Much has been made in recent weeks of the apparent success of the US “surge” the massive increase in US troops deployed to Iraq.
In fact, the picture is less rosy when we look closely.
In a report published on 5 November, former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman observed that the recent decline in the worst kinds of violence in Iraq was due to a combination of factors, “the most important of which had little to do with the `surge' in US troops”.
“Much of the positive trend came from a largely spontaneous tribal uprising against Al Qa'ida in Iraq in Anbar, and from pockets of similar Iraqi action against AQI and extremists in other areas,” Cordesman noted.
He added that: “the levels of violence are still high and most are still at the same levels as in the spring of 2006”.
The US escalation has not halted the pace of Iraqi displacements. It has “often created a patchwork of Arab Shi'ite versus Arab Sunni divisions”, that “has laid the ground for further struggles once the US is gone.”
Cordesman points out that the Sunni militias that are currently fighting al Qa'eda, allowing the US Marine Corps to reduce its presence in Anbar province to minimum levels, “are likely to turn on the central government and the Shi'ites” once they have defeated their Sunni rivals.
A concerned citizen
The Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad recently interviewed the commander of a US-sponsored militia in Baghdad. While the Americans call their new allies “Concerned Citizens”, Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, is actually a Sunni warlord paid by the US to fight al Qa'eda in Iraq.
Abu Amed, a former intelligence officer, told the Guardian: “After we finish with al-Qaida here, we will turn toward our main enemy, the Shia militias.”
The current decline in violence appears to be a lull before the next storm.