This article explains why Rice and Straw are making such desperate pleas for unity in Iraq: violence once directed against U.S. troops is now being aimed at Iraqi civilians; and as tens of thousands flee their homes, the countryside is fracturing almost wholly on religions lines. Result: the battle lines have been drawn.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 1—The war in Iraq has entered a bloodier phase, with the killings of Iraqi civilians rising tremendously in daily sectarian violence while American casualties have steadily declined, spurring tens of thousands of Iraqis to flee from mixed Shiite-Sunni areas.
The new pattern, detailed in casualty and migration statistics from the past six months and in interviews with American commanders and Iraqi officials, has led to further separation of Shiite and Sunni Arabs, moving the country toward a de facto partitioning along sectarian and ethnic lines—an outcome that the Bush administration has doggedly worked to avoid over the past three years.
The nature of the Iraq war has been changing since at least the late autumn, when political friction between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs rose even as American troops began implementing a long-term plan to decrease their street presence. But the killing accelerated after the bombing on Feb. 22 of a revered Shiite shrine, which unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodletting.