October 12, 2007

The Shi'ite Turn

One of the big success stories of the surge came from the disaffection between the Sunnis in western Iraq and the foreign terrorists of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening started as a tribal alliance against AQI and blossomed into a widespread movement to bring the Sunnis stability and engagement with the rest of the nation. Now it looks like the Shi'ites have tired of their sectarian militia headed by the onetime kingmaker, Moqtada al-Sadr:

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites.

The split was entirely predictable. The militias have always run their neighborhoods like Mafioso thugs, extorting money from their own people to maintain their own power. The Shi'ites in these areas put up with it just as long as they saw the Sunni insurgents and AQI terrorists as a larger threat.

The surge changed that calculation. When the US and Iraqi forces started pushing back hard against AQI, the Sunni insurgents changed sides and fought against the foreigners as well. That reduced the pressure on the Shi'ite areas and stripped the Mahdis of their sheen as sectarian defenders. As the Shi'ite residents began to reject the gangster tactics of the Mahdis in greater numbers, the gangsters themselves resorted to typical gangster tactics, increasing in severity, up to murder of their own brethren.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Shi'ites in Iraq have learned this lesson again, and they have given the rational response to it. Their rejection of Sadr's militias will extend to Sadr himself, further isolating him politically and eroding his corrosive power on Iraqi politics. It positions the Shi'ites to finally start reaching out to the Sunnis who have started their own political march to the middle.

It's another example of good news coming out of Iraq. It's such an obvious trend that even the New York Times can't avoid it.


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Comments (14)

Posted by Jim | October 12, 2007 11:56 AM

Ya want to bet the NYT can't ignore it. That's their job. Notice how quiet all the news from Iraq has been lately? Even the networks can't stomach the good news.

Posted by Flash Gordon | October 12, 2007 11:59 AM

Dictionary definition of "Surge:" The popular name for a change in the Iraq war when the Bush administration finally allowed the U.S. Military to fight the war the way wars are supposed to be fought.

Posted by OPeck | October 12, 2007 12:01 PM

Is Sadr in Iraq? He has fled to Iran and come back so many times I can't keep track.

Posted by DubiousD | October 12, 2007 12:08 PM

Another story the American MSM has ignored:

Former IRA Commander Helps Hammer Out the Iraq Road Map to Peace.

Huge strides towards peace in Iraq were made during discussions between Middle Eastern power-brokers over the weekend, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister said today.

Martin McGuinness said four days of Finnish talks involving politicians from Northern Ireland and South Africa were a major stepping stone towards a resolution of conflict in the troubled region.


Organisers said the representatives from Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq agreed on a road map to peace during the secret talks in Finland.

The four-day meeting brought together 16 delegates from the feuding groups to study lessons learned from successful peacemaking efforts in South Africa and Northern Ireland.


The recommendations also included the disarmament of feuding factions and forming an independent commission to supervise the disarming of armed groups "in a verifiable manner".


Among those reportedly at the talks were representatives of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; the leader of the largest Sunni Arab political group, Adnan al-Dulaimi; and Humam Hammoudi, the Shiite chairman of the Iraqi parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Posted by Tom Holsinger | October 12, 2007 12:12 PM


The Shiite militias in Bagdad made the surge possible by ethnically cleansing most Sunni Arab areas where the terrorists had sanctuaries from which they could emerge to massacre Shia.

Sunni Arabs in most urban areas, particularly in Bagdad, are pretty much detribalized and so unable to resist Sunni Arab and Al Qaeda terrorists. Plus in many if not most instances they didn't want to - a lot of the urban Sunni Arab residents supported the terrorists.

So the Shiite militias massacred and otherwise terrified urban Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Bagdad until the Sunnis fled. About half fled the country and the rest went back to their tribes in rural areas.

Make no mistake - Shiite militias in Bagdad, including Mooky's, made victory possible by ethnnically cleansing most Sunni Arab neighborhoods there. And that was true self-defense - it was THE ONLY effective way for the Shiites to protect themselves against terrorists in Bagdad, because we weren't about to ethnically cleanse the Sunni neighborhoods ourselves.

Posted by Daniel | October 12, 2007 12:13 PM

There is an important reason for this kind of behavior on the part of Shiites and Sunnis alike, that never seems to get mentioned.
It is war weariness, and it is the natural force that historically has led to the end of most wars.
The left in this country has tried to produce war weariness here, but the war has had little effect on life in America, and the people directly involved, in the armed forces and in families of such, there has been very little of it.
Our main contact with it have been news reports which most of us have learned to ignore.
Iraqis now have experienced life under thuggery and the constant danger from roadside bombs, hit squads. lack of electricity and lack of opportunities for ordinary life, and have been getting ever more tired of it.
It was war weariness that convinced the Japanese to accept American occupation and actually become pacifist and our friends, when they experienced the horrors for only one year, and those horrors were actually inflicted by us.
The Germans fell suddently from optimism about the war to surrender in 1918 and never felt the war weariness necessary to convert them to pacifism.
Bad times for Germany began in 1943 and by 1945 most German citizens encountered by our forces showed relief that the war was over for them, again despite the fact that the horrors were directly caused by us. They also became converts to pacifism.
The Iraqis have been suffering for at least as long as either Germans or Japanese and they were never (even the murderers of al Qaeda) as fanatical as the Japanese were. This suggests that when given the means to resist the terrorists, they will do so and the current war in Iraq will come to an end with lasting peace, so long as Iraq is protected from external enemies.

Posted by Carol Herman | October 12, 2007 1:04 PM

People in Irak aren't stupid. And, because Saddam didn't allow for the growth of a religious Irak, you can get some of the flavor ... if Iraqis, in general ... from the purple-fingered joy of lots of people going to the polls to vote.

Maliki came in with under 50%. But he cobbled together a government. While the Kurds were the first to climb on board America's train. The sunnis called in terrorists; thinking that would be the way to go. The Saud's, however, FLOPPED.

As to the Kurds, they know their own powers. They're a large enough faction that would give either the sunnis or the shi'a government strength in forming a government. They've spent a lot of time NOT CHOOSING either islamic group.

General Petraeus, understanding insurgencies; and fighting, even with America's hands tied beyond her back; achieved what needed to be achieved ... AFTER he turned Ramadi into a vast parking lot! This sure got the attention of the tribal leaders!

It's a well known fact that arab tribal leaders shake in their tents. And, only come out when they can join a winning team.

The American Bonkey Party did everything it could to throw this race into Maliki's lap.

While General Petraeus just put them in 3rd place. They're still there.

Probably, at the next election, you'll see Maliki about as popular as Chirac, in france.

By the way, Royal didn't capture the win. The french took a right turn. And, elected Sarkozy.

This, too,changes the map. In other words, Maliki can't count on french support now!

Heck, Biden is probably giving Maliki even more indigestion than he's earned, by being such a turkey.

Who wins next time? How the heck should I know? I don't do "futures." I just watch how the board sets up.

Posted by Tom W. | October 12, 2007 2:33 PM

"Dictionary definition of 'Surge:' The popular name for a change in the Iraq war when the Bush administration finally allowed the U.S. Military to fight the war the way wars are supposed to be fought."
This is one interpretation of the events on the ground in Iraq, but it's wrong.

Everything happening in Iraq is part of a continuum. Individual developments can't be separated out.

The surge wouldn't have worked as well if the Sunnis and Sh'ites hadn't started coming on board. The Sunnis and Shi'ites wouldn't have turned against the terrorists and militias if they hadn't experienced their unfettered rule firsthand.

Former Sunni insurgents have told embedded bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael J. Totten that they were going to fight us no matter what. A huge American occupying force--such as the French had in Algeria--would've led to far more casualties on our side, and it would've pushed many more Iraqi fence sitters onto the insurgent side.

Most of what happened in Iraq was inevitable, not the result of screw ups on our side. The "conventional wisdom" is, as usual, wrong.

Posted by dougf | October 12, 2007 3:26 PM

Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

Probably the most important segment in this fine article. These thugs although they are still described as the Mehdi Army are just thugs. And a NYT article actually gives credit to US military strategy as well thought out and effective.

Hallelujah !

Sure they are still dangerous but in a gangster type way. They thrive in a security vacuum where the police are corrupt, cowardly, and ineffective. That is still a BIG problem but it is a problem with a time line attached. Gangsters always lose. It is just a question of when. 'Political' gangs are much much harder to root out.

The object now AFTER the violence settles to a 'background' level is to vigourously rebuild the police by purging the criminals and the 'politicals, so that the police can deal with these 'creepos' at the street level.

Posted by Neo | October 12, 2007 3:51 PM

Pehaps harry Reid was right .. the war is "lost" for those cheering on the insurgents.

Future historians will probably point to the long predicted September "surge" by al Qaeda that never materialized, as the beginning of the end.

Posted by Michael Volpe | October 12, 2007 5:08 PM

What is happening in Iraq is classic divide and conquer strategy. Once we got the Sheiks to flip on AQI and AQI lost power, they started disintegrating into many parts and started fighting amongst themselves. As you pointed out, Ed, then the rest of the militias had less reason for being and thus their own evil was exposed. Here is how I saw it.


