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So, how ARE things in Iraq?


...Recent conversations with Iraqi colleagues both inside and outside Iraq suggest that as the US pours guns, money, and training into various armed groups with little in common politically, and often little connection to a broad constituency to hold them accountable, the current "calm" in Iraq (in which, let's not forget to say, many Iraqis are still dying daily due to lack of food and medical care, or because of the continuing lack of basic human security in many areas) may be just the lull before the next storm. Let's hope they're wrong....

[39941]



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So, how ARE things in Iraq?

Noah Baker Merrill, Electronic Iraq

January 8, 2008

Iraqis are returning to Baghdad from abroad, but the flow is still only a trickle. And the differences in numbers being reported by aid groups and the US and Iraqi governments underscore the political value these numbers hold for proponents of the "Surge". But what even this debate misses is the difference between reducing the number of violent deaths for now, and laying the foundations for a future of peace for Iraq.

From a Jan 4 Reuters article by Aseel Kami:

Some 46,000 refugees returned home to Iraq from Syria between September and December 2007, the Iraqi Red Crescent said in a new report obtained on Friday, a much lower figure than that given by the Iraqi government.

Just how many of the 2.2 million Iraqis forced into exile by sectarian violence have returned is a matter of debate among aid groups, the U.S. military, and the Iraqi government, which is anxious to play up the returns as a sign of improved security.

Still, Iraqis are returning, though not necessarily from the Kurdish region in the North, where several thousand internally displaced have taken refuge even in recent weeks. And they have to go somewhere, since the US resettlement response, even for the most vulnerable cases, continues to be deeply disappointing.

But regardless of competing claims about which and how many refugees and internally displaced people are returning, a distinction needs to be drawn between a temporary reduction in the number of civilian and US-allied deaths and the seemingly much more elusive "goal" of reconciliation that can ensure a future of peace and self-governance for Iraq.

A recent report prepared for the US military in Iraq, profiled in the Washington Post,
highlights two striking but seemingly widely-held beliefs among many Iraqis -- that the US policy is in fact the leading cause of division among different communities in Iraq, and that the majority of people surveyed (who come from a representative sample of Iraq's diverse communities) believe that "the departure of 'occupying forces'" is "key to national reconciliation".

In the face of these findings, how does the new US strategy, which basically seems to consist of creating still more armed groups to fight the other armed groups that already existed, and that it helped create, stand up? The US has played a divisive role in the past, it is certainly continuing to do so now, with what seems to be the misguided belief that further fracturing Iraqis from one another will somehow lead to reconciliation in the end. And it is all based, once again, on the simplistic distinction that the parties in conflict are "Sunnis", "Shiites", and "Kurds", rather than a much more complex reality of diverse political ideologies and interests on which religious, tribal, and ethnic identities are overlayed.

One of the main reasons for the reduction in numbers being newly displaced inside Iraq is that most of those who were targeted for displacement in mixed neighborhoods have already been forced out. And just because people are returning to Baghdad doesn't mean they are able to return to their own homes, many of which have been occupied by other families  following  the owners' expulsion by militias. More often than not, people seem to be returning to live behind walls in Baghdad's newly homogeneous ethnic and sectarian landscape.

The Iraqi government admitted recently that it is not able to care for the needs of the displaced in Iraq, instead asking the World Food Programme to do it. And as international media continues to bring us news of the progress toward "reconciliation" (read, lower death count) attributed to the actions of the US-allied Awakening councils in several parts of Iraq, leaders like Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim are raising concerns about the possibility that these overwhelmingly Sunni groups could challenge the power of the current Iraqi security forces, overwhelmingly dominated by members of different Shiite militias, including Al-Hakim's own.

None of this is creating the conditions for an enduring cessation of violence. It's giving everyone a chance to solidify their positions for the coming fight, as the US adds more Sunni groups to the long list of those it's arming and funding.

Recent conversations with Iraqi colleagues both inside and outside Iraq suggest that as the US pours guns, money, and training into various armed groups with little in common politically, and often little connection to a broad constituency to hold them accountable, the current "calm" in Iraq (in which, let's not forget to say, many Iraqis are still dying daily due to lack of food and medical care, or because of the continuing lack of basic human security in many areas) may be just the lull before the next storm.

Let's hope they're wrong.


:: Article nr. 39941 sent on 09-jan-2008 08:30 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=39941

Link: electroniciraq.net/news/war-every-day-blog/So_how_are_things_in_Iraq-3276.shtml



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