Remind me again, the point of the Surge was political reconcilliation, right? And when it became obvious that such wasn't to be forthcoming from the Iraqi leadership, the cheerleaders started banging on about how it would come from the bottom up, thanks to movements like the Anbar Opportunism, right?
Not according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
U.S. officials in Baghdad fear a new outbreak of "ethnic cleansing" between Sunnis and Shi'ites next year after the U.S. security crackdown ends, a government watchdog said on Thursday.That's George's Gordian Knot - a present for the next incumbent of the Oval Office. If you pull out any troops it all falls apart and if you leave the troops in you're accomplishing nothing. What ya gonna do?
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction warned in a report that lower levels of sectarian violence attributed to the President George W. Bush's troop build-up have not produced lasting political reconciliation in Baghdad and its neighbouring Diyala province.
"Some of (the) districts and neighbourhoods remain too 'hot' for reconciliation to take place," said the report, which included a review of a U.S. initiative to stabilize Iraq with provincial reconstruction teams consisting of U.S. civilian and military officials.
"In areas that included mixed Sunni-Shia populations, we were told, the departure of U.S. forces would produce open battlegrounds of ethnic cleansing," the report said.
There has been no end to the relentless violence in Iraq, but attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas have fallen off since Bush sent an extra 30,000 troops as part of a strategy to stabilize the Iraqi capital in hopes of fostering political reconciliation. There are currently 171,000 U.S. troops in the country.
But analysts say the fractured Iraqi government has not addressed underlying grievances between Sunnis and Shi'ites. They warn that sectarian violence could re-escalate after the planned withdrawal of 20,000 U.S. combat troops by next July.
U.S. officials assigned to the reconstruction teams in Iraq told the inspector general that much of the potential for renewed violence lies in Baghdad neighbourhoods where U.S. forces had little presence before the troop build-up began. They believe fighting could resume in once-mixed Sunni and Shi'ite areas, where one group has temporarily driven out its rivals, and in areas where homogenous Sunni and Shi'ite neighbourhoods border each other.
The report referred to southern Baghdad's Doura market* as a place where Shi'ite militias could be expected to expel Sunni shopkeepers if U.S. forces withdrew.
* Doura market was touted by the U.S. military to the media back in June as a "model neighbourhood" and an example of what the Surge could accomplish.