November 23, 2007: The Gangs of Iraq are killing
each other off. What it has come down to is the gangs, militias and
organizations that have been making a living planting roadside bombs and
carrying out contract hits on American and Iraqi troops for the last three
years, are being defeated by tribal and community groups fed up with the
constant violence. The terrorist activity of the last three years was paid for
by kidnapping, extortion, black market gasoline and so on, and wealthy Sunni
Arabs eager to put the Baath party back into power. Religious leaders, who
often took fees for allowing their mosques to be used as armories and safe
houses, also preached against the heretical Shia, who now ruled the country.
Now the pro-peace Sunni Arab clergy have displaced the pro-violence imams, and
established their own "Council of Religious Scholars" to prove
Generally unnoticed over the last two years was a
growing revolt within the Sunni Arab community. The Sunni Arab nationalists,
the guys who supported Saddam and what he represented, did not have the backing
of all Sunni Arabs. Neither did Saddam. And after Saddam fell, the fighting
between Sunni Arabs began. Many Sunni Arabs greeted the Americans, and the
prospect of democracy, with enthusiasm. These Sunni Arabs found themselves
threatened by their fellow Sunnis, and distrusted by the majority Kurds and Shia.
But the anti-Saddam Sunni Arabs have grown in number over the last three years,
aided in part by the departure (for Syria, Jordan or internal exile) of nearly
half the Sunni Arab community.
The tipping point occurred this year, as the
anti-terrorist Sunni Arabs became numerous enough to defeat the terrorist
groups. The fighting continues, and serious violence will probably not end
until sometime next year. Many of the terrorist groups have roots in the
community, or simply will not flee or quit. They will fight to the death. But
many others are giving up, or sticking to less murderous criminal activities.
There's still money to be made in kidnapping, extortion and stealing. The Iraqi
economy has continued to boom since 2003, so there's a lot more to steal.
All these changes have been a boon for foreign
journalists. It's safe enough now for these reporters to get out among the
Iraqi people. There's still plenty of violence and tragedy to report, and now
it can be done personally, rather than through Iraqi stringers.
American troops are noting a
dramatic reduction in violence against them. Earlier this year, the average
American brigade encountered about half a dozen IEDs (roadside bombs) a day,
and nearly as many incidents of gunfire directed at their patrols. That
violence has gone down by more than half. Many neighborhoods are safe enough to
stop and walk around in, and even do a little shopping. Getting local souvenirs
for the folks back home has become popular. More Iraqis, especially the kids, come
out to practice their English. Lots of Iraqis are learning English. Lots of
Iraqis want to get out of Iraq and go to America. Lots of Iraqis already in
America, and they tell the folks back in the old country that there have been
no Islamic terrorist bombs going off in America since September 11, 2001. It's
safe in America, and it's getting safer in Iraq.