Thursday, March 15, 2007

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.”

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.

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.

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.


Blogger desert rat said...

The aQ tactics in Iraq are only a failure if Iraq is a local conflict.
If the purpose of the War, for aQ, is to destabilize the Region, allowing Jihadisti to topple governments and create a Caliphate, the tactics are working fine. aQ never represented the Sunni of Iraq, but radical Sunni jihadisti that would love to see Syria & Jordan destabilized.

3/15/2007 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

My approach would be to tell the displaced Sunnis that they are welcome to the oil-producing regions of IRAN and hand them all guns.

But I wonder if the Iraqi Sunni are the new "Palestinians" - people who lost a war and now become professional displaced persons, dispised everywhere but used as justification for any outrage the Arab world wishes to commit?

But anyway, what happened to that Sunni-Shiite insurgent alliance that the MSM and various supposedly sober analysts told us about only a couple of years ago? It was supposed to sweep the American Invaders into the sea. Don't tell me we have swept half of them into the sea instead?

3/16/2007 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Well, if the Iraqi Sunni are to be compared to the Palis, it's been sixty years of conflict, with no end in sight. Is that the outlook for the entire Region, now that the US has become more actively involved?

Syria is governed by a sectarian minority. Hama says it all, with regards how the Assads feel about radical Sunni. One can almost bet that the feelings are recipricated.

After being on a course of, as Mr Bush put it, "Slow Failure" for four years it is evident that Victory is not just around the corner.
For that we do have to wait, like Cubs fans.

3/16/2007 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/16/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

To compare the US to the Cubs, now I'd have never thought of that analogy, but the lack of the "big win" is really quite comparable.

An occasional game or battle won, even a winning streak once in awhile, but the Title, always just out of reach, down the stretch.

3/16/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

One last point, on the refugee issue.
In '04 Mr Rumsfeld touted the lack of refugees in Iraq as part of the US success story.

"... Rumsfeld said the bottom line in Iraq is that 25 million people have been liberated from an oppressive dictator. "The schools are open. The hospitals are open. The clinics are open. They have an economy that's growing at a good clip," he told a Cincinnati radio station.

Rumsfeld reminded listeners that there were many successes in addition to toppling Saddam. He said the coalition prevented Saddam from setting oil wells on fire, as he did in Kuwait. Coalition planners were worried about refugees, both within Iraq and outside the country. Thousands of refugees would have vastly complicated the battlefield and led to suffering on a tremendous scale. Coalition actions prevented that from happening, he said.

So if the lack of thousands of refugees, in October '04 was a success for US, it stands to reason that 1.8 million of them represent US failures in '07.

3/16/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

News Item:
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The number of Iraqi refugees arriving in Europe is expected to double to 40,000 in 2007 based on trends from the first two months of the year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.
As the security situation has deteriorated in Iraq, European governments have come under increasing pressure to open their doors to asylum-seekers. Many are worried that an escalation of violence in 2007 could generate waves of refugees.
"We're asking the European Union to take a consistent and generous approach to the needs of the refugees," said Judith Kumin, head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Brussels.
About 2 million Iraqis have fled the bloodshed in their country since 2003, mainly to Syria and Jordan. An additional 1.7 million are believed to have been displaced within Iraq. Within Europe, most Iraqis have headed for Sweden, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Britain and Belgium.
UNHCR statistics show that 20,000 Iraqis applied for asylum in the EU last year.
Projections based on trends in January and February show that number of refugees may double in 2007, Kumin said.
"If the security situation does not improve significantly the number of refugees could grow by up to 700,000 by the end of the year," Andrew Harper, head of the UNHCR's Iraq Support Unit, told reporters.
The influx already has strained the infrastructure of Jordan and Syria, where the vast majority of refugees have gone. But with about 2,000 people leaving Iraq each day, many refugees are now continuing to countries further afield, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and even India and Malaysia, he said.
Sweden has so far absorbed nearly half of the Iraqis who have fled to Europe. Stockholm has appealed to other EU nations to help share the burden by hosting more asylum-seekers.
Washington has said it will allow about 7,000 Iraqis into the United States this year - up from 202 in 2006 - and will pay more to help Iraq's neighbors cope with the surge of refugees.

3/16/2007 04:53:00 PM  

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