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Archive: December 2007
Without National Reconciliation, Consider Surge a Failure
By IVO DAALDER 12/13/2007 09:48 AM ET
A US soldier from Bravo company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, walks up a ramp into his Stryker armoured vehicle after a patrol in west Baquba, 09 December 2007.
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty
A US soldier from Bravo company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, walks up a ramp into his Stryker armoured vehicle after a patrol in west Baquba, 09 December 2007.

A year after American voters ousted the Republicans from power in Congress because of the deteriorating situation in Iraq, debate about the war has gone silent. Despite a bitterly fought election for the presidential nominations, Iraq has virtually disappeared from the political lexicon. It’s an infrequent topic in the many candidate debates, and declining concern in the minds of voters. All this, despite the fact that more American soldiers have died in 2007 than in any previous year and the financial costs are mounting at the rate of $100 billion a year.

What accounts for this sudden turn-around in public debate? One reason, clearly, is that for all his weakness and unpopularity, President Bush has been able to block repeated Democratic attempts to change course in Iraq. So long as he can count on sufficient Republican support on Capitol Hill to sustain his vetoes and so long as Democrats refuse actually to cut off funding for the war, Bush will prevail on Iraq. Any real change in direction will therefore have to wait until January 20, 2009, when Bush leaves office.

The other reason for the virtual disappearance of debate about Iraq is that the situation on the ground appears to have been getting better — at least for now. Violence is down. Economic activity is up. More and more Iraqis are returning home. As even some of Bush’s bitterest critics now admit, the “surge” is working.

All of which raises this crucial question: After four years of floundering and failure, has Bush finally stumbled on a winning strategy? Is victory, in other words, now possible? The answer, unfortunately, is no. The troop build-up and new counterinsurgency strategy — better known as the surge — have been a tactical success, but are still a strategic failure. For all the good news of recent weeks, the decision to go to war against Iraq remains a strategic disaster of truly historical proportions. And the consequences of this disaster will remain with us — and the next American president — for a very long time.

There can be no doubt that the situation inside Iraq these days is improving. Whether you look at Iraqi data, American measures, or independently collected statistics, all point in essentially the same direction.

Most importantly, the overall level of violence is down markedly — to the level of 2005, before the explosion of sectarian violence that followed in the wake of the Samarra Mosque bombing in February 2006. The number of Iraqi civilians killed each month is down from 2,500-3,000 in 2006 to less than half those numbers in recent months. The number of attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi forces, and Iraqi civilians, which reached nearly 5,000 a month in 2006 and early 2007 is down to 2004-5 levels of some 2,000 attacks a month throughout Iraq. Other measures — such as suicide attacks, road-side bombings, security forces killed — show similar declines.

The daily condition of average Iraqis is also improving. Oil production is up, and so is availability of gasoline at the pump. Electricity production now exceeds pre-war levels, though supply is still intermittent, especially in Baghdad where people have electricity for just 12 hours a day. Reporters venturing outside the protected Green Zone in the center of Baghdad increasingly report that neighborhoods are coming alive — with shops reopening, kids playing on playgrounds, and people milling about in a seeming return to normalcy.

Recent weeks has also seen an increasing number of Iraqi refugees returning to Baghdad and other cities — at least 25,000 since mid-September from Syria alone. UN officials note the returns still represent only “a flow, not a flood,” and many are returning because their visas have expired or they have run out of money rather than because they believe conditions in Iraq have improved. And millions are staying put.

Is the surge responsible for the improvements Iraqis have seen? Clearly, having more troops helps in providing security, and since the middle of the year there have been more American soldiers and marines in Iraq than at any previous point in time (including during the invasion in 2003). A new strategy has also helped. Rather than trying to destroy the enemy through overwhelming force, which often resulted in large civilian casualties that helped unite the population against the U.S., military commanders have finally adopted time-tested counterinsurgency tactics that emphasize protection of the population over killing the enemy. Troops now regularly patrol on foot, often alongside Iraqi forces, gaining the confidence of the locals. Terrorists and insurgents have found it much more difficult to hide within the local population, and many have gone to ground or been betrayed by ordinary Iraqis.

