...to carve up Iraq into ethnic enclaves:
Ahmad Hamad al-Tammimi used to live in the village of Quba. Before Iraq descended into sectarian war it was home to around 700 families. The vast majority were Sunnis. Tammimi, spiritual head of Diyala province's Shias and a follower of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most important religious leader, was the imam at the local mosque. He farmed groves of date palms and oranges close to the Diyala river.
But as a result of ethnic cleansing in the region, Shias like Tammimi have left. He says he hasn't seen his farm in two years:
'There is another family in my house. A Sunni family. Other people have taken over my groves. People from outside the village. Now I hear they have allowed my plants to dry up and wither.'
Unfortunately, it's a pattern that's being repeated on a massive scale all over Iraq, despite Iraqi government efforts to encourage the internally displaced to return home. The way the recent "surge" of US troops is being deployed isn't helping. In fact, it's destabilizing local balances of power and thereby accelerating the de facto partition of the country into more regional armed ethnic enclaves:
According to Iraq's Migration and Displacement Ministry, nearly 100,000 Iraqi families, about 500,000 individuals, have been displaced since February 2006....
As the US and Iraqi forces clamp down in Baghdad - reducing violence from Shia elements by up to 40 per cent although failing to tackle Sunni bombs - it has seen both factions shift their fight out of the city to other locations.
And as weapons have been confiscated from around Baghdad, it has left some areas - like Ghazaliya, which used to be capable of defending itself from Shia gangs - more vulnerable to attack. So the violence is not eradicated but the balance of power lurches dangerously.
In the short term the sectarian violence may be lessening. This is partly because in some areas "there are few people left available to kill," and partly because sectarian forces like the Mahdi Army (which sees an advantage to itself in letting US forces eradicate their rogue members in the current policing action in Sadr City) are in tactical retreat, and will return strengthened as they have from previous tactical retreats.
However, it's obvious to Iraq's neighbors and those with an interest in the region that Iraq is close to partition. The Iraq Study Group dismissed the idea of partition last year, despite the fact that it's been deemed "the only viable solution remaining for Iraq," specifically because the ethnic groups were too intertwined:
Baker has already dismissed the idea of dividing Iraq into three autonomous regions and distributing the oil wealth among the Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs. He has argued publicly that the populations in the major cities are too intermingled to create autonomous regions, which he claims would cause a civil war if implemented.
Oddly enough, the way the war is now being executed, that intermingling is exactly what's being undone. Bush says he doesn't want Iraq divided up into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions, perhaps to mollify the Turks, Saudis, and others who fear it will mean conflagration in the region for decades to come. And if there's anything we've learned over the past six years, it's that this president would never say one thing and do another, haven't we?