What Peace in Iraq Will Look Like

A story about Iraq in the LA Times includes this:

People who describe their neighborhoods as calm often attribute this to the sectarian “cleansing” of Sunnis or Shiites. Many say that better security is attributable to a heavy U.S. presence in their neighborhoods and that whenever those troops scale down operations, trouble returns.

Hamid Abdul Kareem, a supermarket owner in the northeastern neighborhood of Shaab, said the area was relatively secure. He said that was because of an exodus of Sunni families from Shaab, where the Mahdi Army loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has a strong presence.

“Sunnis still live in the region, but I think within the next year, the region will be totally Shiite,” Kareem said.

Hassan Shimari is one such Sunni. He lives in Shaab with his wife, a Shiite. He also wears a beard and is grateful for his dark complexion because it makes him look more Shiite than Sunni.

He said Shaab was quiet because Sunnis were lying low and because there was still enough of an American presence there to keep Shiite militias under control.

“If there is any weakening of the American forces here, it will be very, very bad,” said Shimari, a taxi driver. “In the last three days, I’ve driven four families at 6 in the morning to travel companies so they could leave for Syria. Those who can afford it leave.”

Determining accurate civilian death tolls is virtually impossible in Iraq, where the government has no single source for reporting deaths related to the war. Whichever numbers one uses, however, it is clear that thousands of Iraqis continue to be slain or driven from their homes.

According to U.S. military figures, an average of 1,000 Iraqis have died each month since March in sectarian violence. That compares with about 1,200 a month at the start of the security plan, the military said in an e-mailed response to queries. This does not include deaths from car bombings, which the military said have numbered more than 2,600 this year.

Figures from Iraqi government ministries point to far higher casualty numbers and show that this year, an average of 1,724 civilians a month have died in sectarian attacks, bombings and other war-related violence.

In February, the civilian death toll was 1,646. Last month, it was 1,773, according to numbers from officials in the ministries of Defense, Interior and Health, who cite morgue, hospital and police reports. It was the second straight month that casualties have increased since the security plan began.

Dana Graber-Ladek of the International Organization for Migration said internal displacement had escalated since the troop buildup began. The increase is partly because of people fleeing military offensives, and partly because of better record-keeping by the Ministry for Displacement and Migration, Graber-Ladek said.

But 63% of those displaced this year said they had moved because of threats to their security, according to the International Organization for Migration. One-fourth said they were forced from their homes.

The organization also said that 69% of newly displaced Iraqis had left homes in Baghdad, a sign that sectarian cleansing continues in the capital. These people had either moved to new neighborhoods in the capital or had left Baghdad altogether.

“Basically, Iraqis are fleeing because they flee for their lives,” Graber-Ladek said. “As long as the violence continues, displacement will continue.”

If the US stays long enough, there will be peace in Iraq… because everyone the “cleansers” want to cleanse will be cleansed. Of course, that will also happen if the US leaves tomorrow. I don’t recall any of this being part of the rationale for war.