BAGHDAD – In a dramatic turnaround, more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months as sectarian violence has dropped, the government said Saturday.
Saad al-Azawi, his wife and four children are among them. They fled to Syria six months ago, leaving behind what had become one of the capital’s more dangerous districts — west Baghdad’s largely Sunni Khadra region.
The family had been living inside a vicious and bloody turf battle between al-Qaida in Iraq and Mahdi Army militiamen. But Azawi said things began changing, becoming more peaceful, in August when radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army fighters to stand down nationwide.
About the same time, the Khadra neighborhood Awakening Council rose up against brutal al-Qaida control — the imposition of its austere interpretation of Islam, along with the murder and torture of those who would not comply.
The uprising originated in Iraq’s west and flowed into the capital. Earlier this year, the Sunni tribes and clans in the vast Anbar province began their own revolt and have successfully rid the largely desert region of al-Qaida control.
At one point the terrorist group virtually controlled Anbar, often with the complicity of the vast Sunni majority who welcomed the outsiders in their fight against American forces.
But, U.S. officials say, al-Qaida overplayed its hand with Iraq’s Sunnis, who practice a moderate version of Islam. American forces were quick to capitalize on the upheaval, welcoming former Sunni enemies as colleagues in securing what was once the most dangerous region of the country.
And as 30,000 additional U.S. forces arrived for the crackdown in Baghdad and central Iraq, the American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, began stationing many of them in neighborhood outposts. The mission was not only to take back control but to foster neighborhood groups like the one in Khadra to shake off al-Qaida’s grip.
The 40-year-old al-Azawi, who has gone back to work managing a car service, said relatives and friends persuaded him to bring his family home.
“Six months ago, I wouldn’t dare be outside, not even to stand near the garden gate by the street. Killings had become routine. I stopped going to work, I was so afraid,” he said, chatting with friends on a street in the neighborhood.
When he and his family joined the flood of Iraqi refugees to Syria the streets were empty by early afternoon, when all shops were tightly shuttered. Now the stores stay open until 10 p.m. and the U.S. military working with the neighborhood council is handing out $2,000 grants to shop owners who had closed their business. The money goes to those who agree to reopen or first-time businessmen.
Al-Azawi said he’s trying to get one of the grants to open a poultry and egg shop that his brother would run.
“In Khadra, about 15 families have returned from Syria. I’ve called friends and family still there and told them it’s safe to come home,” he said.
Everytime I read something like this I remember back to what the top two Democrat candidates have said regarding the possibility of genocide in Iraq if they were to pull US troops back and eventually out of Iraq.
In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain in Iraq after taking office would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.
SUNAPEE, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea” he said.
The Times notes that the defeatists have changed tactics. Where they previously argued that every piece of bad news meant that we should flee Iraq, now they argue that the decline in violence gives us a final opportunity to declare defeat and run away. They want to walk away from a strategic victory just to salvage their own credibility, ignoring what a stabilized and democratic Iraq could mean not just for the Iraqis but for the entire Middle East.
Why do they do this? Two reasons: 1) To appease their rabid anti-war base who will accept nothing less that a total US defeat and 2) because they know that as long as our troops are in Iraq helping and training the Iraqi police force and military on how to effectively keep their country secure, that the constant good news that will keep coming from Iraq will show people that Bush’s policies in Iraq are working – and that Bush was right. And for that, they have to keep up the calls for the US to cut and run, because they’d rather the US lose in Iraq in order for Bush to be embarassed. They don’t care what this would mean for the stability of Iraq, nor the region, nor are they concerned with how a defeat in Iraq would not only hurt America’s reputation around the world, but also how it would embolden the enemy. It’s all about bringing Bush down, even if it has to happen at the expense of America’s reputation.
These types of Democrats put partisan politics ahead of the country’s best interests. There is a word for that: It’s called being unpatriotic. They are, of course, fiercely defensive against the charge that they are unpatriotic, but there’s an old saying that applies here: The truth sometimes hurts.
Related: William Teach reports on more good news regarding a successful Iraqi special forces mission.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.