It’s too early to say that the Iraqi resistance is back, but the recent increase in violence — including a series of horrific bomb attacks and a rise in small-scale attacks — suggests that Iraq is not exactly a stable, post-civil war society. The question is: Is President Obama fiddling while Iraq burns?
Flashpoints include the Arab-Kurdish conflict over Kirkuk and other disputed areas, along with the still-simmering intra-Shiite conflicts. But the main fault line remains the divide between the mainly Shiite national government — including Prime Minister Maliki’s ruling bloc and various other pro-Iranian Shiite parties — and the nationalist Sunni forces, including the now-disintegrating former Awakening (sahwa) movement, also known as the Sons of Iraq.
No one knows, for certain, who’s behind the recent violence. But it seems likely that at least some of the former Awakening militiamen, who won American backing in 2006, have now fallen back into the underground resistance, perhaps linking up with unreconstructed Baathist partisans of Saddam Hussein and other ex-military and ex-intelligence officers.
Hillary Clinton, who made a surprise visit to Baghdad over the weekend, sounded a lot like Don Rumsfeld, who used to ask himself questions and then answer them. “Are there going to be bad days? Yes, there are,” said Clinton, when asked about a wave of bombings that killed 160 people. And, echoing former Bush officials who put on rose-tinted glasses when asked about the insurgency, Clinton blamed unnamed “rejectionists” for the violence. Even the New York Times couldn’t resist pointing out the irony:
At times, her analysis almost echoed that of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When the sectarian violence was relentless several years ago, Mr. Cheney spoke of the insurgency being in its “last throes,” while Mr. Rumsfeld talked of “dead-enders” who kept fighting a lost cause.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times described the state of the Awakening movement under the headline “Iraq’s Awakening: Two tales illustrate force’s birth and slow death.” Reporter Ned Parker raised the key question: Is Maliki’s Shiite-Kurdish regime serious about bringing the Sunnis into a power-sharing arrangement, or is he trying to divide and conquer the Sons of Iraq? Telling the stories of Abu Azzam and Abu Maarouf, two former Awakening leaders, he wrote: