Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, has argued that even as security improves in Baghdad, neighborhoods on the fault lines between the Shi'a and Sunni communities will be among the “last to settle.” The neighborhood of Saydiyah, located in southwestern Baghdad, is such a place . Over the last year, it has become one of the principal battlegrounds for the territorial war between Shi'a militias and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in Baghdad. Located in the western end of the Rashid Security District, Saydiyah was formerly a mixed neighborhood, with a Sunni majority.
Prior to the invasion in 2003, many officials in Saddam’s government lived in the area, and following the outbreak of the war, it became a stronghold for the Sunni insurgency.Although Al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent factions initially cooperated in Saydiyah, it appears that Al-Qaeda slowly pushed out the other Sunni groups, while simultaneously intensifying violence against the Shi'a residents of the neighborhood. The reaction from Shi'a militias and Shi'a-dominated government security forces led to extraordinary violence during the summer of 2007.
US forces have sponsored an Awakening group in the Sunni community to protect them from Shi'a predation and remove the need for Al-Qaeda’s protection services. They have also worked to sponsor sectarian reconciliation through local notables and tribal elements, but it appears that these efforts have not yielded the kinds of success witnessed further to the south in Mahmudiyah, or the Abu Disheer-Hawr Rajab area.
The ethno-sectarian balance in Saydiyah is shifting, perhaps rapidly, towards a Shi'a majority. The area has likely been depopulated substantially by violence targeted at both the Sunni and Shi'a, although systematic operations by Shi'a militias and Shi'a-dominated security forces have likely pushed the Sunni into the minority. This is consistent with the Shi’fication of the small neighborhoods to the north and west, as well as southeast, of Saydiyah.
U.S. forces have one battalion in the area, the 1-18th Mechanized Infantry (1-18th IN) operating out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon just to the south. Commanded by LTC George Glaze, the 1-18th IN replaced another battalion, the 2-6th Mechanized Infantry (2-6th IN), in the fall of 2006 before the beginning of Operational Fardh al-Qanoon in February 2007. There is also a National Police Brigade in the area, the much-feared Wolf Brigade (2nd BDE, 1st NP Division), which had a reputation for kidnapping and executing Sunni civilians.