By Martin Thomas
The official US National Intelligence Estimate now concedes that Iraq has lapsed into sectarian civil war, complicated by straight gangsterism and increasing conflict between different militias.
"The term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilisation, and population displacements..."
The Estimate, produced in January but made public this month, sees "an increase in communal and insurgent violence" and reckons that, unless some change in policy produces new success, "the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006".
It gives the lie to George W Bush's occasional claims about the Iraqi army becoming more competent. "Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)... will be hard pressed in the next 12-18 months to execute significantly increased security responsibilities..."
Events of the last couple of weeks confirm the grim assessment. As of 5 February, Iraqi authorities estimated that 1,000 Iraqis had been killed in sectarian violence in the previous week.
Saturday 3 February saw the deadliest single bombing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. A suicide bomber killed 135 people by driving a truck full of explosives into a market in a mainly Shia area of Baghdad.
On 28 January, Iraqi soldiers (with, and according to some reports, saved from defeat by US forces) wiped out what appears to have been a maverick Shia-Islamist group near Najaf. 250 people were killed, including women and children.
George W Bush's plan to fix this disaster by a new "surge" of US troops into Iraq looks more and more like a botch which will only produce more bloodshed and hatred.
The US government talks about the new troops impartially suppressing both Sunni sectarians and Shia-sectarian militias like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. It is unlikely they could do that even if they tried. The Mahdi Army seems to have taken prudent evasive action, and can easily spring back to take sectarian advantage from US action against Sunni militias in Baghdad.
US journalist Tom Lasseter quotes US officers in Baghdad telling him ruefully that of the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed, "half of them are JAM [Mahdi Army]. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night... People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around."
A recent opinion poll in the USA shows only 9% in favour of Bush's policy of sending more US troops, and 52% in favour of US withdrawal over the next year whatever the conditions and consequences in Iraq.
The only hope for democratic self-determination for the peoples of Iraq lies with non-sectarian forces like the harassed Iraqi labour movement. Our duty is solidarity with the Iraqi workers against both the US/UK forces and the sectarian militias.