The downward spiral that is Iraq

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I try to link to people who have a much better understanding of foreign policy than I, and Laura Rozen is at the top of that list. She recently wrote (some two weeks before the Associated Press picked up on the story, by the way) about Bush Co. plans to negotiate a new power base within the Iraqi government:

The “unleash the Shia” option would have the United States back a Shiite coalition that would include SCIRI leader Hakim and his Badr Brigades as the core of an Iraqi Army under the direct control of Prime Minister Maliki. Even as the United States sided with the Shia, Hadley’s memo makes clear that the United States would at the same time press Maliki to distance himself from Sadr and his Mahdi army. Note in particular the Hadley memo’s language concerning the importance of rapidly expanding the size of, and Maliki’s control over, the Iraqi Army: “Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraqi forces, although we must recognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces.”

Rozen spent four years reporting in the Balkans, so, when she makes this type of observation about Iraq, I start to worry:

Sectarian cleansing, very familiar from the ex Yugoslavia conflicts, ramps up in earnest. Update: Spencer is right. This is how genocide begins.

Laura’s talking about this Washington Post article:

Farouk, a Sunni Muslim, fears his home might be targeted next. In the past two months, Shiite militiamen have tightened their grip on his central Baghdad neighborhood of Tobji, purging dozens of Sunni families, by fear and by threats. His world has become even more precarious since a barrage of car bombs, mortar shells and missiles killed more than 200 on Nov. 23 in Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that is home to many of Sadr’s loyalists.

So Farouk began preparing to do what neither his father nor his grandfather could have imagined in their Iraq: flee Tobji, an enclave where Shiites and Sunnis have coexisted for more than half a century. Farouk plans to join the more than 400,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes, an exodus that is reshaping the face of Baghdad into neighborhoods polarized along sectarian lines.

On Saturday, Farouk’s mission grew more urgent. In the latest spasm of revenge attacks, gangs of Shiite gunmen stormed Hurriyah, a mixed neighborhood adjacent to Tobji, torching houses, killing at least two Sunni Arabs and driving out dozens of Sunni families. On Sunday, in interviews across Tobji, Sunni Arabs worried that their fate could soon mirror their brethren’s.

“It is coming like a wave,” said Khudir Mahmoud, 32, after his midday prayers.

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