Iraq: January 6, 2004

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The Iraqi Governing Council has come up with a plan for a new government. A key dispute is developing over how much autonomy the Kurds will be allowed. For the moment, the Kurds are being allowed to govern themselves as they have for the last 13 years. Everyone agrees there will be a parliament and democracy, with the 18 provinces allowed more autonomy than in the past. The challenge will be to come up with a form of government that will not lead to a coup and another dictator in 5-10 years.

Ambushes, including roadside bombs, have become smaller and less frequent. There were 250 of them in November, 200 in December and the trend continues. The amount of explosives (often several artillery and mortar shells rigged to explode) has declined to the point were many of the bombs do little damage unless a vehicle is right next to it. Raids have seized a lot of bomb making material over the last few months. Better scouting and surveillance by American troops has caused the bombers to place their explosives among civilians, but this usually just hurts more Iraqis than Americans. The supply convoys are only attacked once or twice a day, and usually without much effect. Most of the ambushes are of combat patrols or civil affairs troops going about their business (visiting local Iraqi leaders and aid projects.)

Most of the attacks were along a few stretches of road. Months of detective work and lots of raid broke up the local groups of fighters, and played a major role in decreasing the attacks. There were also a lot of casualties among attackers, which made it more popular to plant bombs. But UAVs, snipers and stake-outs even made this dangerous.

About 20 percent of the attacks, and all the suicide bombings, are al Qaeda, with the rest coming from Sunni Arabs and those who want the old government back. Al Qaeda is having a hard time operating because they are foreigners and stand out. The coalition offers cash rewards for information on these foreign terrorists and most Iraqis see nothing wrong with making a few bucks to turn in some foreign fanatics. As a result, al Qaeda tries to operate out of mosques run by conservative clerics. A minority of Iraqis want an Islamic republic, and this minority is large enough to provide cover for al Qaeda and Iraqi groups who still want to fight.

 

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