Far too little attention is being paid, especially in the USA, to “one of the world’s great man-made disasters” taking place in Iraq: Forcible population displacement. The UNHCR estimates that 50,000 Iraqis per month are being forced out of their homes. Patrick Cockburn, in the Independent (one of the world’s great English-language newspapers), notes that “Iraq is experiencing the biggest exodus in the Middle East since Palestinians were forced to flee in 1948 upon the creation of Israel.” About two million so far have fled the country–with Syria being the one neighbor that has “formally recognised a need for temporary protection for Iraqis”–and another 1.5 to 2 million are internally displaced.
One man from Baghdad told Cockburn, “Sometimes I have asked myself if it is not better to die than to live like a Bedouin all my life.”
As a result of these massive population movements:
There are fewer mixed areas left in Iraq. In Baghdad, militias now feel free to use mortars to bombard each other knowing that they will not hit members of their own community. [...]
The land routes to Jordan and Syria run through Sunni territory. Shia trying to reach safety have been taken from their vehicles to be shot by the side of the road. But Shia can move to safety in south Iraq and therefore make up the bulk of the internally displaced.
For Sunni there is no real place of safety in Iraq. In Baghdad they are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas. Cities like Ramadi and Fallujah are partly ruined and very dangerous. [...]
What a tragedy. What an utterly preventable tragedy. What a Made-in-the-USA tragedy.
Meanwhile, all is not quiet on the northern front. The LA Times quotes an International Crisis Group report as saying, “Kirkuk is as likely as Baghdad to produce a calamity that can fracture Iraq.” Later this year, as mandated by the Iraqi constitution, there will be a referendum on the status of Kirkuk province. Kurdish officials are already taking steps to ensure the “correct” outcome.