Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Specter of Sectarian Violence in Iraq

The Washington Post has a piece on possible resurgence of sectarian violence in Iraq:
It was only one killing, but it unleashed the demons of a bitter and perhaps unfinished past.

The victim was a Sunni man in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah, in northwest Baghdad. The death and the aftermath were reminiscent of the prelude to the sectarian war, which began in late 2005 with a smattering of killings and threats and culminated with 100 bodies a day being dumped in the streets of the capital. With the imminent departure of American forces and fierce competition for power ahead of general elections on March 7, many here say sectarian strife is reigniting.

But this time, there will be no outsider acting as a buffer between the warring sects. U.S. military officials acknowledge that as Iraq regains sovereignty, their influence is waning. A senior U.S. military official who has spent years in Iraq said he fears that as the drawdown begins, American forces are leaving behind many of the same conditions that preceded the sectarian war.

"All we're doing is setting the clock back to 2005," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a stark assessment. "The militias are fully armed, and al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to move back from the west. These are the conditions now, and we're sitting back looking at PowerPoint slides and whitewashing."
I'm not fully persuaded by the evidence presented in the piece, but it's definitely worth a read. Needless to say, a return to pre-surge levels of violence would make success of the al-Shahristani plan much less likely, which in turn will make global oil supply problems far more severe in the medium term. There's a lot at stake.

More Iraq blogging here.

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