"..the Mahdi Army controls gas stations, charging preferred Shiite customers a fixed price, regardless of the amount bought, while turning away Sunnis. One of the Iraqi army’s projects in the area is to monitor gas stations to prevent such discrimination and corruption, in some cases temporarily shutting down the stations
"Of all of these, that’s the cash cow," said Frank, the battalion commander. "Jaish al-Mahdi, from our sources, is extremely upset that we’re putting so much pressure on the gas stations. It’s common sense. We’re shutting down the cash flow."
The American soldiers offer rewards to residents who alert them about weapons caches or other signs of criminal activity, but the Mahdi Army offers wider support and will probably remain influential after the Americans have moved on.
"That’s hard for us to combat. We can, and we’ve been trying since we’ve been here, but we’re not giving away homes, whereas JAM is," said Wink, the intelligence officer. "Who are you going to go with — somebody who just gave you a house or U.S. forces saying you shouldn’t follow insurgents?"" WAPO
The Shia Arabs are "cleansing" west Baghdad of Sunni Arab residents. This makes sense from their point pf view. They want the city to be the capital of the rump state of Iraq, the one they are going to dominate under Iranian protection. They hope they will dominate such a state. I say that because the huge majority of Muslims across the world are Sunni. They will never rest until that portion of Islamdom that has been called Iraq is once more free of the rule of the "Safavids," or "Magii" as they call all the Iranian and Iraq Shia.
The Shia (of all kinds) know that the Sunnis feel that way and for that reason they wish to get on with the grim business of ridding themselves of as many Sunni Arabs as they can, while they can. In other words they are taking advantage of the presence of American troops to "take care of business."
Maliki must be grimly amused by the farce of his chats with Petraeus, Crocker and Bush. It would be riotously funny for him if the price of failure in his exploitation of gullibility were not so high. pl
I emphatically disagree with your statement: “the huge majority of Muslims across the world are Sunni. They will never rest until that portion of Islamdom that has been called Iraq is once more free of the rule of the “Safavids,” or “Magii” as they call all the Iranian and Iraq Shia.”
I do not believe that the Muslims of South East Asia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey, Russia, Black Africa, and the Balkans would care sufficiently to do any thing like what you have suggested.
In fact, even your choice of words; “Safavid” and “Magii” are what Sunni Arabs use and no one else – to my knowledge.
As for Baghdad ruled by Shia Arabs being such a big deal to them (Sunni Muslims of the World), I find that also hard to believe – the Third Holiest shrine in Islam is ruled by Jews and I do not see the Muslim multitudes doing much about it except huffing and puffing.
Be as it may, logistically I do not see what Sunni Arabs can do about this – Baghdad “Garden of Justice” in Persian – is just too far from where those little men do their whoring in the Persian Gulf, Cairo, and Lebanon. Moreover, almost all of Iraq’s population lives within 100 miles of the Iranian border which means that the Shia could be reinforced much more easily than the Sunnis. Moreover, Kurds are mostly Sunni and they will do their damnest to prevent a Sunni Arab victory – unless of course they have a death wish collectively.
But, let’s not argue – the future will show
is petraeus really that dense, to not see what is happening in front of his nose?
You might add that the four year presence of less than 200,000 American troops trying to control and “improve” a country of 24 million people whose language, history, culture and politics neither the troops nor their leaders understand, would also be funny, if it weren’t so costly in the loss of human life and the destruction of human and social capital.
Isn’t this what the Israelis do to us as well? They talk a good game about wanting peace via a two-state solution, but for the Palestinians such an Israeli “peace” means the peace of the grave or the slave. And as the world talks impotently about getting the peace process started again, the Israelis continue to inexorably create more “facts on the ground,” as their settlements and roads consume more and more land.
In Iraq the Shia are merely paying us back in our own coin. They don’t want to find themselves in the position a few years from now of being piously told that their collective back is dulling our knife yet again. We have taught them the hard lesson that the only people they can depend upon are themselves. So we have no grounds for complaint if they prove to be apt pupils.
This may just be random cynicism, but wouldn’t Petreaus benefit from the ethnic cleansing in terms of reduced viiolence, better numbers for his report, less stress on his limited troops with the capacity to move some out of the capital, and gain some approval from the Iraqui government?
“The Shia Arabs are ‘cleansing’ west Baghdad of Sunni Arab residents. This makes sense from their point [o]f view. They want the city to be the capital of the rump state of Iraq, the one they are going to dominate under Iranian protection. They hope they will dominate such a state.”
OK, I think there is much that is right and much that is wrong with this statement.
The first thing to say is that based on the article that you are commenting on, you are assuming that its the Mahdi Army that’s doing the cleansing here. That may be the case.
However, it’s a well known fact that the Badr Brigade (controlled by the pro-Iranian SIIC) that does a lot if not most of the systematic Sunni-torturing and body-dumping through their control of the Interior Ministry. They have been caught doing so by U.S. forces. I bring this up because, to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, the U.S. has never acted against this militia or the SIIC and they are a hell of a lot more pro-Iran than the Mahdi Army is. My impression of the Mahdi Army or JAM is that they are the Shia Minutemen – a grassroots formation of your average poor Shia street folk with guns who see themselves as a self-defense force more than anything else. They are also pretty straight-up nationalist and resent Iranian interference in Iraqi politics.