But the surge was not the only thing that changed. Two other factors proved decisive. One was the decision by many Sunni tribal leaders to shift course and turn against the terrorist networks that had infiltrated the insurgency and their bastions. Instead of fighting Americans, the Sunni leaders in Anbar province and Baghdad neighborhoods decided to join them in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq and other outside influences that were bent on stoking sectarian violence. Once the local population became inhospitable, the terrorists were quickly exposed.

The Sunni about face was therefore vital to recent successes. But it came before the surge had started and was decided independent of any change in U.S. strategy. The Sunnis were less interested in helping the U.S. succeed than they are in strengthening their own power and capabilities vis-à-vis other groups in Iraq. And they rightly concluded that this was far more likely to happen if they joined the Americans than if they continued to fight them. Indeed, U.S. forces have provided arms and support to many of the Sunni groups that until recently were in a bitter fight against the occupation.

The second reason for the recent improvements was that the sectarian violence had to a large extent succeeded in forcing Sunnis from Shiite areas and Shiites from Sunni areas. One look at an ethnic map of Baghdad tells the story — what were previously mixed neighborhoods are now mostly Shiite or Sunni. The violence caused a large-scale movement of people — one in six Iraqis has either left the country entirely or has been internally displaced. A lot of this movement has made sections of the country ethnically more homogeneous, thus stemming a major source of violence.

The larger point is this: the surge may have been a tactical success, but it is still a strategic failure. Remember that the original purpose of the surge was not merely to improve security, especially, in Baghdad, but to use the breathing space thus provided to encourage the Iraqi government to foster political reconciliation. “Reducing the violence in Baghdad,” President Bush claimed in announcing the new strategy, “will help make reconciliation possible.” Yet, despite improvement in the security environment, none of the major political benchmarks necessary for such reconciliation that the Iraqi and U.S. government agreed upon has been met. There is no mechanism to share oil revenues. No law reversing de-Bathification has been enacted. Neither a new election law has been agreed nor have provincial elections been scheduled. Far from dismantling militias, American arming of Sunni “Concerned Local Citizen” groups has created more armed factions. No plan of national reconciliation has been offered, nor has the constitution been amended to address Sunni concerns. Yet, each of these agreed steps were to have been completed by early 2007. None have, and the Bush administration no longer even pretends that they will any time soon.

War, as Carl von Clausewitz reminded us, is the continuation of politics by other means. The theory behind the surge was that improvements in local security would translate into national reconciliation. That hasn’t happened. While less violent, Iraq is still a country at war. It remains deeply divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, and every faction and group is heavily armed. None of their differences over power, position, or privilege has been resolved. Violence can be reignited at any moment. Even without open warfare, plenty of problems remain. Most Iraqis with means — doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals — have. For those who remain, jobs are scarce. Unemployment stands at 40 percent, and even the most menial jobs require bribes of outside proportions. Corruption and lawlessness runs rampant. Indeed, Iraq now ranks behind only Somalia and Burma as the most corrupt country in the world. In today’s Iraq, violence takes many brutal forms.

Whatever its benefits, the surge will soon come to an end. American troop levels will have to decline because current levels cannot be sustained without breaking the U.S. Army. It is already stretched to the danger point. The Army has had to lower its standards to ensure new enlistments, and it has to pay up to $45,000 in bonus money for new recruits. It is losing its mid-level officer corps — the captains and majors — who have borne the brunt of deployment at an alarming rate. Any hope of stemming the tide will require longer breaks between deployments than is currently possible.

Commanders in Iraq hope that Iraqi security forces will be able to keep violence down once U.S. troops leave. But there is a fatal flaw in this thinking — so long as there is no viable, strong national government it is folly to think there can be a strong, viable national army or police force. The divisions within society are mirrored within the armed forces, and once the glue of the American presence begins to become undone, there is a great likelihood that these forces too will divide and disintegrate. In short, the surge may be more of a lull than a lasting solution.

What, if anything, can be done? Washington must start by recognizing Iraq for what it is: a failed state that is being kept together only by an extraordinary investment of American money and manpower. It will have to find a substitute for this investment, because the current commitment is unsustainable. Indeed, it is long past time for the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq. The end of the surge this spring should be seen as the beginning of a gradual redeployment of American forces, to be completed within 18 months.

