Over the past month, surge architect Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute has rejected the idea that the drop in violence in Baghad that has coincided with the surge has been the result of the completion of large-scale sectarian cleansing and the division of Shias and Sunnis into separate enclaves. At least twice in the past month, Kagan has referred to this as “a myth,” first on the PBS NewsHour on March 11, and again at an AEI panel on March 24.
Here’s what Kagan said on the NewsHour:
Well, there’s a magnificent myth out there…that there are no mixed areas in Iraq anymore and that the cleansing is completed.[…]
Now, [sectarian neighborhoods] are more consolidated than they had been before, certainly. At a low level, you certainly have seen that kind of consolidation, but there is no natural dividing line between Sunni and Shia in Baghdad.
Yesterday, CNN reporter Michael Ware sat down with the Think Progress crew to discuss his experiences in Iraq, where he has reported from since before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Here’s what Ware said about the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad:
The sectarian cleansing of Baghdad has been — albeit tragic — one of the key elements to the drop in sectarian violence in the capital. […] It’s a very simple concept: Baghdad has been divided; segregated into Sunni and Shia enclaves. The days of mixed neighborhoods are gone. […] If anyone is telling you that the cleansing of Baghdad has not contributed to the fall in violence, then they either simply do not understand Baghdad or they are lying to you.
The sectarian cleansing of Baghdad has been–albeit tragic–one of the key elements to the drop in sectarian violence in the capital. Now, the US military says that violence has fallen by as much as 97 % over the past year, and it’s certainly true that we’re not finding the dozens of bodies on the streets tortured and mutilated, each morning, that we once were. Now, there’s a number of factors, but the cleansing of Baghdad is definitely a part of it. It’s a very simple concept: Baghdad has been divided; segregated into Sunni and Shia enclaves. The days of mixed neighborhoods are gone. They are literally protected by either Iranian backed or U.S. backed militias, who night and day guard those neighborhoods to prevent rival death squads, be they in government uniforms or be they under al-Qaeda banners – coming in and taking victims. They are also walled off — LITERALLY — by massive concrete blast barriers that the U.S. forces put in place. So, what’s happened is that the cleansing of Baghdad means there’s simply less people to kill and of those who remain, they are much harder for a death squads to get to – it’s as plain as that. […]
And it started – this segregation — was consolidated; was entrenched when the Americans started funding the Sunni militias. Now, that was done for a multitude of reasons and there are very positive benefits to that, but there are also deep costs and consequences to that. So, in very many ways, if anyone is telling you that the cleansing of Baghdad has not contributed to the fall in violence, then they either simply do not understand Baghdad or they are lying to you.