Iraq: December 15, 2003

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With Saddam gone, the resistance to democracy in Iraq will not fade away. For those who supported Saddam, resistance to democracy is a matter of life and death. 

Most of the opposition, which is almost entirely Sunni Arabs.  was only nominally pro-Saddam. What the Sunni Arabs were in favor  of was keeping the Sunni Arab minority in control of the country. After centuries of running things, the Sunni Arabs see democracy as meaning economic ruin for most and war crimes trials for some of them. This is not a unique problem. After World War II, Japan and Germany each contained hundreds of thousands of government employees (secret police, prison officials, death camp staff and so on) that had blood on their hands and were technically liable for criminal prosecution. But most of these miscreants were allowed to walk free. However, in Germany, ultimately 80,000 people were tried and convicted of war crimes. Prosecutions continue, although at a much reduced rate. If adjusted for the differences in population, this would mean over 25,000 convictions (and over 30,000 trials, to account for acquittals) in Iraq. However, Iraq is only talking about 400-500 trials. That leaves thousands of guilty Iraqis free of prosecution, but not revenge. Meanwhile, there is talk among the majority Shia and Kurds of exterminating the Sunni Arab population. This is the extremists talking, but their rants get repeated because they contain a grain of truth. The Sunni Arabs have persecuted Shia Arabs and non-Arab Kurds for many generations. Saddam took the cruelty to new depths, leaving many, if not most, Sunnis horrified. Saddam also left many Sunnis dead, imprisoned or in exile. While Saddam's inner circle was overwhelmingly Sunni Arab, he was quick to punish any Sunni suspected of disloyalty. But those who did work for Saddam were well paid, and much wealth was distributed in Sunni Arab areas, which earned Saddam some good will. But the hard core of Saddam's support, several hundred thousand, mainly Sunni Arab, Iraqis (including families), have lost their privileged economic and political position. They are living off their savings. If they cannot regain power, many of them will face war crimes trials, or revenge attacks from the kin of Shia and Kurd victims. The revenge attacks have been going on for months, and are expected to increase once the coalition troops are no longer in charge, and the Shia and Kurd vigilantes can move freely in Sunni areas.

Shia leaders are pretty confident that, once elections are held, the Shia will be in control. The problem is, it is becoming clear that no single Shia leader can be assured of becoming the new leader of Iraq. There are too many factions within the Shia community. The twenty percent of Iraqis who are Kurds are divided into two factions, providing two political leaders. The Shia community, with sixty percent of the population, has at least half a dozen faction leaders. Intrepid reporters looking for a scary headline have no trouble finding Shia pundits willing to make pronouncements of  Iraq's frightening (to Westerners) future. But the Iraqis are not stupid, as this sort of reporting implies. They know what happened in Iran, the Balkans and elsewhere. While Iraqis love to jump on the latest conspiracy theory, they also know how to get down to business. Who would you put your money on?

Coalition forces expect an increase in attacks on coalition and Iraqi government forces. With Saddam gone, the opposition will be determined to show that they are not discouraged by it. 

Two more car bombs went off near police stations outside Baghdad (this time south of the city), in Sunni Arab towns south of the city. At least ten people were killed and dozens wounded. A third bomb was found and defused.  The Sunni Arab, al Qaeda and Arab nationalist opposition are feeling the heat from the growing number of Iraqi police and security forces. The bombs are an attempt to intimidate the police into backing off. Already, there have been cases of police refusing to cooperate with coalition efforts. These refusals are being met with dismissals. The coalition is trying to change the police culture that has existed in Iraqi for generations. Stamping out corruption is difficult, but screening of recruits (to try and keep out those most easily compromised) and training in modern police techniques (which Iraqi cops never had) is changing the police. There is less cooperation and more professionalism. So the anti-government forces are attacking the cops for not being corrupt enough to take a payoff and sit on their hands.

 

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