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August 05, 2008

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Yes, I'm not impressed by it either. First, it misidentifies what I would expect the outcomes to be. I would expect vastly increased violence as the sects clash, followed by decreased violence as the people of the smaller or less powerful sect are A) now dead, B) moved away, or C) are cowed enough not to fight back.

It is like noticing that the killing in Darfur has dropped. That isn't necessarily a sign that the perpatrators of genocide have given up their aims--maybe they have just pretty much succeeded.

Agreed Seb. Now we have this and the legalization of drugs to build on ;)

Sorry to go to motives here...but it seems to me it can't be avoided. The authors of this report have reached a few decisions. One, that the military-industrial-think tank community, and both parties, have a made a decision to stay in Iraq for the long term. Ok, the Dems, perhaps, will take out American 'combat troops'. And leave the 'rest'. Whatever that means. In any event both parties foresee a long stay in Iraq and the region. Therefore, so these guys think, it is professionally harmful to buck the 'inevitable'. Hence the shifting rationales....always ending with 'things are getting better... we have to stay'. Assuming they gave a crap about me and my criticism, that would hoot and holler about attacking their motives. But after 7 years of this farce/tragedy...my response would be 'you can shit in your hat. Whom the cap fits... let him wear it'.

I actually think the separation of the ethnic groups in Baghdad was one of the most important factors in the reduction of violence. A person who had a very well-informed position in the Baghdad embassy told me in early 2007 that things would start getting much quieter because, and I quote as best as I can remember: "the battle of Baghdad is over, and the Shia won. It's a Shia city now."

A huge proportion of the violence in 2005-07 took place within Baghdad, it would be interesting to see how much of the total reduction is attributable just to the Baghdad area.

Typical strawman set-up and take-down, which broadcasts the authors' lack of confidence in their underlying argument.

It's not a total strawman, the GAO said it and the popular lefty blog, Think Progress, linked to it and wrote "this recent reduction in violence should be taken with a grain of salt, as it coincides with increased sectarian cleansing and a massive refugee displacement". Much of the violence did take place on ethno-sectarian fault lines in 2006, and T-walling off neighborhoods which began with Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon in early 2007 and saw a period of sect consolidation. This explains some of the violence decline, but I agree with you that it's definitely not the "chief cause". There was no "silver bullet" to end violence in Iraq, and it was due to a variety of reasons: new COIN strategy, improved Iraqi Security Forces, foreign fighters coming to Iraq less, weakening of the Mahdi Army, and yes, the fact that many people had fled the country in 2006/2007.

So, everyone read this and this?

"There was no 'silver bullet" to end violence in Iraq, and it was due to a variety of reasons"

Violence has ended in Iraq?

Violence has ended in Iraq?

Sorry, meant reduction in violence is due to a lot of reasons.

LT, I'm not sure the GAO said quite that.

Here's the beginning of the quote:

I think that’s [ethnic cleansing] an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq.

Important consideration is not "chief cause."

Meanwhile: Iraqis Fail to Agree on Provincial Election Law.

Gary: I believe that's called "reconciliation."

byrningman: it would be interesting to see how much of the total reduction is attributable just to the Baghdad area.

According to Iraq Body Count's analysis for 2007, a great deal:

With two exceptions (May and July), the 2007 civilian death toll in Baghdad has fallen steadily month on month. By December 2007 this had fallen to around 246, about one-seventh of the starting January total of 1,683.

In contrast, the monthly toll outside Baghdad increased substantially between January (1,112) and August (1,604), before a steep drop to around 700 per month and below for September through December.

Also (same source):

Since March 2007 every month has seen more civilian deaths outside Baghdad than inside it. This has never happened before.

Recent car bombs and suicide bombings, not to mention the assault on Sadr City, may have reversed this trendlet.

"the battle of Baghdad is over, and the Shia won. It's a Shia city now."

Yes. It's hard to imagine Sunnis returning.

On the outskirts of San Salvador, there's a barren stretch of volcanic rock called 'El Playon', where death squads dumped bodies during the height of the terror, 1979-83.

I was reminded of it yesterday when watching the short video Baghdad's Killing Fields shot in March of this year, in which Ghaith Abdul-Ahad ("Gee from Baghdad" for those who were reading Salam Pax back in 2003) visits a godforsaken stretch of land near Sadr City.

It's the dumping and shallow-grave site for thousands of victims of Shia militias. At first it looks like a horizontal trash dump, and then you realize that each burial spot is marked with some object -- a battered fuel can, a chunk of concrete, a broken steel rod... Only one or two of the "headstones" in the whole vast field have a name.

One more featured fact from IBC's 2007 report:

Bodies found in Baghdad (usually executed after torture) have shown the steepest decline, from nearly 1,000 reported in January to around 120 in December 2007.

Sunnis who move back to Baghdad are going to have to do it in an organized, mass way, reconstituting their old neighborhoods abroad before reclaiming them.

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