Battle of Baghdad Series
The Telegraph reports a plan to partition Baghdad between Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods in an effort to reduce ethnic clashes. The Daily Telegraph says British forces arrested Sajjad Badr Adal Saeed who ordered the killing of many British soldiers in roadside attacks, was taken from his home in Basra last Saturday night. A 2 ton cache of explosives was also found. Reuters has details on a further campaign against the Madhi Army. "British commanders say they are targeting elements of the Mehdi Army ... Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on militias, even though many are linked to his own allies."
In message exchanges with people in Baghdad I have heard that ethnic fighting has gotten really bad. There are fears that MNF has left the situation to the Iraqis too soon. However, Defenselink reports that General Caldwell is determined to bring order to Baghdad by hook or by crook.
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2006 – Iraqi and coalition security forces will redouble efforts to stem a recent spate of bombings, murders and kidnappings conducted in and around Baghdad, a senior U.S. military officer said today. "We will do whatever it takes to bring down the level of violence in Baghdad," Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV told reporters during a Baghdad news briefing.
And this, just in from the New York Times Service:
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – The top U.S. commander for the Middle East said Friday that the escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad had become a greater worry than the insurgency and that plans were being drawn up to move additional forces to the Iraqi capital.
"The situation with sectarian violence in Baghdad is very serious," said U.S. Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, speaking in an interview Friday. "The country can deal with the insurgency better than it can with the sectarian violence, and it needs to move decisively against the sectarian violence now."
The Strategy Page says:
The "war" in Iraq has come down to a competition between Sunni Arab and Shia death squads, to see who can rack up the highest body count. While most Iraqi Sunni Arabs fear for their lives, and continued ability to live in Iraq, the Shia radicals fear only Sunni suicide bombs. The bombing attacks increasingly target radical Shia militias, mainly those loyal to Muqtada al Sadr. Lacking the equipment and trained personnel to carry out an efficient counter-terror operations, Sadr has ordered his guys to just go out and kill lots of Sunni Arabs, any way they can, each time an Sunni bomb goes off in a Shia neighborhood. This has been going on for the last three months, leaving nearly 10,000 civilians dead. The Sunni terrorists and Shia death squads stay away from Iraqi and foreign troops and police. Even with al Qaeda crippled, there are still several Sunni Arab groups, mainly driven by a radical religious views ("Shia are heretical scum"), who believe that the Shia can still be terrorized into submission. Or, as some believe, a "civil war" can be triggered. This, so the myth goes, will arouse the Sunni Arab masses. Some radicals believe that the Sunni Arabs are actually the majority of Iraqis (actually, they are less than 20 percent, closer to 15 percent these days as more of them flee the country). Other radicals believe that, if Shia death squads kill enough Sunni Arabs, the Sunni Arab nations will be forced to invade and crush the upstart Shia once and for all. It's left rather vague exactly what the U.S. forces would do if Syrian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti and Saudi troops suddenly entered the country.
The government knows that there are only a few dozen, at most, gangs involved in all this killing. The current deal is for the Sunni Arab community to shut down their thugs, while the government takes out the Shia militias. The government has started carrying out their end of the deal, but the Sunni Arabs have moved more slowly. This is because the Sunni Arab thugs are paranoid, quick on the trigger, and willing to murder prominent Sunni Arabs. The Sunni Arabs fear trapped, caught between their own radicals, and the majority of Iraqis (Kurds and Shia Arabs), who would just as soon see Iraq free of Sunni Arabs. The hatreds go deep, Saddam's decades of brutality against Kurds and Shia Arabs saw to that. While pundits go on about Iranian desires to dominate Iraq, the reality is more about vengeance against Sunni Arabs for past sins. Nothing too complicated, but it's a fire that's very difficult to put out.
And despite reports in the press, MNF has not been totally idle. AFP reported on July 8 that:
Sadr City and Internet bulletin boards buzzed with talk that a US-Iraqi raid on the poor Shiite district that killed nine was targeting a militiaman nicknamed the "Shiite Zarqawi". There were suggestions that the unnamed "high-level insurgent leader" US forces said they had captured in Friday's nighttime raid on the industrial "Kisra wa Atash" neighbourhood in the northern fringes of Sadr city was a shadowy and brutal Shiite militiaman known as Abu Deraa.
It's also clear that President Bush recognizes the problem. AFP reports:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House expressed disappointment at a security plan for Baghdad and said President George W. Bush will discuss the issue during a meeting here with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. A senior US administration official said the security plan will likely be changed. "The initial results of that plan have been disappointing," the official told reporters ahead of Tuesday's White House meeting between the two leaders. The official said Bush and Maliki may discuss new deployments of troops for the Iraqi capital composed of both US and local troops. But the official said Bush would also press Maliki to take "hard steps" to rein in the Iraqi militia, arguing that safety would not improve until Iraqis ran security operations themselves.
Just how successful Caldwell will be is now informed by the circumstance that tensions appear to be rising all over the Middle East between Sunni and Shi'ite factions to put it simplistically. One theory is that this tension is a direct result of the competition between Saudi Arabia and Teheran for the religious leadership of the region, as manifested by the Saudi condemnation of Hezbollah's activities in Lebanon. Australian correspondent Martin Chulov writes from Beirut at about the open challenge from Teheran for leadership in the region in a long and somewhat rambling article.
With civil war threatening in Iraq, a realignment in the Middle East along theocratic Islamic lines is looming, and Israel's and the West's regional influence may ultimately be diminished or destroyed. ... But Hezbollah now has broader ambitions. In the war-torn south of Lebanon, its banners and mosaics are emblazoned with a key theme: Jerusalem. The group no longer wants to stop at the Israeli border, it now lays claim to the Jewish capital in the name of Shia Islam. ...
"Much more important, other Arabs view Hezbollah as the paid agent of its Shi'ite brethren, the leaders of non-Arab Iran. That makes it much easier for Sunni Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan to stay on the sidelines.
"In the Arab world, only Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supports both Hamas and Hezbollah. Would he help both by, say, opening a new front on the Golan Heights? Syria has large artillery forces that could quickly launch a tremendous barrage; it has missiles that can reach deep into Israel, and its armoured forces and commando units could go into action almost immediately.
In the minds of some at least, Iraq and Lebanon are two separate battles within a single theater.