Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Iraq's Civil War

Evidently some Americans’ definition of a civil war is different from that of the Iraqi’s.

That’s not a surprise to those who’ve worked with the Iraqi’s and understand that Arabs don’t see things the same way as the average Westerner. That’s not a surprise knowing that Iraqi’s perceive, critique, and analyze daily events differently than most Americans.

For at least a year, there has been a concerted effort in the press and among defeatists to call the situation there a civil war, often as a means to justify cutting and running. Even some in the intelligence and defense communities have recently used the term to describe some aspects of Iraq.

But is that just applying our own label, invoking our own definition, or our determination of what is or isn’t normal?

Yes, because most Iraqi’s don’t see their country as caught up in a civil war.

The Times of London reported a poll on Sunday, conducted by Opinion Research Business, “a respected British market research company” that surveyed over 5,000 Iraqis, the largest sampling yet. Of those surveyed, only 27% thought their country was involved in a civil war.

Obviously, there’s a “disconnect” between what the Iraqi people see, and what some here are eager to believe.

The fact that good news from Iraq, such as that illustrated by The Times poll, is largely ignored, as the Times poll was, may reveal, at least in part, why the standard American view of the war is different than the Iraqi people’s.

The perspective of some American’s is that Iraqi’s are worse off. But the same poll tells us that they, by 2 to 1, prefer life now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Some in America believe that the answer to Iraq’s problems is to divide the country into three sections for the Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni populations. But again, that’s applying a solution most Iraqi’s don’t want. 64% of them want a unified country under a central government.

These numbers come at the beginning of the increased military and diplomatic efforts for victory in Iraq, affectionately known as “the surge” which has produced some solid initial results.

The news from both Multi-National Forces Iraq and Iraqi news sources show some promising initial indicators of success. Marsad Iraq and Aswat Aliraq reported on a press conference with Iraqi military officials concerning operation “Rule of Law” for Baghdad. They revealed that murders have declined by 28%, car thefts are down 65%, assassination have declined by 95% (from 517 to 22), kidnappings were down 90%, bombing crimes decreased by 38%, car bombs also fell by 38%, and mortar attacks were down 47%.

These numbers are the result of both increased military and diplomatic efforts.

Although most of the buzz about “the surge” concerns the numbers of troops, the surge itself and its early success is a product of much more than just an increase in troops.

In pursuing the political solution, a surge in diplomatic efforts is also taking place. Publicly, we’ve seen Iraq meeting with its neighbors and all interested parties to discuss the situation. We’ve also seen an agreement being reached for sharing the country’s oil wealth, a main point of contention among insurgents.

Behind the scenes, and maybe even more importantly, diplomats like Albrecht Muth are working diligently to have all parties constructively engage in developing a stable future for a unified Iraq.

Albrecht Muth, who works directly with Muqtada al Sadr and his followers, is one of many who, on a daily basis, juggle the myriad aspects of bringing all Iraqi’s together, working to find the right balance between the various groups and interests there.

If the decrease in activity by Sadr’s Mahdi Army and Shiite militias is any indication, Mr. Muth is having some success. The lack of activity on the part of the Mahdi Army can not be attributed to coalition military action alone. Diplomatic efforts are also at work here.

Even with all the “militant” labels pasted to Al Sadr, and calls to arms against him, he has become one who is willing to give the current plan a chance. Because of diplomatic efforts, he is currently one of the 64% willing to work toward a unified Iraq.

This combination of diplomatic and even-handed military efforts by the coalition seems to be having a positive impact on the security situation.

Could these efforts reinforce the Iraqi people’s view that their country is not embroiled in the civil war some Americans are convinced is taking place? Time will tell. There is hard work yet to do with no guarantees.

But one thing which may be more of a guarantee than Iraq’s future is that most of the national media will likely ignore similar positive developments in the future, as will most Democrats in Congress who are likely to continue their efforts to force our surrender.

After all, positive developments in Iraq work against the path both groups have chosen. Both groups need Iraq to fail, one to preserve credibility and the other to preserve political futures. Neither can afford to have the United States or Iraq succeed.

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