Feb 3, 2008

The surge worked

Well, that’s not quite what happened, if you were watching.

Throw up for a moment on the blank screen of your mind the standard map of Iraq: Kurds in the north with lots of oil, Sunni Arabs, Saddam’s old troops, in the middle with no oil, and the Shia in the south with lots of oil. [If you think of the whole Sunni/Shia thing as rather like the Catholic/Protestant thing in Ireland, good!]

The original American action was to refer to Saddam’s old troops, all million strong of them, who’d kept the local population in abject terror for thirty years, as “insurgents,” the baddies, the guys from Saddam and Chemical Ali downwards had to be hunted down, put on trial, all of them.
Meanwhile, back at the barn, Ahmed Chalabi had apparently carried through the fiendish Iranian plot to have the Americans remove their number one enemy – never forget the Iraqis are Arabs, the most easterly line of defense, indeed, and the Iranians are Indo-Europeans, just like us; they never forget it – and though his contributions were valuable in the original push for the war, you’d obviously not rely on him as your best friend or trust him with your mother’s washing. The actual “government” of Iraq was at least theoretically in the hands of Mr. Al-Maliki of the Dawa party, whom you may remember from the Beirut hostage crisis as the holder of the hostages, including Mr. Terry Waite. In this case also it was clearly unwise to assume friendly intentions.

Thirty thousand extra troops were really not a significant addition to the hundred and fifty thousand already there, but the Americans pulled off this fantastic coup, - I can almost hear the chortles of whatever genius dreamt this one up – of saying to these million or so Sunni Arabs of Saddam’s old army “Hey, you need weapons? Here’s umpteen cases of machine guns with ammo. Helicopters? Let us give you a few.” And so on. These were gratefully received, although the tribal sheikh who made the deal with the Americans was assassinated two days later, indicating some resentment on someone’s part. Nevertheless, the Sunnis were now fully armed and took up their old policing duties with enthusiasm, aided by the huge concrete walls the Americans were erecting around various districts in Baghdad itself. Not to mention the six month cease fire announced by Moqtada Al-Sadr and the Mahdi army. This cease fire is coming to an end with the ten day festival of Ashura on January 20, 2008, and will probably not be renewed, said Mr. Al-Sadr.

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