What the attacks in Iraq tell us [VIDEO]
Iraq's sectarian divisions are deep, militants both Sunni and Shiite still roam the landscape, and the US is no longer in a position to do much about it.
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This is journalese. "Questions" aren't really being raised. It's evident that the ability of Iraq's security forces to end militant violence by force alone is nonexistent. The reason why is that the number of people willing to engage in attacks isn't small enough yet, that a substantial portion of the population looks at the Shiite-dominated government with sufficient suspicion to provide passive support to the fighting (by, say, deciding not to inform security forces of a neighbor who appears to be building a bomb in his garage), and that fighters – whether Sunni insurgents or Shiite militants that the US alleges are receiving support from Iran – still believe there's power and influence to be won at the end of a gun.Skip to next paragraph
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It's not just the Iraqis. Those factors were one of the reason that the civil war raged in Iraq in the middle of the last decade, despite the massive US troop presence carrying out dozens of offensive operations a day. While violence eventually died down, thanks to a massive transfer of Shiites and Sunnis into more religiously homogenous communities and a new US willingness to pay Sunni insurgents to switch sides, there was never a sufficient level of troops to stop the terror-style attacks that have been endemic in Iraq. That was true during the US troop surge (when no one questioned the resources or abilities of American forces) and it's true today, when the 45,000-odd American troops are largely involved with training and logistics, with the vast majority of security duties carried out by the less-effective Iraqis.
While it's looking increasingly likely that some kind of extended US training and equipping mission will extend beyond the end of this year, when US forces' current agreement with Iraq expires, that won't and can't address the root causes of ongoing violence: Iraqi politics.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been a boldly sectarian figure. The Sunni "awakening" that switched sides from the insurgency during the US troop surge didn't really receive the government jobs and political influence its members were promised in exchange for crossing the fence, leaving their ranks in disarray and leading to some backsliding. It's worth remembering that the March 2010 parliamentary election, in which the list of the former Baathist Iyad Allawi won the most votes, led to more than nine months of stalemate, with Mr. Maliki eventually cobbling together a coalition to retain power.
That left Mr. Allawi and Maliki on barely speaking terms, and a large segment of the Iraqi Sunni Arab public – a privileged class under Saddam Hussein – feeling the popular will had been thwarted. And even after the government was formed, stalemate has persisted. Filling the posts of Defense Minister and Interior Minister was left to a later time. Eight months later, the posts have still not been filled, with Maliki nominally in charge of both – leading to allegations he's amassing too much power of his own.