Saturday, May 19, 2007

The bad news from Basra

Saturday May 19, 2007
The Guardian

"......But examine the plan and it begins to unravel, as all the other security plans have. Sunni insurgents are showing a remarkable ability to regroup. Forced out of Baghdad temporarily, 50 of them attacked a US base in Baquba yesterday. There is a major manhunt going on for three US soldiers seized in an ambush a week ago. Anyone who argues that the surge is quelling the insurgency, rather than merely displacing it, will have difficulty sustaining the thesis. Power has become so dispersed that it makes little sense talking about one insurgency, or indeed one civil war. As Gareth Stansfield argues in a Chatham House paper this week, there are Shias fighting against Sunnis for control of Baghdad; there are Kurds struggling against Arabs in Kirkuk and possibly also Mosul; there are Sunnis fighting US soldiers in the centre and the north; there are Sadrist Shias fighting the US and British in the south; Sunni tribal forces are fighting Sunni Islamists of al-Qaida; Shia militia groups are fighting each other in the south, as we report today; and there is also rampant criminality everywhere.

There is no shortage of deeply gloomy scenarios for a country that is in the process of disintegrating. If serious fighting breaks out this year between the Kurds and Arabs in Kirkuk, the world will see just how much further Iraq can fall. Few doubt that there will be a pull-out of coalition forces. The only debate is how quickly and under what conditions. Some insiders argue that it is better to get the pain over with now, and hand over to the Iraqi army and police force immediately, others that a central government with an army and police force is a myth on which it is dangerous to rely, and that local forces should be put in charge of local law enforcement. Whoever is right, it is surely time that our leaders started recognising the reality of life in Iraq and stopped indulging in daydreams."

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