BAGHDAD, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Iraqi Shi’ites, like their allies in Iran, fret that unrest in Syria could oust President Bashar al-Assad and bring to power hardline Sunnis eager to put their weight behind fellow-Sunnis in Iraq who have lost out since Saddam Hussein’s fall.
They fear the turmoil next door could spill into Iraq, reignite sectarian violence and intensify a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the bastion of Sunni Islam and has never come to terms with Shi’ite rule in Baghdad.
"If Syria falls, Iraq will work with Iran to influence events in Syria," said a senior Iraqi Shi’ite politician, who asked not to be named.
"Change in Syria will cause major problems for Iraq. They (Sunnis) will incite the western (Sunni) part of Iraq."
Iraqi Shi’ite militias are unlikely to fight for Assad’s survival, but might respond if Sunnis in Iraq’s western Anbar province were emboldened by the rise of Sunni power in Syria.
Little less than six months away from a scheduled U.S. troops’ withdrawal, Iraqi public cannot wait to see the occupiers leave and their national sovereignty restored. Yet unwillingly they expect a continued U.S. presence as few believe the Americans will leave such a deeply-invested and strategically-important place.
For Iraqis, the debate on U.S. troops’ departure is intertwined with national dignity, security uncertainty and wariness of its coveting neighbors. Some doubt Iraqi security forces have the capability to curb insurgents and defend the country on their own while others fear a residual American force could sanction continued violence by militias.
Quite a few worry neighboring countries will swoop in and exploit the vacuum left by the U.S. whereas a considerable number think the U.S. will manipulate the fragile government behind scenes even if they draw down their troops.
"DON’T EVER THINK U.S. WILL LEAVE EASILY"
Shi’ite militias rather than Sunni Islamist al Qaeda are behind a recent wave of assassinations of Iraqi government, police and military officials in Baghdad, security officials said.
Militants have used silenced guns and bombs stuck to their targets to kill more than 38 officials in the last five months, according to Baghdad security operations. Interior Ministry sources have reported at least 51 such killings to Reuters in the same period.
"This issue is the biggest concern for the security apparatus currently," said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani, chief of staff for Baghdad’s security operations command.
النساء والصحفيون والمحتجظون والجماعات المهمشة يواجهون المخاطر بعد 8 سنوات من الغزو
بيروت، 21 فبراير/شباط 2011) – قالت هيومن رايتس ووتش في تقرير أصدرته اليوم إن حقوق المواطنين الأكثر استضعافاً وعرضة للخطر، لا سيما النساء والمحتجزين، يتم انتهاكها بشكل متكرر مع الإفلات من العقاب. أجرت هيومن رايتس ووتش بحوثها في سبع مدن في شتى أنحاء العراق أثناء عام 2010 وانتهت إلى أنه مع استمرار العنف والجريمة في العراق، فإن انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان تقع بوفرة.
تقرير "عند مفترق الطرق: حقوق الإنسان في العراق بعد ثماني سنوات من الغزو بقيادة الولايات المتحدة" الذي جاء في 102 صفحة يدعو الحكومة إلى حماية حقوق الجماعات والفئات المستضعفة وإلى تعديل قانون العقوبات وجميع القوانين الأخرى التي تميز ضد النساء وتخرق الحق في حرية التعبير. ويدعو التقرير أيضاً بغداد إلى فتح تحقيقات نزيهة ومستقلة في جميع مزاعم الإساءات بحق المحتجزين والأقليات والصحفيين.
وقال جو ستورك، نائب المدير التنفيذي لقسم الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا في هيومن رايتس ووتش: "بعد ثماني سنوات من الغزو الأمريكي، فالحياة في العراق تتدهور بالنسبة للنساء والأقليات، بينما الصحفيون والمحتجزون يواجهون انتهاكات حقوقية جسيمة. اليوم يقف العراق على مفترق الطرق – إما أن يتبنى مبادئ إجراءات التقاضي السليمة وحقوق الإنسان، وإلا فهو في خطر التحول إلى دولة بوليسية".
