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Is the surge really having an effect?

The latest figures for US causalties in Iraq shows that to some degree the Surge has had some effect on reducing violence in Iraq. The more intelligent tactics of Petreaus have had enjoyed certain successes especially in Baghdad and even Al Anbar and Diwalya provinces .

However, it would be wrong to imagine that the underlying reasons were the extra 30,000 US troops. The tactics of the insurgents and Al Qaeda have also changed. Typical of terrorist and insurgent movements they have adapted and withdrawn under fire to preserve their strength. Overall their power have not been severely diminished and they remain together with other Sunni insurgents and Shia militias a potent force waiting out the withdrawal or reduction of US forces that will mean the opening of the real all-out civil war in Iraq. The fact that Al Qaeda is still able to strike "spectaculars" like the assignation of the leader of the Sunni tribes cooperating with the US and the heads of Sunni and Shia militias meeting for talks are signs that their infrastructure and deep infiltration of Iraqi society remains in tact.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

With one year to the Presidential elections Bush of course realized that the war was unwinnable during his term in office. His best hope was to leave with a record of a reduced level of violence and a reduction in troops facilitated by his Surge strategy.

The Petraeus report in September 2007 was a well choreographed and prepared effort in conjunction with the White House to sell the Bush strategy. While it admitted shortcomings its overall effect was to try to give the image of a more stable Iraq. While it is true that the General's tactics have had some effect on the situation, it would be wrong to imagine the statistics are the full story. Indeed many pointed out how the report was shot through with holes.

While the September figures were lowest for the year they were only equal to the same for the period the previous pre-Surge year. August and July were the deadliest for civilian deaths for the whole of 2007 Surge. Contrary to,the assertions of Petreaus sectarian attacks had almost doubled around the country. At the height of the Surge, the number of US troops killed was the highest ever. If there had been a fall in violence and attacks Baghdad, it was because the city had been ethnically cleansed of mixed areas. The capital, which was previously 65% Sunni became 75% Shia. The massive increase in millions of refugees contradicts the assertion that sectarian violence was down, as the migrants were fleeing ethno/religious strife.

Another fact which casts doubts on the accuracy of US Army statistics is they method of classification. According to the Army Car bombs are not considered sectarian attacks. Some 2,600 people killed by car bombs are discounted as victims of sectarianism and car bombings in July 2007 were 6% higher than before the Surge. Furthermore, only people shot in the head are counted as sectarian killings! Nor do the killings between Sunni and other Sunnis or Shia and other Shias count as statistics in the civil war. Moreover Al Qaeda is accounts for only an estimated 15% of violence.

It is also a lie to count the alliance with Sunni tribes against Al Qaeda as a victory of the Surge, since it began December 2006. Furthermore there is no indication that this will lead to political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shia, especially because the Shia government vehemently opposes the new Sunni militias and rightly sees them as a Frankenstein's monster which can turn against Shias and against the US.

Indeed, all independent reports and analysis, including an inside report from the Pentagon paint a quite different picture to the political speech of Petreaus. Even he had to admit that violence remains at unacceptable levels. The fact is that wars and civil wars ebb and flow, war weariness can set in, only to be followed by a new upsurge in violence. Both Shia and Sunni militias are biding their time and keeping their powder dry for the real civil war which will come regardless of whether there are 170,000 or 130,000 US troops in Iraq.