Saturday, February 25, 2006

Iraq Remains A Powder Keg Despite The Daytime Curfew

The daytime curfew in Iraq hasn't stopped all the violence:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb exploded in a Shiite holy city and 13 members of one Shiite family were gunned down northeast of the capital Saturday in a surge of attacks that killed at least 30 people despite heightened security aimed at curbing sectarian violence following the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine.

At least one more Sunni mosque was attacked in Baghdad on Saturday after two rockets were fired at a Shiite mosque in Tuz Khormato, north of the capital, the previous night. Shooting also broke out near the home of a prominent Sunni cleric as the funeral procession for an Al-Arabiya TV correspondent slain in sectarian violence was passing by. Police believed the procession was the target.

The violence occurred despite an extraordinary daytime curfew in Baghdad and three surrounding provinces. Stretched security forces could not be everywhere to contain attacks that have killed more than 150 people since Wednesday’s shrine bombing and pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.


In Buhriz, a Sunni-insurgent stronghold covered by the curfew, gunmen burst into a Shiite house and killed 13 people, provincial police said. The victims — three generations of one family — were all men, police said.

Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said his militiamen were ready to defend Diyala province — an ominous sign of the possible Shiite reaction to come. Many Shiites fear Iraq’s official security forces are incapable of protecting them and instead look to private militias for security.


Two rockets exploded in the British Embassy compound in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone late Friday, causing minor injuries to two British workers, the U.S. military reported.

Police have found dozens of bodies — many of them cuffed and shot — in Baghdad and other areas since Wednesday’s shrine bombing

The prime minister announced additional security measures Friday, including a ban on vehicles entering or leaving Baghdad, more patrols in tense neighborhoods, and a ban on carrying unauthorized weapons.

The government also extended the daytime curfew for a second day in Baghdad and the flashpoint provinces of Babil, Diyala and Salaheddin, where the shrine bombing took place. And the U.S. military said it would carry out additional security patrols for another 48 hours.

The daytime curfew has decreased the sectarian violence it Iraq.

The daytime curfew has not quashed it.

The daytime curfew has certainly not alleviated the sectarian hatred and animosities that lie behind the violence.

Now maybe the Iraqi government and the United States Army and Marines can keep parts of Iraq under martial law for awhile in order to head off a full-blown civil war (i.e., Sunni and Shia militias fighting pitched battles in towns and cities across the country.)

But I doubt it.

Iraq still looks like a powder keg ready to blow at any moment.

But let's say the U.S. and the Iraqi government are able to stave off full-blown civil war for now. Does that mean we have made progress in our attempts to create a unified Iraq?

Again, I doubt it.

The sectarian hatreds in Iraq will remain despite all of the increased security and mandatory curfews. You can hide it for a little while under increased security, but the bloodshed and slaughter of last three years have created permanent animosties that no government action can make go away.

And then we have an even bigger problem coming down the horizon.

Within six months, the United States will have to begin drawing down troops in Iraq. The Army and the Marines simply do not have enough numbers to rotate more troops into the country.

So what happens after the U.S. begins its troop drawdown?

Well, Preznit Bush says the Iraqis will stand up as we stand down.


But as many have pointed out, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police forces have been infiltrated by both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. The chances of the Iraqi army and police forces being able to replace the U.S. forces and keep the cap on the powder keg are not very good.

It seems to me that the outcome of this war is now inevitable.

Within six months after the United States pulls out of Iraq, the Iraqi government will fall.

Some people think the Sunnis will be back in power, some believe it will be the Shia, and some believe the country will just disintegrate into three separate states.

Many observers, including military men, are concerned that other states within the region are going to take our place in Iraq after we leave - states like Syria and Iran.

Here's retired General Wayne Downing (talking with Chris Matthews of Hardball) on that very scary concern:

We can't flee under pressure and I think what's good for our country is really what's going to be good for Iraq. I think what we've got to do is stay there and help this transition.

Chris, I am absolutely convinced, we need to draw down forces and we need to get out of Iraq as soon as we possibly can, but not peremptorily. We need to build the infrastructures so that they can survive.

I certainly hope that the Iraqi army holds together and does not spread on sectarian lines. I know I am very concerned about how some of the police units, especially in the south now, are being accused of murder, under the guise of the police.

I'm also very, very concerned, Chris, about the militias, which have never been disarmed. You've got this very, very well-armed Peshmerga to the north, fairly friendly to us. But then you've also got Shia and Sunni militias and you've got the tribal militias. These could all become very, very big factors if a civil war would start.

Chris the other thing we haven't even talked about is if the U.S. force levels go way down, do they get to a point where you might have intervention from the neighbors? Then you have really got a conflagration on your hands, and one we're going to have to think through very, very carefully.

Downing gives a laundry list of Bush administration failures that have helped create this mess: the lack of rebuilt infrastructure (which Rumsfeld now says the Iraqi will have to rebuild themselves after we promised to rebuild it for them), an Iraqi army and police force rife with insurgents and sectarian sympathizers, and tribal and religious militias that were never disarmed.

Of course the scariest thing Downing lists is the real possibility that Iraq's neighbors begin taking a more open role in the conflict.

How horrifying is this: a divided Iraq in the midst of a full-blown civil war with Shia and Sunni militias fighting openly in the street while Iran and Syria back various factions with arms, money, and perhaps even troops.

Downing is correct that the U.S. must think through the endgame in Iraq very carefully before attempting its troop drawdowns in October.

I know that Karl Rove and the GOP establishment want to bring the troops home before the November midterms so that they can use "Welcome Home" parades as backdrops for GOP campaign comercials. I know Rove and the GOP establishment are dying to get the Iraq war behind them so that they can start effectively demagoguing the Democrats with national security wedge issues (i.e., only the GOP can keep you safe from terrorists.)

But the consequences of such an early pullout could be catastrophic for the United States and the rest of the world.

Frankly I wish Bushie and Cheney and the neocon cabal had thought through these issues BEFORE we hit Saddam and set all of this shit in motion. I also wish somebody in the administration could have admitted mistakes and sent more troops in when the insurgency was first getting off the ground back in 2003.

Unfortunately, the administration and the neocon cabal have not been able to rectify their mistakes in this war. In fact, because of arrogance and stubborness, they have compounded the situation in Iraq and made things worse.

I am truly hoping that they don't make the situation catastrophic by leaving an Iraq in the middle of a civil war with Syria and Iran nibbling at its borders and an Al Qaeda terrorist movement setting up shop openly in the desert.

But let's face it, that's probably the most likely outcome of this war.

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