Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Decline of Violence in Iraq

Formerly Mesopotamia or the “Land between two Rivers”, the current modern state of Iraq is situated in the Middle East. It is bordered by Syria to the West, Turkey to the North, Iran to the East, Kuwait to the South-east, Saudi Arabia to the South, and Jordan to the South-west. The country descended into anarchy and insurgency when the former President of the United States, George W. Bush, ordered a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 under the pretext of destroying Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Iraq has been under the dictatorship of the Baath Party from 1979 until the subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 by U.S. troops. This article looks at what led to the reduction of violence in Iraq in 2008.(1)

Misconceived Notions about Iraq
Once considered a homogeneous Arab Nation and a beacon of peace and stability, the nation-state of Iraq, has, since 2003 (with the exception of 2008), transformed into a safe haven for hard-line insurgents and turned out to be a nation composed of various social structures or social strata each with its unique culture. To north are the Kurds who consider themselves to be non-Arabs with their own distinct history and culture. Among the Arabs there are two Arab societies: the Shiites in the South and the Sunnis who populate the middle of the country and who had a bigger stake in the running of the country during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The terms Sunnis and Shiites refer to different religious sects within the Islamic faith. Despite contrasting views among U.S. citizens, according to popular opinion, the “troop surge” implemented during the presidency of George W. Bush is reputedly thought of as being behind the drop in violence in Iraq since 2008 even though there is no way to prove or measure such claims.

The Evolution of a new Political State
Pioneered by the United States, her allies, and the coalition of the willing, the evolution of the current Iraqi state with its multiple political parties came to the fore after the subsequent departure of Saddam Hussein and his Baath party elites from the political spectrum. Likewise, the creation of new democratic institutions of governance and the restoration of freedom and liberty to the Iraqi populace, the formation of northern Kurdish prefectures and the taming of the Peshmerga(2), and the curtailment or defeat of the predominantly Shia Mahdi Brigade, shepherded the progression of a new Iraqi state. It was Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal who is credited with finding and capturing Saddam Hussein and with tracking and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. Only 20% of the 479 districts of Baghdad known as Mahallas were free of organized crime before a year-long operation by the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces (ISF) brought safety to the capital and improved the situation. According to Brig. Gen. Mike Milano, a top U.S. military official tasked with restoring security to Baghdad, nearly 80% of the capital's districts became free of organized extremist activity. The most comprehensive report on the decline of violence in 2008 appeared in the July issue of the Weekly Standard in which the author, Kimberley Kagan, attributes political maturity to be the cause of the partial cessation of hostilities for that period. The establishment of many political parties along tribal lines laid down the groundwork for stable, nonsectarian, and at least cross-sectarian politics.

Decline in Violence
Many may wonder why Iraq got immersed in a sudden sagging political quagmire immediately Saddam Hussein was removed from the helm and why there was a semblance of peace in 2008.The countless spates of reprisals seen in Baghdad before the surge were caused by the bitter hatred that existed between the Sunnis who had a stake in the running of the Iraqi government during Saddam’s 24-year reign of terror and the Shias who profoundly felt marginalized. The bombing of the golden Shia mosque on February 22nd, 2006 culminated in the launching of attacks that resulted in retaliation by Shias against Sunnis. After stabilizing the chaotic situation in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the man who came to be the progenitor of what came to be known as the Petraeus Doctrine, turned over the reins of power to Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, in October of 2007.

Professor David Siddhartha Patel of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, commenting on the insurgency in Iraq, had to say this: “The fighting in Iraq really isn’t motivated by Islam. It’s really motivated by politics; it’s about economics; it’s about money. And that divide between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that we hear so much about … that doesn’t really capture what’s going on. Just as much, the violence is within groups as between groups”. Consequently, the following factors could be attributed to the decline of the insurgency:
 The weakening of Al-Qaida and the collapse of tribal coalitions;
 Sunni Arab parliamentarians' acceptance of the Iraqi constitution;
 Coalition forces’ defeat of Iranian-supported “special groups” and the engaging of Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army/Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM);
 The establishment of tribal “Awakening Councils” and the formation of Concerned Local Citizen (CLC) groups to fight Al-Qaida in Iraq;
 Coalition forces’ collaboration with the civilian population led to torrents of fresh intelligence that culminated in the containment of hostile forces;
 The intensification of military operations against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq by Turkey and Iran;
 The diminished flow of foreign fighters from Syria and Iran led to reduced suicide bombings, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and EFPs (Explosively Formed Projectiles/Penetrators);
 The training of a more effective Iraqi Security Force (ISF);
 The transformation of the coalition forces from an army of occupation to an army of collaboration.

Conclusion: Though there is no way of measuring the causes of the decline in violence in Iraq in 2008, on the other hand, the escalation of retributions, hostility, and tribal hegemony diminished because the warring parties became exhausted and wary of war after much damage was done to both sides of the isle. The famous saying among Arabs that states “me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the world”, seems to have been the driving force behind the complex divisions, mistrust, and negative cultural attitudes that resulted in the dragging of Iraq into the senseless cycle of abyss that left thousands dead and an equal number unaccounted for.

(1)Charles W.L. Hill, Global Business Today, McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020 (pp. 91-92)
(2)Peshmerga is the name of the Kurdish guerilla army.
(3)Stanley A.McChrystal:
(4)U.S. reports violence decline in Iraq, 2-23-2008: Read more
(5)The Future of Iraq: The decline of violence, the rise of politics by Kimberly Kagan, July 28, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 43:
(7)United States Condemns Bombing of Important Shia Mosque in Iraq:
Read more:
(8)Gates Notes Shift in Mission as Iraq Command Changes Hands by Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service: CAMP SPEICHER, Iraq, Sept. 15, 2008
(9)Professor Discusses causes of Iraqi insurgency by Ian Wells, November 2, 2007.
(10)John T. Rourke, Taking Sides: Clashing Views in World Politics (14 ed.), The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

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