Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Iraq in the News

Lot's of stories about Iraq in today's newspapers. This article in the Washington Post weighs the effects of the surge in Baghdad and finds positive results to be " tenuous, temporary, even illusory." A passage:

Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts...Some shopkeepers said they would not do business in the market without U.S. support. "The Americans are giving money, so they're opening up stores," said Falah Hassan Fadhil, 27, who sells cosmetics.

Security measures in the market are rigorous. Vehicles are not allowed inside for fear of car bombs. Customers are body-searched at checkpoints. Humvees constantly patrol the area, which is the sole focus of the 50 or so soldiers of Combat Outpost Gator.

But the Dora market has not regained its former cachet as one of southeastern Baghdad's most vibrant commercial centers. Before the invasion, many of its stores stayed open past midnight. Today, they are open for just a few hours, and by noon the market is mostly deserted. The shopkeepers, who are mostly Sunni, said they rarely see customers from outside Dora because it is too dangerous to travel here.

Fifty soldiers to secure one market, which is only open a few hours a day, and this is cited as a successful result in Baghdad.

And LA Times story takes a look at the "big picture" in Iraq, finding that despite improvements in security, sectarian divisions continue to rupture and reconciliation between the various factions is proving impossible to obtain:

Despite the plan, which has brought an additional 28,500 U.S. troops to Iraq since February, none of the major legislation that Washington had expected the Iraqi parliament to pass into law has been approved.

The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has increased, not decreased, according to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration and Iraq's Ministry for Displacement and Migration.

At best, analysts, military officers and ordinary Iraqis portray the country as in a holding pattern, dependent on U.S. troops to keep the lid on violence.

"The military offensive has temporarily suppressed, or in many cases dislocated, armed groups," said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. "Once the military surge peters out, which it will if there is no progress on the political front, these groups will pop right back up and start going at each other's, and civilians', throats again."

Looking at the bright side, fighting will eventually die down in Baghdad...once it's purged of most of the Sunnis, a process that continues largely unabated, as this MSNBC article repots.

Another story in the Post reports on the at-best questionable allegience of Shiite Iraqi police trainees, and yet another story reports on the willingness of former Sunni insurgents to sign up to serve as police even though they don't trust the government they will be working for. The Nation cites to a secret report prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, declaring that "corruption is the norm" in Iraqi politics. But not all the corruption is on the Iraqi side.

Iraqi Shiite groups contend violently with each other for power in southern Iraq.

In the meantime, Iraqi civilian casualties are up (despite the claims of the Pentagon) as American troop casualties are down. Due to failing water supplies, cholera has broken out in northern Iraq. Juan Cole explains in painstaking detail why things really aren't all that great in Anbar province. Nir Rosen says that Iraq is now no longer anything but a "collection of city-states."

By some accounts, the phenomenon of child soldiers has come to Iraq.

Lastly, Bush flew into Iraq this weekend, pausing on a trip to Australia long enough to declare some success in Iraq and state his opposition yet again to any troop drawdown before there is stability in Iraq. The dispute over the disbanding of the Iraqi Army in 2003 continues to flare, with Bush claiming not to know exactly how it came about, and Bremer firing back, claiming that the White House was in on the decision all along.

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