Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nir Rosen interview in Al Jazeera

Nir Rosen is a freelance writer. When he is in Iraq he looks like everyone else, which is a distinct advantage for both safety and gathering information. I linked to one of his articles last week and have done enough Googling to satisfy myself that he has good credibility. That Al Jazeera should want to inteview him is not surprising. His replies to questions confirm that, as bad as it may seem, the situation in Iraq is even worse than we are led to believe. Don't think for a moment that you can predict what you are about to read.

About Zarqawi: If anything, he was sort of an advertisement. He came into Iraq to kill infidels and the Shia, become a martyr and go to paradise. He succeeded....The Americans created Zarqawi, sort of the Zarqawi myth. Right at the beginning, they refused to accept the fact that the Iraqis had liberated or supported popular resistance so they had to blame everything around foreign fighters for the sake of the American [public].

Regarding OBL: I don't think Osama bin laden matters much either...I don't think Osama bin laden commands any fighters. He is hiding in some cave somewhere in Pakistan issuing these statements, trying to sound important but he is not the leader of anybody anymore. So it's kind of ridiculous...I didn't see anyone in Iraq take Osama bin laden seriously. It's definitely true that Shia are resented because they are perceived as the beneficiaries of the occupation. And in many ways, they are in charge now; they control Iraq so everything has been reversed.

Regarding a US withdrawal: I supported a withdrawal certainly until 2005. In my articles, I was saying that an American withdrawal would prevent a civil
war from happening...But now that I think the civil war is sort of open and intense, I don't think an American withdrawal would make much difference and it's possible that an American withdrawal would actually make things worse because there will be nobody patrolling the borders and would allow even more foreign fighters to come into the Sunni areas...an American withdrawal wouldn't make things better at this point because of the civil war.

The interview is not too long but it's worth reading.

Here is a link to an article by Nir Rosen from the Washington Post in May. Somewhat long, but informative.
Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device.

I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya, or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.

As of yesterday, things have not improved.
...Anyone who was Sunni Muslim was shot, witnesses said....Many of the gunmen were clad in black, but some were teenagers in track suits and flip-flops who were armed with machine guns that they shot into the air as they stalked the streets, witnesses said. The gunmen stormed homes and set up makeshift checkpoints, stopping cars and buses to check each person's identification for possible Sunni names.

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