الغزو في عام 2003 وما تلاه من فوضى أدى لتكبد المدنيين العراقيين خسائر فادحة. تدهور الوضع الأمني أدى لعودة بعض ممارسات العدالة التقليدية والتطرف السياسي المدفوع بتوجهات دينية، مما كان له أثر سلبي على حقوق النساء، داخل البيت وخارجه، كما تبينت هيومن رايتس ووتش.
روجت الميليشيات لأفكار كراهية المرأة واستهدفت النساء والفتيات بالاغتيالات والترهيب لإبعادهن عن المشاركة في الحياة العامة. وبشكل متزايد تتعرض النساء والفتيات للوقوع ضحايا في بيوتهن نفسها، بسبب جملة من التعديات المتصورة للمرأة على شرف الأسرة أو المجتمع. وتنتشر ظاهرة الإتجار بالنساء والفتيات داخل وخارج العراق لأغراض الاستغلال الجنسي.
وقال جو ستورك: "تحملت النساء والفتيات العراقيات أكبر الأعباء في هذا النزاع وما تلاه من انعدام للأمان". وتابع: "بالنسبة للنساء العراقيات المتمعات ببعض أعلى مستويات تدابير الحماية الحقوقية والمشاركة الاجتماعية في المنطقة قبل عام 1991، كان ما حدث غصة مريرة في الحلق يصعب تحملها".
رغم التحسن الذي طرأ على الحالة الأمنية منذ عام 2008 مما أدى لانخفاض معدلات قتل العاملين بالإعلام، إلا أن الصحافة مهنة خطيرة في العراق، على حد قول هيومن رايتس ووتش. قام متطرفون ومعتدون مجهولون بقتل صحفيين وتفجير مقارهم ومكاتبهم. وتزايد تعرض الصحفيين للمضايقات والترهيب والتهديد والاحتجاز والاعتداءات البنية من قبل قوات الأمن التابعة للمؤسسات الحكومية والأحزاب السياسية. كما يسارع المسؤولون الحكوميون بمقاضاة الصحفيين ومطبوعاتهم إذا كتبوا عنهم موضوعات انتقادية.
وقال جو ستورك: "مع مشاهدة ما حدث في شوارع مصر وتونس، على الحكومة العراقية أن تتخذ خطوات ملموسة من أجل حماية حرية التعبير".
كما انتهت هيومن رايتس ووتش إلى أن المحققين العراقيين لجأوا بشكل ممنهج إلى الإساءة للمحتجزين، بغض النظر عن طائفتهم، وفي العادة يسيئون إليهم لانتزاع الاعترافات. ورغم معرفة وجود خطر التعذيب الواضح، فإن السلطات الأمريكية أحالت آلاف المحتجزين العراقيين إلى الحبس طرف السلطات العراقية، التي استمرت في ممارسة التعذيب القائم منذ عصر صدام حسين وقوات التحالف من بعده.
بينما أصدرت الحكومة قوانين لحماية بعض جماعاتها المُهمشة، وفي بعض الحالات بادرت بفتح برامج مساعدات هامة، فإنها ما زالت تخفق في حماية بعض أضعف الفئات من المواطنين العراقيين، على حد قول هيومن رايتس ووتش. الأشخاص النازحون داخلياً والأقليات وأصحاب الإعاقات من بين الأكثر عرضة للخطر. الكثير من المساعدات الحكومية وبرامج الحماية لا تعمل بكامل طاقتها أو غير كافية لبلوغ أكثر من يحتاجون إليها.
وقالت هيومن رايتس ووتش إن هناك أكثر من 1.5 مليون عراقي فروا من أحيائهم السكنية مع تمزيق العنف الطائفي لتجمعاتهم السكنية في عامي 2006 و2007. الآلاف من النازحين داخلياً يعيشون حالياً في بنايات مهجورة استوطنوها، دون توفر الضروريات الأساسية لديهم، مثل المياه النظيفة والكهرباء والصرف الصحي، على حد قول هيومن رايتس ووتش.
أما الجماعات المسلحة التي تتبنى الأفكار المتطرفة فقامت بتنفيذ هجمات على الأقليات، أدت إلى ضرر بالغ لحق بجماعات من السكان الأصليين في العراق، وأجبرت الآلاف على الفرار إلى خارج البلاد دون نية للعودة. أخفقت الحكومة أيضاً في وقف الهجمات التي استهدفت الصابئة المندائيين والمسيحيين والأزديين، بالإضافة إلى جماعات أخرى.
