In recognition of the tremendous victory of killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last Wednesday, the Iraq "government" the next day announced a "victory curfew" for Friday prayers. All vehicle traffic was banned from Baghdad and Baquba, where Zarqawi was killed, to prevent the expected backlash from "al-Qaeda in Iraq," which really shows you how confident that they really have a handle on things now. Although, it's great news that Zarqawi was killed and the military was able to get hold of lots of intel that could help them roll up other al-Qaeda cells around Iraq, the fact is that al-Qaeda only represents probably about 5% of all the insurgents fighting us; they're not that big of a deal...or are they?
Some commentators like Trudy Rubin of the Inquirer have bought into the administration's myth-making by giving Zarqawi way too much credit for what's going on over there. She claimed in a column this Sunday that he was "spectacularly successful in his efforts to make Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis kill each other," as if he created the centuries of hatred between the two sides. It really didn't take much effort did it? Even more absurd was the old fossil from the Reagan administration I heard on NPR last week breathlessly recount how Zarqawi had single-handedly taken over Fallujah in 2004--- a city of 300,000 --- by sheer force of his will. That ridiculous assertion is even more amazing when you consider he wasn't even in Fallujah. (He must have had magical powers, too.)
The reality is that we probably did a favor for his bunch of crazies by making him a martyr and we also very cleverly eliminated a problem for the homegrown Iraqi insurgency. They didn't like Zarqawi and his foreign fighters any more than we did. Now, instead of having to worry about him and his lunatics in their rear they can get back to focusing on us. But then again, we're not really their biggest problem anymore, the Shiite militias who are firmly entrenched within the Iraqi government's security infrastructure are. Over the past six months they've been responsible for at least 6000 Iraqi deaths.
Besides the appearance of dozens of bodies at the Baghdad morgue on a daily basis, last week saw some pretty spectacular and brazen death-squad activity. Last Sunday gunmen set up roadblocks outside of Baghdad and seized two minibuses full of school students and killed 20 of them. On Monday, AP reported gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped 50 people in a business district of Baghdad randomly grabbing "travelers, merchants, and venders selling tea and sandwiches." (Where they were taken or whether they're still alive is unknown.)
It's interesting how the media still doesn't just come right out and say these attacks are being led by government security forces, which they clearly are. It's an Iraqi government fiction to keep insisting that these roving death-squads might be insurgents dressed up as police. Since the Interior Ministry is riddled with Badr Brigade militiamen, and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army has a firm grip on the transportation ministry, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how these guys happened to have police uniforms and more than a dozen vehicles ready to transport their victims. The tell-tale pictures of Moqtada on most of the police vehicles on the streets of Baghdad should be a dead give away, but I guess not.
It's all well and fine that after six months the Iraqi government has finally got around to forming a full cabinet, but I don't see what difference it’s going to make. The new PM and his cabinet don't actually have any power to do anything. They don't provide electricity, water or security and al-Sadr's bunch runs the heath ministry, which he uses to provide patronage not medical care, so what do they really do? Adnan Pachachi, the only sane person in the parliament, says of al-Maliki, "He talks about using an iron fist against the people, but I don't think he has sufficient power. There are so many forces competing with each other. This is not a cohesive government." (He might have added that it isn't a government at all.)
A case in point is al-Maliki's much touted visit to Basra last week where he declared a state of emergency and again vowed to use his much vaunted "iron fist" to bring an end to fighting there. Despite this threat, though, violence is continuing there as Iranian backed militias consolidate their hold on the south.
The Inquirer reported on the 28th of May that the south is:
"now dominated by Shiite Muslim warlords and militiamen who are laying the groundwork for an Islamic fundamentalist government, say senior British and Iraqi official in the area. The militias appear to be supported by Iranian intelligence or military units that are shipping weapons to the militias in Iraq and providing training for them in Iran. A week with British troops in Maysan and Basra provinces and three additional days of reporting in Basra made it clear that Iraqis here are at the mercy of Shiite militia death squads and Iranian friendly clerics who have imposed an ever-stricter code of de facto Islamic law."
One of the major issues that will be coming up in the new Iraqi parliament --- provided the whole thing doesn't collapse in the next month --- is the controversy over autonomy for the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Remember, this issue was deferred in the debate over an Iraqi constitution so that the Iraqis would have something to vote on. It's pretty obvious now that the south is already lost. The Shiites have already created their own facts on the ground; it would appear to be all over except for the shouting.
The only reason the Shiite parties even participated in the elections in December was to legitimize their position and cover their aspirations to take over the south with the patina of democracy.
While our Marines are fighting the Sunnis to a bloody standstill in Anbar, in a battle to see who will control the desert, the Shiites and the Iranians are solidifying their hold over the oil in the south which will put them in a very powerful position to call the shots down the road. Once the Shiites are able to ram autonomy for the regions through the parliament and the country is broken up into little pieces, the Iraqi "government of national unity" will be nothing but a rump consultative body. Almost 2,500 dead US troops and a trillion dollars is a pretty high price to pay for a new oil-rich Bosnia.