If it is JAM getting rid of Sunnis in that area of Baghdad, I think it is for somewhat different reasons than you state. It’s probably self-defense – they think any Sunni presence could be a haven for Al-Qaeda to launch those devastating car bomb attacks from which have killed hundreds, maybe thousands, of Shia in Baghdad. I don’t think JAM wants Baghdad to be the capital of a rump Shia state because if that was the case, they’d be going after ALL the Sunnis in Baghad but it appears that they are only going after them in particular neighborhoods. (If your goal is to take over Baghdad and make it Shia, why go after Sunnis in west Baghdad when they’ll just move to east Baghdad?)
Also, Sadr is against creating a Shia super-state which the SIIC is in favor of because his power base is in Baghdad which would be cut off from the oil revenues of the north and south if Iraq was partitioned. That has been a big point of conflict between him and the Hakims who run SIIC.
Another quote from above WaPo on the effects of cleansing:
“Now that the Sunnis are all gone, murders have dropped off,” he said. “One way to put it is they ran out of people to kill.”
This, along with the recent “miracle” in Anbar, would indicate that neither the acclaimed reduction in sectarian deaths in Baghdad or the “success” in Anbar have anything to do with the surge. Although both are being conflated as being successful because of it. Interesting how both events, while having the look of progress, can also be seen as evidence of a political calm before the storm. In the sense that both evidence the consolidation of opposing forces and fracture lines in a prelude to either distinct civil war or partition. Neither of which have anything to do with the surge or claims to its success — quite the opposite actually.
“This may just be random cynicism, but wouldn’t Petreaus benefit from the ethnic cleansing in terms of reduced viiolence, better numbers for his report, less stress on his limited troops with the capacity to move some out of the capital, and gain some approval from the Iraqui government?”
Posted by: frank durkee
One problem I can forsee is that the Shiite leadership, if they felt that US forces were no longer needed, might tell the US to get out pronto. They’d have the ability to make Iraq untenable to US ground forces.
That’d put the administation in a pickle – either accept the boot, or start a new, larger war in Iraq.
“In fact, even your choice of words; “Safavid” and “Magii” are what Sunni Arabs use and no one else to my knowledge.”
I believe that was my point. pl
I don’t think I said or implied that the nastiness in Baghdad is the exclusive property of JaM. The Post may have done so.
“I think it is for somewhat different reasons than you state. It’s probably self-defense.” As with weapons, intention is often in the eye of the beholder.
“..if that was the case, they’d be going after ALL the Sunnis in Baghad but it appears that they are only going after them in particular neighborhoods.” I think you are incorrect in this. In fact they just seem to be focusing on these neighborhoods AT THE MOMENT.
I should make it clear that it is of no importance to me who rules Baghdad, or Iraq. pl
I think that YOU are falsely conflating two essentially uinrelated things.
The reduction in Anbar AQM activity is the result of successfully making “common cause” with tribals. You may not like that process, but I do. It works, and since I am uninterested in the fate of the “elected fledgling government” it doesn’t matter to me if the tribesmen go after the Shia army and police next. The tribesmen are feckless and unfaithful? You are correct. It is like herding cats. I have done a lot of that.
The ethnic cleansing in Baghdad is a different thing. It is part of the process of the factional dissolution of Iraq that we have made inevitable. pl
Irredentism begins at home.
I think both Sadr and SCIRI are killing Sunnis systematically as well as randomly, and both would like to dominate a Shi’a rump state. I do not agree that Sadr would support wide – and more specifically, overt – Iranian influence in such a state. He has always played the proud and tragic nation of Iraq line, going on as if his late father represented the martyred soul of Iraq itself, and he is the future. He is anti-American (who isn’t?) but anti-Iranian too, and fervently pro-Iraqi. The millions of poor in Sadr City, Karbala, Najaf, etc. can enjoy that. And there is no room for Sunni Arabs in his game.
Maybe SCIRI really is an extension of Iran. I would like to give them more credit than that, but somehow can’t. They were sheltered and fed there for years, then sent to Iraq to carry out their present work. And it was Hakim who came out with regional autonomy proposal that is obviously a backdoor escape plan toward secession if Baghdad cannot be held.
It seems clear that various Shi’a groups feel the need to get rid of as many Sunnis in Baghdad as possible, and seize the initiative before the Americans actually leave and events start swinging the other way. Because the majority of the world’s Muslims might be indifferent, but the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, Syria, etc., are not going to be able to stand the embarrassment of a Shi’a government in Iraq.
The word Iran, when said to some Sunni Iraqis, causes them to break out in hives, Dune-style.
