[Vision2020] Progress in Iraq is Temporary or Illusory

nickgier at adelphia.net nickgier at adelphia.net
Wed Mar 12 14:45:05 PDT 2008

Hail to the Vision!

It has taken me a while to sort through my Iraq file and then pull various threads together, but below you will find my radio commentary/column on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war.  The 1300-word version is attached or can be read at www.home.roadrunner.com/~nickgier/Iraq08.htm.  All six of my Iraq column can be read at /IraqColumns.htm.


On Monday March 10, 2008, eight American soldiers were killed in central Baghdad, even though 57 new security stations have been set up around the city. Four more GIs died over the next two days. Over the last two weeks hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in the capital's environs in a spate of suicide bombings.  

Even though violence is down across Iraq, it is up dramatically in Mosul, the third largest city once declared secure by General Petreaus.  As of September, 2007, militants again controlled most of the city's districts.  On January 23, 2008, 25 tons of explosives were set off, wounding 224 and killing 34 in the largest insurgent bombing of the war.  

In early March, 2008, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a rousing welcome in Baghdad, the first official state visit from any Mideast leader.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that the talks were "friendly, positive, and full of trust."

Iraqi government supports Iran's project to enrich uranium, and it does not perceive it as a threat to its security.  Iran has given Iraq $1 billion in loans, and trade and investment is increasing daily.  Iranian pilgrims stream over the border to visit the holy sites of Shia Islam in Najaf and Karbala.

Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, states: "The American military occupation of Iraq has facilitated an Iranian occupation of Iraq."  "Instead of isolating the 'rouge state' Iran," says Robert Sheer, "the Bush administration has catapulted the theocrats in Tehran into the center of Mideast political power." 

Ahmadinejad did not travel to the Shiite dominated South, and lack of security was most likely the reason.  While British troops sit out at the airport doing nothing, conflict among Shiite militias has increased in Basra, the second largest city.  

In a country once known for the liberation of its women, it is especially troubling to learn that dozens of women have been murdered.  The reason is clear: the assassins leave notes saying that they were not dressed properly.

Violence is down primarily because the Shiite Medhi Army has honored a cease fire order, and tens of thousands of former Sunni insurgents have joined Sahwa, Arabic for "awakening."  In return for $300 a month from Uncle Sam, Sahwa forces have agreed to attack Al Qaeda instead of Americans.

The long term loyalty of the Sahwa is questionable, and the Shia dominated central government does not approve of this risky experiment.  As one reporter wrote: "Many believe that large numbers of Sahwa forces are resistance fighters simply riding the surge."  

The creation of Sahwa has dramatically reduced violence in Anbar province, but anti-American sentiment is still high.  The chorus of the most popular song in Falluja is "Great was the victory over the Americans." 

A 2007 poll with extensive in-depth questioning found that 31 percent blame the violence on the U.S. while only 18 percent accuse Al Qaeda.  In 2004 only 17 percent agreed that attacks on coalition forces were OK, but that figure has now risen to 51 percent.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that there are a total of 4.2 million displace persons in Iraq, 2.2 million internally and most of the others in Jordan and Syria.  Many of those returning have found their houses occupied and their neighborhoods cleansed of either Sunnis or Shias. 

A UN report found that between February, 2006 and October, 2007, more than twice as many Iraqis crossed the border to Syria than came back.  Only 14 percent interviewed by the UN said that they were returning because of improved security.

The surge is not produced the religious or political reconciliation that was its goal; rather, Baghdad is now partitioned by 3-meter concrete walls separating Sunnis and Shias, who have lived together and even married each other for centuries.

A recent Brookings Institute study concluded that terrorist acts have increased sevenfold since the invasion of Iraq.  Islamic militants around the world have answered Bush's call "Bring them on!" with a rousing "Yes, we can!"

The invasion of Iraq has not only produced more terrorists, but has it has led to many more deaths per capita than under Saddam Hussein.  It has not brought anything resembling democracy to the country, even after the sacrifice of 4,000 American lives.  

Progress in Iraq is only temporary, as the cases of Mosul and Basra demonstrate; or, as the rise of an Iraqi-Iranian Shiite alliance proves, illusory.

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