Surge in Deaths 85 percent in US custody Are Sunni Arabs

The Bush administration talking points on the Iraq War are that the troop escalation has reduced violence and made Iraq safer for Iraqis, that the major threat in Iraq is self-avowed al-Qaeda devotees, and that Iran and the Shiites are just as deadly a threat as the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

The facts? The Associated Press points out the following

Deaths per day from political violence in 2007: 62
Deaths per day from political violence in 2006: 33

Yeah, things are obviously much safer. The report does say that violence is down in Baghdad this year, but the ‘surge’ just displaced it to other provinces. AP adds:

Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. The AP accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006.

•Baghdad has gone from representing 76 percent of all civilian and police war-related deaths in Iraq in January to 52 percent in July, bringing it back to the same spot it was roughly a year ago.’Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. The AP accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006.

The guerrillas have dealt with the surge by a doubling of violence in Iraq as a whole, and the US has only succeeded in wrestling the problem in Baghdad back down to where it was in summer of 2006.

Al-Hayat comments in Arabic on this NYT story that the number of detainees held by the US military in Iraq has risen from 19,000 to 24,400 in the course of the surge. Of these over 24,000, 85% are Sunni Arabs (20,740 of the current total). These numbers make absurd the comments of some US officers that the Shiite militias are as big a threat as the Sunni Salafi ‘insurgents,’ or that Iran is the major trouble maker in Iraq.

Indeed, since most Mahdi Army fighters deeply dislike Iran, those 15% in custody from among the Iraqi Shiites probably represent Iraqi nativists.

I read 85 percent of detainees being Sunni as meaning that most attacks were in Sunni Arab neighborhoods and so those arrested were from that community. Iran is not backing Iraqi Sunni Arabs because it could not do so without essentially collaborating in attacks on Iraqi Shiites (it is a different situation than Palestine, where there are no Shiites and there therefore is no downside to supporting Hamas).

The NYT says that of the 24,400, only 1800 openly say that they are “al-Qaeda.” That is about 7 percent of the whole. Another 6,000, or about a fourth, say they are takfiris, i.e. Salafis who are willing to excommunicate Shiites from Islam and to declare them non-Muslims.

The conclusion is that the vast majority (certainly 2/3s report themselves as neither al-Qaeda nor takfiri). Even if we exclude the Shiites, a majority may well not even be religious.

Meanwhile, Sunni Arab VP Tariq al-Hashimi wants these thousands of detainees formally charged with some crime or released. He says whether his resignation goes through depends on his party’s decree. His coalition, the Iraq Accord Front, has withdrawn from al-Maliki’s “national unity cabinet.” Al-Hashemi’s resignation would significantly weaken al-Maliki.

The withdrawal of 3 more cabinet ministers, of the National Iraqi List.

The trial of Baathis involved in suppressing the spring 1991 revolution is barely underway, but it is creating anger against the US since the Bush senior administration called for the uprising and then stood aside as Saddam massacred the rebels.

Reuters rounds up political violence in Iraq for Saturday,

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