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February 5, 2007
Surge Delay Is Deadly: Iraq

Both Shi'ite and Sunni Iraqi leaders want the US to accelerate the deployment for the new surge strategy in Baghdad. Shi'ites blame the US for not filling the power vacuum quickly enough after the Mahdi Army started to flee the capital, leaving them exposed for the Sunni bombing that killed 135 people this weekend. The Sunnis want the US in place to keep the situation from deteriorating even further:

A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that slowness in completing the vaunted new American security plan has made Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

The chorus of critics said the new plan, which the Americans have barely started to execute, has emasculated the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that is considered responsible for many attacks on Sunnis, but which many Shiites say had been the only effective deterrent against sectarian reprisal attacks in Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods. Even some Iraqi supporters of the plan, such as Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister who is a Kurd, said delays in implementing it have caused great disappointment.

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders are either in hiding or under arrest. With no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market in central Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb.

“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said Sunday. “But so far security has only deteriorated.”

That's not much of an argument, but it does point out the effectiveness of the Mahdi Army in terrorizing the Sunni population in Baghdad. Had the Mahdis wanted to play a constructive role in Iraqi security, they could have allowed Iraqi Army units to take over their positions, along with the American troops already in Baghdad. However, their attacks on both forces over the last year meant that they knew they would be targets themselves, which is one of the reasons they had to flee when the new strategy was announced.

Sunnis, meanwhile, want a dominating outside force to hit the ground in Baghdad to force an end to the war that has broken out between the factions:

Iraq's Sunni vice-president has urged Washington to speed up the deployment of extra US troops to stop what he called "round the clock" killing.

Tariq Hashimi told the BBC that previous security drives had failed because they had too few combat troops. ...

Mr Hashimi, Iraq's most senior Sunni politician, said if promised troops did not materialise soon, the situation could deteriorate even further.

He was also scathing about the Iraqi government's own response to the violence, saying it was slow and unprofessional, while he blamed the increase in attacks on Iran, arguing that the recent bombings were so large a government had to be involved.

Both sides of the sectarian divide now believe that the surge strategy not only can work, but is the only one that has a chance of ending the sectarian violence wracking the capital. However, thanks to an extended Senate debate, the movement of those troops may yet be in jeopardy. While the Bush administration has pledged to move forward even in the face of a no-confidence resolution, Congress may yet suspend the funds necessary to carry it out.

These reports demonstrate why the Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, did not create Congress as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, especially during wartime. With the Mahdi Army disappearing from view, the time is ripe to drop an overwhelming force of American and Iraqi forces (especially the latter) into Baghdad to start clearing and holding territory and establishing some trust in the rule of law. The delay only makes that latter task more difficult as it encourages second-tier groups to fill the void left by the Mahdi retreat and the Coalition delay.

Hesitation causes the worst problems in wartime. Once a strategy has been announced, one's enemies will start adjusting immediately to it, which is one reason why announcing intentions is not a good idea in the first place. However, the political situation here in the US dictated that the Bush administration go public with its plans. Congress needs to get out of the way so that we can implement that strategy before it's too late for it to have any chance of success. Even both sides of the sectarian divide in Iraq see that much.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 5, 2007 5:30 AM

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I'm too tired to do 'em justice. Just read 'em. “He Hugged Him and the Explosives Tore Apart Both Bodies” Surge Soon Please Surging On Surge Delay Is Deadly: Iraq [Read More]

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» Quick Nibbles-- 2007.02.05
(Frequently updated, occasionally bumped)
from Bill's Bites
I'm too tired to do 'em justice. Just read 'em. “He Hugged Him and the Explosives Tore Apart Both Bodies” Surge Soon Please Surging On Surge Delay Is Deadly: Iraq [Read More]

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