Posted by: Shaun | March 25, 2008

Iraq violence belies surge “success”

Only days after President Bush sung the praises of America’s troop surge in reducing violence in Iraq, things in the war zone have taken on a decidedly pallid cast.  On Sunday, the number of U.S. troops killed in action reached 4000 with several tens of thousands more injured.  Vice President Dick Cheney’s Iraqi excursion was greeted with a massive car bomb in Baghdad as well as mortar attacks on the fortified Green Zone in the center of the city.  Today, a barrage of rockets struck the American compound.  Meanwhile, in the southern city of Basra the ad hoc cease fire declared by Shi’ite militias under Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be breaking down.

None of this is good news, but the events in Basra seem especially troubling to me.  The outbreak of violence between the militias and Iraqi security forces (who will be left holding the bag once Britain finishes its withdrawal) indicates the lack of agency on the part of coalition forces in this war.  The relative calm in Iraq has been purchased with large sums of money and the tacit cooperation of several warring factions, notably indigenous Sunni fighters in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province and Shia militia men in the capital and areas south.  The tragic success of ethnic cleansing in dissolving many ethnically mixed neighborhoods has also played a hand in quelling the carnage.

While the addition of extra American troops may have been helpful, it has not succeeded in degrading the combat power of the various insurgent factions.  More importantly, I have seen no evidence that we have changed the political interests of these groups such that they would consider pursuing their objectives through non-violent means (assuming their objectives could even be pursued in such a way).  Neither has Iraq’s government made very much progress toward the “benchmarks” of sectarian reconciliation, enacting a hydrocarbon law, or constitutional revision.  My view is that the “peace” is a façade, and we may be witnessing the first cracks in the edifice.  It is too soon to tell whether the present flare up will endure or fade, but I fear it is only a matter of time before the pendulum of war swings in the opposite direction.


  1. 🙂

    Good read! Thank you!

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