Iraq: February 17, 2004


The weekend attacks on Iraqi police and security force bases in Sunni Arab areas resulted in four of the attackers being killed, and two wounded and captured. Initial reports indicated that many of the attackers were not Iraqis. Further investigation revealed that all the attackers were Iraqis, although some had forged documents. The attackers were one of a dozen or more gangs that have formed around former intelligence and police officers in Saddam's government. Each group has a hundred or so core members, and each group plans and carries out attacks independent of the other groups. Each group gets money from various sources inside and outside Iraq, and hires Iraqis to help, or at least not get in the way (by bribing police, or anyone who might squeal and you can't afford to kill.) These groups are responsible for the attacks on coalition and Iraqi troops, and Iraqi civilians working for the new government or coalition forces. This Sunni Arab resistance is basically the thugs who were living large when Saddam was in power, are now facing prosecution and worse and are willing to fight against the future retribution they see coming. 

One of the weekend attacks in Falluja, for example, was to free gunmen who had fired on a bus load of Iraqi security guards. This kind of attack is meant to intimidate the police and make it easier to recruit. But it's all a lost cause. Most Iraqi police and security troops now want vengeance, not a place to hide. It's telling that the weekend attacks were carefully planned to take place when no American troops were nearby. As Saddam recently put it, "would you fight them." But the police do have American troops on call, and that does wonders for police morale. 

The pro-Saddam crowd are a minority among the Sunni Arabs. The 60 percent of Iraqis who are Shia, and the 20 percent who are Kurds, view the Sunni Arab resistance as a bunch of thieving butchers who want a return to the good old days of tormenting Shia and Kurds. Sunni Arab leaders, at great personal risk of assassination, have come out and publicly condemned the "resistance." But these Sunni Arab fighters have no where else to go. Syria, the only likely sanctuary, has not been hospitable to pro-Saddam refugees unless they bring a lot of money with them. That said, Saddam and his cronies stashed billions of dollars around the world, and some of that is flowing back into Iraq to support resistance to the new government. To what end? Well, some Arab nationalists believe that "the crusaders can be defeated" in Iraq. There are also some Sunni Arabs who believe that the centuries of Sunni Arab rule in Iraq can be won back. There are also the Islamic militants and al Qaeda types who see Iraq as a good place to find and kill infidels (non-Moslems). 

The Sunni Arab resistance, while they make for good media headlines, have a poor understanding of history. For example, since World War II, must insurgencies have failed. Moreover, insurgencies have always failed when the insurgents did not represent (ethnically or religiously) the majority of the population they were fighting amongst. Worse yet, if the Sunni Arab resistance triggers a civil war and causes Iraqi to break up, it should be noted that all the oil is in Kurdish or Shia Arab areas. The Sunni Arabs would be left with mostly desert.

One reason Arab states have not had much luck with democracy is because of the tendency of dissidents to get violent and start killing people when their views are not satisfied or addressed. Many Arabs understand this, and accept that only a dictator, or strong monarch, can handle this violent tendency. Iraq, if nothing else, will be an experiment in how well a democratically elected Arab government can perform in dealing with violent dissent.


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