واكتشفت هيومن رايتس ووتش أن الآلاف ممن بُترت أطرافهم والجرحى خلال سنوات النزاع المسلح وجدوا أنفسهم وقد تحولوا إلى هامش المجتمع، غير قادرين على العثور على عمل، أو الحصول على رعاية طبية ملائمة، أو حتى الحصول على أطراف صناعية جديدة ومقاعد متحركة.
وقال جو ستورك: "مستقبل العراق كمجتمع ديمقراطي يعتمد على احترام حقوق الإنسان الأساسية، سوف يستند إلى حد كبير على ما إذا كانت السلطات العراقية ستدافع بالشكل الكافي عن هذه الحقوق" وتابع: "حتى تعمل على تحقيق هذا، على السلطات العراقية تشكيل نظام عدالة جنائية موثوق يفي بالمعايير الدولية الخاصة بالتعذيب وحرية التعبير والعنف ضد المرأة وغيرها من الجماعات المستضعفة في المجتمع العراقي".
The rights of Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees, are routinely violated with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch conducted research in seven cities across Iraq during 2010 and found that, beyond the country’s continuing violence and crimes, human rights abuses are commonplace.
The 102-page report, "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion," calls on the government to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and to amend its penal code and all other laws that discriminate against women and violate freedom of speech. The report also urges Baghdad to open independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of abuse against detainees, minorities, and journalists.
"Eight years after the US invasion, life in Iraq is actually getting worse for women and minorities, while journalists and detainees face significant rights violations," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Today, Iraq is at a crossroads – either it embraces due process and human rights or it risks reverting to a police state."
The 2003 invasion and its resulting chaos have exacted an enormous toll on Iraq’s citizens. The deterioration of security has promoted a return to some traditional justice practices and religiously inflected political extremism, which have had a deleterious effect on women’s rights, both inside and outside the home, Human Rights Watch found.
Militias promoting misogynist ideologies have targeted women and girls for assassination, and intimidated them to keep them from participating in public life. Increasingly, women and girls are victimized in their own homes for a variety of perceived transgressions against family or community honor. Trafficking in women and girls in and out of the country for sexual exploitation is widespread.
"The women and girls of Iraq have borne the biggest brunt of this conflict and resulting insecurity," Stork said. "For Iraqi women, who enjoyed some of the highest levels of rights protection and social participation in the region before 1991, this has been an enormously bitter pill to swallow."
Although improvements in security since 2008 have reduced the murder rate of media workers, journalism is a hazardous occupation in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said. Extremists and unidentified assailants kill journalists and bomb their offices. Increasingly, journalists find themselves harassed, intimidated, threatened, detained, and physically assaulted by security forces attached to government institutions or political parties. Senior politicians are quick to sue journalists and their publications for unflattering articles.
"Watching what’s happened in the streets of Egypt and Tunisia, the Iraqi government should take meaningful steps to protect freedom of speech," said Stork.
Human Rights Watch also found that Iraqi interrogators routinely abuse detainees, regardless of sect, usually to coerce confessions. Despite knowing there was a clear risk of torture, US authorities transferred thousands of Iraqi detainees to Iraqi custodians, who have continued a tradition of torture that was also the case under Saddam Hussein and coalition forces.
While the government has passed laws to protect some of its marginalized communities, and in some cases has instituted significant assistance programs, it is still failing some of its most vulnerable citizens, Human Rights Watch said. Internally displaced persons, minorities, and persons with disabilities are among those at risk. Many of the government’s assistance or protection programs are sub-operational or are insufficient to reach those who need it most.
More than 1.5 million Iraqis fled their neighborhoods as sectarian violence tore up their communities in 2006 and 2007. Thousands of internally displaced persons now live in squatter settlements without access to basic necessities such as clean water, electricity, and sanitation, Human Rights Watch said.
Armed groups proclaiming intolerant ideologies carry out assaults on minority communities, causing grave harm to Iraq’s indigenous populations and forcing thousands to flee abroad with no plans to return. The government has failed to stop attacks targeting Sabian Mandaeans, Christians, and Yazidis, among other groups.