In the interim, the focus of American activity should be political, much more than military. National reconciliation is a chimera — those who currently have power won’t share it; those who currently want power won’t get it. And so long as there is no national reconciliation it makes little sense to train and equip a national army or police force. Instead of focusing on the national level, attention should shift to the local level, where real power now resides. Part of this shift has already occurred, with U.S. support for Sunni and Kurdish groups and the growing independence of Shiite power in the South. Washington now talks of a “bottom-up reconciliation” process — which is the right focus, provided decentralization does not turn into fragmentation.

The third step is to launch a diplomatic surge with the twin aim of preventing Iraq’s neighbors from exploiting Iraq’s internal divisions and negotiating a viable division of power and resources inside Iraq. An international conference, convened under UN auspices, should try to achieve both these goals. The neighbors should commit to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, a commitment that might be guaranteed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Iraqi participants in turn should agree to resolve the most pressing issues among them — control over oil, equitable sharing of revenues, and a devolution of most political power from the central government to local political entities.

The diminution of violence in recent months has given Iraq a breathing space to try and tackle some of the most divisive issues it confronts. Time is running short; it may already have run out. But given the alternative, it is incumbent to try.

Ivo Daalder, a former director for European Affairs on the National Security Council, is a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy, and editor of the collected volume Beyond Preemption: Force and Legitimacy in a Changing World.

This piece was re-printed by permission of Ivo Daalder and the Brookings Institution.

Nir Rosen's Reflections on the State of Iraq as 2007 Draws to Close: Part 3 of 3
By NIR ROSEN 12/07/2007 11:53 AM ET
OCTOBER 3: Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki (R) speaks as Defense Minister Abdul Qadir looks on during a press conference on October 3, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Hadi Mizban/Getty
OCTOBER 3: Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki (R) speaks as Defense Minister Abdul Qadir looks on during a press conference on October 3, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Persistent rumors of a coup to replace Prime Minister Maliki circulated through Baghdad and DC throughout the year, but all failed to understand that Maliki had already become irrelevant.

One alternative the Americans hoped to provide was Ayad Allawi, the former Baathist and CIA collaborator appointed interim Prime Minister until the elections of 2005. Allawi reportedly engaged in numerous meetings with former Baathists in Jordan, London and Lebanon, working to rebuild the Baath party with the backing of Iraqi politicians such as Adnan al Dulaimi and Tariq al Hashimi--allegedly even with the support of the KDP’s Masud Barzani.

But no longer is Baghdad the only major city in Iraq, a locus of official power from which one person can rule the entire country. Today’s Iraq represents a collection of city states--Basra, Amarra, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Mosul, Erbil, Suleimaniya and others, each independent of the other.

Maliki may well be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there may be no new elections. They cannot run elections in Iraq anymore, and then the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over. It has become popular with former and current supporters of the war to blame the Iraqis for US failures. Americans like to say now that the Iraqis did not choose democracy, or Iraqis did not choose freedom, or the Iraqis have to decide to stop killing each other, or Iraqis have to “step up.” But this is dishonest and misplaces the blame.

Iraq is not Rwanda, where Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other and America could pretend it had no role; Iraq is not Darfur, where wealthy Americans can feel like they have found a guilt free cause to turn to kitsch. Iraq had no history of civil war or sectarian violence until the Americans arrived. America caused the civil war. The flow of fighters into Iraq, of millions of refugees out of Iraq, the smuggling of weapons and even sheep, and the export of dangerous ideas such as sectarianism and jihadism demonstrate that the Iraqi civil war has become a type of regional conflict formation, which, according to Barnet Rubin and Andrea Armstrong of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, “are sets of transnational conflicts that form mutually reinforcing linkages with each other throughout a region, making for more protracted and obdurate conflicts.” Elements also include “the involvement of neighboring states, to the alliances of armed groups, to the operation of the transnational informal economy.” Rubin and Armstrong warn that “the collapse of some states within a region accelerates the regional spread of conflict.” I met Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan, in his NYU office. “Iraq under Saddam created a kind of balance,” he told me, “it existed as a strong Sunni state that controlled its borders and acted as a separator between different regions. It kept Iran away from Shiite populations in the Gulf, it created more security in Turkey because Kurdish guerillas did not have a secure foreign sanctuary and you had a system of Arab states, all Sunni dictatorships based on inheritance. Then we destroyed this state, dismantled the army, destroyed the bureaucracy, then you wonder why people join ethnic militias.” Rubin was reminded of Afghanistan, where the arming of militias prevented the establishment of a government and led to foreign sponsorship of those militias. The surge was merely a way to kick the problem of Iraq down to the next US administration, though in all likelihood American soldiers will never leave Iraq. The large bases in the Anbar province such as al Assad and Taqadum were built for an “an enduring presence,” as one Marine officer told me. Located in the remote desert, impregnable and only occasionally targeted by mortars, these bases will remain for decades, but the Americans may eventually withdraw from the urban areas of Iraq.

