Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Sunnis are the enemies in Iraq

Not the Shia. Story here from NYTimes.

The Baghdad security plan launched as part of the so-called surge took as one of, if not the, main priorities was the destruction of Shia militias. The Mahdi Army being number one on that list. The Mahdi Army has laid low, allowed the US to cleanse its own ranks of disloyal members.

The US has looked beyond stupid with claims about Iranian made weapons that have gone nowhere, in the meantime the Sunnis are setting off car bombs, chemical bombs, and suicide bombs almost at will. Particularly targeted is Sadr City whose defenses are now weakened without the Mahdi Army.

From the article:
Information from captured materials indicates that the group’s leadership sees “the sectarian war for Baghdad as the necessary main focus of its operations,” according to an intelligence report that was described by American officials. Reflecting concern over the bomb attacks, especially car bombings, American military officials have begun to emphasize that bringing security to the Iraqi capital will involve not only the protection of Baghdad neighborhoods, but also raids to shut down bomb factories and uncover arms caches in the largely Sunni areas on the outskirts of the city.
This last element will be the most difficult. Baquba, Salman Park, these are areas where the US Army is despised and receives no local intelligence aid essentially. Going into these remote areas is highly dangerous and US casualties will likely increase as the battle shifts to locating and destroying these weapons making facilities. Even with the surge there are not enough troops and by spreading out to these outlying areas, Baghdad may become even more vulnerable.

The longer the US is unable to protect the Shia, the more the car bombs hit, the louder the cry from the Shia for the Mahdi Army to rise up and protect them and start the full blown sectarian violence the Sunnis desire. If and when that happens, the US has to pull out of (at least) Baghdad.

The Shia leadership had been telling Bush for a long time now (al-Maliki especially) that the source of the violence was the Sunni. The situation right now almost looks more like pre-Samarra bombing Iraq (2006) of say 2004/5. The Shia are holding on and taking a lot of hits, but not fighting back, but I don't know how long this can go on.

The Shia called for allowing them to handle their business--i.e. use the militas and the Army to bring pain to the Sunni and try to crush the opposition once and for all. The Saudis told Cheney they wouldn't let that happen and the specter of a regional conflagration appeared strong--with Iran backing the Shia. So the US proposed the surge, the threat to the Shia militias, and the hope that the Sunnis could be bought in. This whole reconciliation goal that has been talked about for years now.

What happened instead because again Bush misread the scene is that AQI and other Sunni militant groups filled the void. They want no reconciliation. They want a fight. And whatever the arguments about what the "real" populace wants--i.e. peace and stability--these groups have shown that they can not be defeated by the Army nor lack in recruitment. So some significant proportion of the Sunni want a fight. At issue is pride, humiliation, loss of a worldview, collapse of identity.

Things being what they are the surge and troop levels will remain (I assume) as they are well into 2008. The problem with that theory of course is that the Army is broken to the core and I don't know if it can call for duty 4-5 tours across the board.

If the Shia militias are let back in, the sectarian violence will increase. If not, the Sunni insurgency will continue. Rock and hard place.


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