Counter-Terrorism: The Kurds Show The Way

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July 24, 2008: The sudden collapse of al Qaeda operations in western Iraq was largely due to tribal politics. There are only a few tribes, or major clans, in western Iraq (Anbar province), and once U.S. commanders had finally convinced the tribes to switch sides, it was like hitting a light switch. Discipline within the tribes is pretty good, and many tribesmen had been on bad terms with al Qaeda for years. The terrorists had killed several tribal leaders, in an effort to insure support for terrorist operations. This backfired, and the tribes went after al Qaeda, literally, with a vengeance.

Now the remaining al Qaeda member, and their Iraqi Sunni Arab allies, are making their last stand in northern Iraq (Kirkuk, Salah ad Din, Nineveh and Diyala provinces). This is a much more complex situation. While Anbar was almost exclusively Sunni Arab, the four provinces up north also have Kurds and Turks, as well as some Shia Arabs, Christians and other religious minorities. This is made even more complex by the presence  of over a hundred tribal and clan organizations. No one-stop deal making here.

Many of the Sunni Arabs up north are some of Saddam's most enthusiastic supporters. That's because Saddam spent over a decade expelling Kurds from the area, and turning the Kurdish property over to poor Sunni Arabs from down south. All Saddam asked for was loyalty. Saddam's immigrants are still loyal, especially since many of the disposed Kurds returned after 2003, looking to get their property back.

The Iraqi Army and police are doing most of the fighting up north, which is bad news for al Qaeda. Iraqi security forces speak the language, and have a good understanding of the social dynamics. Many of the tribes and clans (including some of the Sunni Arab ones) up north are pro-government, and as the terrorist organizations get chewed up month after month, more and more locals decide that loyalty to Saddam just isn't worth it any more. The Iraqis know this process has long term benefits. All they have to do is look at northernmost Iraq, the autonomous Kurdish territory. There, several million Kurds have, for fifteen years, lived without Sunni Arab terrorists, and have prospered mightily. They still have the infamous Middle Eastern corruption and cronyism to worry about, but even those ancient curses are openly discussed and attacked.

Iraqis now have something they have not experienced for decades; hope.

 

 


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