Iraq: Auctioning Off The Secret Police

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February 1, 2010: The government agreed to investigate the purchase of $85 million worth of ADE 651 explosives detectors. Iraqi officials bought thousands of these hand held devices last year, for up to $60,000 each. But the British manufacturer is being prosecuted in Britain for fraud, when it was discovered there that the ADE 651 is a scam. The device contains useless components, and repeated tests showed that it could not detect anything. Apparently a large chunk of the money Iraq paid for the ADE 651 was kicked back to the Iraqi officials who approved the sale. The ADE 651 is very cheap to make, and the manufacturer made a huge profit even after paying the bribes. No one in Iraq tested the ADE 651, they just took the governments' word that the device worked, and it is still being used.

Terrorism casualties last month (135 civilians, 41 police and 20 soldiers killed) were about the same as January 2009. There were nearly twice as many wounded (782 compared to 402). The 100,000 U.S. troops suffered three combat dead, and two who died from non-combat causes. Terrorism casualties remain very low, less than ten percent of what they were at the height of the violence 3-4 years ago. The inability of the government to shut down the few remaining Sunni Arab terror operations is increasing anti-Sunni Arab sentiment. Many Kurd and Shia Arab Iraqis would like to just kill or expel all Sunni Arabs. That's the old school approach. Might still happen, this being the Middle East, where ancient traditions are preserved and revered. But most of the world would disapprove of such a brutal solution to Iraq's Sunni Arab problem. Moreover, many, if not most, Iraqi Sunni Arabs are opposed to Sunni Arab terrorism and want to give democracy a chance. But even many of these Sunni Arabs are not willing to stick their necks out to find and stop the Sunni Arab terrorists.

The terrorists are unable to make many attacks, so they choose their targets carefully. The ones most Westerners hear about are directed at targets in Baghdad that the foreign media will notice. But most of the attacks are against government officials, especially the security forces, Sunni Arabs who are working with the government, as well as Shia Arab civilians. The terrorists are trying to intimidate the security forces, and spur the Shia population into revenge attacks against the remaining Sunni Arabs (who used to be 20 percent of the population, back in 2003, but are only 15 percent now.)

The Sunni Arab population was outraged earlier this month when the government barred 511 Sunni Arab candidates from running in the March elections. These candidates were accused of still supporting the Baath Party (which Saddam Hussein led, and used to control the country). About as many Shia Arab candidates were also barred, but this meant little to the Sunni Arabs. Some Shia Arabs, Kurds and Christians collaborated with Saddam to gain economic and political advantages. Some of the collaborators also worked for the resistance, but many were just out for personal gain. The government compromised by saying the banned candidates could run if they publicly renounced the Baath Party. Some will, but some of those will be lying, and many won't renounce Baath. Many Sunni Arabs believe, and even talk openly, about how the Sunni Arabs will eventually regain control of Iraq. One way or another, and that's what worries the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs. These fears are very real, and two weeks ago, the government in Najaf province ordered all Baath Party members, or supporters, out of the province within 24 hours, or face imprisonment or death. The national government forced the provincial officials to back down, but this is just another example of how widespread, and intense, the anti-Sunni Arab feelings are.

Syria has asked Iraq to help with support over a half a million Sunni Arab Iraqi exiles living in Syria. In the past, the Iraqi government has labeled these refugees war criminals (many worked for Saddam, especially in the secret police), and has demanded that Syria crack down on the Sunni Arab terror groups that base themselves in Syria. The two countries are trying to work something out, and apparently the Syrians are seeking to find out if Iraq will offer a larger bribe than the Iraqi exile groups have been paying.

The government has also appeased the loyal (to varying degrees) Sunni Arabs by giving about half the 100,000 members of the "Sons of Iraq" militias, government jobs. It was these militias, and the many Sunni Arab tribes that turned against Sunni Arab terror groups in 2007, that broke the back of the terrorist operations. But these militiamen expected to get rewarded, with money and jobs. Half are still waiting for their jobs, but the government believes some of these men were responsible for the most deadly terror attacks before 2007.

January 31, 2010: A Russian firm, Lukoil, signed a deal to develop an oil field in the south. Lukoil won this opportunity at auction last year, and has a Norwegian firm as a minority (25 percent) partner. This is the tenth such deal Iraq has completed, and when all the work is done, Iraq will be the second largest oil producer in the world. But the corruption in Iraq, and the chance of a new government, after the March elections, rejecting some of the contracts, means that the contract winners (few of them American) will be slow to invest the billions of dollars required to increase oil production. Corruption is nothing new in the Persian Gulf oil business, but Iraq has the worst track record in this area. Foreign investors want to wait to see if it's safe, even through the contracts they just signed have time tables for investment and progress on shipping oil.

In the capital, six bombs went off, killing eleven. These attacks were directed at Shia neighborhoods.

January 30, 2010: A suicide bomber attacked a gathering of security troops and their families, killing two and wounding 19.

January 26, 2010: In Baghdad, a bomb went off in front of the Interior Ministry, killing 17.

January 25, 2010: Bombs went off, simultaneously, in front of three Baghdad hotels popular with foreigners. This attack killed 37 people.  

The government executed (by hanging) Ali Hassan al Majeed. A cousin, and close associate, of Saddam Hussein, Majeed was called "Chemical Ali" because he carried out chemical weapons attacks against Kurdish civilians.

January 22, 2010:  The last U.S. Marine Corps personnel have left Anbar province, and Iraq, after seven years of, sometimes intense, operations.

January 16, 2010: Kuwait says it is willing to forgive over $10 billion in fines and debt owned by Iraq, if Iraq would recognize and guarantee Kuwaiti independence. That is not so easy, as many Iraqis still consider Kuwait Iraq's missing "19th province."

January 14, 2010: A court found eleven men guilty of the terror attacks last August, that left over a hundred people dead. The police are eventually arresting many, if not most, of the terrorists responsible for the bombings, but this work takes time, and rarely makes headlines outside Iraq.

January 12, 2010:  Police staged a series of raids in Baghdad and arrested 25 suspected, or wanted, terrorists. Large quantities of explosives and weapons were also seized.

 

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