Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sectarian Strife In Iraq: The MinuteMan Points Us to a Depressing New York Times Story

Tom Maguire writes:

JustOneMinute: Sectarian Strife In Iraq: The NY Times has a discouraging Sunday "Must read" about the handoff of security to the Iraqi Army in the Diyala Province to the north and east of Baghdad. Briefly, the Shi'ite led politicians in Baghdad are encouraging the Shi'ite led Army in Diyala to side with the Shi'ite militias and purge the Sunnis. The Times has lots of on-the-record quotes from US officers to make their point. Some snippets:

Diyala is known as "little Iraq," because of its volatile mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. With its lush groves of date palms and abundant oil reserves, it is emerging as a crucial strategic territory in the sectarian struggle now gripping the country.... Diyala is now teeming with Shiite militiamen who have rushed in from Baghdad in recent months to protect the Shiite population from attacks. Once considered by American officials to be relatively pacified, it has become a cauldron of violence... the experiences of American commanders over the past year in Diyala provide a window on the possible consequences of ceding authority to the Iraqi Army. And with the civilian homicide rate in Diyala now running at about 10 killings a day, according to United States officials, compared with 4 a day in April, the commanders' experiences form a cautionary tale.

In July, the United States turned over "lead responsibility" for security in Diyala to the Iraqi Fifth Army Division... General Shakir. The Iraqi general denies treating Sunnis unfairly and says he has no knowledge of death squads in Diyala.... General Mixon said: "He's either failing to supervise closely enough to know what's going on, or he's directly involved in it. One or the other. There can't be any in between."

[...]

The sectarian violence that exploded in Baghdad, after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, has spread like a contagion to other regions. Shiite death squads in Baghdad have forced many Sunnis to flee to Baquba, 35 miles to the north, where some have joined the insurgency and have begun attacking Shiites. "The Sunni have driven the Shia out of Baquba," said Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher, commander of the 1-68 Combined Arms Battalion, which left Baquba in early November after a yearlong deployment. "They have come from Baghdad, driven out by Shiites there." Many Shiites are completing the circle, he said, fleeing to Baghdad or farther south.

Sunnis in Baquba now slaughter Shiites simply to avenge the killings of Sunnis in Baghdad, said Baquba's mayor, Khalid al-Sinjari, a Sunni.... But now the Shiites also kill in Baquba. The Mahdi Army, a militia allied with the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, has 6,000 to 8,000 members in Diyala.... The growing militia presence combined with the sectarian turn by Iraqi commanders will increasingly leave the Sunnis with only one source of protection, Colonel Jones said: terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Ansar al-Sunna.

"We are really painting them into a box here," he said.... It's the innocents, it's these farmers out here, it's these kids who pay the price. But these interests are colliding and they don't care about that. Power is what they're going after, consolidated and uncontested political power."

"I think the sectarian war is coming this way," he added.

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