Any real withdrawal from Iraq--through the treacherous roads of Anbar west to Jordan, or south past Shiite militias on the way to Kuwait, or even through the so-called Sunni triangle, Samarra, Tikrit or Mosul to Kurdistan or Turkey--would be a withdrawal under fire. Only ignominy for Americans and slaughter for Iraqis would remain.

The American occupation has proven more disastrous than the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq’s human capital has fled--all its intellectuals, professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, and moderate political elite. They will not return. Instead of creating a neoconservative utopia with a flat tax, a peace agreement with Israel and Ahmed Chalabi as the benign dictator, we have betrayed the hopes of all Iraqis who wanted a new start after Saddam, without Baathists or Americans. Only fools talk of “solutions” now, but there are no solutions, only hope that perhaps Iraq can be contained.

Read Part 1 from Wednesday, "Violence in Iraq Was Never Senseless," and yesterday's Part 2 "Reigns of Terror, Both Shiite and Sunni."

Nir Rosen is a freelance journalist currently based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has spent years reporting from Iraq, writing for a number of publications, including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Times Magazine, and authored a book on the Iraqi insurgency, Inside the Belly of the Green Bird.

Nir Rosen's Reflections on the State of Iraq as 2007 Draws to Close: Part 2 of 3
By NIR ROSEN 12/06/2007 09:26 AM ET
Iraqis inspect a booklet distributed by the police in the holy city of Karbala, 10 November 2007, showing victims allegedly killed by Shiite militiamen affiliated to the Mahdi Army.
Mohammed Sawaf/AFP/Getty
Iraqis inspect a booklet distributed by the police in the holy city of Karbala, 10 November 2007, showing victims allegedly killed by Shiite militiamen affiliated to the Mahdi Army.

The Mahdi Army dominates Baghdad. Sunnis have been hunted not only by Shiites—both in and out of the government--but their battles with al Qaeda had weakened them and made them vulnerable on two fronts. The Mahdi Army, never very disciplined or hierarchical, eventually descended into localized gangs. When ordered to cease fighting by Muqtada in August, it was clear some would be unlikely to heed his orders. Muqtada had become merely a symbol for the warlords who fought in his name. Muqtada appointed sheikh Abbas al Kufi to investigate the misdeeds of Mahdi Army members. Kufi was head of ‘special groups’ for the Mahdi Army, who act as bodyguards for Muqtada, protect holy sites, and conduct investigations. Kufi appointed Sheikh Ahmad Kamel Yaaqubi as head of the “Golden Group,” another special unit of the Mahdi Army. Yaaqubi had been trained in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard, and had visited Mecca with Muqtada for the Haj pilgrimage.

Abbas al Kufi had recently killed 33 Mahdi Army leaders. He tried to persuade Muqtada to disband the Mahdi Army and establish a new militia called “Jeish al Tahrir,” or the Army of Liberation, which would focus on fighting the Americans. Muqtada refused, explaining that the Mahdi Army had done a lot for Shiites. Despite their internal power struggles, Shiite militiamen understood that the American occupation obstructed the road to full control over Iraq. It took the Americans longer to realize that they had tried to play sectarian politics and lost, betting that the “good” Shiites would cooperate against the “bad” Sunnis. They had not counted on Shiite recalcitrance to cooperate fully.

