Iraq: Getting Played, And Paid


April 12, 2007: The calm that has come over Baghdad has largely been the result of new policing methods, and the growing quality of Iraqi soldiers and security personnel. However, the police, in particular, are still crippled by corruption and, in most units, hatred of Sunni Arabs. In an attempt to limit the ill-effects of corrupt commanders, army and police units brought to Baghdad serve there only for 90 days, before returning to their home areas. Officially, the 90 day tour is to limit time away from home and family, but it also makes it more difficult for commanders to establish corrupt relationships with Baghdadis, who are notorious for their corrupt practices.

While the additional American "surge" units are just arriving, Iraq has already shifted five brigades to Baghdad. This has provided sufficient manpower to establish smaller security force bases within Baghdad neighborhoods. The Joint Security Stations (JSS) put American and Iraqi security personnel in the same small base in a troublesome neighborhood. American intelligence has know, for years, who the bad guys are, who their cousins are and where everyone lived. Sunni Arab evil doers were usually former Saddam security force people. These guys were used to terrorizing people, and trying to avoid getting hit by a Shia death squad or police raid. They lived in Sunni Arab neighborhoods, engaged in all sort of criminal activity, including terrorizing the neighborhoods into keeping the gangsters safe. Sometimes, these gangs got religion, and worked out of a local mosque. Many conservative religious leaders are taking advantage of the situation to push for crackdowns on immoral behavior. That means the women have to cover up, the brothels, cinemas, video and bars shut down, and Islamic terrorists supported. The downside of this was that the mosque became a safe house for killers and storage site for weapons and munitions. And a target for police raids, when the cops got strong enough to take on the local bad guys. In most of Baghdad, that day has come. While the most notorious terrorist gangs have fled to the suburbs, those that stayed behind find themselves unable to deal with the scrutiny and firepower of the local JSS.

Some of the sixty JSS are staffed just with Americans, and these care called Combat Outposts (COP). These would have been considered foolhardy a year ago, just providing terrorists with an easier (smaller) target. But despite the determination of the Sunni Arabs to terrorize their way back into power, they have been losing strength year by year. At least 76, and perhaps as many as a hundred, JSS and COP are being built in Baghdad. The success of the concept means it will be used in other parts of the country. But going this route requires lots of manpower. A JSS or COP contains several hundred troops and security personnel.

Moreover, it's not just the Sunni Arab neighborhoods that need attention. Radical Shia outfits, like the Iran backed Mahdi Army, have also become more aggressive. The pro-Iranian groups have been losing strength, mainly because Arabs don't trust the Iranians. Despite sharing religious beliefs (most Iranians, like most Iraqi Arabs, are Shia), Iraqi Arabs know that the Iranians despise them, and are still unhappy with the results of the 1980s war. In that conflict, Iraqi Shia Arabs fought for Saddam against Iranians, and fought the Iranians to a standstill, and a ceasefire. This was a humiliation for the Iranians, who had walked over the local opposition for thousands of years. But the Iranians have money, weapons and technical assistance for Iraqi Shia Arabs willing to cooperate. All the Iranians want is more chaos inside Iraq. This makes Iraq weak, and less of a threat to Iranian ambitions in the region. While some of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Arabs believe they have a chance of turning Iraq into a religious dictatorship (like Iran is), most know they are being played, and paid. You take the money. Jobs are scarce. But Iran is still the enemy. Always has been, always will be.

More evidence is piling up that Iran has, as many intel specialists have long suspected, been supporting some Sunni Arab terrorist groups, as well as Shia Arab ones. There are dozens of Sunni Arab terrorist groups, scattered all over the physical and political map. Apparently Iran helps out Sunni Arab terrorists who are less likely to slaughter Shia. There are parts of the country where the only targets are Kurds and Turkomen (both Sunni) or Christians (a rapidly disappearing, via migration minority). Iran has long had problems with Kurds, Turks and Christians, and does not mind killing them.

The movement of thousands of terrorist personnel from Baghdad resulted in many of them being caught or killed. In the last two months, three senior al Qaeda leaders have been caught, and over 500 terrorists killed or captured. Lots of documents and other evidence was also scooped up, and many of the captured terrorists are in a talkative mood. Sunni Arabs are showing the effects of four years on-the-run. While many of the captured terrorists express despair, and believe they have no choice but to fight to the end, they do seek a less dismal outcome. But Sunni Arabs in general know that the majority of Iraqis hate them, mainly for what Saddam and his crew did. While Saddam was in power, the Sunni Arabs prospered, and everyone else suffered. Now it's time for payback.

Most senior government officials, going against popular sentiment, don't want to kill or expel the entire Sunni Arab population. That's over two million people, and would be a disaster on several levels. The Sunni Arabs are a disproportionate number of Iraqis university trained professionals. Without them, Iraq would have to import foreigners to do a lot of these jobs until, a decade hence, enough Shia Arabs and Kurds could be trained. Less of a problem is the worldwide condemnation for the "group punishment" of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. But on the street level, most Iraqis note that the Sunni Arab community has not been able to stop the terrorists living in their midst. This, plus the sins committed when Saddam was in charge, merit expulsion of the entire Sunni Arab community. If it were put to a vote, the Sunni Arabs would be gone.


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