many fled after the United Nations imposed sanctions in the 1990s. Today, national aid groups estimate that between 300,000 and 600,000 Christians remain among an estimated 25 million people.
The US government ought to help the smaller minorities in Iraq move to safe havens.
Read the whole article.
If you would have asked the Bush White House back in February of 2007 if an increase in the number of US troops in Iraq would have sped up or slowed down the ethnic cleansing and partitioning of Iraq I'm sure the Bushies would have said their next big plan would slow down the ethnic cleansing. After all, the ethnic cleansing involves killings and forcing of people to flee from their homes. Yet during the surge the flight of Shias and Sunnis away from each other has accelerated.
BAGHDAD, Aug. 23 — The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.
Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show.
The UN International Organization for Migration detects a huge acceleration in the rate of displacement. The Iraqi Red Crescent Organization believes the number of displaced has more than doubled to over 1 million so far in 2007.
The latest National Intelligence Estimate of the US government's intelligence agencies finds that areas where ethnic cleansing is most advanced experience less violence.
Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months. The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.
No surprise here. Get the 3 big ethnicities away from each other and they'll find it harder to shoot and blow up and generally terrorize each other.
How long will it take the Shiites to drive the rest of the Sunnis out of Baghdad? The Sunni areas have got to be especially crunched on housing since the Sunnis are gradually losing access to all the housing in Baghdad.
The Bush White House and its supporters somehow find ways to look at the unfolding tragedy and see signs of progress toward some goal that will help improve American security. This would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. The Sunnis of Anbar province are not Al Qaeda. The Shias factions fighting each other over who controls the oil and who controls various industries are also not Al Qaeda. Tribal and Muslim sectarian fighting in Iraq is not war over vital US interests.
While I'm at it: the Middle East is running out of oil. Therefore the Middle East is becoming less valuable to us, not more. All the armchair generals rooting for continued US fighting in the Iraq civil war ought to shift their focus to topics that matter for US national security such as how to develop replacements for oil and how we ought to change immigration policy to keep Muslims out of the West.
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?
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.
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.
Firas also lived in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. He left two months ago and says very few of his neighbors are still there. He says he left because he feared for his life. "If you are in a Shi'ite neighborhood and they see your identity is Christian, okay, you will at least suffer or they will kill you, easily. Same in Sunni places," said Firas.
The US should shift aid money toward helping them move.
Sometimes, those who have fled have experienced the worst horrors. A businessman we will call Fouad, to protect him and his family, was kidnapped in Baghdad. He is reluctant to recall his ordeal. "I do not want to remember it. Leave it," he said. "What is the use of this story? Every day hundreds are kidnapped in Baghdad."
Does it bother Bush the Christian that his policies have badly shafted Christians in Iraq?
But Father Tariq from Saint George Church in Ainkawa says it is not just Baghdad Christians who are fleeing the violence. He says families came from Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as Baghdad. Altogether, about 700 families have come to the area.
Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that bakeries are being forced to close all over Baghdad because the owners are not the right political sect in some cases.
For the past year, Sunni Arab militants have swept through their old neighborhood, a heavily Sunni district in northwest Baghdad that borders a Shiite area, forcing Shiites out of their homes and shutting their shops by killing customers and workers inside. One after another, bakeries, whose workers are overwhelmingly poor and Shiite like Mr. Aaraji, began to close.
Now, out of 11 bakeries in the area, northern Ghazaliya, just one, the Sunni-owned Al Obeidi on Center Street, remains open. The neighborhood, like a mouth with missing teeth, is almost entirely without the simplest of Iraqi needs, freshly baked bread.
Some Iraqis think that the US forces do so little that if the US pulled out the violence wouldn't increase.
The widespread sectarian killings have gone virtually unchecked by authorities of any kind, American or Iraqi. That is one of the bitterest disappointments of the war for Iraqis, rivaled only by the letdown felt when the military did not stop mobs of looters in April 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s government was overthrown. Recently Iraqis have begun to say that an American withdrawal, which they previously feared would result in a bloodbath, might not make any difference.
“Their main task, their whole reason for being here, is to prevent exactly this, but they do nothing,” said an Iraqi mother who lives near Sadr City and strongly supported the Americans as recently as last year. “They just let it go, my God, so easily.”
In all, he said, nearly 27,000 families, about 162,000 people, had registered for relocation aid since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22, which set off waves of killings, kidnappings and reprisals.
Sattar Nowruz, a spokesman for the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, said 1,117 families abandoned mixed areas for Shiite or Sunni strongholds in the last week alone, an increase since March that analysts described as a conservative snapshot of internal migration.
I'm guessing most do not report to the government that they've had to flee their homes. Think about it this way: At least 100 per week are dying. Given the death rate would you stay in a mixed sect neighborhood in your city?
A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shiite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in and reconciling "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the migration ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone.
That works out to about 10,000 per week or even higher than my calculation of 6600 per week above. 10,000 per week is over a half million a year. Again keep in mind that these are the people who register with the government. The real numbers could be double or triple or higher. The internal migration rate looks high enough to partition the country along ethnic lines within a year or two.
Even those hesitant to call Iraq's ongoing sectarian violence a civil war have begun saying that the only way to diffuse the sectarian killings is nothing short of the international mechanisms used to mediate past ethnic, religious and political conflicts in Central America, the former Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka.
"I start to feel the need to say that there is a civil war," said Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a Sunni politician, "in order to borrow the tools and solutions of past civil wars to apply them here, and to call upon the international community to deal with Iraq's problems on this basis."
Partition the place.
Ever since the Feb. 22 bombing of a major Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra touched off dozens of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques, Iraqis have reported a sharp rise in attacks at the hands of both Shiite and Sunni Arab death squads.
A Baghdad health official says there have been at least 2,500 murders in the capital since the Samarra shrine attack, adding that those numbers don't include the victims of mass-casualty attacks like those Sunday.
Today, Baghdad appears to be more divided and war-torn than at any point since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Most basic services are at an all-time low (Baghdad is averaging about three hours of power a day) and traditionally mixed Shiite and Sunni Arab neighborhoods continue to feel the impact of the slow seeping away of their diversity as families flee across the city's confessional front lines.
Imagine that: 3 hours of power each day. Forget about refrigeration. Employers can't get much done either. Electric manufacturing machines and office equipment aren't going to work.
You might think the killings by Shia groups are aimed at killing people they know are insurgents. I suspected that even if that was their aim they are probably too ignorant and trigger-happy to have a high accuracy rate on who they kill. Well, after the Mahdi Army tried to kill his son one Sunni man found out that the Mahdis are choosing Sunnis to kill based on their first names.