And the thousands of amputees wounded during years of armed conflict find themselves relegated to the margins of society, unable to find work, access adequate medical care, or even to obtain new prostheses and wheelchairs, Human Rights Watch found.
"Iraq’s future as a democratic society based on respect for fundamental human rights will in large part depend on whether Iraqi authorities will adequately defend those rights," Stork said. "To do so, Iraqi authorities need to establish a credible criminal justice system meeting international standards with respect to torture, free expression, and violence against women and other vulnerable people in Iraq’s society."
(Reuters) – A group of men recently ordered Siham al-Zubaidi to close down her Baghdad hair salon for two months for Shi’ite religious festivities. She had no idea who they were but complied because she feared for her life.
"Can you just tell me who will pay the rent of my shop for these two months? What shall I do to support my family? What is the relation between hair dressing and religious events?" Zubaidi, 40, asked furiously.
"This is a new dictatorship. They want Iraq to be an Islamic state. But this is not right. Iraq includes a variety of religious factions … These are alien ideas, not Iraqi."
Recent efforts by authorities, clergy and unknown bands of neighborhood enforcers to police morals by shutting nightclubs, bars and other establishments has heightened concerns among academics and intellectuals that Iraq, now emerging from war, is displaying the tendencies of a hard-line Islamic state.
Baghdad’s local government this month re-activated a federal order from last year to close down the capital’s nightclubs and liquor shops due to concern the venues were undermining morals.
Last week, anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a strongly worded statement calling for Iraqis to take a stand against "corruption, intoxication and addiction."
The crackdown in Baghdad was preceded by similar actions in some Shi’ite-majority provinces in the south.
"What is going on are normal consequences when religious parties take over power. They start with such practices, and end the way the Taliban in Afghanistan ended, or other parties in Iran," Baghdad political analyst Hazim al-Nuaimi said.
In September, local authorities in Babil province prevented an arts festival that has been held yearly since before 2003. Security forces told organizers a day after the festival started to end it because it included dance shows.
In the southern city of Basra, the government shut down a foreign circus a few days after it opened last month. It was the first circus the province had hosted in decades.
Basra authorities said the government department of Shi’ite endowments held that the land on which the circus was set up could not be used in a way that violated Islamic Sharia law.
The new measures sparked protests by some Iraqis who said the government is trying to kill freedom more than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and paved the way for majority Shi’ites to take power.
"What is going on, in fact, is an attempt to impose the radical concepts of the Islamic fundamentalist parties who dominate the political scene in Iraq…that’s what we are afraid of," said Qasim Mohammed, a journalist who protested with dozens of others in Baghdad’s main square Sunday.
Kamel al-Zaidi, head of the Baghdad provincial council, described the protesters in televised comments as "paid people who want to turn Iraq into a community of atheists."
But the crackdown, alongside a series of attacks on Iraq’s minority Christian community, raised questions about freedom of religion and expression in mainly Muslim Iraq.
In the worst of the attacks, dozens died after Sunni insurgents took hostages at a Baghdad cathedral on October 31. Hundreds of Christian families have since fled for the relative safety of the Kurdish north, and abroad.
During Friday prayers last week, many Shi’ite clerics supported the Baghdad provincial council and called on the government to show more determination.
"The decision of the government and the provincial council is right," said Sadr al Din al Qubanchi, a prominent cleric in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a Shi’ite political bloc.
"Those who condemn it must realize that the Iraqi identity is Islamic, and the government is responsible for practicing this identity," said Qubanchi in a speech in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf.
Sabbar al-Saeidi, the head of the legal committee of the Baghdad provincial council, defended the new measures.
"The measures are aimed at fighting anything against moral and public discipline, whether it is a circus or not," Saeidi said.
Overt and illegal acts of religious intimidation may have been worse three years ago, when Shi’ite militias and Sunni insurgents roamed Iraq freely.
Now, bands of loosely organised, unknown men are carrying out threats quietly against liquor shops, schools and other establishments, and with groups like Sadr’s movement claiming a share of political power, critics say the government is closing its eyes to the intimidation.