As a result, and due to fear of Iran and pressure from “moderate” Sunni allies in the region, the Americans backed the creation of Sunni militias as a temporarily expedient measure. The move had indeed reduced the level of attacks against the Americans, their coalition allies, and the private security companies that guarded their convoys. But the creation of more warlords only helps to guarantee that Iraq will never exist as a state by promoting the same fissiparous tendencies that initially caused the civil war. At the most cynical level, instead of allowing for a winner in the civil war, it would prolong the fighting, and resembled the American dual containment strategy of the 1980s. The US now backs the Shiite government in Baghdad and its Shiite militia-dominated security forces, while backing Sunni militias, whose ultimate ambition is to receive funding, weapons and other assistance from the Americans so they could fight the Shiites.

Such was the case of Abu Risha, a member of the Sunni resistance who used to attack American convoys for his own profit, thus alienating the resistance. After al Qaeda killed his relatives, he went to war against them. The Americans and other tribes invented a title for him and the fiction that he was a leader, and he led the main Sunni militia in the Anbar province until his cousin from his mother’s side, Muhamad al Nmrawi, wired his car to blow up. Elsewhere, Sunni militias had imposed a reign of terror on their neighborhoods. In Amriya, a western Baghdad neighborhood long since emptied of Shiites and control by militias, Sunni students came to take their final high school examinations, many with their parents, to take their tests. Three gunmen entered the high school and kidnapped two students. They beheaded one and sent the other one back within an hour with a warning that this was the fate of those who crossed al Qaeda.

Then another militia showed up, this one belonging to the Islamic party. Its members rounded up all the students and led them to the yard, shooting into the air, removing the females from the males and threatening to kill the males. Many parents, including mothers, were waiting outside. The brother of the beheaded student led the militiamen, and told the terrified students that they would be killed because they had done nothing when the al Qaeda kidnappers took his brother.

Then the powerful Sheikh Abdallah Janabi showed up with his militia. Janabi, also known as Abu Muhamad, had led the mujahedin in Falluja, and had previously collaborated with al Qaeda. He ordered the men not to kill other Sunnis. At the same time some of the mothers had called the Iraqi National Guard, who were blocked from entry to the neighborhood by Janabi’s militia. They agreed and offered to help should they be needed. Janabi told the Islamic Party to give him some time and they agreed. His men soon returned with eight al Qaeda members, the men who had beheaded the student. The al Qaeda men explained that the boys had been writing anti al Qaeda slogans on walls and that one of them had a brother in the Islamic Party, so they had to make an example. Janabi told them that he would make an example of them. They were executed and hung in front of the school and all the people gathered there.

The Islamic Party fought with al Qaeda in Amriya and finally pushed al Qaeda out. Similar battles occurred in the volatile Dora district, but neither al Qaeda, nor the Islamic party led by Sheikh Ali Juneid could succeed in defeating the other.

Read yesterday's installment, "Violence in Iraq Was Never Senseless," and check back tomorrow for Part 3, "A Nation in Search of a Strongman."

Nir Rosen is a freelance journalist currently based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has spent years reporting from Iraq, writing for a number of publications, including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Times Magazine, and authored a book on the Iraqi insurgency, Inside the Belly of the Green Bird.

Nir Rosen's Reflections on the State of Iraq as 2007 Draws to Close: Part 1 of 3
By NIR ROSEN 12/05/2007 10:31 AM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 17: A member of the Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISV) stands on a street corner near children and US soldiers November 17, 2007 in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.
Chris Hondros/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 17: A member of the Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISV) stands on a street corner near children and US soldiers November 17, 2007 in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.

In April 2003 I moved into Baghdad’s upscale Mansur district, living with other journalists in a house with a small swimming pool, where I sat every night and watched bats swoop down from palm trees to sip the water or catch insects. In the distance, the persistent chatter of automatic weapons rang through the streets, as the anarchy that began with the American occupation turned violent. The house had one somnolent guard at night, armed with a Kalashnikov, to protect against robbery.

Walking home from the main street, which by May of that year already bustled with new businesses and restaurants, I could have purchased a rocket propelled grenade launcher or machine gun for around fifty dollars at impromptu gun markets on street corners not far from my house. As the occupation persisted, I stayed in less luxurious accommodations, but often visited the area. In April of 2006 as I was driving through Mansur’s main shopping drag, I passed two murdered corpses in the middle of the road.

In October of 2007 I once again lived in Mansur, this time in an ostentatious mansion obscenely decorated with every style imaginable--from Baroque to Arabic--with kitsch being the only unifying factor. It had belonged to a Baathist before Westerners rented it.

