Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Drifting toward chaos in Iraq

Michael Gordon has the most important story of the week, perhaps month, in the New York Times:
The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace,” an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos.” As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide reads “urban areas experiencing ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaigns to consolidate control” and “violence at all-time high, spreading geographically.” According to a Central Command official, the index on civil strife has been a staple of internal command briefings for most of this year. The analysis was prepared by the command’s intelligence directorate, which is overseen by Brig. Gen. John M. Custer.
The slide is based on the amount of "hostile rhetoric", frequency of assassinations or sectarian attacks and “spontaneous mass civil conflict". Militia activity, police efficacy and Iraqi governance are also gauged in this slide.

Gordon concludes the story with:
The chart does note some positive developments. Specifically, it notes that “hostile rhetoric” by political and religious leaders has not increased. It also notes that Iraqi security forces are refusing less often than in the past to take orders from the central government and that there has been a drop-off in mass desertions.

Still, for a military culture that thrives on PowerPoint briefings, the shifting index was seen by some officials as a stark warning about the difficult course of events in Iraq, and mirrored growing concern by some military officers.
A week ago, TIME Magazine reported on documents that show ethnic cleansing in Iraq:
Sadr's militia, the document suggests, are systematically driving Sunni families from their homes around Washash, which some U.S. troops who patrol there have taken to calling Little Sadr City. Among the papers found in the raid is a list of 65 houses around Washash where Shi'ite families have replaced Sunni families. On other pages were drafts of threat letters clearly intended for delivery to Sunni homes. And there was a roster of "virtuous families" in the Washash area with house numbers written next to their names, so the militia relocation agents could keep track of people deemed fit to stay.

"They're very well organized," said Capt. Johnny Sutton, whose troops head up U.S. patrols in Washash.
Insurgent and terrorist attacks have repeatedly targeted Sadr's powerbase in Baghdad. There were dozens killed in a market attack earlier this week. Sadr's followers, whether acting on their own, have been responsible for a number of sectarian killings. The tit-for-tat violence is likely to continue, perhaps even escalate.


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