While the airwaves are full of the latest faux victory-in-Afghanistan scheme (complete with the usual “regrets” that in some minds absolve US forces of responsibility for yet more civilian casualties), Iraq is off the American radar except for some self congratulatory claims that we are “responsibly ending the war in Iraq.”

How’s this for responsible?

Along with the reports of the recent raid mentioned in this Al Jazeera video:

At least 10 civilians have reportedly been killed and many more injured in a clash between joint Iraqi-US forces and anti-government fighters in Iraq’s Maysan province near the Iranian border, authorities say.

we also have the decision by General Ray Odierno last fall to include the Peshmerga in a joint US Iraqi force in Kirkuk, granting legitimacy to this irregular force widely believed to be deeply involved in the ethnic cleansing of Christians and other minorities in the region for more than a year. These joint patrols are being used more intensively now – without the approval of a number of local Arab and Turkmen leaders who insist on “participation with equal share of Kirkuk components … Arab, Kurds, Turkmen, Cheldeans and Assyrians.”  This preference by Odierno for a nonrepresentative force plays out as Kurdish leaders attempt to consolidate control of additional territory in opposition to a centralized national government.

These same Peshmerga have been involved in recent attempts to block the activities of politicians supportive of the central government rather than Kurdish autonomy:

Politicians on both sides on the line complain of restrictions when they campaign on the opposite side: harassment of candidates, pressure on parties, violence. When Mr. Nujaifi recently crossed the unofficial boundary on his way to Tall Kayf, his convoy was pelted with stones and tomatoes and briefly held up by Kurdish troops, the pesh merga. On Sunday evening a woman running with a secular coalition that includes Mr. Nujaifi and a former prime minister, Ayad al-Allawi, was shot to death outside her home in Mosul.

These attacks mirror the mass attacks on Christians in late 2008 and 2009 which

began shortly after the community lobbied the Iraqi parliament to pass a law that would set aside a greater number of seats for minorities in the January 2009 provincial elections.

according to Human Rights Watch, in a report published in November 2009:

The attacks that followed left 40 Christians dead and displaced more than 12,000 from their homes within a matter of weeks.[87] The killings were accompanied by the bombing of Christian dwellings in Mosul, as well as threatening graffiti in Christian neighborhoods with messages such as “get out or die,” and anti-Christian messages disseminated by loudspeakers mounted on cars, threatening Christians if they did not leave.[88]

And while HRW writes that responsibility for these actions is hard to pin down, it also reports local evidence:

Representatives from the various communities have traded accusations of responsibility and motives. Some Arab and Christian representatives have pointed the finger at KRG responsibility or at least complicity, pointing out that Kurdish-dominated security forces were in charge of security in the area the attacks took place, and suggesting that the murder campaign was designed to undermine confidence in the central government’s security forces.[89] …

As evidence of Kurdish involvement, proponents of this theory point to the fact that the attacks happened in the part of Mosul relatively free from insurgent activity and controlled by the Iraqi army, which was dominated by a high percentage of Kurdish officers in that area. Some of the killings happened in areas secured by Iraqi army checkpoints and, in some cases, in close proximity to them, leading some to believe that Kurdish officers or their proxies had a hand in the attacks.[91] Kurdish authorities have rejected these assertions and accused Sunni Arab groups of having carried out the attacks to sow intercommunal tensions.[92] In a rare disavowal, the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization comprising a number of insurgent groups including al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has denied responsibility for the killings.[93] …

Meanwhile the attacks continue. From January 19th:

At noon yesterday, an armed commando executed Abdullahad Amjad Hamid, a married Syriac Catholic, who owned a small grocery store in the neighbourhood of Alsiddiq, in northern Mosul. The man was killed outside his home in the suburb of Balladiyat, not far from his workplace.

Local witnesses reported that “the murder took place in front of the security forces, who saw all the phases of the attack, but did not intervene.” A Catholic in Mosul says that “the tactic is to murder Christians, because the media does not talk about it.” A strategy that aims to push Christians towards the plain of Nineveh, “in the silence and indifference of the government and the international community.”

A source for AsiaNews in Mosul, adds that “Christians are living in panic and have begun fleeing from the city”. He explains that “these are not normal criminals,” but behind them are “specific political plans” that the government is not countering. There is no information from Baghdad “about who is behind attacks on churches and Christians,” but the source is confident that the central executive, the governorship of Mosul and the Kurdish leadership “are aware” of the plan against the Christian community.

And just today GorillasGuides team members in Mosul report:

Today a Christian resident of Mosul has been kidnapped by gunmen who smashed their way into his house in al-Baladiyat. Gunmen killed another man nearby.

Not surprisingly, the “instability” in this region is already being mentioned as a rationale for a possible extension of the presence of US combat forces in Iraq.