Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Early To Tell

So the question is: "Is the surge working?" Lest you think I'm one of those on the other side, I think I should clarify. I'm not talking about the military surge which is working so well that even our military commanders are surprised.

Jack Keane, the former army general who helped persuade George W. Bush, US president, to increase troop numbers in Iraq, said the decrease in violence was “phenomenal” and had occurred far faster than he had expected.

“When you understand you are dealing with the complexity of a counter-insurgency operation which can take years to resolve, to have this dramatic a success in a short period of time, it’s unprecedented,” he said.

The US military says the number of civilian deaths has also fallen 60 per cent since the surge took effect, with a drop of 75 per cent in Baghdad. According to, the average monthly US death toll dropped from 96 for the first half of 2007 to 66 in the past four months. The average monthly death toll for Iraqi civilians and security forces has dropped from 2,157 to 1,223 in the same period.
So that surge is going nicely.

However, there is a different surge going on. A surge of Iraqis going back to Iraq.
An announcement is posted at the Iraqi commercial attach building in Mezzah, western Damascus on Wednesday Nov. 21, 2007. The announcement reads 'under directives from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the Transport Ministry calls on Iraqis wishing to return to Iraq to submit to a bus and flight trip scheduled on Nov. 26th.' The Iraqi government is planning free transport convoys for Iraqi refugees in Syria to encourage them get back to their country after security has relatively improved in some areas of Baghdad, official sources said.
How well is the Iraqi surge into Iraq going? Let us see what the Associated Press has to say about the surge from Syria.
With violence down in Iraq, the country's embassy in Damascus is starting to organize free trips home for Iraqis who fled the conflict and now want to return, an Iraqi diplomat said Wednesday.

Free convoys and even airplane tickets are part of a new push by the Baghdad government to reach out to Iraqi refugees in Syria, said Adnan al-Shourifi, commercial secretary at the Iraqi embassy.

Al-Shourifi told The Associated Press that the first free trips are scheduled for Monday, when a convoy of buses and an Iraqi Airways flight will take refugees home. He did not say how many people had registered but added that officials expected hundreds to make the trip.

The diplomat said that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had authorized additional trips and that 11 offices had been set up in the Syrian capital for Iraqis who want to sign up.

Thousands of Iraqis who had been living in Syria already headed back home in recent weeks.

That exodus was attributed mostly to Syria imposing tougher visa requirements beginning last month making it more difficult for Iraqis to stay here legally, but improved security in Iraq also played a part.

Syria is host to the most Iraqi refugees in the region — an estimated 1.5 million — and says they have strained its education, health and housing systems, leading it to tighten visa rules and call for international assistance. Syria said it spends $1.6 billion a year on the refugees.
I wonder if Syria has done a profit and loss calculation and decided that whatever gains are to be had from destabilizing Iraq are not worth the cost of supporting displaced Iraqis?

Time will tell.

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