Iraq: Ali Baba Forever


September 14, 2010: The hunt for Sunni Arab terrorists is now also an effort to eliminate a lot of crime as well. Of late, the terrorists are getting little, or no, cash from outside the country, and have turned to crime to finance their terrorist activities.  Bomb builders and planters expect to be paid, and even volunteers have to be fed, armed and housed. Extortion or outright theft is the preferred fundraising method, which makes the Islamic and secular (pro-Saddam) terrorist groups very unpopular. Shia radical groups, getting less cash and weapons from Iran (because of Iraqi and American threats, and better border security), are also moving more into gangster mode. There are always expenses, and if you have no cash, you have few followers and weapons. Many Iraqis believe the Shia and Sunni terror groups are cooperating. This is unlikely, because the main target of Sunni terrorists are Shia civilians and holy places. The Shia terrorists mainly target the government, as their goal is to turn Iraq into a Shia religious dictatorship, like Iran. But Shia and Sunni criminal gangs have always cooperated. After all, it's business. The gangs survived even under Saddam's brutal rule, cooperating with Saddam's secret police in order to carry on. The gang culture in Iraq is ancient, and local slang calls gangsters "Ali Baba's" (a reference to the medieval folktale about the Baghdad criminal underground). Democracy is new in Iraq, but the gangsters have been around for thousands of years, and have a knack for survival.

Corruption is a growing drag on the economy. Bureaucrats use their power to extort money from those running businesses, or trying to start one. The courts are corrupt, so local business people and foreign investors are reluctant to put a lot of money into a venture. The government refuses to clean up this kind of corruption, while complaining of the negative impact it all has on the economy. The bureaucracy also cripples the military, because all those clerks and officials control the supplies that the army, and national police, need to function. Too many of these officials expect a bribe to do what they are being paid to do. Iraqi troops miss the Americans, who could intimidate Iraqi officials into doing their jobs, without getting a bribe. One thing the Americans still provide is intelligence. There are still hundreds of American UAVs (most of them hand launched Ravens) and intel analysts who provide the Iraqis excellent information on where the bad guys are, and what they are up to.

Iraq plans to spend at least $13 billion over the next five years to buy weapons. The most expensive items are F-16 jet fighters, helicopters, tanks and artillery. Most of the gear is American, since this is the stuff Iraqis have seen in action and have the most confidence in.

September 13, 2010: Troops seeking Islamic terrorists in al Hadad (65 kilometers north of Baghdad), cornered a large number of them and there were several gun battles. Four police and eleven terrorists were killed. Another 32 terrorists or suspects were arrested. Lots of weapons, ammo and bomb making supplies were found, along with documents. One of those arrested was a known money man for the terrorists. It's mostly cash that enables the diehard Sunni Arabs to keep up the violence. While most Sunni Arabs have accepted the fact that they are out of power, and the majority Shia are running things, thousands of Sunni Arab men refuse to give up trying to take control of the government. Many other Sunni Arab men are willing to help out if they get paid. Police commandos did most of the fighting, while police and troops cordoned off the area in an operation that lasted three days.

September 11, 2010: Terrorists fired a rocket into a riverside resort area in Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding four others.

September 9, 2010: Northeast of Baghdad, in an area believed to harbor several Sunni Arab terrorist groups, a Sunni Arab cleric was found beheaded. Elsewhere in the area, the wife of a policeman was also killed and beheaded. The cleric dead supported pro-government militias, while the killing of the policeman's wife was yet another atrocity meant to persuade police to leave terrorists and gangsters alone.

September 8, 2010: In a prison recently handed over to Iraqi control, four terrorist leaders escaped. This is the second such escape since the Iraqis took over this prison on July 15th. U.S. troops still operate part of the prison, where 200 of the most notorious terrorists and Saddam era officials are held. Iraqis are responsible to guarding the other 1,300 prisoners. Aside from not being as efficient as the American guards, the Iraqis can be bribed, or members of their families kidnapped, to obtain help in prisoner escapes. Elsewhere in Baghdad, two bombs went off, killing six and wounding 35. In two other attacks, one in Baghdad and the other in Mosul, two journalists were attacked. This is how the terrorists try to control what is reported about them.

The government banned the use of motorcycles in Baghdad, until the 13th, to prevent terror attacks during the upcoming Moslem holidays. Motorcycles are favored for drive-by shootings or as suicide bomb transports.

September 7, 2010:  At an Iraqi commando base north of Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier got into an argument with some American soldiers, and opened fire, killing two Americans and wounding nine others. The Iraqi shooter was killed by return fire. There have been nearly a dozen incidents like this in the last five years, usually involving American troops. Iraqi military discipline is not as effective as what Westerners expect, and shootings like this happen even when just Iraqis are involved.

September 6, 2010: Five Iraqi contractors, who were building a police station and a youth center 110 kilometers north of Baghdad, were killed by terrorists. The terrorists protect themselves by trying to intimidate the police, and anyone who supports or works for the police.

September 5, 2010:  Five suicide bombers attacked an army base, but troops intercepted them and in a gun battle twelve people (including the five terrorists) were killed. Some nearby U.S. troops joined in the battle. The five terrorists were armed with rifles, a bomb in their minibus and two of them were wearing bomb vests.





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