The Whole Story: Post-Surge Reduction in Violence Resulted from Ethnic Cleansing

Violence Reduced Because Sectarian “Militias Simply Ran Out Of People To Kill.” According to an article in Small Wars Journal, “One factor leading to the decline in violence in Iraq 2007, as described by one American officer, was that the militias simply ran out of people to kill. Sectarian conflict had significantly reduced the ratio of Sunnis to Shiites in the Baghdad, leaving many dead and forcing others from their homes for fear of sectarian reprisal killings – in essence, the conflict had led to ethnic cleansing in parts of Baghdad.” [Small Wars Journal, 2/4/13]

2007: Majority Of Iraqis Said “Security Has Deteriorated In The Area Covered By The US Military ‘Surge.’” According to the BBC, “About 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the US military ‘surge’ of the past six months, an opinion poll suggests. The survey for the BBC, ABC News and NHK of more than 2,000 people across Iraq also suggests that nearly 60% see attacks on US-led forces as justified. This rises to 93% among Sunni Muslims compared with 50% for Shia.” [BBC, 9/10/07]

Kalh: “Sectarian Cleansing In 2006 And Early 2007 Had The Perverse Effect Of Driving Down Subsequent Violence.” According to Colin Kalh, “Since the beginning of the war, more than four million Iraqis have fled the country or become internally displaced. The acceleration of sectarian cleansing in 2006 and early 2007 had the perverse effect of driving down subsequent violence by segregating groups in Baghdad into defensible enclaves — enclaves that have increasingly walled off from one another by concrete barriers erected by U.S. forces.” [American Prospect, 6/25/08]

Government Accounting Office Official: Reduction In Violence May Be Linked To “Ethnically Cleansed Neighborhoods, Particularly In The Baghdad Area.” According to Joe Christoff’s testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, “I’m not going to answer that one, but I can talk a little bit about ethnic cleansing, because I think that’s an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq. You know, we look at the attack data going down, but it’s not taking into consideration the fact that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area.” [Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation and Related Programs, 10/30/07]

Baghdad Cleansed Of Sunnis. According to McClatchy, “One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge. But the reason for that decline isn’t clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill. One officer noted that U.S. officials believe Baghdad once had a population that was 65 percent Sunni. The current U.S. estimate is that Shiites now make up 75 percent to 80 percent of the city. Whatever the rate of violence, however, military officers believe that military progress will last only if there’s political reconciliation.” [McClatchy, 8/15/07]

“Many Formerly Mixed Sunni-Shiite Areas Have Become Largely The Domain Of One Sect.” According to the Washington Post, “Even with lower casualty numbers, the quantity of violence indicates that militias and insurgents remain active in many areas. Large parts of southern Baghdad remain a battleground where U.S. soldiers, steadily encroaching Shiite militias and persistent fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq clash. Attacks, unless particularly deadly, often pass with little notice outside the neighborhood in which they occur. Many formerly mixed Sunni-Shiite areas have become largely the domain of one sect, since millions of Iraqis have fled their homes for other countries or other parts of Iraq over the years. ‘It’s much harder to conduct sectarian cleansing if you’ve got a homogenous neighborhood which has a local volunteer security force which is on the lookout for those people,’ Miska said. Casualty numbers themselves are inconsistent. The U.S. military said about 800 civilians were killed in October, but an unofficial tally by the Health Ministry showed that 1,448 civilians had died violently, including those whose bodies were dumped without identification. An official provided the data, which showed an increase in deaths compared with September, on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release it publicly.” [Washington Post, 11/2/07]

Post-Surge National Intelligence Estimate: Sectarian Violence Continues. According to CNN, “Civilian casualties remain high, sectarian groups can’t get along, al Qaeda in Iraq is still pulling off high-profile attacks and ‘to date, Iraqi leaders remain unable to govern effectively,’ said the declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate released Thursday. … According to the declassified findings, the U.S. intelligence community predicts Iraqi security ‘will continue to improve modestly’ over the next year, ‘but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation.’” [CNN, 8/23/07]