2008: The war is over. Most of the noise
these days is from politicians arguing, not bombs going off. There are still
bombs, but now they tend to be assassination attempts, as some political parties
play dirty (not unknown in this part of the world). Up north, the Turkish Air
Force air raids are taking place farther (the latest was 100 kilometers) from
the border. The PKK separatists have been driven out of their bases close to the
Turkish border. But the PKK continues to recruit in northern Iraq, despite the
hostility of the Kurdish government. Many Iraqi Kurds back the PKK, and its
violence inside Turkey. So no matter what the Iraqi Kurdish government says
against the PKK, the Kurdish population is another matter.
revived its diplomatic relations with Kuwait, including reopening the Kuwaiti
embassy and making an earnest attempt to settle issues (mainly reparations and
missing persons) still remaining from the Iraqi occupation of 1990-91. Relations with Iran are rather more complex,
with the Iranians boldly interfering in Iraqi politics. This includes bribes
and threats to Iraqi politicians, and backing pro-Iranian militias and
terrorist groups. Iran shows no signs of backing off, and this threatening
attitude is why so many Iraqis, including Shia, want American troops to remain.
Iran wants them gone, so that Iraq will be more responsive to Iranian threats.
The Sunni Arabs, in Iraq and to the south in Arabia, want the U.S. to stay as
well, and for the same reason. Keeping the Iranians out is nothing new, it's a
local tradition that is thousands of years old.
concentrate on more mundane things, like a serious drought, and the
difficulties in attracting doctors, and other professionals, back to Iraq
(after they fled the violence of the past few years.) The drought has been
regional, and serious. Crop yields are down nearly 30 percent, and some food
imports (like grain) are up 40 percent. Growing prosperity is sharply
increasing the demand. While the economy is booming, the government is having a
hard time carrying out needed infrastructure projects (like the irrigation
system farmers depend on.) Most of Iraq's infrastructure dates from the 1970s.
Construction basically ceased in 1980, when Iraq went to war with Iran. That
war ended in 1988, quickly followed by the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. There
followed a decade of UN sanctions, then five years of terrorism. Now people
want the country rebuilt, but the democratic form of government makes it
difficult to agree on where to start. The Kurds, who have been free of Saddam
and terrorists since the early 1990s, and gone ahead and rebuilt their
infrastructure. Northern Iraq ("Kurdistan") serves as an example to
the rest of the country of what could be, if only decisions were made. The Kurds have told their Arab brethren that
the most important thing is law and order, and that has unleashed a growing
campaign against the hundreds of criminal gangs that have grown prosperous with
the years of violence. But the doctors, dentists and other professionals have
made it clear that they will not return until it is safe. Really safe.
Arab politicians still have friends and family members engaged in terrorist or
criminal operations, and continue to try and pressure the U.S. military, and
Iraqi police, to back off attacking Iraqis who are "connected." It
often works with the Iraqis, but rarely with the Americans, which is causing
problems with the Sunni Arab community. What's the point if you can't use your
influence to get your way?
2008: In attempt to get Iraqi
politicians to get their act together, the commander of U.S. forces sent a
three page letter to the Iraqi government pointing out that if the Iraqis did
not approve an extension of agreements authorizing U.S. forces in Iraq, by the
time the current ones expire at the end of the year, the U.S. would suspend, on
January 1st, all services America provides for Iraq. That took up most of the
three pages, and Iraqi officials were surprised at the extent of economic and administrative
services that the U.S. delivers, day in and day out. There has been a tendency by
Iraqis to take for granted what the Americans do for them. The letter sought to
do a little attitude adjustment. Some Iraqi politicians called this blackmail,
but it's just the downside of living under the rule of law. No contract, no work.
2008: U.S. Army Special Forces raided a
farm eight kilometers inside Syria, killing at least eight people. The attack
was on smugglers who moved terrorists, weapons and money into Iraq. The U.S. had
asked Syria to shut down operations like this, but this particular location was
apparently protected by some very generous bribes. U.S. and Iraqi forces have
shut down most of the smuggling gangs inside Iraq, at least those that
specialize in supporting terrorists. In the last six months, these operations
have shut down about half the terrorist related smuggling. Only about twenty
terrorist recruits are getting into Iraq each month, down from over a hundred
two years ago. Although al Qaeda urges new recruits to go to Afghanistan, many
prefer Iraq because it is closer and not such an unfamiliar culture. Already
the word has filtered back that Afghanistan is an alien and hostile place, even
for suicide bombers.
2008: The Iraqi branch of al Qaeda
announced today (via an audiotape) that is has shifted its efforts to battles
outside of Iraq. This fits with the indications over the past six months that
al Qaeda was shifting its resources to Afghanistan (where the Taliban has been
turning on the al Qaeda foreigners, much as they eventually did in Iraq.) The
remaining Iraqi Sunni terrorists are making a last stand in and around the
northern city of Mosul.
2008: In Baghdad, a large car bomb was
used to try and assassinate the Minister for Labor and Social Affairs. The
minister survived, but three bodyguards and ten civilians died, with several
dozen civilians wounded. Those Iraqis with bomb making skills are apparently
working for gangsters now, trying to intimidate politicians rather than foreign