I just read a wonderful post at Mudville Gazette that gives a blow-by-blow breakdown on what the planned surge in US troops "is" and "isn't."
One interesting fact is that no troops are heading to Iraq that were not already scheduled to go there. It's just that some are going a little ahead of time to increase the numbers rather than simply replace them.
A second interesting fact is that 70% of the civilian deaths in Iraq in recent months have been Shi'ites . . . giving the lie that al-Sadr's Mahdi Militia is the source of most of the mayhem. Sunni Baathists and al-Qaeda folks seem to be the main murders of late. This makes Iran's "bi-partisan" support of Sunni as well as Shia "insurgents" particularly noteworthy.
The only place in Iraq that will experience any sort of significant "surge" is, of course, Baghdad. This increase in American troops in the city was made possible by changes in the political situation in the Iraqi government… especially as regards President al-Maliki.
Not only are the additional American troops being allowed into Baghdad but they are being allied with Iraqi security forces that are now fully trained and, in some cases, battle-tested to do most of the dirty work themselves. As President Bush said in his State of the Union Address, the "rules of engagement" have also been changed. Until now, there has been no targeted crackdown on militia members or their leadership permitted by the Iraqi Government.
Now, however, it appears that it is the strong desire of both Shia and Sunni leaders to end this inter-sectarian violence once and for all. Each side is particularly concerned about whether they can trust Iraq security forces and police to actually protect them from terrorist attacks and murder squads.
With the US forces working alongside the Iraqi forces, the level of confidence in this matter seems to have grown considerably.
For an update on the security cooperation being hammered out between Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders (a very positive development) read the news here.