Saturday, April 01, 2006

Good news, eh?

Civilians in Iraq Flee Mixed Areas as Attacks Shift - New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 1 — The war in Iraq has entered a bloodier phase, with the killings of Iraqi civilians rising tremendously in daily sectarian violence while American casualties have steadily declined, spurring tens of thousands of Iraqis to flee from mixed Shiite-Sunni areas.

The new pattern, detailed in casualty and migration statistics from the past six months and in interviews with American commanders and Iraqi officials, has led to further separation of Shiite and Sunni Arabs, moving the country toward a de facto partitioning along sectarian and ethnic lines — an outcome that the Bush administration has doggedly worked to avoid over the past three years.

The nature of the Iraq war has been changing since at least the late autumn, when political friction between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs rose even as American troops began implementing a long-term plan to decrease their street presence. But the killing accelerated after the bombing on Feb. 22 of a revered Shiite shrine, which unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodletting.

About 900 Iraqi civilians died violently in March, up from about 700 the month before, according to military statistics and the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent organization that tracks deaths. Meanwhile, at least 29 American troops were killed in March, the second-lowest monthly total since the war began.

The White House says that little violence occurs in most of Iraq's 18 provinces. But those four or five provinces where the majority of the killings and migrations take place are Iraq's major population centers, generally mixed regions that include Baghdad, and contain much of the nation's infrastructure — crucial factors in Iraq's prospects for stability.

This is a frightening turn. Dubya gets what he wants -- a declining American body count. Bin Laden gets what he wants -- continued American presence as a spur to recruiting and radicalization. Leaders of the factions get what they want -- separate fiefdoms.

Ordinary Iraqis? Not so much.


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