Iraq: Iwo Jima on the Euphrates


May 24, 2007: The search, for the three American soldiers taken by terrorists after an ambush on May 12th, has involved 6,000 troops (two thirds of them American) in the Baghdad suburbs. The action has been much more aggressive than usual, because of the urgency factor. Since there have been no terrorist videos of the soldiers on the Internet, it is assumed that they are either dead, or held by terrorists who are on the run and being pressed by the search operation. Over a thousand Iraqis have been arrested so far, and two of them admitted they were part of the ambush team (but not the group that took away the three U.S. soldiers.) While many of the tips indicate the troops are still alive, it's more likely they are dead. Yesterday, the body of one of the missing soldiers was found in the Euphrates River, south of Baghdad. The searching troops are taking more casualties, but they are tearing up terrorist and criminal operations in the area. Actually, most of the bad guys caught so far have been common criminals, who are often eager to tell what they know in return for a "get out of jail" card. American military commanders and diplomats continue to remind Iraqi politicians that the biggest problem in the country is corruption. That's hard for many Iraqis to accept, since stealing whatever-you-can-get-your-hands-on has been a tradition for so long. Many Iraqis assume it's the natural order of things, and consider the Americans insane, or disrespectful, with all their talk of honest government. The message, however, is getting through, as it becomes obvious that Iraqs new democracy won't work with the traditional Iraqi attitudes towards dishonesty in politics. This new attitude is being reflected in many ways. There are more corruption investigations, arrests and prosecutions. The corruption is still there, but it's becoming politically incorrect. Meanwhile, everyone is getting more patriotic. It's no longer cool to take orders from Iran. So Muqtada Al Sadr, and his Mahdi army, are becoming less a tool of Iran, and more a mainstream Iraqi political movement. Sadr is even sitting down and cutting deals with Sunni Arab politicians. At the same time, the Mahdi Army is being purged of factions that don't go along with the new peace and reconciliation approach. Those radical factions are still killing Sunni Arabs, while Sunni Arabs and al Qaeda continue to slaughter Shia Arabs. This is not popular with Iraqis in general, and the terrorists are increasingly seen as a public menace that all Iraqis must unite to destroy.

Iraqis are really getting fed up with all the violence. To that end, the police are getting more cooperation from civilians, who are reporting more terrorist activity. But civilians are more concerned with criminal activity, especially armed robbery and kidnapping. The gangs that grew to power (as enforcers and business partners) under Saddam, are still thriving. This is especially true in Sunni Arab areas. But the gangs are major victims when American and Iraqi troops come in, to clean out Sunni Arab neighborhoods and towns. The new tactic, of coming, and keeping American troops in the neighborhood until the Iraqi police thinks it's safe, has brought unaccustomed peace and quiet to Sunni Arab areas in the Baghdad suburbs, and Anbar province to the west. Anbar has become so quiet that journalists embedded with American troops there, are leaving for more newsworthy areas. That may be increasingly difficult. The Sunni Arab tribes closer to Baghdad are now signing deals with the government, to join in the fight against the al Qaeda and Sunni Arab terrorist groups. Meanwhile, the terrorists are spending more of their time trying to keep their Sunni Arab base in line. The "red on red" battles between Sunni Arabs, that U.S. Marines first noted two years ago, has increased month by month. But as long as Sunni Arabs can continue to set off bombs in Baghdad for the foreign media, the decline of the Sunni Arab terror campaign will go largely unreported. What does get reported is the high American casualty rate, which has averaged 3-4 dead per day over the last two months. This is because American troops are increasingly going into terrorist dominated neighborhoods, and finding that these guys generally fight to the death. It's like World War II in the Pacific all over again. Except that the American casualties are much lower. In the final battles against the fanatical Japanese, one American died for every three Japanese troops killed. But in Iraq, the ratio is closer to ten dead terrorists for every dead American. The Iraqis are not as well trained and disciplined as the Japanese were back then, and todays U.S. troops are better equipped and trained. But it would be better, in many ways, if the Iraqi security forces would take care of these Iraqi and foreign fanatics. While the Iraqis can do it, they don't mind letting the Americans have at it. For all the Iraqi complaints about Americans killing Iraqis, that doesn't apply to Iraqis who are shooting back.


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