Residents of Baghdad’s mainly Shi’ite Shaab district say many alcohol shops have been attacked in recent weeks.
At a government-run fine arts institute in Baghdad, unknown men showed up this week and ordered the removal of all statues from the yard, an official of the facility said.
They said "it is not good to show such statues. Some of them are naked," said the official, who asked not to be named because he feared for his safety.
The music program at the school was shut down. Students are not allowed to wear short skirts, short sleeve shirts or makeup, according to a female student.
"(A school official) told us it is Haram (forbidden). Some teachers consider any girl who does this as absent," she said. "A top official once put an X on my classmate’s leg as she was wearing a short skirt."
Protesters on both sides have taken to the streets. On Friday hundreds responded to Sadr’s call.
"Stand against those who want to disseminate corruption, intoxication, and addiction (to alcohol), to make Iraq drift toward ignorance, degeneration, lewdness, to make our society rot like the West," Sadr said in his statement.
Political analysts said the coming era could see an escalation of intimidation as Sadr’s fundamentalist religious movement plays a larger role in government.
Sadr won 39 seats in a March parliamentary election and then pledged support for incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a key step in an agreement between political blocs that end a months-long political impasse.
"What is going on is a new tendency of a new culture that wants to take us backward," said Haider Munaathar, a well-known actor and head of Iraq’s theater union. "We must not keep silent toward those who want Iraq to wear a robe of their choosing."
(Editing by Jim Loney and Samia Nakhoul)
London (AsiaNews) – “The plot” to attack the cathedral “had been in preparation for a long time, considering the weapons and ammunition found in the cathedral . . . these take a long time to stockpile,” said Fr Youssef Thomas Mirkis, a Dominican clergyman. The result is that it “is clear now is that they [Christians] will all leave Iraq,” said Pius Kasha, vicar of Iraq’s Syriac Catholic Church. Both quotes are in an editorial signed by Tariq Alhomayed, editor of the London-based pan-Arabic daily Al Sharq Al Awsat.
In his article, he asks a question, namely “What has been done since 2008, rather than 2003, by the Iraqi government to protect an Iraqi component from repression and organized violence?”, and answers it: “Unfortunately, [. . .] nothing!”
For Alhomayed, al-Qaeda is obviously to blame. The terrorist group has in fact not hesitated in carrying out massacred and committing atrocities, but for him the issue is what Iraqi authorities have done to defend Iraq’s Christians, for “Iraqi Christians remain targets in public”’ despite being “outspoken in their demand for government protection”.
Since 2008, Iraqi Christians have turned to the Churches (rather the government) for protection against violence, at least the half that is still left in the country.
Without self-defence militias, Christians have turned to church buildings that are guarded by security personnel. He wonders though, “how did the terrorists get in” in the latest incident.
In his view, targeting “minorities, including Iraqi Christians, means the disintegration of Iraq”. It “is an infringement upon its cultural and political composition. We must ensure that minorities are not excluded on sectarian or ethnic grounds, for this will open the gates of hell. [. . .] We must also ensure that tomorrow, the same events do not occur but with Lebanon’s Christians, God forbid. Therefore we say: protect the Christians in our region, in order to protect the virtue of co-existence.”
Protect Iraq’s Christians
By Tariq Alhomayed
Fearing that our readers might think I only want to fill column space, I would have re-published my article “We Must Protect Iraq’s Christians”, first published on October 12th 2008.
In that article I said that “it is the duty of all Iraqis, not just the government in Baghdad, to protect Iraqi Christians from murder and displacement, and all types of repression against them, especially because they have never been part of alliances against Iraq. They did not come with [L. Paul] Bremer, and others. Iraqi Christians also suffer the worst conditions of any Christians in the region”.
This came against the backdrop of an appeal from the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, Luis Saca, informing the Iraqi government of the need to protect Iraq’s Christians, when he said that “The Christians in Iraq do not have militias or clans to defend them”. He added “I feel pain and injustice, because innocent people are being killed and we do not know why”.
