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Iraqi Returnees: Surge success, failure, problem?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rowan Wolf       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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After a number of reports like this one announcing that Iraqi refugees returning from Syria are a clear sign of the "success" of Bush's surge, we get Iraq Lacks Plan on the Return of Refugees, Military Says. First we spin one way, then we spin the other.

The refugees were returning because they were broke, Syria was pushing them to leave, and they hope home is safer now. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government was providing money and a free bus ride back to Baghdad:

The first bus loads of Iraqi refugees from Syria started arriving in Baghdad yesterday, spewing out exiles who had run out of cash or visa extensions and others who hoped that the city was returning to normality. Some had even come back to fight the militants who drove them from their homes.

Is the drop in violence - particularly in Baghdad - the result of a successful surge or a successful purge? Meaning that the forced segregation of Baghdad neighborhoods, and the resulting flight of many residents, was the reason for decreased violence. There were quite simply fewer people, and fewer Sunnis, to be attacked and killed. Certainly one aspect of the surge strategy has been to purge Baghdad.

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The purge of the neighbourhoods, however, has helped to bring down the number of violent deaths, providing fewer sectarian targets. Residents seeing their neighbours being driven out are too afraid to do anything. Ali Mohammed, a Shia in Huriya, spread his hands in a gesture of hopelessness. " If we say anything we will be attacked," he said. "So what can we say? We know of people being driven out, being killed, but there is no one we can go to."

Others say the surge itself had led to the rise in intimidation by the militias. Rashid Kamal, in Amariya, said: "The Americans drove out the militias, but they only went into other areas. It is this which led to the places where Sunnis and Shia were living together being split up. People who have been neighbours for generations were forced to leave in a few hours." (Independent, Sept. 11, 2007)

So let me get this straight. A significant part of the chaos in Iraq was reportedly been "sectarian violence." The troop surge, and backing of Iraqi forces in Baghdad, resulted in the flight of tens of thousands of Iraqis. Neighborhoods cleared; population dropped; violence dropped; successful surge.

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However, the 2.5 million plus folks who have fled - many to Syria and Jordan are being forced back to Iraq. This is being facilitated by the Iraqi government. The spin is that they are returning home because the violence has dropped. Forget the fact that their removal was a key component of that drop in violence. So the word is that their return is yet another sign of "success."

But not so fast. We must cover our bases after all. Where exactly are these refugees going to go? Do you think that their former homes are just sitting there waiting for them? I doubt it. So, they start returning "home." Someone must of realized that this might "reverse the progress." Or maybe the U.S. military and the Iraqi government are at cross purposes. Or maybe, the U.S. is creating a scapegoat of the Iraqi government.

As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.

The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

"All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house," said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad.

"We have been asking, pleading with the government of Iraq, to come up with a policy so that it is not put upon our battalion commanders and the I.S.F. battalion commanders to figure it out on the ground," he added, referring to the American and Iraqi security force Iraqi refugees returning from Syria are a clear sign of the "success" of Bush's surge, we get NY Times, 11/30/07

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It is so hard to tell a straight story when what you've been telling are lies and spin. At some point they just have to run into each other.

Other related articles
Iraqi embassy in Syria organizing free trips home for Iraqi refugees. AP, 11/21/07.

Hundreds of Iraqi refugees leaving Syria. USA Today. 11/27/07.


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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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