BAGHDAD, Jul 16 (IPS) - Many Iraqis are now beginning to see the rising sectarian violence as part of a larger plan to partition the country.
"Americans want to alter the shape of our cities, dividing Iraqis into ethnic and sectarian groups living separately from each other," Khali Sadiq, a researcher in statistics at Baghdad University told IPS.
"They are not doing this directly, but they have obviously given room to militias and Iraqi forces to do the job," he said. "We are more than halfway towards a sectarian Iraq."
A recent report has raised further suspicions that there is a U.S.-backed plan to partition the capital city, and possibly the country along sectarian and ethnic lines.
According to the Initial Benchmark Assessment Report issued by the White House Jul. 12, "the government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress towards enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions."
The report also states that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government formulates "target lists" of Sunni Arabs. These lists are compiled by the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, which reports directly to U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The report says fabricated charges are brught to purge Sunnis from the Iraqi security forces.
Samara city, 100 km north of Baghdad, seems to be one of the current targets of this demographic change. The bombing of the shrine of al-Askari in February 2006 ignited a sectarian wave of violence that swept Iraq. Shia clerics in Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces who are supportive of the occupation began to speak of a need to change the city from predominantly Sunni to predominantly Shia.
Shula and Hurriya in western Baghdad, and most areas on the eastern bank of Tigris River are now purely Shia after years of killings by death squads. It has been known for over a year now that Shia death squads have been operating out of the U.S.-backed Ministry of Interior, often in the guise of the Facilities Protection Service (FPS).
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The FPS was created under extraordinary circumstances. The U.S. occupation authorities and the Iraqi leaders working with them set up several new army and police forces under the supervision of the Multi National Forces (MNF). It was decided that each ministry could establish its own protection force away from the control of the ministries of interior and defence.
The FPS was established Apr. 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad, under Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) order 27.
This document states: "The FPS may also consist of employees of private security firms who are engaged to perform services for the ministries or governorates through contracts, provided such private security firms and employees are licensed and authorised by the Ministry of Interior."
Global Security.Org, a U.S.-based security research group, says: "The Facilities Protection Service works for all ministries and governmental agencies, but its standards are set and enforced by the Ministry of the Interior. It can also be privately hired. The FPS is tasked with the fixed site protection of ministerial, governmental, or private buildings, facilities and personnel."
But evidence has emerged that this and other police forces have been taken over by Shia militia.
Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad, has said: "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."
Shaw said about 70 percent of the Iraqi police force had been infiltrated, and that police officers are too afraid to patrol many areas of the capital.
Many Iraqis today believe this is part of an intentional plan to divide Iraq along sectarian lines.
"They (death squads) evicted many of our good Sunni neighbours and killed many others," Abu Riyad of the predominantly Shia Shula area told IPS. "We protected them for a while, but then we could not face the militias with all the support they had from the Iraqi government and the Americans. It is a terrible shame that we have to live with, but what can we do?"
On the other hand, many Sunni Iraqis seemed unwilling to evict their Shia countrymen -- for a while. But people in one mixed area of Baghdad described strange developments.
"It is true that our neighbours did not evict us, but then the Americans swept the area and local fighters had to disappear from the streets," Hussein Allawi, a Shia who lived in a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood told IPS. "A group of masked strangers then entered the town right under American soldiers' eyes. Only then did we realise that we must leave, and that our good neighbours could not help us any more."
Many such stories are told around Baghdad.
"We had to leave our house in Isskan in the western part of Baghdad," Dr. Fadhil Mahmood, a Sunni, told IPS. "A Shia friend of mine telephoned me to leave the house instantly because he heard some people were heading there to kill me and evict my family."
Mahmood said that his neighbours later told him that death squads arrived half an hour after he left his home.
(*Ali, IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)
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