Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Giving up on Iraq

It seems that the BBC has all but given up any serious attempt to report on the situation in Iraq. I suppose that if the culture is that it is all "hopeless", this is inevitable. So, for the background to the latest terrorist attacks which have killed around 200 people, I turned to this from The New York Times :
some Yazidis stoned a Yazidi woman to death for dating a Sunni Arab man in April [Other sources suggest that the girl converted to Islam and married her boyfriend] , members of the sect became frequent targets of Sunni attacks. When a video of the Yazidi woman being stoned appeared on the Internet, gunmen stopped minibuses full of Yazidi laborers and killed 23 of them. Many Yazidis have recently moved to villages farther west, where they make up a majority. The deadly assault on Tuesday crushed the hope that there would be safety in numbers — especially near the border with Syria, which American officials have long described as an entry point for foreign fighters.
The BBC's line is that recent operations by US forces merely move the "insurgents" from one area to another, implying that the "surge" is completely futile. Others might argue that, even with the terrible human cost of this latest incident, reducing the level of attacks in Baghdad and its surrounding area and driving the terrorists to a corner of Iraq close to the Syrian border is progress of a sort.

The coverage of the BBC (and C4 News) has been reduced to little more than, "Another British soldier has been killed in Iraq...", "the soldier killed has been named as...", plus of course the big incidents like this one. When did they last have an "embed" with the US forces (or even with the British army in Basra)? Some people have done, though. The first of two accounts worth reading is from Michael Totten, on his weblog:
Many areas of Baghdad have been cleared – even the notoriously violent Haifa Street neighborhood – but insurgents and terrorists need only drive a few minutes to get from one of their strongholds to another part of the city. Gunmen and car bombers from other sectors of Baghdad can and do pass through War Eagle’s area.

Until recently the biggest threat was from the adjacent neighborhood just on the other side of the Tigris. It hasn’t been cleared of insurgents. When the War Eagle outpost was still struck by mortars, they were fired from there over the water. It is the insurgents in that sector [from the Shi'a Jaysh al Mahdi or Mahdi Army, loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr] who apparently have decided to stop attacking the outpost so they won’t hurt their comrades who infiltrated the base.

Those infiltrators in the Iraqi Army are trained every day by the Americans. “They act like our friends,” said Master Sergeant Tyler. “It is a façade to an extent, yes. They get benefits from having a good relationship with us and will do and say anything to keep us on their side.”
This, though, is a worrying sign for Totten:
Nothing makes me more pessimistic about Iraq’s future prospects than this. The Mahdi Army is Iran’s major proxy in Iraq.
Iraq is a bewildering country. I can tell you what I see and what I hear, but I can’t unravel and explain with confidence the contradictions in the hearts and minds of its people.
“I think the reason the U.S. hasn’t killed Sadr yet is because they are trying to flip him to their side,” said Hammer. “All it takes is money. [..] He has only 16 percent support among the Shia. I am a Shia. I know lots of Shia in Sadr City who hate and fear him, but he has lots of power and influence.”
With the help of a US Army interpreter named Feris, originally from Syria, Totten talks to an Iraqi civilian
“Jaysh al Mahdi took me,” he said. “They kidnapped me and dragged me off to the mosque where they beat me.” “They beat me with iron sticks,” he said, “and fired a gun in the air next to my head.” Then they shaved his head. The Mahdi Army does this to people they kidnap, to mark them, perhaps, or to humiliate them. “Why?” I said. “Why did they do this to you?” “Because I work here,” [He] said. He works at the outpost as a civilian, not for the Americans but for the Iraqis.

“How do they know you work here?” I said. He gestured toward the building where Iraqi Army soldiers live and sleep. Of course. “The Iraqi Army told them,” he said.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 14, 2007 09:58 PM
( via winds of change )
I advise, as well as reading the whole of that post, looking back at his archives for August, July and June (be aware that, apart from the posts on Iraq, there is a marked pro-Israeli viewpoint), even, if you can, doing as he asks and making a donation to support "independent journalism".

The second account is from Der Spiegel's Ullrich Fichtner (with photographer Tina Hager):
The world has become deaf to the word "peace" -- at least when conversations turn to Iraq. It is as if the world were blind to the possibility that the situation in this country straddling the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers could be anything different from the constant stream of increasingly devastating films of the latest car bombings. For most people, Iraq has become nothing but a series of attacks, a collection of images of bombings and victims, a tale of failure, a book about historical guilt and a symbol of the moral decline of the United States of America. (via normblog)


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