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So everyone knows that Bush’s plans to send more troops into Baghdad won’t work, right?
The primary, horrific problem in Iraq right now is the violence that touches nearly everyone (aka “lack of security”). To quote journalist Nir Rosen:
I think people don’t understand how terrible the violence is. It effects everybody in Iraq. Everybody is a target. You’re a target for being a Sunni, a Shia, a Kurd, a Christian, secular, religious, a doctor, a businessman, for working in the former regime, working for the current regime. Nobody is safe in Iraq, death can come to anybody.
People are afraid to leave their homes, go to work, send their kids to school, etc. And this violence comes from three main sources: the Sunni-led insurgency, the Shia-Sunni civil war, and secular criminal violence.
The Sunni insurgency is aimed at both the American occupiers, the new Iraqi government (seen as illegitimate, for obvious reasons), and anyone who works for either the Americans or the Iraqi government.
The civil war is a battle of mutual ethnic cleansing. In areas with high concentrations of Sunni, Shia are being driven out. In areas of high Shia concentration, Sunnis are being driven out. And where there is a more even mix, there is a lot of killing.
And honestly, I don’t know enough about the criminal violence to say much on it.
Of course, the Iraqi government, police force, and army, are predominantly Shia, and many are supporters of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Some are even members of Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and are carrying out executions, kidnappings and tortures of Sunnis while on duty. This sectarian allegiance means that when the US asks the Iraqi government to stop the insurgency, they are telling Shia to fight Sunni. And when they tell the government to stop the civil war, they are asking Shia to fight Shia (which doesn’t happen) and Sunni. Which has made the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni the de facto US policy in Iraq.
I think the US is trying to change that. The “surge” of troops in Baghdad seems to be just a hit on Sadr, with the naive hope that killing him off will shift the balance of power to more moderate Shia, who will be willing to negotiate peace and power-sharing with the Sunni. As if murdering the leader of a group of radicals will make that group of radicals settle down and follow a new guy who’s friendly with the murderers. Killing Sadr would make him a martyr and likely make the Sadrists even more militant.
Not that I think they’ll actually get Sadr. Large segments of the Iraqi army and police unlikely to go after their hero, but Sadr is also drafting every able-bodied Iraqi male in Sadr City to join his Mahdi army. Sadr City has a population of about 2 million people. If his call is heeded, that gives him, what, another 100,000 soldiers? 500,000? To fight off the 20,000 extra American soldiers? On Sadr’s turf, in a sympathetic neighborhood, where the Americans won’t really know the lay of the land? Welcome to Stalingrad.
Bush also mentioned sending more troops to Al-Anbar province. The Sunni heartland, home of the insurgency. And we’re going to send in an extra 4000 troops to solve the problem. Good luck with that.
Has anyone told Bush that counterinsurgencies rarely succeed? The insurgents have nowhere else to go, and the occupiers can never afford to stay indefinitely.
But it’s much worse than all that. Iraq is not a civil war, it’s become a regional war between Shia and Sunni. All nations in the region have an interest in this war ending up with either Shia or Sunni victorious, and they’re supporting their boys. Let me quote Nir Rosen again:
This is only the beginning of the end. The civil war in Iraq will continue for many years to come. What’s more frightening is that it’s also going to involve the countries of the region. A good model might be the complex war in central Africa, which involves several countries—Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi—they’re all going to get involved. In this case: Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and you’ll have volunteers coming from elsewhere. The entire region is going to be sucked into this larger conflict, and the borders won’t remain the same. You’re going to have hundreds of thousands more dead, and millions more refugees. And eventually, I imagine, it will disrupt the economy so Americans might start caring, when their gas prices go up. But until then, I just don’t think that Americans care anymore.
Check the map. Iran is supporting Iraq’s Shia. Saudi Arabia and Syria are actively supporting the Sunni. Turkey wants to put down the Kurds. Most Middle East experts I listen to say that it’s likely the government of Jordan is likely to fall, and that the governments of Syria and Saudi Arabia will also be at risk. Not that these are governments worth supporting, but their demise means that much more chaos and bloodshed.
But 20,000 exhausted American troops in Baghdad will stop the regional war. Right.
It’s simply arrogant and insane to think that the US can control the situation here. The American government and military are extremely ignorant about the Middle East, and don’t realize that everything is connected to everything else. The United States is trying to do delicate brain surgery by punching the patient in the side of the head.
There is even one scarier scenario than the one in front of us, and that involves a direct US war with Iran. I hear rumors about “America’s exit strategy for Iraq being through Iran”. This would mean provoking the Iranians in some way, giving the US an excuse to attack Iran, bomb its nuclear facilities from the air, and say “we’ve got to pull out troops out of Iraq because we need them to fight Iran.” Yes, the president is that stupid, and invading Iran has been a neocon fantasy for decades. In his recent speech, Bush essentially threatened Iran and Syria, has moved aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf, and apparently US soldiers stormed the Iranian Embassy in Iraq (which, if I’m not mistaken, counts as an invasian of Iranian territory under international law). He seems to truly think that he is leading the fight against Evil, and that willpower and grit will win the day. Not when you’re single-handedly fighting wars with four different countries it won’t.
Sadly, I can’t think of any way that this broad Middle East crisis can be avoided. I think that the US can get out, and the invasian of Iran can be stopped, but it seems that that will only happen if a) Congress outright refuses to fund it, and/or b) the military stands up publicly and says that Bush’s plans won’t work. The American people don’t want this war, the Iraqi people don’t want this war, the US military don’t want this war. The only people who want it are Bush and the American Enterprise Institute, who apparently have replaced Bush’s National Security Council.
Blogger Arthur Silber found the absolute most ironic part of Bush’s speech, and it’s worth mentioning. Speaking about what will happen if we leave Iraq and the Islamic extremists “win” if we leave Iraq:
They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions.