Friday, April 20, 2007

The Slow Ebbing of Stupidity

I've mentioned that the Iraqi Sunni Arabs have persistently been stupid by fighting a losing battle to control Iraq and alienating the majority Shias and Kurds who are losing patience with the terror campaign that the Sunnis will not reject.

The Sunnis seem determined to become the new Palestinians instead of taking their place in a democratic Iraq protected by rule of law rather than car bombs.

The stupidity is compounded by their refusal to take advantage of the presence of brutal al Qaeda invaders who could be a common enemy for Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Shias.

Yet their stupidity is not a permanent feature as General Barbero notes. The Sunni Arabs slowly are waking up as they are clubbed with reality sticks from all sides:

But we're seeing -- and I know it's been reported -- a trend in Al Anbar province of the Sunni leaders and the Sunni population turning against al Qaeda in Iraq specifically, and we are starting to see that expand into other areas. It's still a very early stage in Diyala and some other provinces, but this reaction to the absolute brutality and the indiscriminate murder of Iraqis, to include Sunnis, by these organizations is starting to drive a wedge between them and the Sunni leadership and the Sunni population. And we're seeing that in Al Anbar, and as I said, the attacks and violence in Al Anbar province has greatly diminished.

One result may be a decline in overall casualties:

However, I will tell you that despite these high-profile attacks, sectarian murder trends are declining in Baghdad as the additional U.S. and Iraqi security forces continue to establish themselves and embed themselves in the neighborhoods. Compared to the six-week period before the start of Operation Fard al-Qanun, civilian casualties and attacks on civilians are down by approximately 50 percent in Baghdad, and civilian casualties across Iraq are down by 24 percent, and attacks against civilians across Iraq are down by about 17 percent.

During the last time I briefed you, I was asked a question whether we sensed our surge of forces in Baghdad and the Baghdad security plan was causing increased attacks and violence elsewhere in Iraq; in other words, as we squeeze Baghdad, was the enemy flowing to other areas -- other provinces. Our analysis shows that with the exception of some high-profile attacks in Mosul, Tall Afar and Kirkuk, the cycle of violence in Baghdad does not appear to have spread to other areas and we're not seeing a significant rise in violence in the other areas of Iraq.

To be a little more specific, in the northern areas, the primarily Kurdish areas, where the level of attacks have been low, they remain low. They remain steady. In the northern-central area, from basically Mosul and south to the northern part of Baghdad, Diyala and Al Tamin provinces, we have seen a slight increase there in the number of attacks.

In the south, like the north, attack rates there have been low and have remained steady. And in the west, in Al Anbar province, we've seen a significant decrease in the number of attacks. So we are not seeing an expansion of violence to other areas outside Baghdad.

For this trend to be significant and sustained in the long run, it must be the result of political progress enabled by military actions and not from direct military pressure. As I've mentioned, levels of casualties are a troubling metric for me.

If the movement of Sunni Arabs away from terrorism and toward the government can be sustained, our surge will be a success.