Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

  What was the goal of the "surge", anyhow?

George Bush assured Americans more than half a year ago that his proposed "surge" had twin goals. The diplomatic goal was to give Nouri al Maliki's government "breathing space" during which to advance the cause of sectarian reconciliation. Nearly everybody, including Bush's ambassador in Iraq, agrees that nothing significant has been achieved toward that goal.

And the military goal of the "surge"?

Here was George W. Bush addressing the nation on January 10, 2007:

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis...

America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

The military goal, simply, was to put a stop to the sectarian violence that was tearing neighborhoods apart, to secure them with the help of Iraqi troops, and to protect the population. So how has that part of the "surge" gone?

The mass expulsion of Sunnis from Baghdad has nearly been completed this year, right under General Petraeus' nose.

U.S. military officials say that Baghdad was once 65 percent Sunni and is now 75 percent Shiite.

Not only has the Sunni population not been protected during this period, but Iraqi government forces actively took part in the sectarian cleansing of the few remaining Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad.

The surge of U.S. troops—meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital—has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually "has increased the IDPs to some extent."

When Gen. David Petraeus goes before Congress next week to report on the progress of the surge, he may cite a decline in insurgent attacks in Baghdad as one marker of success. In fact, part of the reason behind the decline is how far the Shiite militias' cleansing of Baghdad has progressed: they've essentially won. "If you look at pre-February 2006, there were only a couple of areas in the city that were unambiguously Shia," says a U.S. official in Baghdad who is familiar with the issue but is not authorized to speak on the record. "That's definitely not the case anymore." The official says that "the majority, more than half" of Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shiite-dominated, a judgment echoed in the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: "And very few are mixed." In places like Amel, pockets of Sunnis live in fear, surrounded by a sea of Shiites. In most of the remaining Sunni neighborhoods, residents are trapped behind great concrete barricades for their own protection...

Shiites present their creeping takeover of Baghdad as part of a narrative of liberation—American officers have dubbed it Shiite "Manifest Destiny."...

Officially, the Iraqi government is asking residents to return to their old neighborhoods as the massive troop presence enforces a degree of calm; those who do are offered a million-dinar reward (approximately $800). But, says the U.S. official familiar with refugee issues, "Sunnis are reluctant to go back to areas when it's only Iraqi security forces there managing their safety. In a lot of cases security forces participated in their displacement." A humanitarian worker focused on IDPs and a U.S. military official both say that often families only return to their houses long enough to grab a suitcase and pocket the reward money before leaving again.

In brief: The stated diplomatic goal was a failure; the stated military goal was a failure.

What does the Bush administration call for? More of the same—exactly what it was calling for last January.

crossposted from unbossed

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