Iraq: November 4, 2003

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Shia groups in the south continue to fight a low level war against each other. But the majority of the Shia groups, which are organized around a few prominent religious leaders, are more concerned with negotiating and keeping the peace than in fighting coalition troops, or each other. In the Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad, radical Shia leader Moqtada Sadr has now called for the Iraqi people to work with American troops to bring peace. At the same time, American investigators are looking into accusations that Sadr is supporting fatal attacks against other Shia leaders.    

While much attention is given to casualties among American troops, there are far more casualties in the battles between Iraqis. Most of the bloodshed is in the south and in the Sunni Arab areas around Iraq. In the south, Shia gunmen go after Shia and Sunni supporters of the former Baath government. There are over a million Sunni Arabs living in the south (and have done so for centuries). Most of these supported Saddam and his government. That meant Sunni Arab gunmen spent decades killing Shia Arabs identified as enemies of Saddam. The families of these victims are now looking for revenge, and are not waiting for the courts to do it for them. Around Baghdad, Sunni Arab gunmen are going after Iraqis who work for the new government. The coalition strategy is to select, train and arm Iraqi police and militia so that Iraqis can deal with the violence. That is working, but it is leading to a low level civil war between the Sunni Arabs and the majority (some 80 percent) of the Iraqi population. 

 

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