Baghdad to the Sea
What is happening to the population composition of Iraq? The Strategy Page says a significant percentage of Sunnis have already fled the country.
Meanwhile, the Shia and Kurd death squads are waiting for the Americans and the government to finish off the Sunni Terrorists, so that the destruction of the Sunni Arab community in Iraq can be completed. The job is only half done, and the second half will require operations in the wholly Sunni towns and villages outside Baghdad and in western Iraq. That will require a lot more effort, and some serious combat. Thus far, the death squads have mainly operated inside Baghdad, clearing Sunni Arab neighborhoods, kidnapping Sunnis or rounding them up at night and killing them. Sunni towns will be guarded, and ready for a fight. The leaders of the remaining Sunni Arabs are switching sides. It's pretty obvious that siding with the Sunni terrorist groups is suicidal, although many Sunni tribal leaders are reluctant to say that, and try to play both sides. But as the government moves more troops and police into Sunni Arab towns, the chiefs are being forced to openly declare their allegiance. This is all going to get ugly, because it's often a family feud. Everyone knows everyone else. An increasing number of Sunni Arabs are giving up and fleeing the country. It used to be, the only ones that left were those that had money. But more and more, Sunni Arabs are just going, and arriving penniless in Syria and Jordan. The situation has become so desperate that the UN is setting up a feeding program, to prevent malnutrition and starvation among the growing number of Sunni Arab refugees. You'd think that the affluent Sunni Arabs of the region (who control most of the oil) would come to the aid of these desperate people. But for many Sunni Arabs in the region, the fact that most of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs have been chased out is too painful to confront, or even acknowledge. For over 1,200 years, Sunni Arabs have dominated Baghdad. Now that is coming to an end, and the hated Shia are taking over.
Collateral evidence for the flight of the Sunnis comes fom the United Nations World Food Programme, which is seeking money to feed refugees.
“Those leaving Iraq are doing so in greater haste and either have had no time to sell their belongings, or cannot find buyers,” WFP Country Representative in Syria Pippa Bradford said. “As a result, people arrive in Syria with far less cash, only to find there are fewer opportunities to cope than for those who came before them.”It confirms the Strategy Page observation that while in the past many of the refugees may have opted to flee, a large number of current refugees cross the border without any money in their pockets.
An estimated 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are currently scattered around the Middle East, with Syria hosting nearly 1 million of them. In consultation with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which is monitoring the Iraqis, WFP plans to provide assistance for up to 30,000 Iraqis unable to afford their basic food needs.
Up to mid-2006, many Iraqi refugees entering Syria had adequate resources to cover their needs, but as targeted violence continues, the number of those fleeing and arriving unable to sustain themselves is rapidly increasing.
The Strategy Page says that in the context of traditional rivalries in the Middle East, it represents a shaking of the foundations.
But now the Sunni masters of Iraq have been removed from power, Iran is building nuclear weapons, and the traditional terror from the east, the Iranians, are again threatening the Arabs. With few exceptions, the Iranians have won when they moved west. It's not just Iranian soldiers that the Arabs fear, but the domination by the Iranian form of Islam, Shiism. It's no wonder so many Arabs see the liberation of Iraq from Saddam as a disaster.
The blogger round table on the rebuild on the Iraqi Air Force emphasized the depth of the transformation of that single institution. I realized that it must mirror similar changes across a host of Iraqi institutions. The ancien regime is not waiting in the wings to take over once America wearies of Iraq. The conditions in the country have fundamentally changed.
Although it is fashionable to think that the Sunni insurgency is stronger than ever and effortlessly shrugging off American blows, in reality their decision to boycott the political process, instigate civil war through attacks on the Shi'ite minority -- in other words the whole strategy which al-Qaeda insinuated -- has resulted in unmitigated catastrophe. Nibras Kazmi writing in the NY Sun pointed out the obvious:
Six months ago, many of the strategists behind the Sunni insurgency, faced with a more effective counterinsurgency effort, began to wonder just how long they could keep their momentum given their diminishing resources and talent. These strategists realized that their "resistance" would just peter out over time, as classical insurgencies tend to do. Some argued that, given one last push, the Americans would be sufficiently distressed to grab at cease-fire negotiations that would end with a hasty American withdrawal, leaving the insurgents to work things out with a much-weakened Iraqi government on more favorable terms. Others, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the organization founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saw that there was no future for their vision of establishing a Taliban-like state should these negotiations with the Americans get underway, which would only serve to strengthen the hand of the rival insurgent factions that counsel this course. This sense that they were running out of time compelled Al Qaeda to take a bold initiative of declaring the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq four months back, appointing the hitherto unknown Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its head. This was no propaganda stunt for Al Qaeda. This was the real thing: the nucleus state for the caliphate, with al-Baghdadi as the candidate caliph.
And even Omaral-Baghdadi has been arrested. How much of the diplomatic manuevering in the Middle East is now the result of a regional realization that fighting the US-led coalition has led to worse may become clear from the ongoing talks with Iraq's neighbors. The fact that this strategy has brought nothing but disaster for the Sunnis does not necessarily mean they will abandon it. The Middle East is one place where people never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But one thing is for sure: the Iraq Saddam once ruled and the elite that once ruled it has been radically changed. Possibly forever.