Monday, 19 March 2007

More Iraq Inconvenient Truth

From the Sunday Times comes a couple of articles that will send cut-and-run strategists in Australia and the USA scuttling to the back rooms to work out how to maintain their 'the war is lost', 'it's a civil war' and 'the surge won't work' themes.
DESPITE sectarian slaughter, ethnic cleansing and suicide bombs, an opinion poll conducted on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq has found a striking resilience and optimism among the inhabitants.

The poll, the biggest since coalition troops entered Iraq on March 20, 2003, shows that by a majority of two to one, Iraqis prefer the current leadership to Saddam Hussein’s regime, regardless of the security crisis and a lack of public services.

The survey, published today, also reveals that contrary to the views of many western analysts, most Iraqis do not believe they are embroiled in a civil war.
Oops, that is inconvenient. Really inconvenient. Fortunately for those of us that have correctly tuned moral compasses, it gets worse for the nay-sayers:
The 400 interviewers who fanned out across Iraq last month found that the sense of security felt by Baghdad residents had significantly improved since polling carried out before the US announced in January that it was sending in a “surge” of more than 20,000 extra troops.

....The inhabitants of a northern Baghdad district were heartened to see on the concrete blocks protecting an Iraqi army checkpoint the lettering: “Down, down with the militias, we are fighting for the sake of Iraq.” It would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Residents said they noted that armed militias were off the streets.
Things are getting better? The security situation is much improved? The Democrats will really need to work hard to cut off support for the troops so that things turn around. Success in Iraq will absolutely kill their '08 chances.
“We’ve been polling in Iraq since 2005 and the finding that most surprised us was how many Iraqis expressed support for the present government,” said Johnny Heald, managing director of ORB. “Given the level of violence in Iraq, it shows an unexpected level of optimism.” Despite the sectarian divide, 64% of Iraqis still want to see a united Iraq under a central national government.
I'm surprised it's only 64%, though I guess the Sunnis probably vote against it. In Australia the figure is almost 100%; we all want to see Iraq emerge as a democratic nation in charge of its own affairs and not acting as a haven for terrorists.
By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.

Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, said the findings pointed to progress. “There is no widespread violence in the four southern provinces and the fact that the picture is more complex than the stereotype usually portrayed is reflected in today’s poll,” she said.
I think it's a little naive to think that security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces unless the implication is that the withdrawal occurs when the job is done. The UK's Foreign Secretary also makes a salient point by referring to the agenda-driven media's stereotype of Iraq as a country embroiled in a bloody civil war with no future. Things are still far from perfect in Iraq but it's clear that the surge and General Petraeus' appointment are making a positive difference. Surely that's reason for hope?

If you're not across the Iraq The Model blog then I suggest that you add it to your bookmarks and check in every day. It's run by a couple of Baghdad residents and provides an honest, realistic view of what's going on. Their latest post is about Al Qaeda's ability to make enemies:
With this series of dirty chemical bombings a war between al-Qaeda and the tribes in Anbar is no longer a possibility. It just became a fact.

I've read at least two very optimistic reports from al-Almada in the last week about purported victories of the tribes and police over al-Qaeda in Ramadi and Fallujah. I was reluctant to trust the accuracy of the reports which sited unnamed sources but now seeing the reaction of al-Qaeda suggests that the action of the tribes was so painful that al-Qaeda retaliated in the way we see today.

Al-Qaeda's terrorists-whom AP insists on calling insurgents-expended three suicide bombers and precious resources against their supposedly sympathetic civilian Sunni hosts instead of American and Iraqi soldiers and Shia civilians; their usual enemies. If this indicates anything it indicates that al-Qaeda's is reprioritizing the targets on the hit list. The reason: al-Qaeda is sensing a serious threat in the change of attitude of the tribes toward them and perhaps the apparently successful meeting of the sheiks with Maliki and the agreements that were made then was the point at which open war had to be declared.

The tribes in Anbar are stubborn and they have many ruthless warriors. That's a proven fact and it looks like Al-Qaeda had just made their gravest mistake—their once best friends are just about to become their worst enemy.
When the doom and gloomers tell us that we've lost in Iraq and should withdraw, while not forgetting to add that they "support the troops", it would be useful if they kept abreast of the facts on the ground and that the reality is somewhat different. Moqtada Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has gone to ground, perhaps never to re-emerge, and Al Qaeda now has to fight local tribes. Sounds like good news to me.

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