Monday, March 13, 2006

The situation as it looked today.

Security in Baghdad has drastically deteriorated recently and reached its latest spike with the multiple bombings of yesterday.
Looking at the time pattern of violence escalations we can notice that spikes in attacks curve coincide with the sessions of Saddam's trial which indicates that followers of Saddam are still strong and active inside Baghdad and it seems that those are isolating themselves from the developments in the Iraqi scene even with regard to their politician friends and public base so to speak as the latter had changed their methods and switched largely to political means of opposition.

Those Saddam followers are moving far away from the general course of events and are likely to remain a source of trouble for a long time to come but their determination I suspect will fade after Saddam is executed.
We are talking here about a minority that sees legitimate governance only in Saddam and his regime and their attacks are usually chaotic when it comes to attacking Iraq targets and characterized by random mortar and rocket attacks and virtually opening fire on anything that represents a state different from the one they have in their old minds.

But, yesterday's bombings in Sadr city differ from those chaotic attacks; yesterday's attack had a clear motive in pushing Iraq toward a sectarian conflict because they attacked the heartland of the Mehdi militia which is well known for its hasty and arbitrary reactions as well as the lack of a general strategy for the groups of this militia that are spread over several provinces.
In my opinion the attacks was aiming at provoking large-scale violent reactions from the Mehdi militia to increase the chances for sectarian strife and in fact, we have heard that dozens were shot dead in Baghdad following the attack (al-Yarmouk hospital alone received 20 bodies of men executed by bullets in the head).
It has also become clear that what keeps such violent reactions within certain limits is the heavy deployment of the army especially in the hot zones of Baghdad where violence is most expected and the army has proven to be reliable in its assignments unlike the forces of the interior ministry.

And in spite of the admirable job the army is doing in Baghdad, I expect the capital to be the focus of the conflict for a long time given the demographics of the city and its suburbs and I expect these limited battles (and I don't like the term "all-out civil war" that many choose to use) I expect these battles to be concentrated in Baghdad, its suburbs as well as probably a few provinces with mixed populations while the majority of the 18 provinces will remain relatively calm because the parties of the conflict on either side will try to keep their territories of support safe and as far as possible from the frontlines.

And while politicians and community leaders are expected to work on calming the situation and containing the tension, we see some of them doing exactly the opposite and making statements that can only fuel the fire; we hear them say that 'al-Qaeda or the Saddamists are responsible for the violence and are trying to push us to civil war' then they begin to throw threats here and there and warn from a civil war if 'the other' side doesn't try to end cooperation with the terrorists.

This contradiction between their statements and attitudes makes me believe that an old joke of a man who sees a banana peel on the floor and says "uh, oh…here I fall again" can apply perfectly to some people who are unfortunately considered Iraqi leaders.

The other problem is that people (voters) are blindly following their corresponding parties and are taking what politicians say without the least use of reason; the followers of the UIA think there's a conspiracy against 'the majority' because their leaders say so while Kurds or Sunnis mostly think that insisting on Jafari and Bayan Jabor is the main problem that I obstructing progress.
What people (voters) are missing is that the parties they are loyal to are not internally united and in the same party you can find different opinions with regard to a particular point.

Probably the only good news in the past few days was changing the time of first session of the new parliament from the 19th to the 16th of March and this will hopefully refocus the energy of politicians back to talks under the umbrella of the parliament where inflammatory speeches are less likely to have a place though I expect the leaders of blocs will want the session on the 16th to only serve to preserve the protocols and formalities while real meetings will begin days if not weeks later.
The UIA have held separate meetings with the Accord Front and the Kurdish Alliance and they tried to convince these two blocks with their political program but without discussing the issue of replacing Jafari and this is clearly an attempt at cracking the Sunni-Kurdish front and to see if any of the two is persuadable into forming a government with the UIA without the third bloc but it seems that these attempts didn't meet significant success.

The other relatively good news was the agreement between the ministries of interior and defense that was declared in a joint press conference for the two ministers. This agreement states that army patrols shall from now on accompany the forces of the interior ministry during conducting any raids which means that the interior began to recognize the fact that many Iraqis do not trust them and it shows that something is being done to find a workable solution for this trust problem while the current minister is still in office.

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