U.S. and Iraqi officials have released few specifics about how they’re applying the new Baghdad security plan throughout the capital. But phone interviews provide some insight into how the security plan is working in 20 of the city’s neighborhoods. Check ‘em out
As the catalysis creeps: Note the inherent contradictions in the part where emphasis has been added.
…U.S. troops, Iraqi soldiers and officials, and Baghdad residents say the plan is hampered because security forces cannot identify, let alone apprehend, the elusive perpetrators of the violence. Shiite militiamen in the capital say they are keeping a low profile to wait out the security plan. U.S. commanders have noted increased insurgent violence in the Sunni-dominated belt around Baghdad and are concerned that fighters are shifting their focus outside the city.
Military patrols frequently push into neighborhoods where they have been shot at or struck with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, only to find no one to arrest.
“I don’t know who I’m fighting most of the time,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Lopez, 39, a soldier based in the northern outskirts of the capital. “I don’t know who is setting what IED.”
On the streets of the capital, it is impossible to miss the increased military presence. Iraqi police pickups speed down the avenues, sirens wailing, as masked officers fire machine guns to clear their path. Iraqi army soldiers and policemen stand sentry at checkpoint after checkpoint, but more often than not allow cars to pass through without inspection.
“They’re just standing and waving at the cars,” said Sgt. Haider Hasim, 20, a member of the Iraqi National Guard’s 1st Brigade, 2nd Regiment of the 6th Division, who patrols the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah. “They won’t take weapons from their friends.”
For the Americans, the security plan depends heavily on pushing along the Iraqi security forces. The so-called joint security stations envisioned under the plan are intended not only to generate intelligence about insurgents and militias but also to bring together Iraqi military and police personnel, who often fail to communicate, as well as U.S. troops. The stations will be scattered throughout the city’s 10 newly designated security districts. The plan originally divided the city into nine sectors, but one was split in two.
Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said that although part of the stations’ function is to encourage Iraqis to visit, their locations would not be disclosed because of concern within the Iraqi government that such information would facilitate attacks.
…there is still a bunker mentality among residents of the capital, who are afraid to venture out for any but the most necessary errands. The owner of a deserted fabric shop in Baghdad’s Zayuna neighborhood, Manaf Ali, said his children continue to attend school only once a week because he is afraid for their lives. A goldsmith working next door at al-Faiq shopping center, Haider Mohammed, 31, sleeps on the floor of an unfurnished apartment close to his shop rather than travel to work from his embattled Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah. Both men carry guns.
“How can we notice any change in the streets? We are just like chickens, staying in our cages,” Mohammed said. “I am a goldsmith. What am I doing carrying a gun?” Article
In the crossfire of c-i-v-i-l w-a-r — is that where those who cry the loudest to “support the troops” truly want them to be?
‘Civil war’ implies two sides, but Iraq’s conflict is multi-sided, officials admit. Can US policy cope with them all?
Other analysts hold that the chaos of Iraq’s conflict means that the current US effort to establish security in Baghdad will, at best, achieve only a temporary calm there. The divides that fuel the current conflict – both between sectarian groups, and within them – won’t be resolved merely by an absence of fighting, they say. Likewise, they hold out little hope that the political components of US strategy will be able to stabilize Iraq.
“Why won’t we see the same problems again if we try to withdraw?” asks James Fearon, a Stanford University political scientist and author of an analysis of the nature of Iraq’s civil war in the current issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.
The term “civil war” is indeed apt for Iraq, argues Dr. Fearon. It is often applied to conflicts marked by factionalism and chaos, such as the multisided Lebanese civil war of the late 1970s and 1980s. Article
Overkill: The wrong tools for the wrong job, classically recognized as misguided and unintended for urban counterinsurgency operations, and a further signal of how “force protection” has overtaken civilian protection as a primary tenet of mission guidance.
G. Walker all but tells Congress they (and their Constitutionally mandated authorities) are irrelevant and that they should be a toothless, gutless, spineless rubber stamp.
Congress’ answer should be along the lines of: You’ve shot your wad, Mr. President, and despite being handed literally everything requested in Iraq for four years, your policies and parameters have failed disastrously. Continued idiocy does not support the troops, and is detrimental to their — and to the country’s — interests.
Call out and rebuff the insanity. And do it again, each and every time.
The bilious priorities of the woebegone G. Walker administration: Billions for weapons and lethality, bupkis for life, help and hope.
In Diyala, the vast province northeast of Baghdad where Sunnis and Shiites are battling for primacy with mortars and nighttime abductions, the U.S. government has contracted the job of promoting democracy to a Pakistani citizen who has never lived or worked in a democracy.
