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Sunday, April 17, 2005

The latest from Iraq is pretty bad 

In this Independent article 150 hostages and 19 deaths leave US claims of Iraqi 'peace' in tatters, Patrick Cockburn reporting from Mosul provides a survey of recent Iraq news (pretty bad) and provides a convenient capsule summary of the situation in Iraq now:
Despite the elections on 30 January, the US problem in Iraq remains unchanged. It has not been defeated by the Sunni Arab guerrillas but it has not defeated them either. The US army and Iraqi armed forces control islands of territory while much of Iraq is a dangerous no-man's land.
After overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003 the US tried direct rule, dissolving the Iraqi army and state. This provoked the Sunni rebellion. By early 2004 there was a danger that part of the Shia community would also rise up. Elections were promised. The victors at the polls in January were Shia parties, mostly militantly Islamic and often sympathetic to Iran. Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, visited Baghdad this week to stop Shia radicals taking over the Interior and Defence Ministries.
Iraq is now more sectarian. Sunnis boycotted the elections. The Kurds and Shias triumphed. The interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, despite heavy US support, got only 14 per cent. If the Shia hostages taken on Friday are executed or Shias are forced to flee, then we are closer to a sectarian civil war.
The Sunni insurgency is not going to go away. US generals say there are only 12,000 to 20,000 guerrillas. But the real lesson of the past two years is that, though many of the groups in the resistance are fanatical or semi-criminal, they will still be sheltered by the Sunni community.
If the new Iraqi government succeeds in establishing itself it will be a largely Shia state with no more interest than the Sunnis in retaining a US presence. Iraqis say they sense that the US wants Iraq to be a weak state, and this they are bound to oppose.

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