Abu Omar says the men told them they were killing all young men named Omar and Bakar - popular Sunni names borrowed from early Islamic caliphs hated by Shiites. They said they would be back for his son. After his release he called the police for protection. "They told me that close to Sadr City there's nothing they could do for a Sunni."
The next day, like hundreds of Iraqi families, both Shiite and Sunni Arab, he fled his old neighborhood. In his case, he sought safety in a Sunni area to the west of the Tigris
The Sunni-Shia split feeds on itself. The more innocents killed on each side the greater the willingness of members of each side to kill members of the other side in revenge. The population migrations as people flee in fear reduce the violence because those who flee are not around to get killed by the side they flee from. Fewer die and therefore fewer become survivors who want revenge for lost loved ones.
BAGHDAD – For the past nine weeks, Nabil Abdul Hassan has had more business than he can handle. He's a home builder in Chikook, a western suburb of cinder-block houses that is filling up with Shiite Iraqis who are increasingly fleeing sectarian violence in religiously mixed villages.
"I've built 20 houses in the past two weeks, and it's been like that since what happened in Samarra," he says, referring to the attack on the Askariya shrine, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, on Feb. 22. "The other builders in this neighborhood say the same. And it is like that in other neighborhoods nearby."
I think the United States government should find ways to help the Shias and Sunnis flee each other. The more separated they become the less violence they will inflict on each other.
Reporting from Baghdad Jonathan Steele reports on the killings by Shia militias, the development of Sunni vigilante groups in response, and the flight of both Sunnis and Shias from areas where they are in danger from each other.
"More Iraqis are dying from militia violence than from the terrorists," Khalilzad said recently. "The militias need to be under control."
His blunt comment came in the wake of over 1,000 abductions and murders in a single month, most of them blamed on Shia militias. Terrified residents of Baghdad's mainly Sunni areas talk of cars roaring up after dark, uninhibited by the police in spite of the curfew. They enter homes and seize people, whose bodies turn up later, often garotted or marked with holes from electric drills - evidence of torture before assassination.
In fact Iraq has no history of Balkan-style pogroms where neighbour turns against neighbour, burning homes and shops. But it could develop now. The rampaging by Shia militias and the rise of defensive Sunni vigilantes have launched a low-intensity ethnic cleansing. Up to 30,000 people have left their homes in the last few weeks.
The Americans say they are seeking to disband the militias, though they have tried it before without success. Iraqis themselves are not pinning hopes on that; many are applying to change their names so it will be less obvious which sect they belong to.
US Generals are increasingly going public with their objections as the debacle in Iraq escalates. John Batiste wants Rumsfeld replaced.
"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."
Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: It is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld. Also, before going to Iraq, he worked at the highest level of the Pentagon, serving as the senior military assistant to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense.
He's served the neocons up close.
Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, also ripped on Rumsfeld's leadership. Note that when these guys rip on Rumsfeld they are saying that US strategy and tactics in Iraq are very flawed. Note as well that these guys say what they say from reitrement. Officers serving at high levels can't be as frank. The recent retirees provide an indication of what the serving officers think.
Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold says in a Time magazine essay entitled "Why Iraq Was A Mistake" that The Who had it wrong when Daltrey sang "We won't get fooled again".
It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.
Some conservatives support the war because of leftist opposition to the war. They figure if the leftists are against something it must be a good idea to support it. Well, US military generals are a rather conservative lot who aren't pacifists and they know a great deal about what is happening in Iraq. They are also very unhappy with the Bush Administration's conduct of the war. Many think the war never should have been started in the first place.
Update: Former US ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke points out that more top US officers may heed Newbold's call and resign in order to protest the war.
This has put President Bush and the administration in a hellish situation, and at a time when the security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating. If Bush yields to the generals' revolt, he will appear to have caved in to pressure from what Rumsfeld disingenuously describes as "two or three retired generals out of thousands." But if he keeps Rumsfeld, he risks more resignations -- perhaps soon, from generals who heed Newbold's stunning call that, as officers, they took an oath to speak up and should now do so on behalf of the troops in the field and the institution that he feels is in danger of falling back into the disarray of the post-Vietnam era.
The serving officers legally are not allowed to speak out. So the retirees provide the best indications we have into the views of the currently serving generals. As more generals retire expect the number of generals who speak out against Rumsfeld, Bush, and the war to grow.
What a tragedy and loss for the United States. The Bush Presidency has been a disaster on foreign policy, immigration, spending, racial preferences, and other areas.
In fact, Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prescribes a court-martial for any commissioned officer who "uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense" or other federal or state officials.
That prohibition, of course, does not forbid serving officers from speaking candidly in private when asked for advice on military matters. Some of Mr. Rumsfeld's critics also fault General Pace and others for not being more forceful in questioning the guidelines put forward by Pentagon civilians that have kept American forces relatively lean in Iraq and have led to the quick disbanding of the Iraqi army.
Neither does the prohibition on "contemptuous words" apply to retirees. And the propriety of the onslaught of attacks on Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership from recently retired senior military leaders, including some who served in Iraq, is a matter of intense debate.
If these officers didn't speak out they'd be doing the nation a disservice. We need expert and informed advice from the officers about the war because the public ultimately must judge the decisions of the elected civilian leadership.
On the third year anniversary of beginning of America's Iraq misadventure lots of debates are taking place in the United States about the wisdom of the war and whether US forces should stay. George W. Bush expects the US military to stay in Iraq even after he has left office. I'm inclined to agree with that prediction though I'd rather withdraw now.
However, the American mainstream debate on Iraq bores me because it takes place under the same thought crime rules for denying biological factors in human nature that govern debates on American domestic issues. The mainstream debate on Iraq has hit a stalemate as reality has collided with faith (surely everyone has the capacity and desire to support a democracy regardless of what our lying eyes are telling us). As a result I'm more interested in discussing patterns of behavior happening in Iraq. Most notably, the ethnic cleansing in Iraq has accelerated since the Samarra Golden Mosque bombing.
Saeed Haqqi, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, said Shiites have fled mainly to Sadr City and to the southern cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra. Sunnis were headed mostly to Baghdad's Abu Ghraib suburb and to Tarmiyah, where Shiites were recently run out of the town 30 miles north of the capital.
Minister of Migration Suhaila Abed Jaafar said her department has helped 3,705 displaced families nationwide since Feb. 22.
U.S. military engineers working to upgrade the Iraqi electricity grid estimate each Iraqi family at six people. The math, then, shows the known number of displaced at more than 22,000 in the past month alone.
