Claims are going the rounds that sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen, and that the U.S. military "surge" has succeeded in reducing attacks against civilians. Baghdad residents speak of the other side of the coin -- that they live now in a largely divided city that has brought this uneasy calm.
"I would like to agree with the idea that violence in Iraq has decreased and that everything is fine," retired general Waleed al-Ubaidy told IPS in Baghdad. "But the truth is far more bitter. All that has happened is a dramatic change in the demographic map of Iraq."
And as with Baquba and other violence-hit areas of Iraq, he says a part of the story in Baghdad is that there is nobody left to tell it. "Most of the honest journalists have left."
"Baghdad has been torn into two cities and many towns and neighbourhoods," Ahmad Ali, chief engineer from one of Baghdad's municipalities told IPS. "There is now the Shia Baghdad and the Sunni Baghdad to start with. Then, each is divided into little town-like pieces of the hundreds of thousands who had to leave their homes."
Many Baghdad residents say that the claims of reduced violence can be tested only when refugees go back home.
Many areas of Baghdad that were previously mixed are now totally Shia or totally Sunni. This follows the sectarian cleansing in mixed neighbourhoods by militias and death squads.
The above is from Ali al-Fadhily's "Iraq: A Tale of One City, Now Two: Beneath Rosey Assessments Bitter Truths" (IPS via Common Dreams). Let's stay with reality. Turkey and northern Iraq? Big media lost interest. Must mean there's no story there, right? Lucy notes "Turkish gunships attack empty villages in Iraq" (AP via Jerusalem Post):
Turkish helicopter gunships attacked abandoned villages inside Iraq on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said, the first such air strike since border tensions have escalated in recent months.
It also was the first major Turkish action against Kurdish rebels since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met President Bush in Washington earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Kurdish guerrillas killed four Turkish soldiers in a clash Tuesday in southeastern Turkey, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said.
CNN Turk television, quoting Iraqi officials, said the villages were empty and no one was killed in the attack.
The reports could not be immediately confirmed.
Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops along its border with Iraq for a possible incursion to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Ankara claims the right of self-defence under international law to attack the PKK inside Iraqi territory and is known to have staged limited cross-border operations against the PKK.
Meanwhile AP reports that Bahaa al-Araji, apparently speaking for all 30 members of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, has called for the "parliament to be dissolved and new elections held." And the bulk of the press makes like Paul McCartney singing "I've got to admit it's getting better . . ."
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