South of Baghdad, they will find it harder to make progress, as they will be running up the demographic hillside and into both the Badr Corps and Sadrist heartlands. The Sunni insurgents are probably more militarily capable, but don't have the numbers. Somewhere along the demographic transition line, the front will halt.
And then, I fear, comes the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad...
AP, 26th March 2006:
Meanwhile in Iraq, gunbattles raged south of Baghdad on Saturday, and two key U.S. Senators said they had told Iraqi leaders that American patience was growing thin and it was urgent that they overcome their stalemate and quickly form a national unity government.
Some 40 persons reportedly were killed or injured — no breakdown was immediately available — in the clash between forces of the Shia Mehdi Army militia and Sunni militants near Mahmoudiya, 30 km south of the capital, police reported.
Hospital officials said two civilians were killed when a mortar shell slammed into their house near the fighting.
Patrick Cockburn for the Indy, 25th March 2006:
"The fighting will only stop when a new balance of power has emerged," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, said. "Sunni and Shia will each take control of their own area." He said sectarian cleansing had already begun.
Many Iraqi leaders now believe that civil war is inevitable but it will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed. "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control," said one senior official who did not want his name published. "The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or Kurdish communities and not to the government." He expected the Americans to stay largely on the sidelines.
Throughout the capital, communities, both Sunni and Shia, are on the move, fleeing districts where they are in a minority and feel under threat. Sometimes they fight back. In the mixed but majority Shia al-Amel district, Sunni householders recently received envelopes containing a Kalashnikov bullet and a letter telling them to get out at once. In this case they contacted the insurgents who killed several Shia neighbours suspected of sending the letters.
"The Sunni will fight for Baghdad," said Mr Hussein. "The Baath party already controls al-Dohra and other Sunni groups dominate Ghazaliyah and Abu Ghraib [districts in south and west Baghdad]."