And that figure does not count what must be hundreds, if not thousands, more families who have moved in with relatives, taken shelter in community centers and mosques or occupied partially built homes and those abandoned by displaced members of the other Muslim sect.
Read the full article for anecdotes of killings, threatening notes, sudden flight, and the rest of it.
Now I can just hear some of you: "Oh, this is horrible. Oh, this is a great tragedy." Others who support the war think I'm just doing my regular negative schtick about Iraq. But you would be wrong. The internet being what it is and my mind also being what it is I often find myself clicking around reading many articles in parallel. Well, I clicked over to Adam Lawson's Modern Tribalist and saw a post about how Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing where Adam linked to Geoffrey Wheatcroft arguing that obviously Israel's modern democracy was founded on ethnic cleansing (which is a true statement btw).
And yet those admirers missed some salient truths. That beautiful democratic Israel of 50 years ago was founded on ethnic cleansing. The later expansion of Israel was actually less brutal: after 1967 a number of Palestinians were uprooted, but there was nothing to compare with the wholesale expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians in 1948 - an event to which the right-thinking liberal west closed its eyes at the time.
Then it dawned on me: we are overseeing a civil war that is causing an ethnic cleansing that will lead to the creation of 3 states in Iraq. These states could, like Israel, become sufficiently ethnically pure to function as democracies. "But wait", I hear the human biodiversity realists saying, "the Iraqis still lack sufficient loyalty to the state due to consanguineous marriages, Islam, low average intelligence levels, and perhaps still other cultural and genetic factors". Well true enough. You got me there. Still, the ethnic cleansing is at least a step in the direction of democratic states and Rome wasn't built in a day.
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons that ethnically pure break-away states in Iraq won't turn into liberal democracies is average levels of intelligence that are too low. Well, events in Iraq are making the intelligence deficit worse as the smarties are getting killed and driven abroad.
The growing insecurity has set off a massive brain drain, as more and more Iraqis slip away from the country, perhaps never to return. While the fall of Saddam Hussein opened the door for an earlier generation of Iraqi exiles to go home, now the flow is going the other way again. Kidnap survivors are the lucky ones. Hundreds of Iraqi professionals are being murdered in what some Iraqis see as a deliberate campaign to destroy the country's best and brightest. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research says that 89 university professors and senior lecturers have been killed since 2003, and police investigations have led to nothing.
Iraqi academics have compiled a longer list of up to 105 names of assassinated colleagues. The most recent was Professor Ali Muhawesh, the dean of the engineering college at Mustansiriya University, one of Baghdad's two main campuses. He was shot this week.
The rate of killing is increasing. Some 311 teachers have been murdered in the past four months alone, according to the Ministry of Education. It is not only Baghdad that is suffering. The medical college in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, has lost nine senior staff.
Even outside Iraq, fear consumes many exiles. In Jordan's capital, Amman, the first port of call for most refugees, requests for interviews produced repeated rejections. Others would only talk if false names were used and no mention made of where they work or live.
But this flight abroad could be a positive development. If all the smarties get driven out of some countries the clustering of smarties in other countries could jump-start the economic development of the latter countries. Jordan in particular could benefit from an influx of relatively smarter Iraqi Sunnis.
"Always look on the bright side of life."
In some neighborhoods, they drove minorities away from their homes—the apparent beginning of an ethnic-cleansing process that Iraqis call tahjir, forced emigration.
Some claim this is religious cleansing rather than ethnic cleansing. But the Shias and Sunnis are effectively acting like ethnic groups.
The scariest factor is the rise of militias, particularly evident in the two weeks since the bombing of the Askariya Mosque. All the main political parties have activated their armed groups, and neighborhood outfits have been arming themselves. Insurgents keep stoking the hatred. And moderate Sunnis complain that the Shia-dominated military and police have stood by whenever Shia militias have rampaged in their neighborhoods. Even some Shiites are chagrined. "When we arrest people at the checkpoint, the [Shia] militias from the party come, and say 'Release them'," says Capt. Mahmoud al-Ebady, a Shiite who directs the 21 checkpoints on roads leading into the capital. "They are well connected with the Ministry of Interior and sometimes the minister himself, and usually we have to let them go." A checkpoint commander, Maj. Ammar Zengara, summed up the country's three biggest problems: "Militias, militias, militias. Everyone has one."
The Shia retaliations will probably lead to more Sunni retaliations. These Sunni retaliations will lead to what? Can you guess? Oh, of course you can: More Shia retaliations.
When people can't get along I think the best thing to do is to separate them. We ought to help Sunnis and Shias move back and forth to sort themselves apart.
The International Crisis Group served warning yesterday that the “Sunni-Shiite schism . . . threatens to tear the country apart”.
In a report entitled The Next Iraqi War?, it said that the scenes of mayhem that followed the Samarra bombing were “only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster”.
“Iraq’s mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing instability and violence to many areas,” it said. “Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites, and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community.”
The ethnic cleansing has already been going on between the Kurds and Sunnis since the initial US invasion. The Kurds have been forcing Sunnis out of cities where the Kurds want to reestablish a majority. The Sunnis have been forcing Kurds out of Sunnis cities such as Fallujah. Now the Shias are firmly into the game of purging and cleansing and internal migrations.
"Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilize the entire region," the document says.
Since "the entire region" includes lots of oil fields this could be bad for the world economy. It sure is a bummer we are spending all that money on Iraq rather than on energy research. We could be researching molten salt reactors, thin film photovoltaics, next generation batteries, and other neat stuff that would provide us with real benefits. Instead we are mired in Iraq not doing any good.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher.
"It's 6 p.m.," Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you."
Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses.
The neighboring Arab states have helped shape the perception that Shiite violence directed at Sunnis is somehow different — and more dangerous — than the violence used at first by Saddam and now by Sunni guerrillas, whether they are Baathist remnants, the Wahhabi fanatics of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or a combination of the two.
In this view, Sunni-originated violence can be tolerated or even rewarded; Shiite violence is "civil war" that must be prevented.
The Sunni regimes of these Arab states kept quiet or actively helped in Saddam's long reign of terror over the Kurds and the Shiites.
The burning of thousands of Kurdish villages or the draining of the marshes in the south to inflict death and force huge population movements was not "civil war" to these regimes or to their official and corporate friends in Washington, London and elsewhere.
Basically, if the majority Shias carried on like the minority Sunnis there'd a whole lot more dead bodies. On the other hand, maybe if the Shias had gotten a lot tougher from the very beginning this would have intimidated the Sunnis out of carrying on their insurgency.
