Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

“The Forgotten War”

Posted in Iraq by Dan on June 29, 2009

U.S. Soldiers patrolling in Samarra, Iraq

**Update:  I am now on twitter.  Feel free to follow me: http://www.twitter.com/mideastblogger

Iran’s election demonstrations continue on the streets of Tehran.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his Guardian Council reject the requests of Prime Minister Mousavi for a vote recount.  President Obama sends the first American ambassador to Syria since 2005.  Israel defies Washington by constructing new settlements in the occupied West Bank.  The Palestinian power struggle between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas reaches a violent scale.  Pakistani security forces crack down on Taliban fighters in its Western Frontier.

Is there a story missing from these recent news headlines?  This list seems to capture all of the important political and security developments within the Middle East: at least those worthwhile to U.S. interests and the world at large.  On the surface, it appears that the major media outlooks are doing quite a superb job covering all of the unprecedented events that define global affairs in the 21st century.  The fact that the Iranian opposition to Tehran’s clerical regime continues to take the lead in today’s newspapers is an example of how talented reporters have been in informing the general public (regardless of where they reside in the world).  Right?

Wrong.  There is in fact one noteworthy story that is vigorously being brushed aside by all sectors of the American establishment.  Remember the war in Iraq…that mid-sized Arab country that was invaded by American and British forces in 2003?  Does everyone recall the treacherous and bloody period of 2006-2007, when American troops were consistently being bombarded and ambushed by Sunni insurgents and Shia Militias throughout the country?  If not, surely one has a good memory of the Iraqi conflict when the name David Petreaus comes up.  After all, he was the man responsible for re-evaluating the U.S. mission and turning Iraq around from sectarian killings, assassinations, and suicide bombings.    In fact, it can be argued that General Petreaus weakened and destroyed an Iraqi civil war that would have continued to wreak havoc on the nation’s citizens, infrastructure, and governance.

Now, in the year 2009, everything is quiet on the streets of Baghdad.  The influential Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, is enforcing the truce between his forces and the Sunni population.  Al’Qaeda in Iraq is virtually destroyed, thanks to the large-scale cooperation between American troops and Iraqi security forces.  Sunni tribes and the Iraqi population are turning their trust away from insurgent organizations, instead pledging their loyalty to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his coalition government.  Finally, a political reconciliation that was formerly nonexistent between Iraq’s three predominate ethnic groups (the Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds) is turning the corner for a hopeful future.

If all of these statements sound bleak, you are right on the money.  Of course, I cannot blame anyone who firmly believes that these optimistic goals are being achieved in Iraq.  The neglect by the American news media, as well as the diversion of resources to more “pressing problems” by the Obama administration will certainly give some Americans premature conclusions on the Iraq issue.  Unfortunately, the past few days in Baghdad should help all of us discover the reality on the ground:  bombings, killings, and the Iraqi insurgency are all festering throughout Iraq’s major cities.

Compiled below is a list of attacks that have been reported by both the U.S. Military and the Iraqi Security Forces in the last three days.  As might be expected, the casualty numbers are all preliminary:

1)       A truck explodes near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, killing 75 and wounding 250 in the worst terrorist attack of this year.  Iraqi Security Forces say the attack was endorsed and carried-out by Al’Qaeda militants.

2)       A minibus explodes in Baghdad’s outskirts, killing 3 students and wounding 13.

3)      A bomb planted under a car near Baghdad’s Green-Zone kills 5 and wounds 13.

4)      A roadside bomb in Baghdad kills 3, while wounding 25.

5)      A motorcycle packed with explosives explodes in a Baghdad Shia neighborhood, killing 5 and wounding 22.

6)      A suicide car-bomber in a Sunni District west of Baghdad kills 7 civilians.

7)      North of the capital, a roadside bomb kills 3 Iraqi soldiers.

8)      Gunmen kill 7 civilians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

9)      A bombing at a bus station in a southwest Baghdad Shia neighborhood kills 7

10)  The USA Today reports that 9 U.S. soldiers were wounded in two roadside bomb attacks east of Baghdad.

**Approximately 250 people have been killed this past week in Iraq

Keep in mind that this list, while redundant, demonstrates how volatile and insecure the security situation is throughout Baghdad and Iraq’s surrounding provinces.  At least 250 people have been killed in the last week, days before the U.S. Military plans to withdraw most of its soldiers from Iraq’s cities by the agreed-upon June 30, 2009 deadline.  Although I understand that both the White House and the Defense Department wish to abide by this time-table, commonly referred to as the Status of Forces Agreement, these recent attacks should give the administration cause for concern.

There is no denying the fact that violence in Iraq has decreased significantly over the past year, thanks to General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine.  However, the attacks listed above prove that remnants of Al’Qaeda remain embedded in Northern Iraq.  When combining this assertion with the potential resurgence of small-scale insurgent groups, a “civil war, part II” is all the more realistic.  One can only question whether a significant U.S. troop withdrawal in the coming days will spell the end of Iraq’s moderately stable environment.

There was always discussion within policymaking circles that the Status of Forces negotiation between Washington and Prime Minister Maliki was rushed.  Now, with Iraqi bloodshed rising to the levels of 2006 and 2007, and with an American drawdown imminent, it appears that this consideration is finally coming to fruition.  Unfortunately, you would not know it by reading today’s articles.

-Daniel R. DePetris

-Information from:

-Patrick Quinn of the Associated Press

– Kim Gamel of the Associated Press

-Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor

-The USA Today


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