The third war (2004-2006): The Sunni insurgency. Sunnis favored under Saddam’s government were increasingly ostracized and isolated – basically punished by Shiite political parties. Iran’s influence grew dramatically. Al-Qaida militants moved in to western Iraq to incite [sectarian violence?] and help fellow Sunni Arabs fight the U.S.-backed Shiite government.
The fourth war (2006-2007): The Shiites hit back. Al-Qaida-led Sunni insurgents carried out so many atrocities that Shiite militias, some backed by the government, started to fight back. A civil war erupted and bodies piled up in hospital morgues. Neighborhoods were ethnically cleansed. Two to three thousand Iraqis were killed every month. Between 2 and 3 million Iraqis fled their homes, many left the country.
The fifth war (2007-2008): The American "surge." The U.S. military changed its strategy and added extra troops. The United States stopped the civil war.
The sixth war (2008-today): The war of corruption. Iraq’s political parties used the relative stability created by the surge to enrich and empower themselves, stealing from government projects big and small. Iraq is now considered one of the most corrupt nations on earth. The political parties, still mostly based on sectarian lines, are unpopular among most Iraqis.
Life for regular Iraqis
I am often asked about the lives of average Iraqis. Have conditions improved? It depends on what you use as a starting point.
Are Iraqis happier, richer and freer than they were under Saddam Hussein? Undoubtedly they are.
Are they better off today than two years ago when Sunnis and Shiite death squads were slitting throats in the street? Certainly, the answer is yes.
But do Iraqis have a stable government that people in Baghdad believe will bring them out of what has been a dark and tumultuous period? Not yet.
I like Engel's honesty. He acknowledges that Iraqis are happier, richer, and freer than they were under Saddam, but he also emphasizes the corruption and incompetence of the current government. I also appreciate his acknowledgment that Sunni insurgents committed many atrocities before Shiite militias hit back. This is something that Arabs and America-hating leftists are unwilling to do.