Writing from Beirut for The New Republic Annia Ciezadlo says the Shias and Sunnis in Lebanon might be building up toward having another civil war.
n the streets of Beirut, you hear it again and again: Sectarian tensions are higher today than in 1975, when the country plunged into its 15-year nightmare of internecine carnage. "This polarization is much more threatening for me than a frank war where people are killing each other," says Lokman Slim, a founder of Hayyabina ("Let's Go"), a civil society group that promotes a secular Lebanon. "In fact, we are living in what some sociologists call the 'priming period.' Mentally, they are ready to fight.
Tensions have been growing between the Shia and other sects in Lebanon since February 14, 2005, when a massive car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni potentate with a large popular following. That most Lebanese Shia were aligned with the country's Syrian occupiers--and Hariri's probable killers--didn't help Sunni-Shia relations. They deteriorated further when Nasrallah held a huge pro-Syrian rally last March in downtown Beirut. A colossal anti-Syrian protest followed on March 14, and the battle lines were drawn. Over the next year, as more bombings and assassinations followed, communal relations just got worse.
Ciezadlo thinks the US is managing to compete with Syria as most hated external force.
The Bush Administration has not set off a flowering of liberal democracy in the Middle East. What democracy comes is distinctly Islamic. In some countries that ends up being the democracy of the majority sect with the power of the state aligned against the minority religious factions. In Lebanon the democracy takes the form of a contrived constitutional balance between religious factions and that balance is not stable.
The US isn't going to make the Middle East a peaceful secular liberal happy place. So far we've yet to improve the place at all and if anything have made it worse while also increasing their hatred and resentment of us. We ought to abandon the notion that these people can be reshaped in an even semi-Western mold. I think the US ought to make a huge technological push to obsolesce oil and then cut back US involvement in the Middle East to a very minimal level.
I've been for Partition of Iraq for about two and a half years now. I agree with William Odom when he says that all the reasons for staying in Iraq have it exactly backward.
What's your definition of civil war? The Samarra mosque bombing has set off a particularly intense period of sectarian killings in Iraq.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.
Do the Shia militiamen carrying out the killings know who among the Sunnis are in the insurgency? How selective are the killings? Or are the Shias killing family members of Sunni insurgents?
Some people claim that Iraq is not yet in a civil war. Well, I'm confident of the ability of the Sunni insurgents/terrorists/patriots/holy warriors/bad guys/good guys to blow up some more Shia holy sites and kill enough Shias that the Shias will amp up their response and kick up the death rate for Sunnis to even higher levels than we've seen so far. But when does the civil war begin? Is 2000 dead in a week a civil war? Or 3000? Not enough? How about 5000? Or does the death rate need to exceed some threshold level for a number of weeks before we classify the fighting Iraq as a civil war?
The sectarian violence (mostly Shias killing Sunnis) was set off by the Feb. 22, 2006 destruction of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra, also known as the Al-Askariya Mosque. Check out the before and after pictures. The mosque was fairly fancy.
The golden dome of the sanctuary was completed in 1905 and is covered by 72,000 golden pieces. It measured roughly 20 metres wide with a circumference of 68 metres, making it one of the biggest domes in the Islamic world. Each of the mosques two golden minarets is 36 m high, according to the Encyclopedia of the Orient and Atlas Tours.
The power of the clerics is strengthened by this crisis since the clerics clearly are the only leaders who can restrain the Iraqi population. The Shias are hopping mad and Ayatollah Sistani wants more Shia militias.
Shiite militias remain heavily armed and emotional, and on Sunday continued to move into some Sunni neighborhoods in the capital. Clerics are emerging as the only voices that can quell the violence, even as they've come under pressure from their followers to demand revenge. Even Ayatollah Sistani has advocated the founding of additional sectarian militias, drawn from southern tribes, to protect Shiite interests.
"It may well be that things will die down now,'' says Joost Hilterman, who runs the International Crisis Group's (ICG) Middle East Project in Amman, Jordan. "But the structural dynamic still points toward civil war, and the institutions that could restrain it have become severely weakened."
Those Sunnis killed by Shia retaliations have families who will of course want revenge. But the Sunnis have already killed lots of Shias whose families also want revenge.
Today, at least 15 people were killed and 45 injured in a mortar attack in Dora, the police and hospital officials told Reuters. Dora is a mixed neighborhood in southern Baghdad that has been gripped by sectarian assassinations for more than a year.
In the southern city of Basra, two people were injured when a homemade bomb exploded in the ablutions area of a Shiite mosque, according to a medic, and at least five people were injured when a car bomb exploded in Hilla, south of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
If the attacks on Shiite mosques continue enough Shiites will ignore calls from top clerics for restraint that the violence will escalate.
American military leaders saw the handiwork of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the violent Sunni extremist. "Zarqawi's target is to strip away this notion of Iraqi nationalism," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy strategy director for U.S. Central Command, told me on the day of the bombing. "If he can wipe away this notion, as was done in Yugoslavia, then people would revert to the next tier: 'I am a Sunni, a Shia, or a Kurd.'"
The notion of Iraqi nationalism was always very weak anyway. The Sunni notion of Iraqi nationalism is that Sunnis rule Shias. The Shia notion is that Shias rule Sunnis. The Arabs find the concept of people meeting as equals as entirely foreign to their experience and their conceptual framework. If the rest of the world really did think like Westerners then the rest of the world would already be much more like Westerners. Current US policies toward the Middle East will eventually be seen by the politically correct mainstream as foolish due to basic facts about human nature.
Time to forget about democracy happy talk. The situation is so dire that the US is making heavy threats to all factions to keep them from moving to all out civil war.
Khalilzad’s strongest card is that the Americans have the money and the military boots on the ground. “Behind closed doors, he can say that if there is a civil war, because of our military power we can decide who comes out on top — and leave it open as to who might emerge the victor,” Krepinevich said.
It is, he added, a warning to all sides that “we can make life really miserable for you”.
Officially, talk of civil war is frowned upon in Washington. “We don’t believe we’re there,” a senior American defence official said. “We’re watching closely to see if the Iraqi forces are going to disintegrate under pressure. It’s so far so good. Iraqi leaders have shown their ability to stay together in the face of strong provocation.”
I figure the frowns in Washington D.C. are going to get a lot bigger before this thing is over.
The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.
Those downgraded batallions stayed downgraded while the last top rated batallion has now also been downgraded.
The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday.
