Juan Cole: Ten Myths about Iraq

As usual Juan Cole is perceptive, and provocative. Here he takes on many of the myths pushed by mainstream media about the situation in Iraq.


From: Juan Cole
Date: Dec 25, 2007 11:48 PM
Subject: [infoco] [Informed Comment] Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the
2008 presidential campaign.

In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were
virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of
voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy
had become more important to them than in previous months (in November
only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still
rivals it as an issue!

9. Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political
reconciliation in Iraq in 2007.

Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the
moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis
in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned
the government. There are new tensions between Shiites and Kurds over
what to do.

8. The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging
between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop
escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from
65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria
suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees
relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that
over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million
during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's
population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn
Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis from the capital.

7. Myth: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly
form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla
groups in Iraq.

Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi
guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who
have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war
materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI),
which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the
arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.

6. Myth: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation
of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women.

Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status,
ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush
administration.

5. Myth: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in
meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration.

Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Those
legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving
a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review
committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1
1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007,
have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the
breathing space the surge has provided."

4. Myth: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US
payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri
al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants.

Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council
tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have
polished off al-Qaeda.

3. Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic
growth.

Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for
control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a
political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers
Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish
troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi south is now
undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.

2. Myth: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007.

Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a
month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of
November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political
violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and
police.

1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the
escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."

Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the
reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla
attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a
week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant
US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops
in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the
airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to
do with US troops.

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