Sunni Side Up

If we're being honest, Iraq is currently a complete mystery. We have only a handful of signs to measure what is really going on in that country as the Bush administration continues its public relations exercize called "Plus Up." But since the initiative has gotten under way, we can see that the Shiite militias, the ones controlling the U.S.-backed "government", have backed off. Al Sadr is probably in Iran; Shiite violence appears to have ebbed. In contrast, Sunni violence seems to have reached new levels of sophistication and ambition. They may be getting far better at targeting helicopters and yesterday conducted a brazen al Qaeda-style atttack on a U.S. base in Tarmiya.

What can this tell us? I don't know, but I can guess. It makes sense if you see the "surge" as essentially a breathing space for the Shia to regroup before the U.S. withdraws. They are the majority; and they will probably win the larger civil war that will follow this minor one when the U.S. quits. Sunni insurgents are therefore attacking the Shiites' U.S. protectors (we may not be officially siding with the Shia but in practice, because we do not have the forces to shift the power-balance decisively, we are). The rape of a woman by Shiite forces - I mean the national government forces - can only intensify the distrust. It's rare that a raped woman goes public in Muslim countries. All in all, a phony calm underpinned by a small notch upward in sectarian hatred and tension, driven by Sunni fear of the genocide ahead. At least, that's my best distant assessment on the evidence before us. I hope I'm proven wrong.