According to the congressionally mandated Iraq security report released Friday, there are 53 Iraqi battalions at level two status, up from 36 in October. There are 45 battalions at level three, according to the report.
It is interesting to note that some news articles have reported Shia militia moving around in Baghdad without opposition from Iraqi security forces. Are the government's forces so overweighted by Shias that the Shia militias have nothing to worry about from government troops?
If Iraq were to sink deeper into that kind of conflict, Baghdad and other cities could become caldrons of ethnic cleansing, bringing revenge violence from one region to another. Shiite populations in Lebanon, Kuwait and especially Saudi Arabia, where Shiites happen to live in the oil-rich eastern sector, could easily revolt. Such a regional conflict could take years to exhaust itself, and could force the redrawing of boundaries that themselves are less than 100 years old.
Picture the Saudi Shiites rising up in the oil field region of Saudi Arabia where they are a majority and uniting with Shias in Iraq. The only reason I can't see that happen is that Arabs do not unite well.
The Shia retaliations might end up having salutary effects. The Sunnis have been reminded that they would suffer horribly and many of them would be killed in a no holds barred civil war. But can the Sunnis who fear civil war restrain the sorts of people who blow up Shia mosques? Are there powerful Sunnis with militias that have both the incentive and the knowledge to hunt down Zarqawi and his followers?
I see what is going on in Iraq as a signalling game between the factions. The Sunnis have been signalling they will not accept a subordinate position to the Shias. The Shias are now signalling that the Sunnis have gone too far and that the Shias will inflict lots of harm on Sunnis if the Sunnis do not back down. But I still do not see how this violent signalling back and forth can lead them to a point where they agree on terms for the political system which the major factions will all find acceptable.
I first argued for partition of Iraq in November 2003 and that still seems like the best solution to me. Also see my later partition posts here and here and here. Back in August 2005 Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.) and former director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan argued that all the reasons for staying in Iraq have it exactly backward. More recently Odom has argued that "staying the course" amounts to throwing away resources better used elsewhere.
"Localized difficulties also persist, but I think, at the strategic level, this crisis -- a mosque attack leading to civil war -- is over," Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said in a telephone interview. "It was a serious crisis. I believe that Iraq came to the brink and came back."
But another big mosque attack or a big killing elsewhere could reintensify the conflict.
Both the Kurds and the Sunnis decided they did not want full out civil war.
Ironically, the Kurds stood to gain the most from a civil conflict. They have long wanted an independent state, and revolted against Saddam Hussein in 1991 only to be brutally repressed. But Talabani was deeply troubled by the Samarra crisis, said Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat who was in contact with Talabani throughout the crisis.
Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni leader who attended the talks Saturday, put it more bluntly: "I think this is a lesson for the Sunnis," he said. "Next time they will try to buy weapons to face these kinds of developments."
The Kurds would prefer to secede from Iraq peacefully. The Sunnis have just realized they do not have enough weapons and military force to take on the Shias - yet. So I figure the Kurds and Sunnis have not abandoned their goals. But they have both had moments of clarity in terms of what they need to make happen to achieve their goals.
How will the Sunnis raise the funds to arm for civil war? Where will the money come from? They need to get access to oil money. Or steal weapons from the Iraqi military by getting more Sunnis to join up for a while. What steps will the Kurds take to make themselves better able to secede with a minimum of violence? I figure they will continue to scare Sunnis into leaving territory that Kurds control. They want to disentangle from the Arabs at a demographic level.
After last Wednesday's mosque bombing, about 250 bodies with signs of violent deaths - out of the total of 379 - were taken to Baghdad's main morgue, the repository for bodies from the city and surrounding villages, according to an examination of documents there, including pictures of the corpses, and interviews with medical personnel.
A review of the morgue's logbook confirmed that most of the 250 had died of bullet wounds. A top morgue official, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, verified those numbers.
Anyone have insight into where the truth might lie here?
An excellent article in the Washington Post (and well worth reading in full) provides an excellent survey of Kurdish attempts to demographically retake Kirkuk and the surrounding region in order to make them part of a future independent Kurdish state.
KIRKUK, Iraq -- Providing money, building materials and even schematic drawings, Kurdish political parties have repatriated thousands of Kurds into this tense northern oil city and its surrounding villages, operating outside the framework of Iraq's newly ratified constitution and sparking sporadic violence between Kurdish settlers and the Arabs who are a minority here, according to U.S. military officials and Iraqi political leaders.
The rapidly expanding settlements, composed of two-bedroom concrete houses whose dimensions are prescribed by the Kurdish parties, are effectively re-engineering the demography of northern Iraq, enabling the Kurds to add what ultimately may be hundreds of thousands of voters ahead of a planned 2007 referendum on the status of Kirkuk. The Kurds hope to make the city and its vast oil reserves part of an autonomous Kurdistan.
Saddam Hussein deported large numbers of Kurds from the Kurdish region he controlled and at the same time he shipped in Sunni and Shia Arabs. Since Saddam's fall many Arabs have been leaving (and some have been scared into leaving) while the Kurdish political parties have simultaneously been using cash from the regional government units to pay to resettle Kurds from central and southern Iraq into areas which they consider to be part of their Kurdish homeland. This is demographic war over how large the Kurdish autonomous region will be and whether the Kurds will eventually manage to secede entirely from Iraq.
The Kurds probably need to add perhaps two hundred thousand Kurds to swing Kirkuk firmly into the Kurdish sphere. But to the extent that they manage to drive out Arabs they can reduce the amount of Kurds they need to add.
Kirkuk's precise demographic makeup is a source of dispute, but Kurds are believed to represent 35 to 40 percent of the population. The remainder is composed primarily of Arabs, ethnic Turkmens and a small percentage of Assyrian Christians.
The Kurds, saying they have a historical claim, hope to anchor Kirkuk to Kurdistan, their semiautonomous region. Kirkuk holds strategic as well as symbolic value: The ocean of oil beneath its surface could be used to drive the economy of an independent Kurdistan, the ultimate goal for many Kurds.
If the non-Kurdish politicians have their numbers right then the outcome of Kirkuk's referendum is already been determined.
Arab and Turkmen politicians said as many as 350,000 Kurds have been relocated into the Kirkuk region since Hussein's fall.
Once US troops leave Iraq willl the Kurds formally secede or just pretend to be part of Iraq while de facto seceding? In either event, will the Arabs wage civil war to keep the Kurds in Iraq? Or will the Sunni and Shia Arabs be too busy fighting each other to bother with the Kurds? How is this going to go down?
