Winning: Iraq Scorecard

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November 7, 2005: How much longer will the Sunni Arabs of Iraq continue to resist? Probably not much longer. For the last two years, the big mystery in Iraq, at least among Iraqis and American intelligence officer, was how long will the Sunni Arabs continue to fund and support attacks on the Iraqi government. The Sunni Arabs could have cut a deal with the Kurds and Shia Arabs in 2003, but instead, most decided to stick with the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein, and try to regain control of the country via terrorism and force. There was plenty of money for this effort. Saddam and his Sunni Arab cronies had stolen billions, and a lot of it was gotten out of the country before the invasion, and after that, there were still millions hidden away in Sunni Arab communities. With that money, you could hire lots of Sunni Arabs, including former secret policemen, Republican Guard soldiers, and assorted bad guys, to go after the Americans, and any new Iraqi government officials, or Iraqis that supported the new government.

In addition, over a million Sunni Arabs, who once had good government jobs, were out of work, replaced by Shia Arabs and Kurds. Led, encouraged, and paid by men certain to be punished for their atrocious behavior while serving Saddam, the "insurgency" was basically a continuation of the war. All this is no secret. Each month, 100-150 terrorists (al Qaeda or Baath Party supporters) are killed, and many are identified. Each month, 700-1,000 terrorist suspects are arrested. Most are quickly released once it is confirmed that they are not involved in any violence. But these men, and those who are not quickly released, all provide bits of information that, once collated, provides a pretty good picture of who is doing what for whom, and for how much.

There are also non-Iraqis involved. Each month this year, about 40 foreign terrorists have been killed, and another 40 captured. These, it turns out, have been encouraged, by Iraqi Sunni Arabs, to come and join the fight. While these foreigners are commanded by al Qaeda personnel (few of whom are Iraqis), it's Iraqi Sunni Arabs that provide a lot of the support these terrorists need to prepare for, and carry out, their attacks. These foreigners are considered cannon fodder, disposable pawns in the battle to put Sunni Arabs back in power.

It's not that the bad guys are running out of money, or people willing to die for a few hundred bucks. What the terrorists are running out of is Sunni Arab leaders willing to continue tolerating the violence. Each month, a few more neighborhoods shift sides, becoming an unwelcome place for terrorists, and more tolerant of Iraqi soldiers and police. American intelligence and the Iraqi government each have lists of the key Sunni Arab tribal, religious and business leaders they need to convert or, in a few cases, kill, in order to end the Sunni Arab violence. Each month, especially since the January elections (that elected the interim government), one percent, or a few percent, of the people on that list, move over to the government side. Another few percent become potential converts. By the end of the year, over half these Sunni Arab big shots will be out of the terrorism business. But as long as, perhaps, ten percent of the Sunni Arabs are supporting (especially with money) the violence, Iraq will continue to be a dangerous place. Not much different than many other parts of the Middle East. But in Iraq, there are American soldiers trying to calm things down, and American media trying to sort out how that is going.

 


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