In the south during the formal occupation of Iraq in 2003 and 2004, the American-led coalition allowed Shiite militias to mushroom and clerics to impose Islamic rule, in some places with a severity reminiscent of Afghanistan’s Taliban. … Shiite religious parties and clerics have created theocracies policed by militias that number well over 100,000 men. In Basra, three religious parties control — and sometimes fight over — the thousands of barrels of oil diverted each day from legal exports into smuggling. To the extent that the central government has authority in the south, it is because some of the same Shiite parties that dominate the government also control the south.
Kurdistan in the north is effectively independent. The Iraqi Army is barred from the region, the Iraqi flag prohibited, and central government ministries are not present. The Kurdish people voted nearly unanimously for independence in an informal referendum in January 2005.
And in the Sunni center of the nation and Baghdad, the government has virtually no control beyond the American-protected Green Zone. The Mahdi Army, a radical Shiite militia, controls the capital's Shiite neighborhoods, while Qaeda offshoots and former Baathists are increasingly taking over the Sunni districts. …
In the Sunni center, our current strategy involves handing off combat duties to the Iraqi Army. Mostly, it is Shiite battalions that fight in the Sunni Arab areas, as the Sunni units are not reliable. Thus what the Bush administration portrays as “Iraqi” security forces is seen by the local Sunni population as a hostile force loyal to a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, installed by the American invaders and closely aligned with the traditional enemy, Iran. The more we “Iraqize” the fight in the Sunni heartland, the more we strengthen the insurgents.
Because it is Iraq’s most mixed city, Baghdad is the front line of Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite civil war. It is a tragedy for its people, most of whom do not share the sectarian hatred behind the killing. Iraqi forces cannot end the civil war because many of them are partisans of one side, and none are trusted by both communities.
For the United States to contain the civil war, we would have to deploy more troops and accept a casualty rate many times the current level as our forces changed their mission from a support role to intensive police duties. The American people would not support such an expanded mission, and the Bush administration has no desire to undertake it.
The administration, then, must match its goals in Iraq to the resources it is prepared to deploy. Since it cannot unify Iraq or stop the civil war, it should work with the regions that have emerged. Where no purpose is served by a continuing military presence — in the Shiite south and in Baghdad — America and its allies should withdraw.
As an alternative to using Shiite and American troops to fight the insurgency in Iraq’s Sunni center, the administration should encourage the formation of several provinces into a Sunni Arab region with its own army, as allowed by Iraq’s Constitution. Then the Pentagon should pull its troops from this Sunni territory and allow the new leaders to establish their authority without being seen as collaborators.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The current state in Iraq?
Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia, writes the following in an op-ed piece in the New York Times