Urban fighting amid the ruins
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 28 January 2007
".....But the failings of this strategy become more obvious the further one gets from Washington and the closer to Baghdad. The insurgents and militiamen, both Sunni and Shia, usually have more credibility in their districts than Iraqi government forces. As for the heavily Shia police commandos, they are seen by Sunni in Baghdad as licensed death squads.
A foretaste of what the "surge" of US and Iraqi soldiers will mean came last week, as they fought their way into the tough Sunni insurgent-controlled Haifa Street neighbourhood, only a mile from the Green Zone. Iraqi soldiers happily let US forces take the lead, and a US long-range missile demolished a house from which snipers were allegedly firing. The readiness of the Americans to use such heavy weapons in densely-populated urban areas ensures that many civilians have been, and will be, killed and wounded.
The Iraqi government forces are either highly sectarian or will not fight. The insurgents and militias are strong because they provide the security the government does not, and Baghdad has already broken up into several dozen hostile townships, each defended by its own militia. There are fewer and fewer mixed districts; Shia caught in Sunni areas are killed, and vice versa. Strangers are viewed with suspicion, and there are signs everywhere, saying "Death to Spies".
The American troops may be seen as temporary allies by either side, but are also blamed for the lethal anarchy. Some 61 per cent of Iraqis, a majority of both Sunni and Shia, approve of armed attacks on US forces......."