At the time, we faced condemnation and media campaigns by people affiliated with the Iraqi government, but here we are today witnessing a massacre, along with other atrocities against Christians in Iraq. The massacre did not happen at a checkpoint, or as the result of an assassination of a Christian figure at his home, or on a random road. Instead, it was an organized, armed attack on the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady, in the Karrada district of Baghdad. Reports suggest 52 people were killed, nearly two years after the call of Bishop Luis Saca, urging the Iraqi government to protect Christians.
It was striking when Father Youssef Thomas Mirkis, head of the Dominican sect in Iraq, said after yesterday’s massacre that “the plot had been in preparation for a long time, considering the weapons and ammunition found in the cathedral…these take a long time to stockpile”. The words of the vicar of Iraq’s Syriac Catholic Church, Pius Kasha, were deeply saddening, when he said “what is clear now is that they [Christians] will all leave Iraq”.
Thus, the question today is: What has been done since 2008, rather than 2003, by the Iraqi government to protect an Iraqi component from repression and organized violence? Unfortunately, the answer is nothing! It is easy to accuse al-Qaeda, an organization which never hesitates to commit massacres and atrocities. However, Iraqi Christians remain targets in public, and are outspoken in their demand for government protection, so what has Nuri al-Maliki’s government done for them?
One of the hostages in yesterday’s terrorist attack said “Men wearing military uniforms broke into the church carrying their weapons, and killed a priest on the spot”. It is well known that since 2008, Iraq’s Christians, nearly half of whom have left the country, are now turning to the churches [instead of the government] in search of protection from violence. Interestingly, the targeted church was under the protection of security personnel, so how did the terrorists get in?
We can only return to what we said in 2008; that the targeting of minorities, including Iraqi Christians, means the disintegration of Iraq, and is an infringement upon its cultural and political composition. We must ensure that minorities are not excluded on sectarian or ethnic grounds, for this will open the gates of hell. Some are able to incite such a possibility, but so far no one can ensure this will not happen. We must also ensure that tomorrow, the same events do not occur but with Lebanon’s Christians, God forbid. Therefore we say: protect the Christians in our region, in order to protect the virtue of co-existence.
I have picked the article "False Advertising About the Iraq Surge" by John Agnew and Claudio Guler, because it summarises two studies, "Baghdad Night " and "Baghdad Divided" both of which support the argument that the "success" (if you can call it that) of the "surge" came about for reasons other than those claimed for it by Petraeus and his chorus of admirers, (if you can call them that).
Agnew and Guler argue that the "surge" qua "surge" was too little too late. That as regards Baghdad, that the ethnic cleansing of (mostly) Sunni arabs was largely complete by the time the "surge" began. That the only thing achieved by the "surge" was to reinforce the ethnic cleansing by sealing off neighbourhoods one from an another, and preventing the massacre of the few Sunni who remained in Baghdad (among them me – but not my parents, wife, and children, whom I had long since sent to safety elesewhere). I would agree with their analysis it matches very closely not only my experience and also the experiences of many others.
They also argue that the so-called "awakening" came about for reasons largely unconnected with the "surge" that the "sahwa" fighters and commanders knew that they risked total annihilation if they did not join the Americans. Again I would mostly agree with this based upon my conversations with Sahwa fighters and commanders.
The article is short but if you are interested and have the time I would urge to also read the two studies adverted to.
It’s a matter of timing, and the numbers don’t add up. The US surge in Iraq did not by itself bring about an end to the country’s civil war in 2006-2007 as Washington and the received wisdom have maintained.
A temporary troop increase and the adoption of civilian-friendly counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics were largely too little too late. The primary factor responsible for the decline in violence in Iraq was the culmination of the sectarian cleansing of Sunnis – principally in Baghdad, formerly a thoroughly mixed ethnic city since the advent of the republic in 1958 and through Saddam Hussein’s rule – by the newly empowered Shia majority in their drive to national pre-eminence.
The details of our argument are outlined in two reports available online: "Baghdad Night " (UCLA) and "Baghdad Divided" (ISN). The former uses light emissions at night by neighborhood, before, during and after the surge to track the effects of the violence in the capital and to make its case. It was the predominantly Sunni areas that were overwhelmingly most likely to darken; the Sunnis were either killed or ejected and shut off the lights in the process. The latter report contains maps chronicling the sectarian cleansing of Baghdad and its consequent division. (Maps developed by Dr. Michael Izady for Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Gulf/2000 Project).
