Iraq: January 1, 2004

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: Intelligence efforts have begun to unearth the connections between the pro-Saddam resistance and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has hired some of Saddam's people to handle smuggling terrorists into Iraq and provide safe houses. There's a lot of money involved; millions of dollars are being spent each week by pro-Saddam and al Qaeda to pay fighters and people who provide support (safe houses, information, weapons). Raids are increasingly picking up more of the al Qaeda members, and the Iraqis who are paid to support them.

While there is an Iraq, there are all that many Iraqis. Everyone thinks first of family, tribe and ethnic group. This can be seen in northern Iraq, where Kurds are asking for the city of Kirkuk (and it's nearby oil fields) to be included in the "Kurdish region" that will have some autonomy in a democratic Iraq. For centuries, Kirkuk was the major Kurdish city in the region. But as long as Saddam ran Iraq, he moved Arabs to Kirkuk and forced Kurds to move elsewhere (under threat of death.) When the Kurds returned to Kirkuk earlier this year, they drove thousands of Arabs out, but many remain and they, along with the Turkmen (ethnic Turks, a minority that has been in the region for centuries) have been violently protesting turning Kirkuk into a "Kurdish city." The non-Kurds fear persecution and attempts to drive them from the city (and the oil jobs). These fears are not unique to Kurdish areas. Throughout Iraq, ethnic groups and tribes warily view each other, wondering who will be the exploiter, and who will be the victim. Getting Iraqis to accept the idea that they are all citizens of one Iraq is a major challenge. There are two forces that are pushing Iraqis towards these novel, and alien, ideas. First, there are the many (over ten percent of the population) Iraqis who had fled the country since Saddam came to power. Many of these are coming back and telling other Iraqis that democracy and honest government works, even for, and with, Arabs. Second, Arab journalists and pundits are now talking up the same idea. It's become fashionable to admit that Arabs have been losers for the past few centuries and that maybe it's something Arabs are doing wrong that holds back Arab progress. Iraq is seen as the great opportunity to demonstrate Arabs building a democracy with the rule of law and economic prosperity. While a worthy goal, no one in Iraq gives it more than a 50:50 chance of succeeding.

 

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