Friday, August 04, 2006

Batallions to and Pessimism over Baghdad

As the US is rushing its two advanced Stryker batallions to Baghdad in order to try to stem the upsurge in sectarian killing, a pessimistic British assessment is leaked to the press.

It's the final report of outgoing UK Ambassador to Iraq William Patey that has reached the media, including The Times.

"The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy," he wrote in his cable, which was addressed to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons, and senior military officers.

"Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq — a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror — must remain in doubt."

But in spite of this, the situation was not beyond hope, although he predicted that - at best - Iraq would be a very messy place for the next five to ten years.

This comes as the level of sectarian fighting is increasing dramatically in Baghdad.

The fact that the US is rushing its two advanced Stryker batallions from other critical parts of Iraq - one of them from Mosul - to Baghdad in order to reinforce the security operation there is a sign of the seriousness of the situation.

These are capable forces, but the batallions in question have never been to Baghdad, and what difference they can make in a city of 5-7 million people remains to be seen.

In the meantime, there is little doubt that what is seen on the ground as the Israeli-American war in Lebanon is complicating the situation even further. And that can not be corrected by rushing batallions to Baghdad.