Iraq: July 8, 2003

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Coalition forces are screening former members of the Iraqi military in order to find suitable candidates for the first division (12,000 troops) of the new Iraqi army. This unit is to be put together and ready for service by the end of the year. An army of 40,000 is to be ready within three years. Press reports of "a million unemployed Iraqi soldiers" are  wildly inaccurate and misleading. The Iraqi army was down to about 400,000 troops before the coalition invaded, and the vast majority of those were conscripts who were paid little, abused much, and eager to go home. But about 80,000 troops were career professionals, and these are the ones who are out of a job and possibly looking for revenge. The Republican Guard troops were recruited exclusively from the Sunni Arab minority that was loyal to Saddam (and on his payroll.) 

These former professional soldiers, and members of Saddams secret police, will always be resentful, since the only work they have ever known is terrorizing the Iraqi people. Now they have no job, no income and, in parts of the country where the Sunni minority coexist with Shia or Kurds, kin of their victims hunting them down and seeking revenge. These Baath Party loyalists feel most vulnerable to Sunni Arab police in areas of Central Iraq where the majority of Sunni Arabs live. Thus this is where the new Iraqi police are most frequently under attack. The new police report receiving threats to "not cooperate with the foreigners." 

Baath Party efforts to regain control over the Sunni population has not been successful so far. Most of the population, who are quite naturally most interested in their own welfare, are looking out for themselves. Thus most of the pre-invasion police in Sunni areas applied for their old jobs when the coalition began rebuilding the police force. The same thing happened with the civil service. In all cases, those trying to get their jobs back received threats from the Baath party, or knew someone that did. Baath made good on it's threats, attacking the Iraqi police. This has created something of a civil war among the Sunni population, thus providing the coalition military and police forces with a steady flow of information on who the Baath Party activists are and where they hang out. This program is expected to lead eventually to the senior Baath Party leaders, including Saddam and his sons.

Since May 1st, 29 American soldiers have died from hostile action in Iraq. The army and marines have adapted to this by setting up ambushes, retraining to react more quickly and effectively to ambush attacks and expanding their informant network in pro-Saddam areas. The Baath Party has long used cash to encourage cooperation, and the coalition is playing the same game with some success. Rewards of $2500 are offered for information on anyone attacking coalition troops or Iraqi police. Plus there are rewards of $25 million for Saddam and $15 million each for his two sons.

 

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