WASHINGTON: The Iraq conflict is not stabilizing, it is rapidly getting worse. And current U.S. policies are not helping.
It is less than a year since Iraq held full-scale parliamentary elections. Bush administration policymakers and their pundit allies in the media were genuinely confident that those elections would prove a historic turning point in Iraq and they were absolutely correct: The only trouble was that the turning point plunged the country into hell, not heaven.
For it was those elections so eagerly pushed and hyped by the White House that gave the Sunni insurgents in central Iraq the great strategic goal for which they had previously been striving in vain for more than two-and-a-half years. It was those elections that transformed the Iraq conflict from a limited insurgency supported by a relatively small minority within an ethnic minority of only 5 million Sunni Iraqis — less than 20 percent of the total population — into a burgeoning full scale civil war between the two largest religious groups in the country comprising 80 percent of the population, or 22.4 million people between them.
For the elections led to a consolidation of Shiite political power in Baghdad and then to the empowering of Shiite militias by Shiite political parties dominating the new parliament. Shiite militia influence within the new Iraqi police and army rapidly grew.
Less than three months after the elections, on Feb. 22, 2006, Sunni insurgents bombed the al-Askariya, or Golden Mosque in Samara, one of the holiest Shiite shrines in Iraq. Enraged Shiite militias lost no time in flexing their new-found power and confidence. They launched campaigns of terror and ethnic cleansing and random mass killings against Sunni communities. The general Sunni population rallied to their own insurgents in response.