In the first three years of the occupation, Mansur was teeming with middle and upper class shoppers sampling from the expensive clothes and shoes, appliance stores, fresh juice shops and buying ice cream at the famous Al Rawad. Thursday evenings were the busiest. Now the shops that lined the long streets were shuttered closed all day and night. Equally unpredictable bony stray dogs and Iraqi security forces patrolled the wide boulevards. As in other cities that had gone through civil wars, such as Beirut and Mogadishu, the posh central areas get devastated and new centers get built in the periphery, in this case in the Sunni and Shiite areas. While I was there this Fall, several controversies distracted the media. Blackwater had again massacred Iraqi civilians while guarding American diplomats, making private security companies the latest scapegoat for the American failure in Iraq, accused of brutality, lawlessness and of subverting the US mission. Conveniently forgotten were the numerous civilian casualties caused by Coalition forces since the invasion. The Iraqi government attempted to ban Blackwater from Iraq but was either overridden or simply ignored by the American overlords. Turkey meanwhile had grown enraged that the PKK had a fortified base in the mountains of northern Iraq and that PKK fighters were crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan to rest, and go to the Makhmur refugee camp where they recruited or visited relatives.

As Turkey threatened to invade Iraq, the Americans who had invaded Iraq warned that a Turkish invasion would provoke instability. Instead, Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki and his government promised the Turks that they would put an end to the PKK. But the Iraqi government has no authority in Kurdistan.

Erbil, Suleimaniya and other Kurdish cities show no sign of the Iraqi state--no flag of Iraq, and no Arabic language. The border between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq is treated by the Kurds with the same vigilance as an international border. Many Iraqi Kurdish militiamen from Masud Barzani’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan also fought with the PKK. Even if they wanted to, it is unlikely that Iraq’s Kurds could easily dislodge the PKK, who have expected the Americans to evict them since 2003. While the American military has touted the success of the surge and the American media dutifully parroted this, if violence has declined in Baghdad, it was not a sign of success for the surge. The violence in Iraq was never senseless. It was logical and teleological and, like war, it was about politics through other means.

In Baghdad and other cities, Sunnis were removing Shiites and Shiites were removing Sunnis. Christians and Kurds were also victimized in some places. To the extent that violence between Iraqis has gone down, it has been because there are less people to kill. The division of Iraq into ethnic or sectarian homogenous zones has nearly been completed. Militias have consolidated control over neighborhoods, and have succeeded in killing or expelling all unwanted groups. As a result, more than one-and-a-half million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria, around 750,000 in Jordan, plus the more than two million internally displaced inside Iraq. In October 2007 there were still some Sunnis living in Rusafa, or east Baghdad, in the neighborhoods of Fadil, Zayuna, Baghdad Jadida, Sinaa, Karada, Waziriya, Adhamiya, Shaab, Kahera, Hai Tijar, Jisr Diyala, Nahrawan and Sleikh while west Baghdad, or Karkh, still had Shiites remaining in Alawi Hilla, Rahmania, Shawakeh, Karaimat, il Fahameh, il Aitaifiya, Kadhimiya, Shalchiyeh, Tochi, Iskan, Washash, Harthiya and Mansur.

Though Karkh had traditionally been dominated by Sunnis, Shiite militias now controlled most of it, and the only true Sunni strongholds remaining were Amriya, Hai Jamia, Khadhra, Mansur, Nafaq al Shurta and Ghazaliya. Shiites are still being expelled from Abu Ghraib in western Baghdad as well as Ghazaliya, Mansur, Dora, Sahat al Talaya, Sheikh Ali and Mushahada. Sunnis were still being expelled from Shuula, Dora, al Iskan, Washash, Tobchi and Palestine Street At the end of August, Muqtada al Sadr officially imposed a ceasefire on his militia, the Mahdi Army, but only to disassociate himself publicly from what he, along with the other main Shiite Islamist sectarian political parties that dominate the Iraqi government, privately support: the removal of Sunnis from Baghdad.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2: "Reigns of Terror, Both Shiite and Sunni"

Nir Rosen is a freelance journalist currently based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has spent years reporting from Iraq, writing for a number of publications, including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Times Magazine, and authored a book on the Iraqi insurgency, Inside the Belly of the Green Bird.


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