Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trouble in Iraq

Four different accounts portraying an extremely difficult situation that our "commander-in-chief" doesn't want to address with any sense of realism. No one does.

Ramadi (UPI)
WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) -- The Iraq city of Ramadi -- capital of Anbar province -- is one of several under terrorist and insurgent control, according to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

"I believe that parts of Anbar are under the control of terrorists and insurgents," Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on CNN Tuesday. "But as far as the country as a whole is concerned, it is the coalition forces, along with Iraqi forces, who are in control. But it's a difficult security situation that Iraq is going through."

Ramadi is the single most dangerous place for U.S. troops to serve, according to military officials in Iraq.

But Joint Staff Deputy Director for Regional Operations Brig. Gen. Carter Ham said Tuesday pacifying Ramadi is the job of the Iraqis, despite the U.S.-led operations in Fallujah and Tall Afar to oust entrenched insurgents there.
Spreading sectarian war (Los Angeles Times)
Violence and Iranian influence in Iraq "will shake the base of society and drive Saudi Arabia to enter the war, with the United States or without," said Abdullah Askar, a columnist and political science professor at King Saud University. "There is a misconception that we have a solid social base. We don't. There are deep roots and viruses just waiting for the time to erupt and rise up."

Among hard-liners, there is talk of organizing and funding Sunni militias in Iraq to fight powerful Shiite paramilitary groups and alleged death squads. Aside from helping to protect Sunnis, Saudi-backed gunmen could give the kingdom a foothold from which to fight Iranian influence.

"The option is for us to start arming and creating Sunni militias," said a Saudi official who asked not to be named. "If things got out of hand, we absolutely would."
Death squads are not just for Shiites any more (New York Times)
But the 16th Brigade was different. Unlike the others, the 16th Brigade was a Sunni outfit, accused of killing Shiites. And it was not, like the others, part of the Iraqi police or even the Interior Ministry. It was run by another Iraqi ministry altogether.

Such is the country that the new Iraqi leaders who took office Saturday are inheriting. The headlong, American-backed effort to arm tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and officers, coupled with a failure to curb a nearly equal number of militia gunmen, has created a galaxy of armed groups, each with its own loyalty and agenda, which are accelerating the country's slide into chaos.

Indeed, the 16th Brigade stands as a model for how freelance government violence has spread far beyond the ranks of the Shiite-backed police force and Interior Ministry to encompass other government ministries, private militias and people in the upper levels of the Shiite government.

Sometimes, the lines between one government force and another — and between the police and the militias — are so blurry that it is impossible to determine who the killers are.

"No one knows who is who right now," said Adil Abdul Mahdi, one of Iraq's vice presidents.
Basic human needs (San Francisco Chronicle)
Baghdad -- "Leaving aside security," Kassim the carpet salesman asked rhetorically, "when you come home, what do you need?" He ticked off the answers on the fingers on his right hand: "Electricity. Water. Food."

"Getting any of this in Baghdad is a problem," he said.

The Iraqi Shiite's elegant, two-story house in the busy central Baghdad district of Karrada gets power four hours a day -- "one hour on, six hours off," said Kassim, a divorced father of three.

Running water is available for one hour, between 1 and 2 in the morning. Kassim pours the water into giant plastic jugs he stores in his bathroom, kitchen and on the rooftop.

"It's a good thing that I go to bed late," he said.
This is no collection of stories from recent weeks -- or days -- that I have saved for this post. These were all published today.

Iraq is not even close to "standing up" as its own sovereign country. Don't tell that to the infallible commander-in-chief nor the anti-war left. We'll both keep barking at each other and pointing to half-measures.

Either Iraq is the central front of the war on terror, or it is not. When you read about Ramadi, you would be inclined to think it is -- though Afghanistan shows signs of a rekindled insurgency, while we've been at the new central front. That rekindled war is another miserable failure on the shoulders of this president.

President Bush is tracking toward another failure, and remains in his ridiculously optimistic bubble. In his mind, the battle is between suicide bombers on CNN and U.S. troops training Iraqis. He neglects the sizeable and resilient nationalistic insurgency. He ignores -- to an extent -- the machinations of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He stands by ineffective and corrupt Iraqi leaders.

The opposition party seems to be willing to let the president stumble along without much rebuke, because they think they have a House or two in their reach this fall.

Iraq is in serious trouble. It may or may not be salvageable. Remarkably, astonishingly, the debate has yet to evolve in America beyond simple platitiudes.


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