Friday, July 30, 2010

Iraq's Violence is Down? There's No Chance of Iraq Sliding Back into Sectarian Slaughter?

For decades, from the standpoint of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the people of Iraq have deserved much better than what they've received.  Mr. Bush launched his little adventure there more than seven years ago, with the implicit understanding that Iraq was to be re-made as a model of democracy and stability, as part of the shiny "new Middle East."

Now the US is heading for the exit (well, why not?  John McCain reassures us that "we've won there.") And Admiral Mullen and others are oh so sure that Iraq's on the right road, that it's all gonna be all right.

They need to read this piece by Liz Sly and Raheem Salman, about Thursday's "brazen assault" in the Adhamiya section of Baghdad that killed 16, ten of them members of the security forces.  They might take special note of the following:
In scenes reminiscent of the worst years of the insurgency, when militants ruled supreme in the neighborhood, gunmen overran an army checkpoint on a busy street around 3 p.m., killing three soldiers and setting their bodies ablaze. Then, as police and army vehicles raced to the rescue, the assailants detonated five explosive devices in quick succession and pinned down the stricken forces with automatic weapons.

Shops closed, residents raced for home, and gunfire rattled through the deserted streets as the neighborhood seemed to be spiraling out of control. Police said about 35-40 insurgents were involved in the assault, operating in groups of four or five and hiding in surrounding houses. Some were wearing masks, but others were not, suggesting they had no fear of being recognized by locals.

As the battle raged, army and police officials said, the militants pulled down the Iraqi flag from the checkpoint and raised in its place the black banner of the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, recalling the time before the area was pacified by U.S. troops and members of the Awakening movement in the fall of 2007.

By nightfall, the security forces had sealed off the area, imposed a curfew and began carrying out widespread arrests, moving house to house detaining suspects amid sporadic bursts of gunfire. . . .

The ease with which insurgents appeared to overwhelm the army, albeit briefly, was a chilling reminder of the potential for an insurgent comeback as the political stalemate over the formation of a new government drags on. The country's political factions have not even agreed which bloc should lead the government, leaving wide open the question of who will be the next prime minister. . . .

Officials say U.S. troops remain on track to complete their drawdown to 50,000 noncombat forces by Aug. 31. Visiting Baghdad this week to prod Iraqi leaders into speeding up their negotiations, U.S. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he saw "absolutely nothing to negatively impact that." All U.S. troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011.

U.S. officials say the drawdown will have little practical effect because Iraqi security forces have been responsible for most of the nation's hotspots since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq's cities in June of last year.

Adhamiya has been under Iraqi army control for most of the last three years, and although it has been mostly calm, relations have long been strained between the mostly Shiite Muslim security forces and the mostly Sunni Muslim residents, who complain of discriminatory behavior by the soldiers.

Those sectarian tensions surfaced during Thursday's battles. A policeman in Adhamiya who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter said some residents came onto the streets during the initial assault to applaud the gunmen as the bodies of the dead soldiers burned.

Another officer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the security forces did not dare take their injured to the hospital for fear that Sunni doctors would not treat them well. Instead, the officer said, they took their injured to more distant facilities, and one policeman bled to death on the way.

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