The Surge's Problem


It's good to see some small progress and a few arrests of Shiite thugs. But the fundamental flaw is still obvious. This simple well-reported piece from Baghdad tells you all you need to know:

It was a translator working with the Americans, interviewed a day after the fact, who had overheard the Iraqi police tipping off the Iraqis. "They were telling people in the neighborhood to hide your weapons from the Americans," he said. The police were Shiites, he said, and inclined to favor others of their sect in the district, which is mostly Shiite but has a considerable Sunni population.

On another patrol, an American commander said, Iraqi residents told American soldiers that a national policeman had warned them to hide anything incriminating including paraphernalia about Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite militia leader whose forces are targets of the Baghdad crackdown.

You have a military and police force so infiltrated by or beholden to Shiite militias that there is no chance of cracking down on every aspect of the insurgency in the name of a nominally "national" government. Almost all the heavy lifting is still being done by Americas; and everyone is waiting for their departure so that a real war and a new balance of power can take the country forward:

To many Sunnis the Iraqi forces remain little more than instruments of Shiite hegemony, and the Baghdad plan appears to have done little to change that view. "They can’t protect the Sunnis in the Shiite districts, and they will never fight the militias because they are from the same sect," said Ahmed al-Mashhadani, a Sunni resident of west Baghdad, where other Baghdad security operations took place last week. "We don’t trust them, and if American troops leave, we will call back the resistance platoons to protect ourselves."

If we continue as we are, I don't see any way past this problem. We will become de facto part of a Shiite government fighting Sunnis and al Qaeda. Maybe that's what Cheney wants - to take the Shiite side in such a civil war. If so, the repercussions of that should be on the table.

(Photo of Iraqi boy protecting a poster of al-Sadr in Baghdad after his house was inspected by U.S. and Shiite Iraqi troops. By Wissam al-Okaili/AFP/Getty.)