Sunni Arab Refugees from Iraq Not Returning; $3-5 Bn. US Reconstruction Aid Wasted

Hamza Hendawi of AP says his interviews and on-the-ground researches in Baghdad support my contention that the Iraqi capital is now only 10 percent to 15 percent Sunni (in 2003 it was roughly 50/50 Sunni and Shiite):

‘ Among the statistics obtained by the AP:

— Only an estimated 50,000 of 300,000 displaced families — or 16 percent — have returned to their Baghdad homes, according to the U.S. military. Most are believed to be Sunnis.

— In Hurriyah, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 families, most of them Sunnis, fled in 2006 and 2007. Of those, only 648 families — or 16 to 22 percent — have come back since September.

In addition, 350 to 400 of the displaced families have sold or rented their Hurriyah homes, suggesting they intend to stay away forever, said Maj. Hussein al-Qaissy, Hurriyah’s Iraqi army commander.

Note that 300,000 displaced Iraqi families would likely be 1.5 million individuals.

I did research in August, 2008, in Jordan on Iraqi refugees, and it became very clear to me that they are not returning to Iraq. Many are traumatized, having seen horrific violence against neighbors, friends or family members. One fourth of the families applying for refugee aid reported having had a child kidnapped. Many have been personally threatened by militias who still control their old neighborhood. Sometimes the militias track them down in East Amman and threaten them again. Iraqi Sunnis do not feel safe returning to districts that are now largely Shiite. Mixed families feel that they no longer have a place to live safely. Most refugees have had their property confiscated. Many former Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad are now ghost towns.

Iraq says that security in its north has been enhanced by more vigilant Syrian border policing, a signal of better relations between Baghdad and Damascus. (My own guess is that the US commitment to a troop withdrawal timetable has made it less urgent for the Syrians to stir up trouble in the Iraqi north. They don’t mind the Da’wa Party or the Islamic Mission Party coming to power in Iraq, though the Syrian government is secular. But they really minded a big US troop presence on their doorstep.

On the other border, Turkey is pledging to double the supply of water flowing into Iraq. One suspects that the quid pro quo is an Iraqi crackdown on the Kurdish Workers Party guerrillas who are hiding out in Iraqi mountains and who conduct cross-border raids on Turkish soldiers in eastern Anatolia.

As much as $5 billion in US reconstruction aid for Iraq was simply wasted, according to the GAO.

Iranian speaker of the House, Ali Larijani, while on a visit to Iraq reiterated the Iranian position that they want to see concrete policy changes from the US before they take President Barack Obama’s overtures too seriously. The Iranians keep saying that the US put Saddam Hussein up to attacking Iran in September 1980. This was the last months of the Carter administration, and Gary Sick, who was then on the National Security Council, says that Iraq’s invasion of Iran came as a shock to him and his colleagues. President Carter himself would do us all a favor by addressing this allegation, which has also been retailed by gadfly Christopher Hitchens. Also, the US archives for that period should be just about open, and the diplomatic record may also help dispel this myth. (It is true that from 1983 the Reagan administration sought an alliance with Iraq against Iran, but that is a different issue.)

France is selling 24 helicopter gunships to Iraq.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Wednesday.. Let’s get this straight: bombings wounded several people in Mosul and Baghdad; Turkey bombarded the Qandil area and the Iranians shelled eastern Kurdistan villages– both because they perceive Kurdish terrorist groups to have been given safe harbor in Iraqi Kurdistan. So this is what calm looks like?

‘ Nineveh

A roadside bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy near a girl’s primary school in Rasheediyah neighbourhood, northern Mosul at 2.15 p.m. Wednesday killing three little girls, injuring seven others.

Iraqi Police found, Wednesday, the body of a man who had been kidnapped three days before from his jeweler’s shop in the town of Bashiqa, 30 km to the east of Mosul. He had been shot many times in the head and chest.

Gunmen raided a house in Darkezliyah neighbourhood ,eastern Mosul late Tuesday and killed the woman who lived in it.

- Police found a dead body for a young man in Bashiqa (west of Mosul).

Diyala

A roadside bomb targeted the motorcade of civil society official, Azbar al Azawi as it left his home headed for work at 8.30 a.m. Wednesday. His brother was critically injured, and several others got away with superficial injuries.

Dohuk

Turkish bombardment was renewed Wednesday morning, hitting villages on the border strip near the city of Zakhu, northern Duhok without causing any human casualties, but eye witnesses said that the bombing caused great fear and panic among the villagers.

Sulaimaniyah

Iranian artillery bombarded the villages on Qindeel Mountain in northwest Sulaimaniyah province Wednesday morning without causing any human casualties.

Baghdad

- A roadside bomb targeted an American convoy near a clinic in Qahira neighborhood in northeast Baghdad around 7:30 p.m. Five Iraqi people were wounded with no casualties reported on the American side , police said.

- A roadside bomb targeted an American convoy in Adhamiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad around 8:30 p.m. Four Iraqi people were wounded with a damage to an American vehicle with no casualties reported, Iraqi police said.’

End/ (Not Continued)