5: Civil War
The bombing of the Samarrah Mosque and the retaliatory actions that followed were not the starting point for the gloomy situation in Iraq. They were triggered by an occupation and circumstances that had gradually built up. According to the Iraqi government, 12,230 people were killed in Iraq in 2006, half of them in the last four months of the year. The numbers are probably too low. UN figures are far higher, but the government’s figures still give a gruesome indication of the reality in Iraq.
The motive for revenge has always been strong in Iraq, and for every murder, for every car bomb, the country is drawn deeper and deeper into the spiral of violence . Religious and ethnic identities are being strengthened, and people are moving or being driven away from areas where Sunnis and Shiites used to live side by side. Iraq is now in a civil war where the various groups are fighting for power in the country. The actors are many and the situation is complex.
So far, there has been an Arab settlement that has followed the Sunni divisions, while the Kurds have stayed out. The US forces play a dual role in which they are both attacked by the various groups, while at the same time supporting the government and trying to solve the problem with the independent / ungovernable militias, especially Moqtada al Sadr’s Mehdi army.
The open question is how serious the situation will develop in the long term. An important factor in this respect is whether the average Iraqi perceives this as a people’s war, ie that they are all involved and associate with the armed parties. It is clear that more and more people are being drawn into the conflict and that it is more difficult to stay out. Identity has become a matter of life or death that characterizes and in some places dominates everyday life. There are also not many bright spots to tackle. The central government is weak, and when it shows action, as when it insisted that Saddam Hussein should be executed, tensions in the country intensify. It showed, at least to the Sunni Arabs, that it was acting on sectarian principles, and the controversial television images from the execution made matters worse.
What was supposed to be a historic court settlement against a tyrant, in the end, seemed more like a vulgar revenge settlement. Due to the extremely difficult situation, it is inadvisable to form an accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. It may therefore be worth noting that it is also claimed that most people still manage to distance themselves from sectarian violence by blaming radical groups and criminals and that there are large regional differences, with the capital Baghdad at its worst.
According to justinshoes, the Kurdish areas have managed to stay away from the chaos and have been allowed to develop in peace. The question, however, is whether any central government in Baghdad will be able to allow them to incorporate the oil-rich Kirkuk areas into their regions as the Kurdish parties prepare. The Kurds were informed that the Kirkuk issue will be addressed in a local referendum in 2007.
6: New American Strategy
Throughout the autumn of 2006, it also became clear to the American leadership that a new strategy was required. President George W. Bush’s Republican Party suffered a defeat in the congressional election due in large part to the chaotic situation in Iraq. More than 3,000 US troops have so far lost their lives in Iraq.
Following the election defeat, Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld was ousted and a commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker published his work. Among other things, the commission recommends closer cooperation with Iraq’s neighbors (including Syria and Iran – previously mentioned by Bush as part of the “axis of evil”) and a gradual US withdrawal. However, it does not appear that President Bush will follow this advice.
The leaks from the announced change in strategy indicate that the United States would rather send more soldiers to Iraq (over 20,000) in a final attempt to win the war. In that case, the president opposes a widespread perception among his own generals that the Iraqi government must be held accountable by bearing more of Iraq’s security. Otherwise, the difficulties will only be postponed. The problem for the US government, but first and foremost for the Iraqi people, is that it is not a matter of looking for good solutions, but of finding the least bad ones.