Iraq: December 21, 2003

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 American troops have computerized their fight against violent Iraqis, using some of the same software and techniques that has helped  dramatically reduce crime in the United States over the last decade. Iraqis have no experience with this, and have difficulty adapting to the rapid responses of American troops to attacks on them. There's no magic involved, the software simply tracks criminal events and suspected bad guys. The Iraqis are operating in dozens of gangs (or "cells" as the troops call them), each operating in familiar territory and, often, in a predictable pattern. While all American casualties are reported, it is not generally known that far more of the attackers are killed, wounded or captured. Most attacks are disrupted or turned into an ambush of the attacker. Surveillance by UAVs, troops or videocams catches many Iraqis in the act of planting bombs or setting up ambushes. The Americans have satellite photos of neighborhoods on their laptops, along with GPS locations. As a result, raids rarely hit the wrong house. The troops also have built training areas where they can practice the routines used to quickly execute a raid. No American soldier has been killed on any of the thousands of raids carried out.

The US database software records everything about any Iraqi arrested or killed in such incidents, and six months of collecting names and other information has provided a picture of the web of family and criminal connections that often leads to other suspects. The increased danger of making attacks on Americans has caused the payments to attackers to escalate. While some attacks are made "for free," most are paid for. Iraqis know it's dangerous to shoot at the coalition troops, particularly the Americans. But the offer of thousands of dollars in cash is irresistible to many young, unemployed Sunni Arabs. These men supported Saddam, and see their economic future as bleak in an Iraq dominated by Shia and Kurds. By making, and surviving, a few attacks on Americans they can obtain enough money to emigrate to Europe or America.

The contents of Saddam's briefcase provided proof that dozens of suspected leaders were involved in the violence. As a result, hundreds of Iraqi resistance leaders have been arrested. Efforts to interrupt the supply of cash that fuels the resistance has had some success. Syria had begun seizing al Qaeda and Baath Party couriers carrying millions of dollars of cash into Iraq. Over $20 million was seized in the last month. Syria has been the best route into Iraq, because the Syrian police had, until recently, been looking the other way. Such is not the case on all the other borders. Turks, Iranians, Saudis and Jordanians all have made it difficult for pro-Saddam elements to get into Iraq. Now Syria has joined the blockade. This won't stop the movement or men or money, but it will make it more difficult and expensive.

 

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