The management of reconstruction projects in the province has been assigned to a Border Patrol commander with no reconstruction experience. The task of communicating with the embassy in Baghdad has been handed off to a man with no background in drafting diplomatic cables. The post of agriculture adviser has gone unfilled because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided just one of the six farming experts the State Department asked for a year ago.
“The people our government has sent to Iraq are all dedicated, well-meaning people, but are they really the right people — the best people — for the job?” asked Kiki Skagen Munshi, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who, until last month, headed the team in Diyala that included the Pakistani democracy educator and the Border Patrol commander. “If you can’t get experts, it’s really hard to do an expert job.”
Almost four years after the United States set about trying to rebuild Iraq, the job remains overwhelmingly unfinished. The provincial reconstruction teams like those in Diyala are often understaffed and underqualified — and almost unable to work outside the military outposts where they are hunkered down for security reasons. Today, there are just 10 of the 30-person teams operating in all of Iraq.
As State and the Pentagon were sparring over who would staff the reconstruction teams, Bush used his State of the Union address to call for the formation of a civilian reserve corps — three years after the State Department first proposed it and several influential senators backed it. “It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time,” the president said.
But the corps won’t be built anytime soon: The administration’s 2008 budget, which was sent to Congress earlier this month, includes no money for it. A senior administration official said the White House plans to wait another year before asking Congress for funding. Article
That the draft oil law sailed through the cabinet* is unsurprising. Come March, when the Parliament is scheduled to meet, much will depend on the numbers who actually show up (having all 275 members present is the exception) and on how much of the draft bill becomes public. Some stories on the cabinet approval here and also here
The thing most interesting about this version of the story (as it is from a Middle Eastern regional site) is the headline they chose to use.
*Whether the full cabinet was involved may also be an open question:
KarbalaNews.net alleges in Arabic that fair numbers of cabinet ministers and parliamentarians have fled abroad, going AWOL with no permission. It says that a couple of weeks ago a web site published a list of 360 names of Iraqi officials that the US military is determined to detain, without any permission from the Iraqi government. The list contained both Sunni and Shiite names, and those listed are accused either of administrative corruption or of ties to death squads. Many of those who went abroad were on the list. Personally, I can’t understand on what grounds US troops can arrest elected Iraqi officials. Force majeure? In any case, you can’t run a government if dozens of its officials are living in Amman and Jordan (the problem of absenteeism actually has been a longstanding one.) Source
Contours of chaos.
The plight of minorities is being ignored amid the constant news of carnage in Iraq, Minority Rights Group International says.
Its report claims that some groups risk being eradicated from their homeland. Iraqi minority members have been abducted, tortured or killed, or forced to assimilate.
The study says some communities - many of whom have lived in Iraq for more than 2,000 years - are suffering terrible violence as a result of their religion or ethnicity.
Figures from the United Nations suggest that of the 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refugee status across the world, almost a third are from smaller minority groups.
According to the report, these minorities - which include Turkmen, Christians, Shabaks and Bahais - have survived a long history of persecution, but there is a real risk that they might not see out the current conflict.
Much of the violence against them, the study found, is based on faith.
Some groups are negatively perceived as supporters of the West or as disrespecting Muslim values.
As they do not have the tribal or militia protection afforded to the majority groups, they can do little to defend themselves. Article
Visitors to the northern city of Mosul, currently one of the most restive areas in Iraq, were amazed by its mosaic.
In this city and its outlying villages lived peacefully together Christians with their different denominations, Shebeks – a group of Shiite Kurds - Turkmen, Yazidis amid majority Arabs and Kurds.
But the city is quickly losing its mosaic character. Most Christians have left the city known for its numerous ancient churches and monasteries some of them dating to the early decades of the birth of Christianity.
Churches, which used to be packed on Sundays, are empty and some have even been closed down.
The Shebeks have fled their areas. Turkmen, also mostly Shiites, are fleeing the city. The Yazidis who have their main sanctuary north of Mosul are fleeing in droves.
The calamity of Iraqi minorities, which began with the U.S. invasion, has almost gone unnoticed until the publication of a recent report by the Minority Watch Group in which it warned that the country’s already dwindling communities of Christians, Yazidis, Bahais, Mandeans, Shebeks and Turkmen are under risk of eradication.
These groups, which together make up about 10 percent of the country’s 27 million people, have come under immense pressure and oppression since the U.S. invasion from all sides.
Extremists whether Shiites or Sunnis, Arabs or Kurds, find them easy targets for extortion, abduction, forced evacuation and even torture and killing. Article
The odious Ahmed Chalabi pops up once again, this time (at first blush) in control of a well-funded version of Tammany Hall.