What’s Going On?

From Holden:

Patrick Cockburn reports from Mosul.

The upsurge in violence across Iraq in the past four days has left claims made by the Pentagon that the tide is turning in Iraq and there are hopeful signs of a return to normality in tatters.

[snip]

Ironically, one reason why Washington can persuade the outside world that its venture in Iraq is finally coming right is that it is too dangerous for reporters to travel outside Baghdad or stray far from their hotels in the capital. The threat to all foreigners was underlined last week when an American contractor was snatched by kidnappers.

When I was travelling in the northern city of Mosul this week, my guards ­ Kurdish members of the Iraqi National Guard ­ said it was too dangerous for them to travel with me in uniform in official vehicles. They donned Arab gowns, hid their weapons and drove through the city in a civilian car.

Most violent incidents in Iraq go unreported. We saw one suicide bomb explosion, clouds of smoke and dust erupting into the air, and heard another in the space of an hour. Neither was mentioned in official reports. Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and “our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up”. This makes the official Pentagon claim that the number of insurgent attacks is down from 140 a day in January to 40 a day this month dubious.

US casualties have fallen to about one dead a day in March compared with four a day in January and five a day in November. But this is the result of a switch in American strategy rather than a sign of a collapse in the insurgency. US military spokesmen make plain that America’s military priority has changed from offensive operations to training Iraqi troops and police. More than 2,000 US military advisers are working with Iraqi forces.

[snip]

Despite the elections on 30 January, the US problem in Iraq remains unchanged. It has not been defeated by the Sunni Arab guerrillas but it has not defeated them either. The US army and Iraqi armed forces control islands of territory while much of Iraq is a dangerous no-man’s land.

[snip]

The Sunni insurgency is not going to go away. US generals say there are only 12,000 to 20,000 guerrillas. But the real lesson of the past two years is that, though many of the groups in the resistance are fanatical or semi-criminal, they will still be sheltered by the Sunni community.

If the new Iraqi government succeeds in establishing itself it will be a largely Shia state with no more interest than the Sunnis in retaining a US presence. Iraqis say they sense that the US wants Iraq to be a weak state, and this they are bound to oppose.