Sunday, April 09, 2006

Freedom On The March

Demonstrating yet again that the plaintive cries for "good news" out of Iraq are utter bullshit, a provincial security assessment of each of Iraq's 18 provinces has been released. This report was put together three weeks before the massive mosque bombing in Samarra and the subsequent reprisals; even without those events, it paints a very grim picture.

WASHINGTON, April 8 — An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical." The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials.

The report, 10 pages of briefing points titled "Provincial Stability Assessment," underscores the shift in the nature of the Iraq war three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Warnings of sectarian and ethnic frictions are raised in many regions, even in those provinces generally described as nonviolent by American officials.

It's a matter of perspective, as well, as to what is "nonviolent". The southern Shiite region is considered mostly relatively stable, but much of that is because Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army is running things. Yeah, there's not much sectarian strife when these guys just barge into classrooms and behead uppity teachers in front of their students, as happened recently in Ramadi. Problem solved!

There are alerts about the growing power of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, several of which the United States helped put into power, and rival militias in the south. The authors also point to the Arab-Kurdish fault line in the north as a major concern, with the two ethnicities vying for power in Mosul, where violence is rampant, and Kirkuk, whose oil fields are critical for jump-starting economic growth in Iraq.

I would hazard a serious guess that this will be the next huge cause for concern. The only area that is considered stable in the report are the three Kurdish provinces. They are quietly getting their act together, securing their oil fields, preparing to generate income, getting their own military units stocked with their ethnic peshmerga fighters.

They are not going to want to share their oil wealth with the rest of the country. At some point, they are going to secede, involving Turkey and Iran. Then all hell will break loose.

But at least the Iraqi Kurds will have freedom, right?

The patterns of discord mapped by the report confirm that ethnic and religious schisms have become entrenched across much of the country, even as monthly American fatalities have fallen. Those indications, taken with recent reports of mass migrations from mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, show that Iraq is undergoing a de facto partitioning along ethnic and sectarian lines, with clashes — sometimes political, sometimes violent — taking place in those mixed areas where different groups meet.

And American fatalities are declining because there is already a de facto level of disengagement in some of the most violent areas. We have decided there is simply nothing we can do in those areas, and it's probably true. Still, this is a problem entirely of our creation, and the consequences of pulling out for good will be a sectarian bloodbath.

The report, the first of its kind, was written over a six-week period by a joint civilian and military group in Baghdad that wanted to provide a baseline assessment for conditions that new reconstruction teams would face as they were deployed to the provinces, said Daniel Speckhard, an American ambassador in Baghdad who oversees reconstruction efforts.

The writers included officials from the American Embassy's political branch, reconstruction agencies and the American military command in Baghdad, Mr. Speckhard said. The authors also received information from State Department officers in the provinces, he said.

The report was part of a periodic briefing on Iraq that the State Department provides to Congress, and has been shown to officials on Capitol Hill, including those involved in budgeting for the reconstruction teams. It is not clear how many top American officials have seen it; the report has not circulated widely at the Defense Department or the National Security Council, spokesmen there said.

A copy of the report, which is not classified, was provided to The New York Times by a government official in Washington who said the confidential assessment provided a more realistic gauge of stability in Iraq than the recent portrayals by senior military officers.

Translation: Junior hasn't had anyone read it to him yet. He's too busy plotting his next fuck-up in Iran (more on that later).

Read the whole report. Notice that even in provinces listed at governmentally "stable", such as Najaf and Karbala, the report expresses concern at inreasing levels of influence and association with the Iranian government. Gee, if only someone could have foreseen such a problem....

1 comment:

vonKreedon said...

I feel the need to nitpick; you seem to attribute the killing in Ramadi to Al Sadr's militia, but I think this is wrong. Ramadi is a Sunni insurgent stronghold, not Shia. Al Sadr's strength in in Baghdad's Shia neighborhoods and the Shia towns south of Baghdad.