Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007. For a while now there have been people saying that ethnic cleansing had taken place in Baghdad, that Sunni Arabs were driven out of many neighborhoods by Shi'ite militants enraged by the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February 2006. Neoconservatives and Fred Kagen in particular called the ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad a 'myth.' Fred Kagan has once more been proved wrong.
These satellite images gives strong evidence that the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis by Shiite militias accounts in large part for the fall in violence in Baghdad, not just the extra troops Bush sent, called the 'surge.' These satellite images were part of a study, published in the journal Environment and Planning A.
This is not the first time stories about the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad. In December 2007, the Washington Post published the maps below, comparing the sectarian make-up of Baghdad’s neighborhoods in April 2006 and November 2007, and revealing the transformation of the city resulting from sectarian cleansing:
The Government Accountability Office, also stated in congressional testimony in October 2007 that sectarian cleansing was “an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq”:
We look at the attack data going down, but it’s not taking into consideration that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area. […]
It’s produced 2.2. million refugees that have left, it’s produced two million internally displaced persons within the country as well.
And in August 2007, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization indicated that “the total number of internally displaced Iraqis [had] more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000″ since the surge started in February. Center for American Progress Iraq analyst Brian Katulis estimated that Baghdad, which once used to be a 65 percent Sunni majority city, “is now 75 percent Shia.”
Baghdad hs undergone drastic transformation and a great deal of suffering attended that transformation. And the sad fact is that some of the most intense and violent periods of sectarian cleansing took place under the aegis of the military escalation known as the Surge.