The problem with formal secession is that it increases the odds that the Turks will intervene. Turkey does not want an independent Kurdistan because the existence of a Kurdish state might embolden the Turkish Kurds to renew their struggle to secede from Turkey.
By themselves I do not see the Arabs in Iraq putting together a military force effective enough to put the Kurds under the thumbs of the Arabs. But might a future Iraqi government ally with Turkey to jointly invade the Kurdish region? Or will the Turks restrain their desire to invade a Kurdish state because such an invasion would almost certainly torpedo their efforts to join the European Union?
The spreadsheets in Dr. Faad Ameen Bakr's computer shed some light on the casualty rate. Baghdad's chief pathologist pulls down the death toll for Iraq's capital in July: 1,083 murders, a new record.
Under Saddam Hussein, Baghdad was a violent city. But the highest murder rate before the war was 250 in one month. (By comparison, New York City with about 2 million more residents, had 572 murders in 2004, and a peak of 2,245 in 1990).
The month of June, with 870 murders, was the previous record in Baghdad. In a weary monotone, Dr. Bakr explains that 680 of the victims were shot, the rest "strangled, electrocuted, stabbed, killed by blunt trauma or burned to death." The totals don't include residents killed by Baghdad's frequent car-bombings.
But the murder rates of New York City and Baghdad aren't comparable because the motivations and effects are quite different. New York's murders do not change the political control of the city. Though they do cause some ethnic partitioning.
Iraq has become de facto partitioned.
"We are living in an undeclared civil war among Iraq's political groups,'' says Nabil Yunos, the head of political affairs for the Dignity Party, a Sunni party. "It's not just Sunnis that are the problem. It's the Shiites, the Kurds, it's everyone. The violence has gotten worse, and we're entering a very dangerous period."
In Baghdad, "soft cleansing" is taking place in a number of mixed neighborhoods, with targeted assassinations scaring Sunnis out of some, and Shiites out of others. In the south, Shiite militias, not the new army and police, are the major power.
But in the south the militias inflitrate the police to use the police as an instrument of power. One could argue that the political parties that control the militias do the infiltrating. But that implies a hierarchical relationship with the political parties above the militias. My guess is that the political and military bosses are the same people.
Based on compilations from public news sources Iraqi military and police deaths have tripled so far this year from January through July and are over three times US and coalition casualty rates. However, the real totals are probably higher. Plus, private militias have their own additional casualties. US and coalition casualties have not declined during this period.
The early attacks were frightening, but until this spring there had been few Sufi deaths. Then, on June 2, a suicide bomber rammed a minivan packed with explosives into a takia outside the town of Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 8 people and wounding 12.
The attack took place in the middle of a ritual. The minivan hurtled through the front gate, then exploded when people ran toward it, said a neighboring farmer who gave his name as Abu Zakaria. "I hurried there with my brothers in my car," he said. "It was a mess of bodies. I carried bodies to the car without knowing whether they were dead or alive."
Five days later, at a gathering of mourners in an assembly hall fashioned from reeds in the village of Mazaree, the head of the takia, Sheik Idris Aiyash, lamented the loss of his father and three brothers. "If we keep on like this, we might really face civil war," he said.
Some Sufi groups in Iraq have built up militias and are bracing for more violence.
Many Sufi places of worship have closed due to attacks.
There are no accurate estimates of the number of Sufis in Iraq, though the biggest orders are in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. Sheik Faiz said there were dozens of takias in the capital alone and more than 100 across the country before the war. That number may have dropped by as much as a third since the American invasion, he said.
Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post have detailed long article on how Iraq is getting split up and fought over by rival factions. I highly recommend reading this article in full.
While Iraqi representatives wrangle over the drafting of a constitution in Baghdad, forces represented by the militias and the Shiite and Kurdish parties that control them are creating their own institutions of authority, unaccountable to elected governments, the activists and officials said. In Basra in the south, dominated by the Shiites, and Mosul in the north, ruled by the Kurds, as well as cities and villages around them, many residents say they are powerless before the growing sway of the militias, which instill a climate of fear that many see as redolent of the era of former president Saddam Hussein.
If you are still optimistic about Iraq then read that article in full and appreciate the sheer scale of the break-up of Iraq into pieces controlled by rival militias. The problem goes so much deeper than just the Sunni insurgency.
The war in Iraq is more than just a battle between the Sunni insurgency on one side and the US and Iraqi government forces on the other. Many more factions battle for power.
Success in Iraqi elections translates into bigger militias for the winners. Imagine George Washington building up his own private militia because he won an election.
The parties and their armed wings are sometimes operating independently, and other times as part of Iraqi army and police units trained and equipped by the United States and Britain and controlled by the central government. Their growing authority has enabled them to seize territory, confront their perceived enemies and provide patronage to their followers. Their rise has come because of a power vacuum in Baghdad and their own success in the January elections.
Democracy in Iraq is a violent sport very much like Chicago mob politics during Prohibition.
Since the formation of a government this spring, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, has witnessed dozens of assassinations, claiming members of the former ruling Baath Party, Sunni political leaders and officials of competing Shiite parties. Many have been carried out by uniformed men in police vehicles, according to political leaders and families of the victims, with some of the bullet-riddled bodies dumped at night in a trash-strewn parcel known as The Lot. The province's governor said in an interview that Shiite militias have penetrated the police force; an Iraqi official estimated that as many as 90 percent of officers were loyal to religious parties.
Some Republicans in Congress no longer support George W. Bush's Iraq policy. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska thinks the US presence in Iraq is destabilizing to the Middle East.
"We are locked into a bogged down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam," Hagel continued. "What I think the White House does not yet understand - and some of my colleagues - the dam has broke on this policy."
He added: "I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."
Of course some neocons want destablization. But instability brings civil war and a form of very illiberal "democracy" where rival militias associated with political parties kill democratically elected opposition politicians and political activists. Free speech and freedom of the press die in hails of bullets and explosions of bombs.
I agree with political analysts who argue that falling US domestic support for the war will lead to at least a partial wthdrawal of US troops in 2006.
Given the political realities in the US, substantial troop withdrawals by next year "are pretty much inevitable," says Ivo Daalder, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. The current force level of 140,000 US troops is just not sustainable for much longer, says Daalder. While numbers might actually go up prior to next year's elections for a permanent Iraqi government, they may then fall to around 70,000 or so.
The US has already lost in Iraq. Former Reagan Administration director of the National Security Agency William Odom proclaimed the US position in Iraq as totally lost back in May 2004. I agreed then. We need to decide which factions should we back as we withdraw. The US will have to form alliances with some of the militias and pretend those militias really defend the government rather than their own interests. Then US troops could withdraw from parts of Iraq controlled by those militias.
The situation in Fallujah has reawakened a sense of Arab nationalism among Shias and Sunnis. The danger is that this will grow to highlight the ethnic difference between Kurds and Arabs," said Falakadeen Kakay, a prominent Baghdad newspaper editor and former minister in the Kurdish self-rule area in northern Iraq. "Kurds are worried about being a minority without rights in the new Iraq. They are afraid of tyrannical rule by the majority."
In Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, anti-Kurdish sentiments are vitriolic. "The Kurds are traitors ... How can they talk about wanting to be Iraqis when they support the Americans?" said Mohammed al-Musawi, 32, banging his clenched fist on a display case in the perfume store he runs. "How can they fight against other Iraqis in Fallujah - against their Muslim brothers?"
Kurds have been living in Fallujah because they were expelled from Kurdish areas by Saddam. But insurgents in Fallujah have been firing at American forces from the rooftops of Kurdish houses in order that the return fire will wreck Kurdish and not Arab homes. (same article here)
KALAR, Iraq — Thousands of Iraqi Kurds have fled homes in Fallujah to northern Iraq after being threatened by Arab insurgents for supporting the coalition and refusing to fight against the U.S. military.
More than 2,000 people have arrived since April 9 in the Kurdish town of Kalar near the Iranian border, according to officials of the Kurdish regional government. Others are scattered in the large Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniyah.
This reminds me of how Yassir Arafat's forces in the West Bank have intentionally fired on Israeli settlements and Israeli soldiers from Palestinian Chrstian houses in order to cause the Israelis to shoot up Christian homes. The motives in that case were more in the direction of eliciting Western sympathy for the Christians than to drive the Christians out. However, Arafat has also plotted to reduce Palestinian Christan self-rule by merging Christian towns into larger Muslims towns. Many Palestinian Christians have managed to flee to the West to escape both Muslim Palestinian mistreatment and the land seizures and other unfair treatment by the Israeli Jews.
While the Kurdish region is much more peaceful than the other parts of Iraq the Kurdish region continues to suffer from a series of bombings such as the most recent bombings in the northerh Iraqi and predominately Kurdish cities of Kirkuk and Baquba.
Kurdish leaders avoid statements in favor of the popular Kurdish support for secession from Iraq but the Kurds increasingly do not see that Iraq is going to change enough to be both tolerant of them and democratic.
No one doubts they sympathize with the popular view. The politicians say they are deeply frustrated by the lack of responsibility on the part of other Iraqi groups. What is disturbing is that many Kurds are now openly arguing it is not in their interest to sacrifice their gains by committing themselves to the almost impossible mission of transforming Iraqi society. In a recent interview the most prominent Kurdish poet, Sherko Bekas, said bluntly that Kurds were not Iraqis and he demanded a UN-sponsored referendum so that the Kurds could determine their own future.
There is also concern that Kurdish communities in Arab cities such as Baghdad and Mosul would suffer. Baghdad alone is home to an estimated 800,000 Kurds. In recent weeks many Kurds have been killed in Mosul, where Kurds from Irbil and Dohuk now avoid traveling. If this continues business will suffer too.
As hostility between Kurds and Arabs escalates expect to see continued migrations of Kurds back to the Kurdish region and Arabs out of the Kurdish region back to Shia and Sunni Arab areas. Money made available now to facilitate those migrations would help reduce bloodshed in the future.
The Arabs are obviously illiberal in their attitudes toward women. The Kurds are enormously more Western and modern than the Iraqi Arabs in their views of women's rights and the role of religion in public life.
By margins of roughly 75 to 35 percent, Arabs are more likely than Kurds to favor giving religious leaders a “direct role” in such matters as deciding school curriculum, drafting legislation and determining who should run for office. In the all-important “women’s issue” the Kurds come off as veritable suffragettes compared to their Arab brethren. When asked if women should have the same rights as men, 98 percent of Kurds said “yes,” versus 42 percent of non-Kurds. More incredibly, in answering whether women should have more freedom than before the invasion or less, 82 percent of the Kurds said “more,” while 60 percent of Arabs believed than should adopt even more stringent “traditional” roles than they had before Iraq’s liberation.
George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz are in fantasyland with their dreams of Arab liberal democracy. We can ill afford to have powerful American leaders dreaming in the face of a reality that is incompatible with their dreams.
There are 26 million Kurds spread across Iran, Iraq, and Turkey -- a large and strategically important geographical expanse. The culture contains more moderate Muslims than other Arab lands. Kurdish women for instance, are not required to veil themselves, can receive regular education and work outside their homes. A successful democracy there would be an important regional ally for America in the war on terrorism.
Syria, with a total population of 18.5 million, has about 1.5 million Kurds which have been emboldened by the overthrow of Saddam and the increase of the size of the area of Iraq now under control of Kurdish administrators. The Syrian government is currently waging a crackdown on the Kurds of Syria.
SYRIAN authorities have arrested more than 1000 Kurds as part of a continuing campaign against the Kurdish minority, a Syrian human rights group claimed today.
It was the second report in less than a week of an alleged clampdown on Kurds in Syria since last month's clashes between Syrian security forces and Kurdish rioters in which 25 were killed and more than 100 wounded.
At least two men have reportedly died in custody. A number of people including children have reportedly been tortured.
In addition, at least 24 Kurdish students have been expelled from their universities and dormitories in what appears to be an increasing prosecution of Kurdish people. Syrian Kurds are reportedly being arrested or attacked because of their ethnicity or for speaking Kurdish.
A few members of Syria’s Kurdish community called for statehood during clashes between the police and rioters in March after a soccer match brawl, but all Kurdish political groupings in the Arab state deny such aspirations.
Check out some colorful maps of Kurdistan. The Nationmaster Kurdistan map provides perhaps the most useful view of what is Kurdistan. However, the number of Kurds and their distribution is hard to ferret out from web sources. The countries in the region may well be undercounting their Kurdish populations. An Israelis site claims that the Kurds are reproducing faster than the Turks, Persians, and Arabs in Syria and Iraq and it claims a Kurdish population for those states that totals 36 million for the year 2000. I have no idea as to the accuracy of those claims.
Pay close attention to the relations between the Kurds and Arabs in Iraq. The Kurds want autonomy and it seems clear given Arab attitudes toward the Kurds and the differences in Arab and Kurdish views on democracy and society that they do not belong together in the same country. They see themselves as separate groups. Large differences in values and historical grievances separate them. The hostility and mistrust between them is growing rather than shrinking.