To begin, the sectarian cleansing of Sunnis peaked well before (December 2006-January 2007) the full onset of surge operations in mid June 2007 – as shown by data provided by the US Department of Defense, particularly the report issued by Gen. James Jones in September 2007, now President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. Our light signatures and sectarian maps corroborate the effective partitioning of Baghdad by February-March 2007.
With much of the Sunni population left fleeing toward Anbar province, Syria and Jordan, and the remainder holed up in the last Sunni stronghold neighborhoods in western Baghdad and parts of Adhamiyya in eastern Baghdad, the impetus for the bloodletting waned. The Shia had won, hands down, and the fight was over.
US forces never had control over the contest. The extra boots served as a psychological boost to the American public and the Iraqi government. Their sole achievement on the ground was to seal off the newly segregated neighborhoods from one another, preventing the massacre of the remaining Sunnis in Baghdad, and finally, to nudge any still active Shia militia groups to back down.
The Sunni "awakening" component of the surge has also earned plaudits in decision-making and analytical circles for contributing to the cessation of hostilities. Surge backers claim that the Awakening Councils teamed up with US forces in their shared contempt for al-Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI) brutality, the outfit’s burgeoning challenge to the traditional authority of the Sunni sheiks, AQI’s role in igniting the civil war with the bombing of the al-Askaria shrine in the city of Samarra in February 2006 that the Sunnis knew they could not win, Sunni-AQI ideological rifts and the Sunni sheiks’ search for a post-Saddam patron. This account, however, is incomplete.
There would have been an internal political price to pay by the Sunni sheiks for cooperating with the invading forces that had just toppled their ruling establishment; a cost likely much higher than tolerating the presence of AQI on their territory, a largely Sunni organization. Moreover, once on the US side, their fate would, in so many words, be in Washington’s hands.
Rather, the Awakening Councils awoke and turned against AQI for an added and largely unreported reason: By the autumn of 2006, the Sunnis were looking down an exceedingly dark tunnel. They "awakened" to the prospect of total subjugation, if not annihilation, at the hands of the Shia.
When then-president George W. Bush announced the surge on 10 January 2007, he sent the Sunnis a signal: Get on board now and we’ll guarantee your security and a modicum of political participation … at least until we leave. Otherwise, continue fighting and risk extermination. They made the rational choice.
A charitable interpretation would have it that Washington’s narrative overlooks the near wholesale sectarian cleansing of Baghdad that it indirectly triggered.
Iraq is now largely stable, at least as regards the Shia-Sunni conflict in Baghdad. The Shia are at the helm and the remaining Sunnis, a shadow of their former self, will likely acquiesce to majority rule, especially once the US leaves and the petrodollars start rolling in.
The US surge in Iraq did not play out as advertised. Rather, it fit into a series of converging and violent dynamics on the ground, coinciding expediently with a shift in the balance of power. That is what the empirical evidence shows.
