Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It is too quiet!!!

Everyone inside and outside Iraq is talking about the renewed security in Baghdad and the significant drop in violence. People attribute it to the surge that has taken its course and increased the presence of forces on the streets of Baghdad and other places, while others also cite the better training of the Iraqi security forces and the Baghdad security plan. I think it is a combination of many factors but one issue continues to bother me at the back of my mind. The security plan started in February and the surge started in May/June (the real surge when troops had actually arrived), violence levels spiked in May, June, July, August, and September and then very suddenly as if a light switch had been turned off, subsided! This was coupled with a sudden absence of mortar and rocket fire on the Green Zone. I can't help to think this is someone playing with Iraq's destiny. Someone figured upping the violence during the months before the Crocker/Petraeus report would hurt the Americans politically and now they may have figured calming the situation is the best way to get them to leave. Calls have already started for US troops to withdraw and the media is reporting that the PM is considering lifting the nightly ban on vehicles. It does not make sense...please don't misunderstand, I as well as many Iraqis are happy to see Iraq return to normal and for US troops to return safely to their families but this just doesn't feel right and I hope that it is not another twist in the unending saga of the ebb and flow of violence and politics in Iraq.
I think people should take a more sober look at the situation and not be overly optimistic because the fundamental issues that stoke the violence have yet to be resolved. The violence was a manifestation of the political power contest for the right to lay the foundations of the "New Iraq" it happened in a zero-sum political environment where instead of working together to forge a new vision for the country, groups would think that if a political opponent gained it automatically meant their loss. This situation has not yet entirely changed among the present political class in Iraq. Granted there may be a sense of exhaustion by many but I don't believe the underlying problems that helped fuel the violence in Iraq have been resolved and therefore a greedy neighbor or other power wishing to capitalize can easily play one group against the other and reignite the violence. The real resolution to this problem can only come in the form of a political resolution akin to India's framing of a several hundred page constitution where all had a say; a system where all felt enfranchised and felt that at least they had equal opportunity because of their citizenship and not their sub ethno-sectarian identities. I may be thinking idealistically, but realistically if Iraqis can come together and realize a common vision and start talking economic, social, and health policy we will take a step towards building a functional state and truly eliminating the need for political, ethnic, or sectarian violence by eliminating its source.

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