Victory in Baghdad

Pic: Iraqi Ministry of the Interior commando stands side-by-side with a member of the Mahdi Army.


Just not exactly how we planned it.

“I don’t think this place is worth another American soldier’s life.” – Washington Post, 27 Oct. Despite the decrease in violence, the cleansing of the Sunnis of Sadiyah has been completed and not reversed, and the area is dead. The victory of the Shi’i in Baghdad, in other words.

“When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street,” Alarcon said this week. “The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks.”

American soldiers estimate that since violence intensified this year, half of the families in Sadiyah have fled, leaving approximately 100,000 people. After they left, insurgents and militiamen used their abandoned homes to hold meetings and store weapons. The neighborhood deteriorated so quickly that many residents came to believe neither U.S. nor Iraqi security forces could stop it happening.

The descent of Sadiyah followed a now-familiar pattern in Baghdad. In response to suicide bombings blamed on Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army, went from house to house killing and intimidating Sunni families. In many formerly mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad, such as al-Amil and Bayaa, Shiites have become the dominant sect, with their militias the most powerful force.

“It’s just a slow, somewhat government-supported sectarian cleansing,” said Maj. Eric Timmerman, the battalion’s operations officer.


Over time, the neighborhood became a battleground that residents fled by the thousands. Hundreds of shops shut down, schools closed, and access to basic services such as electricity, fuel and food deteriorated. “The end state was people left. They felt unsafe,” said Timmerman, the operations officer.

“We were so committed to them as a partner we couldn’t see it for what it was. In retrospect, I’ve got to think it was a coordinated effort,” Timmerman said. “To this day, I don’t think we truly understand how infiltrated or complicit the national police are” with the militias.

The Iraqi army’s arrival and the emergence of the Sunni volunteers have coincided with some positive signs, the soldiers said. Some of the shops along the once-busy commercial district of Tijari Street now open for a few hours a day. The number of violent incidents has dropped, although it rose again over the past two weeks, officers said.

“This is a dangerous place,” said Capt. Lee Showman, 28, a senior officer in the battalion. “People are killed here every day, and you don’t hear about it. People are kidnapped here every day, and you don’t hear about it.”


Red on red

AQI suicide bomber attacks 1920 Revolution Brigades HQ in Muqdadiyah, north of Baghdad.

Islamic Army in Iraq battles AQI in Salahuddin Province, 16 killed.

If anything will eventually end the Sunni insurgency, this is it.

One wonders, however, if there will really be anything left of Iraq once it’s over. We have already seen massive social change since 2003, equivalent to one or more “revolutions” from the old Iraq:

  • Rise of the Shi’i religious parties in the south and center – SCIRI/ISCI/SIIC, the Sadrist Current, regional parties like Fadhila in Basra
  • Fall of the old Ba’athist order and fragmentation in the Sunni areas
  • Sectarian cleansing of Baghdad and the flight of the middle class
  • Kurdish near-independence

However things end for the United States, these broad social changes will continue to play out to unknown ends in Iraq for years to come.

A check of my fearless predictions from May shows that my all-seeing eye wasn’t too cockeyed. Fadhila is still holding on by its fingernails in Basra, though.



On the left: John Cole of Balloon Juice

On the right: Assorted rightwing warbloggers

My new toy

Pic: You put 725 5.56mm rpm downrange on cyclic and see how you smell …


Got her this past weekend. She’s a heavy, dirty bitch, but she’ll do.

O Canada

Your young men do you proud in Afghanistan.

Via Afghanistanica.

Islamofascism runs rampant

Pic: “Hamas-trained” Islamofascists on the attack. Note “mean-girl” face and terrorist hand signals.


This horrific Islamofascist assault at Wellesley is too atrocious/hilarious to ignore. Thank you, Jim Henley.

Even Blackfive knuckles under.

Andrew Sullivan, 23 Oct:

We never hear about Islamism from the Kurds, do we?

Ummm … Kurdistan Islamic Union … Ansar al-Islam

As for the PKK guerrillas that Sullivan enthuses over, I wonder if he’s aware of just how many suicide bombings they’re guilty of. Or if he knows who Jalal Talabani’s political role model is.

Not that I am unsympathetic to the Kurds, or to Kurdish nationalism. But Sullivan and those like him often over-romanticize foreigners whose interests, for a time, come into congruence with their own wished-for policies. It’s not enough that the Kurds like the Americans for bringing down Saddam – now they’re fighting for women’s liberation, as well!

The “noble savage”, updated for the 21st century, with a touch of Gunga Din.