The story about Mehdi Gas Stations reminded me of this report about The War Economy of Iraq. It discusses many of the economic motivations of those who oppose the occupation. Many of the real insurgents who are attacking US forces and Iraqi infrastructure are doing so to protect their often black-market revenue streams.
Col. Lang – How do you read the ‘soft partition’ option newly talked about ?? The way they discussed it (Korb/o’Hanlon et al on C-span) it became ominously possible that the US couldn’t leave nor stay – a form of check mate ??
I think the US has no real control over the outcome in Iraq. pl
And pary tell me what would these assorted Sunni Arabs so embarrased do that they have already not done?
Precisely my point. Sunni Arabs might care who rules Baghdad but not the non-Arabs.
And you omitted the word “rafezi”.
” Because the majority of the world’s Muslims might be indifferent, but the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, Syria, etc., are not going to be able to stand the embarrassment of a Shi’a government in Iraq.”
Wouldn’t this force al-Sadr to ally with the SCIRI and Iranians?
Listened to some of the ongoing filibuster in the Senate. It would seem that it never occurred to any of the wise men there prior to marching into Iraq that replacing a nominally secular Baathist regime by a government in which Shia were the majority would strengthen the hands of the Shia power, Iran.
Now some of them are going on about how the US cannot leave Iraq because of Iran.
It’s almost like a large-scale game of “Kriegspiel,” a form of chess in which neither player can see the chessboard on which the other is playing. A referee is required to keep both players from making moves that are blocked by the unseen pieces of the other. The players are forced to imprecisely deduce the positions of each other’s pieces solely from the interaction each has with the referee. Only in this case it’s the U.S. alone which can’t see all the pieces on the board, so our Commander Guy can tell himself and us all the lies he needs to keep up the illusion that he’s in control.
This is the kind of conflation i was refering to:
WASHINGTON, Apr 26 (IPS) – The George W. Bush administration and proponents of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq have claimed that the increased military presence in Baghdad and al-Anbar province has reduced sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and lowered civilian casualties.
I was simply pointing out that both events are being conflated as surge success stories, of which neither are the results of having more troops on the ground. Especially in Anbar.
That the partitioning of
Iraq is a inevitable I absolutely agree.
Somehow I suspect that both this and Malikis duplicity are not unknown to the administration, despite their public rhetoric.
When I read the recent news that a “surge II” is in the works, it occured to me that the grand strategy
(du jour) of this administration is to simply keep our troops in Iraq until the (they hope) inevitable lull in violence created by both the diminished presence
of AQ and that partitioning
gives them the ability to declare “victory” before starting the withdrawl.
Could this be correct, or
am I way off beam here?
Babak: “And pary tell me what would these assorted Sunni Arabs so embarrased do that they have already not done?”
I am assuming the assorted Sunni Arabs would ‘stay the course’ or ‘surge’, which is not something I’m looking forward to.
To DH: “Wouldn’t [a Sunni ‘surge’] force al-Sadr to ally with the SCIRI and Iranians?”
On at least some levels, I’m sure. They would probably stand a lot to gain from facing down a common threat, much as the Anbari tribal chiefs are currently doing with US forces to face down AQM. But they are only going to agree on so much after that, and only for so long. Who will be getting the money? Who gets to guard the shrines? Don’t you think SCIRI would keep to its own hospitals if Sadr still controlled the MoH?
By way of crude analogy, the Nationalist and Communist Chinese forces suspended their civil spat when the Japanese invaded the mainland. They resisted the occupier together for seven years, and then resumed their war with each other when WWII ended. Things were so emotional that another confused state, North Korea, invaded the strange new government creation to its south. We jumped in, and so did China.
I guess that’s just to say that these things can really get out of hand.
That’s what I expect as well until the civil war peters out with their defeat.
COL Lang is completely correct.
1) The US will have little influence on the long term nature of Iraq. It has a proven inability to control events on the ground, and its ability to influence Iraqi politics is nil at this point. This is glaring in the instance of the political theater that passes for government in Baghdad. I find all discussions of “our policy” to be laughable – the time when it mattered has long since past.
2) Petraeus, in my opinion, knowingly accepted the dirty end of the stick, the act of a patriot. A narrow perception would be that he is most qualified to execute the COIN strategy. A broader perception is that he represents a change of leadership with the integrity and authority to be able to say that strategy will not work absent a political accommodation that appears to be impossible. In my mind the only real question about Petraeus is how and when he will announce this fact.
3) It is good not to care about who wins the contest for power in Iraq, because we will have little influence. It would be remarkable indeed if retain any political or economic influence in the Arab parts of Iraq; our occupation is almost universally perceived as a neo-imperialist power grab.
4) All talk of a long term presence fails to mention the cost. There is an implicit presumption that some general accommodation can be found so that our military presence is perceived by Iraqis as being positive. I think it far more likely that any long term presence would be accompanied by attacks by factions that perceive us as favoring their opponents. The result would be a level of violence towards Americans that would be reduced only in so far as the number of targets were reduced. The potential benefit of a skeletonized presence seems quite limited – a limited number of personnel and resources would be given the job of trying to undo decades of ill will.