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Iraq at the crossroads?

In a couple of days General Patreaus will "report" on the situation in Iraq. All the signs are that it will be a mixed message. That the so-called "surge" hasn't worked is the opinion of Senator Joe Biden, presidential hopeful, just returned from Iraq. He says that to suggest progress in Iraq is "plain, flat wrong".

No doubt the White House will have its usual spin on whatever it is the General and US ambassador to Iraq report - but then, to be remembered, is that the White House will have had a hand in the Report.

A piece in the NY Times explores what things are really like on the ground:

"Seven months after the American-led troop “surge” began, Baghdad has experienced modest security gains that have neither reversed the city’s underlying sectarian dynamic nor created a unified and trusted national government.

Improvements have been made. American military figures show that sectarian killings in Baghdad have decreased substantially. In many of Baghdad’s most battle-scarred areas, including Mansour in the west and Ur in the east, markets and parks that were practically abandoned last year have begun to revive.

The surge has also coincided with and benefited from a dramatic turnaround in many Sunni areas where former insurgents and tribes have defected from supporting violent extremism, delivering reliable tips and helping the Americans find and eliminate car bomb factories. An average of 23 car bombs a month struck Baghdad in June, July and August, down from an average of 42 over the same period a year earlier.

But the overall impact of those developments, so far, has been limited. And in some cases the good news is a consequence of bad news: people in neighborhoods have been “takhalasu” — an Iraqi word for purged, meaning killed or driven away. More than 35,000 Iraqis have left their homes in Baghdad since the American troop buildup began, aid groups reported."

The Independent's assessment of the upcoming report and where things stand generally can be read here.

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