كشف محافظ نينوى اثيل النجيفي، الاثنين، عن أن هناك شكوكا في وجود ميليشيات نفذت عملية اغتيال مرشح العراقية غرب مدينة الموصل. وقال النجيفي إن طريقة تنفيذ عملية الاغتيال
والزي الذي ارتداه المنفذون اضافة إلى طريقة تعاملهم مع الحدث تدل على أن الشكوك تتركز حول وجود ميليشيات مسلحة هي التي قامت بتنفيذ العملية التي يختلف اسلوبها عن العمليات التي ترتكبها القاعدة. وأوضح النجيفي أن هذا الامر يدل على وجود “نوع من التصفيات السياسية استهدفت القائمة العراقية، وبالتأكيد التركيز يكون على مدينة الموصل وعلى نينوى عبر استهداف مرشحي القائمة، والذي يشكل ضغطا سياسيا على المحافظة للحصول على مكاسب سياسية. وكان مسلحون يرتدون زيا عسكريا قتلوا فجر السبت الماضي فارس جاسم الجبوري المرشح الاحتياط الخامس ضمن القائمة العراقية في محافظة نينوى عندما اقتحموا منزله في قرية الموالي (30 كم غرب الموصل) واطلقوا النار عليه فاردوه قتيلا في الحال ثم لاذوا بالفرار. كما اغتال مسلحون مجهولون يوم 24 أيار مايو الماضي مرشح العراقية بشار العكيدي وسائقه عندما أطلقوا النار عليه أمام منزله في حي العامل غربي الموصل، في حين قام مسلحون مجهولون يوم (7/2/2010) باغتيال المرشحة عن ائتلاف العراقية سهى عبد الله جار الله بمسدسات كاتمة للصوت في منطقة رأس الجادة غربي المدينة أيضا
The Reuters report carried by Khaleej Times Online yesterday and the al-Jazeera report today "Iraq disarms Sunni tribal militias" are alarming. Prior to the election there were some reasons to hope that among the political class at least there was an intense reluctance to risk reigniting sectarian strife. That appears no longer to be the case. The political vacuum and the lack of oversight by parliament means that the government headed by Nouri al-Maliki can and does do whatever it likes. Between "secret" prisons, death squads, and now this renewed targeting of the Sahwa there are considerable grounds for pessimism about our country’s future. The anti-Sahwa campaign in Diyala is especially worrying. Diyala has not been pacified and, particulalry in the hinterlands and "disputed areas" it is only the Sahwa that prevent massive violence from reigniting – GZG forces still cannot establish any measure of meaningful control in those areas.
BAQUBA, Iraq – Iraq’s military on Saturday withdrew the right to carry weapons from 10,000 ex-Sunni insurgents, a move that threatened to cause a rift between security forces and Sunni fighters credited with helping quell violence in Iraq.
Leaders of the Sahwa movement, or “Sons of Iraq”, responded immediately with a warning that they would stop cooperating with security forces in the troubled, mainly Sunni province of Diyala if their weapons permits were pulled.
“Today, Saturday, we received an order from the Defence Ministry ground forces leadership to withdraw all the badges of the Sahwa personnel and replace them with new ones that do not authorize them to carry weapons,” said a spokesman for Diyala military operations, who asked not to be named.
The military spokesman said Sahwa members are considered civilians, “so it is not reasonable to authorise around 10,000 personnel to carry weapons in this province.”
Khalid al-Luhaibi, head of the Sahwa in Diyala, said the military must cancel the order or his members would stop cooperating.
“How can we work and do our jobs if we are not eligible to carry weapons?” he said. “How can we, at least, protect ourselves?”
The Sons of Iraq programme began when tribal leaders decided in 2006 to turn their backs on the bloody insurgency that threatened to tear Iraq apart and joined U.S. and Iraqi forces in fighting al Qaeda and other militants.
Their decision to cut ties with al Qaeda was a turning point in the U.S.-led war against Sunni Islamist militants.
Iraqi leaders promised to give government jobs to some 90,000 Sahwa members. About 42,000 of the fighters have already been integrated into government ministries, according to government officials.
But thousands of others were asked to stay with their neighbourhood security patrols through Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary election and until a new government is formed.
The vote produced no clear winner and exposed Iraq’s sectarian divisions. A cross-sectarian coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won a narrow victory with strong support from minority Sunnis, but no bloc won enough seats to form a majority government.
Since the election, Iraq’s two major Shi’ite coalitions have announced plans to form the largest group in parliament. Allawi in turn has warned that a Shi’ite alliance that attempted to exclude his bloc from government could trigger renewed violence.
The Sons of Iraq fighters were credited with helping to significantly cut violence since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed in 2006-07, when tens of thousands of people were killed.
Diyala, a mixed province with a Sunni majority just north of Baghdad, has seen more violence in recent months than other areas of Iraq.
On May 12, a minivan packed with explosives blew up at a crowded market in the town of Khalis, killing at least 30 people and wounding 80 others.
Before joining the fight against al Qaeda, members of the Sons of Iraq were accused of killing American and Iraqi soldiers. Some of their former leaders and fighters were arrested by Iraqi security forces to face those accusations, forcing others into hiding.
Sahwa members have also been the targets of a recent campaign of assassinations and bombings in which more than 100 people have died.