Victory In Iraq, Update

The NYT tries to figure out what's going on below the surface in Iraq. The key is distinguishing between what might be incidents of low-level terrorism - something that probably cannot be eradicated in a place like Iraq - and a new sign of incipient sectarian warfare. This is worrying:

In interviews with 14 leaders of the Awakening movement, which has been credited with helping to reduce violence, all said they believed that the jihadi presence in their areas had increased, as American troops began to close combat outposts or hand them over to the Iraqi Army, a first step toward withdrawing entirely. The Awakening leaders reported signs of trouble: assassination attempts, homemade bombs placed near their homes or under their cars, leaflets urging them not to work with the Iraqi government.

The key issue is whether the Sunni Awakening has been integrated into the national security forces and government in sufficient numbers and strength to prevent a new phase of the civil war when the US departs. So far, the signs are not great:

While the province is far more secure than in 2006 and 2007, when the provincial capital, Baquba, was known locally as “the city of death,” attacks are now increasing. Forty-three people were killed in Diyala in March, up from 29 in February and 6 in January, according to the Diyala Operations Command.

I'm just trying to imagine what happens when the US is gone, when the Shiites fail to pay sufficient bribes to the Sunnis, and when some incident sets off a sectarian spat. Will it escalate? Your call. I see no reason why it won't. And once that dynamic takes off, we're back to where we started, barring a few trillion and a few thousand young American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

Welcome to Empire. It never ends. Until it does.