Counter-Terrorism: Sunni Arabs Surrender

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March 4, 2008: About half the Sunni Arab population of Iraq has fled the country over the last five years. UN refugee officials estimate that these refugees are located in Syria (1,400,000), Jordan (750,000), Persian Gulf countries (200,000), Lebanon (20,000) and Turkey (10,000). About 50,000 Shia Arabs have moved to Iran and registered as refugees. This may just be a ploy to qualify for refugee benefits. It's more difficult finding how many have made to more distant countries. Hard to nail that down, because that kind of travel often involves illegal entry. Many of the Sunni Arabs refugees had ties with the Baath Party (with which Saddam Hussein terrorized the country). That doesn't get reported on much. The majority of Iraqis (the 85 percent who are Kurds and Shia Arabs), hate the Sunni Arabs for what they did in support of Saddam. While many Sunni Arabs did not participate in these atrocities, and some even opposed Saddam, most non-Sunni Arab Iraqis don't bother make a distinction.

Nevertheless, the Surge Offensive of last year built up enough good will that some 45,000 Sunni Arabs have returned since late last year. The Iraqi parliament has passed some laws guaranteeing Sunni Arab rights. Rather more tricky is getting back property (especially homes and businesses) Sunni Arabs abandoned when Shia or Kurd militias "cleansed" villages or neighborhoods where Kurds, and Sunni and Shia Arabs, had been living together.

The U.S. Army has angered many Kurds and Shia Arabs by protecting Sunni Arabs, and siding with them in property disputes (when the Sunni Arabs were in the right). This sort of thing has made Sunni Arabs more willing to work with American troops in hunting down Sunni Arab terrorists. The Iraqi Sunni Arabs still hate the Americans for invading, and ending the sweet deal (mainly possession of most of the oil revenue) the Sunni Arabs had enjoyed for so long. But after five years of getting killed by Americans, Kurds and Shia Arabs, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are just looking for some security. Living as exiles only works if you are one of the senior Saddam cronies who had managed to open a foreign bank accounts, and stock it with stolen cash. For most Iraqi Sunni Arabs that fled, the future is bleak, unless they can come home. The U.S. promises to make that possible, if a little cooperation in the counter-terrorism department is provided. It's an offer many Iraqi Sunni Arabs cannot refuse, especially since none of the majority Sunni Arab countries in the region are willing to go out of their way to help.

 


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