Posted by Joseph Kempton | October 12, 2007 7:54 PM

I tend to agree with Daniel who posted at 12:13 PM
and partially with Tom Holsinger at 12:12 PM.

Iraquis may be approaching fatigue.

The Iraquis who may have wanted us out (some say a majority, I'm not so sure about that) were encouraged by bad press generated by apparanet failures and the political rancor leading up to the 2006 election. The election came and went with the result of congressional power changing hands in favor of the anti-war crowed but despite such we still refuse to leave Iraq. We may have prooved to those Iraquis who want us out that they will not be able to get us out thru violence. Their only recourse is to help establish stability.

Posted by fouse, gary c | October 12, 2007 11:42 PM

Jimmy Carter Trashes His Country on CNN

Nothing that Jimmy Carter says can surprise me anymore, but his comments on this week's CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer are deserving of the widest dissemination to Americans. Blitzer asked Carter if he thought America was practicing torture (on terrorist prisoners). Carter's response was that he didn't think we were using torture, he knew it.

Think about that statement for a moment. Who is it exactly that is carrying out this torture? Our military? The CIA? In making this charge, Carter is attacking one or both of these institutions. Now, I know that our military is respected by the overwhelming majority of the public in America, while the CIA is often under attack. But both of these entities are putting their lives on the line to conduct the war on terror on our behalf. Most likely, Carter is only trying to attack President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and the whole administration, but he also attacks the military and the CIA with his statements.

At this point, we should admit that there is disagreement on what constitutes actual torture. For example, are we practicing torture by sleep deprivation, harsh interrogation techniques, psychological measures, waterboarding, subjecting prisoners to cold weather or loud music? If so, we may be guilty- I don't know. Is yelling at someone torture? To me, beating prisoners or subjecting them to excruciating pain is certainly torture, but I have no information that we are doing those things. I am not prepared to make those charges, but apparently former President Carter is.

What is worse is that when Carter makes these statements about our country, this is being spread to audiences around the world and especially among our adversaries in the Middle East. It gives our enemies justification for their inhuman treatment of our soldiers when taken prisoner. In these cases, our soldiers are routinely beaten, tortured, slaughtered and /or beheaded, atrocities they carry out no matter how humanely we treat our prisoners.

Jimmy Carter has walked right up to the line of betraying his own country, which is magnified a hundred times over by nature of the fact that he is a former president.

It was disappointing but not surprising that Wolf Blitzer did not challenge Carter on his charges. All Blitzer had to do was ask Carter for specific instances when Americans had engaged in torture. He did not do that.

In addition, Carter had the unmitigated gall to critique Bush on his handling of Iran and warn the administration against any military action against that rogue nation. Talk about Chutzpah. Maybe Carter thinks that so many years have passed that he is the only living survivor from the time when Iran took our diplomats hostage, held them for a year and a half and completely humiliated our nation in the process. This is a former president who helped grease the skids for the Shah, bring in the Ayatollah Khomeini and witness the birth of a radical Islamic regime that now threatens the whole region and is now developing nuclear weapons. And he deigns to give Bush advice on how to handle Iran?

In addition to Iran, Carter's entire administration was marked by total incompetence-to the extent that even Democrats describe his 4-year term as " a failed presidency". I have yet to hear any Democrat figure describe Jimmy Carter as even a "good" president. Yet, here he is running around the world criticizing Bush and his own country to foreign audiences.

Carter certainly has the constitutional right to speak his mind even though he is breaking a long-standing protocol against former presidents criticizing their successors. If Carter had been a more successful president, his words might have more resonance. As it is, he makes himself a laughing stock and a hypocrite. Worse yet, while our military is making great sacrifices to fight the war against a murderous and barbaric enemy to protect us, he stabs them in the back.

Jimmy Carter is beyond contempt.

gary fouse

Posted by William | October 13, 2007 12:20 AM

Today, former commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez said:

"There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders. America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve 'victory' in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism."

He called the president's troop-escalation "surge" strategy a "desperate attempt by an administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war."

He also also assailed government officials of being guilty of a "lust for power" and that they would have "faced court martials for dereliction of duty had they been in the military."

"There is no question America is living a nightmare with no end in sight," he said.

Sanchez commanded the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq from June 2003 until July 2004 as the anti-U.S. insurgency took hold.

He aimed his sharpest attacks at the White House National Security Council, headed during his Iraq tenure by now-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Our National Security Council has been a catastrophic failure."

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