For Bush, Blair and Howard, the architects of ‘regime change’ in Iraq, their swift victory over Saddam Hussein in 2003 must seem like another era as the country descends into sectarian conflict and chaos.
All their political initiatives – from elections, to a new constitution, a new government and a ‘reconstruction’ programme – has resulted in a fracturing rather then a unification of Iraq. This was spelt out in a leaked memo sent to the Blair government by the outgoing British ambassador to Baghdad, William Patey. He says the country is closer to civil war and partition rather than democracy.
This doom laden analysis was echoed by general John Abizaid, the head of US central command, to a US Senate committee: “I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it in Baghdad in particular, and that if it could not be stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war,” he said.
Bush downplayed these critical assessments with a less than convincing – ‘we’ve got to see the job through’ – response. But their real concerns were revealed when a further 3,700 US troops were rushed to Baghdad. An estimated 100 Iraqi civilians die in the city every day despite the presence of 50,000 soldiers.
At the end of July the US military recorded a daily average of 34 bombing and shooting attacks in Baghdad, up from the daily average of 24 attacks a month ago. A recent United Nations report said 14,338 civilians had died in the first six months of 2006. Deaths jumped from 2,669 in May to 3,149 in June.
The redeployment also underlines the fact that the Iraqi security apparatus is heavy infiltrated by Shia militia who have been accused of running sectarian death squads.
And in what should make further unpalatable reading for Bush, Blair and Howard, Patey drew a parallel between Iraq and Lebanon, saying that the occupying powers must prevent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia becoming “a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon”.