Iraq: August 30, 2003


U.S. troops arrested tribal chief Sheikh Hatem al-Assy al-Obeidi, for allowing sabotage against oil pipelines and electrical transmission lines. Saddam Hussain had paid al-Obeidi $150,000 a month to guard the pipeline. American forces signed a deal with al-Obeidi last month for less than half that amount. Al-Obeidi publicly complained about the cheap Americans and how members of his tribe might be attacking the pipeline anyway. Al-Obeidi apparently doesn't understand the American custom of, "if you are bought, stay bought." Al-Obeidi presides over one of the largest Iraqi tribes, with about a million members, most of them in the north. Al-Obeidi apparently feels that if he could get away with extorting Saddam, the Americans should be easy pickings. This attitude by the tribal chiefs has long been a problem in Iraq. Too many of the chiefs care only for themselves and their tribes and are willing to see the rest of the country go down the tubes, even if that eventually harms their own tribe as well. Saddam Hussein exploited this nasty characteristic to bribe the tribes to support his government. When a tribe did not cooperate, Saddam would punish the entire tribe savagely, for a while, and then offer to make a deal again. That offer was usually accepted, and adhered to. It appears that the U.S. Army is using a similar approach, but without the torture chambers and death camps. 

Iraqi police, turned lose to try and solve the murder of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, announced that they have arrested two Iraqis and two Saudis with connections to al Qaeda. The Iraqi police were not much motivated by the earlier bombing of the UN headquarters and Jordanian embassy, even though dozens of Iraqis were killed. But the Najaf bombing is different, as it threatens to set off a religious war within Iraq. The Shia have long been persecuted by Sunnis, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Although the government forbids it, Saudi clerics often preach sermons where they condemn Shias as heretics. Saddam Hussein and most of his followers are Sunnis, and it won't take much more to get the Shias in a murderous mood regarding all Sunnis. 

The coalition has pledged two million dollars to repair the bomb damage in Najaf. It was also revealed that a week before the bombing, the coalition had provided 400 rifles and money to arm and equip a security force around the holy places in Najaf.


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