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Iraq: Sunni Arabs Sweat the Backlash
   

February 23, 2006: Shia Arab reaction to the bombing of the Golden Mosque has resulted in damage to at least eight Sunni mosques, and the death of over fifty Sunni Arabs. The one bright side of all this is that more Sunni Arab leaders will lose their illusions about Sunni Arab power, and move more vigorously in making peace with the government.

Apparently, representatives of the two Kurdish parties (that dominate the Kurdish north) have been quietly meeting with representatives of the Sunni Iraqi National List, to discuss possible informal cooperation in parliament. Although hostile to the Sunni Arab dominated regime of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds are themselves Sunni, and have concerns about living in a Shia-dominated Iraq.

The Iraqi highway patrol has been caught running an anti-Sunni Arab death squad on the side. The highway patrol is dominated by Shia Arabs, many of whom are followers of Shia Arab militia leaders. There is a great demand, in the Shia Arab community, for revenge on the Sunni Arabs, and rooting out the Sunni Arab terrorist groups that continue to attack Shia Arabs and Kurds.

February 22, 2006: The dome of the Golden Mosque was blown up. One of the more revered shrines in Islam, the Golden Mosque is in a largely Sunni area north of Baghdad. The shrine is more important to Shias than Sunnis, but it visited by both. Al Qaeda is suspected of this attack, but al Qaeda no longer publicly takes credit for attacks, in order to deflect criticism for their violence against civilians and religious place. This attack was particularly stupid, and apparently part of the "let's start a civil war between the Sunni Arabs and everyone else." According to this thinking, the minority Sunni Arabs would somehow come out on top in such a war. In reality, Sunni Arab leaders have been scrambling to suppress the Islamic radicals in their midst, while assuring the government (dominated by the Shias and Kurds) that Sunni Arabs are willing to play by the rules. The alternative is massive attacks on Sunni Arab populations, with the intention of driving all Sunni Arabs out of the country. The majority Shia Arabs and Kurds see the Sunni Arabs as nothing but trouble, and attacks like this, against a revered religious shrine, just confirm these assumptions.

The Sunni tribes in al-Anbar have formed the "Al-Anbar Revolutionary Group," intended to fight Al-Qaeda, while asserting Sunni rights in the province. Although generally opposed to the idea of a Shia-dominated government of Iraq, the local tribes seem likely to be willing to support one if they are allowed some measure of regional autonomy, including the presence of government police and army units if they are primarily composed of Sunni personnel.

February 21, 2006: A car bomb went off in a Baghdad market, killing 23 and wounding 30. No one took responsibility for the attack, which is in line with the new terrorist policy of not drawing attention to themselves, and just letting the attacks speak for themselves. This is sort of idiotic, but a compromise in an internal debate. Some of the Sunni Arab terrorists have noted that these attacks on civilians is counterproductive. But the hard core terrorists still believe that they can trigger a civil war between the Sunni Arabs (20 percent of the population) and the Shia Arabs (60 percent) and Kurds (20 percent). Most Sunni Arabs see this strategy as suicidal, and are actively fighting the Sunni Arab terrorists (al Qaeda, religious conservatives and pro-Saddam groups). But the terrorists are still numerous enough to carry out attacks.

Meanwhile, up in the north. In addition to its "regular" militia, the Kurdish PUK also has a women's battalion (600-800 personnel). Trained as a constabulary force, the women support police and security operations, by performing searches of women and, if necessary, providing guards for female prisoners. This helps ease tensions over violations of traditional cultural restrictions.