The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a victory in the war on terror that offered the Iraqi government the opportunity to “turn the tide in this struggle“, according to US President George W Bush.

But
according to an informed insider – the US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad
no less – the real rulers in Iraq are the militias and the central
government is entirely ineffective. In a 6 June memo, leaked to The Washington Post,
the ambassador details the tenuous grasp the US has on security in
Iraq. Here are just a few points from the Ambassador’s missive:

  • Most Iraqi employees of the US Embassy can’t reveal to their families and communities where they work for fear of reprisals;
  • Local security forces are mistrusted by Iraq Embassy staff;
  • There are constant power cuts and fuel shortages;
  • Staff of the US Embassy are being threatened with kidnapping and worse;
  • Women are being harassed about covering up, and both men and
    children are coming under attack for wearing shorts outside – ” Two of
    our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in
    mid-May. One … said some groups are pushing women to cover even their
    face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.”
  • Ethnic and sectarian fault lines are becoming part of the daily media fare.

Contrast this with the way President Bush presented the situation to the media during Interagency talks on security in Iraq (a few days after the memo was sent, but before it was leaked):

We just had a meaningful day. We have spent a lot of time
talking to our team in Baghdad about the way forward in Iraq. We’ve
spent time talking about the security situation in Iraq, and what we
intend to do to help the Iraqi government bring security to
neighbourhoods in Baghdad and Basra … We’re encouraged by the
formation of a unity government, and we recognize our responsibilities
to help that new government … The best way to win this war against an
insurgency is to stand up a unity government which is capable of
defending itself, but also providing tangible benefits to the people.
The Iraqis have got some wonderful assets: They’ve got energy, which
they can use to benefit their people; they’re entrepreneurial; they’ve
got a stable currency; they’ve got a small business sector that’s
growing.

The information in the memo may have been
“inadvertently” shared with the public, but it underlines the often
vast gulf between spin and reality.

Peter Fray

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