I have previously argued that US interests would be better served by a partition of Iraq that creates a Kurdish state. I offer the news reports above as further evidence in support of that view.
In a quiet mass migration, Arabs are fleeing their villages in northern Iraq and Kurds are moving back in, reversing Saddam Hussein's campaigns of ethnic cleansing and effectively redrawing the demographic map.
Kurds are insisting on retaining -- or expanding -- the system of self-rule they enjoyed under U.S. protection after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. Kurdish militiamen, known as peshmerga, fought alongside U.S. soldiers last year and now expect a political payoff for that support.
Who can blame them for wanting autonomy?
The Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council tracks internal displacement of populations due to wars and other causes and has published a report claiming that
The collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein following the US-led war in Iraq in March 2003 created the political conditions for the 800,000 Kurds who had been forcibly displaced under a brutal policy of "Arabisation" to return to their homes. But the beginning of these return movements has also caused a new wave of displacement. As several thousand Kurds began to reclaim their homes in the north of Iraq, about 100,000 Arabs who had been installed there by the previous regime fled in the months following the war.
From the mid-1970s, much of this resulted from the Iraqi authorities' campaigns in the north of the country to neutralise Kurdish aspirations for independence and to strengthen control over some of the world's largest oil-reserves. These campaigns involved the violent, large-scale and systematic alteration of the ethnic composition of the northern region where forced displacements of one group went hand in hand with the settlement of another. The Iraqi authorities destroyed up to 4,000 Kurdish villages and caused the displacements of around 800,000 Kurds. Arabs, mainly Shi'a families from central and southern Iraq, were brought in to replace the Kurds, as part of a wider "Arabisation" of the region. Non-ethnic Arab Iraqis, mostly Kurds, but also Turkmen and Assyrians were forced to either leave the oil-rich areas or to sign a form "correcting their nationality" so as to be considered as ethnic Arabs. To increase the number of Arabs in the region, incentives, such as free land and free houses which had mostly belonged to the evicted Kurds, were offered by the Baghdad regime (RI, 21 November 2003; CHR, 26 February 1999).
The end of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988 saw the intensification of the atrocities committed against the Kurds. In the course of a campaign code-named Al-Anfal, the authorities committed mass executions, poisoned entire villages with noxious gas and imposed economic blockades on others. The Al-Anfal campaign left more than 180,000 people missing, who are now presumed dead (Alliance International pour la Justice, December 2002). Most survivors were relocated into settlements or "collective towns" controlled by the army where they became dependent on the Iraqi authorities for food, water and other basic services (Fawcett and Tanner, October 2002, pp. 8-10).
With 180,000 killed and 800,000 displaced they have strong reasons to want their houses, apartments, and farm lands back.
Global IDP's Iraq country page has more reports on internal displacements in Iraq.
Arild Birkenes, the project's analyst for Iraq, tells RFE/RL that the displacements in the north of that country are reversing what once were deliberate programs during the Hussein era and earlier to give the oil-rich areas an Arab majority: "The current displacements are a direct effect of previous displacements and evictions. What is happening now is exactly what Saddam Hussein's regime was trying to do but the other way around."
Many of the Kurdish refugees fled to Kurdish-administered parts of northern Iraq that fell out of Baghdad's control after the 1991 Gulf War. Some 30,000 of those Kurds are reported to have returned home again since Hussein's regime was toppled in April.
If a mere 30,000 Kurds out of the 800,000 original displaced Kurds can return and cause the displacement of 100,000 Arabs then as more of those 800,000 Kurds try to return home there will be a great deal more displacement of Arabs by Kurds which will happen in the future.
Birkenes says Arabs and members of Iraq's Turkoman minority accuse the Kurdish administration of encouraging refugees to return in a deliberate effort to ensure non-Kurdish groups will be outnumbered in the event of a referendum on the future status of the city and the Kurdish region: "The Turkomans and the Arabs in Kirkuk, especially, and also in some of the other governates controlled by the [U.S.-led] coalition and the Governing Council in Baghdad, [say] that the Kurdish regional government is trying to increase its influence in the same way as Saddam Hussein's regime tried during the 1970s, 80s and 90s."
The two main Kurdish factions, whose forces entered Kirkuk as Hussein's forces retreated early last year, now say they control security in the city. Their united Kurdish administration has denied any charges of forcing out Arabs or other groups.
The Kurdish administration says it provides only humanitarian aid to returning Kurdish refugees -- many of whose homes are now occupied by Arab settlers.
But Kurdish leaders also maintain that Kirkuk is a Kurdish city and should be part of a Kurdish region in a new federal Iraq. Some 2,000 Turkomans and Arabs demonstrated in Kirkuk in late December against any effort to incorporate the city into an autonomous Kurdish province. Five people were reported killed in the unrest.
Note the nature of the fight. The Kurds want a Kurdish majority to democratically vote for a Kurdish administration. The non-Kurds want a non-Kurdish majority to vote for a non-Kurdish administration. Democracy can not work under such conditions. There is not enough of a shared common interest.
Birkenes says the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is now trying to stem the return of Kurds to Kirkuk in order to lower the tensions: "It seems that the CPA has a kind of two-pronged approach, meaning that they are trying to physically prevent Kurds from entering into Kirkuk and, at the same time, are working politically with the Kurdish regional government and encouraging them not to encourage Kurdish return movements."
He says that the CPA has also requested the Kurdish regional government to stop providing humanitarian assistance until a commission can be formed to mediate property disputes between returning refugees and settlers.
The new report, which was issued yesterday, says that many of the displaced Arabs are now living north of Baghdad in "abandoned army camps and public buildings, most without access to health services, electricity or running water."
The CPA ought instead to focus on creating housing for the displaced Arabs. For the displaced Arabs that are Shias then the housing should be created south of Baghdad. For the Arabs are that Sunnis the housing should be created north of Baghdad. Keep the incompatible groups away from each other.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The bloody suicide attacks against the major U.S.-backed Kurdish parties are likely to suppress Kurdish factionalism - at least in the short term - and stiffen the Kurds' resolve for a strong degree of self-rule within a federal Iraq.
That is unlikely to go down well among the country's majority Arab community or among the Turkomen, an ethnic group related to the Turks who like the Arabs fear Kurdish domination.
The Kurds have no reason to trust the Arabs. Why should different ethnic groups which speak different languages and who view each other which such warranted distrust and animosity be put together in the same country? See my pevious argument for the partition of Iraq and the arguments of others in favor of partition of Iraq.