Iraq: April 19, 2004

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The negotiations in Fallujah (to get the local leaders to surrender murderers and terrorists hiding out in the city) has caused many of these thugs to slip out of the city (the marine cordon is tight only on the roads) and go on fighting in western Iraq. Other Sunni Arab gangs are in towns outside Fallujah and they have taken to raiding truck traffic from Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Kuwait. Most of this stuff is for Iraqis in Baghdad and southern Iraq and attractive targets to Saddams unemployed followers. There have been 5-6 attacks each day on convoys during the last week.. This has caused many trucking firms to refuse to allow their vehicles to use these routes until security is increased. This was done over the last two weeks, mainly by increasing the use of convoys with armed escorts. This area of western Iraq has had problems with bandits on the roads for centuries. 

Many Iraqis are disappointed that many of the new Iraqi police and security forces refused to fight against the Sunni Arab and al Sadr Shia gangs. This was no surprise, as the Iraqi police had long been considered a bunch of corrupt cowards. The Iraqi army was known to break (run away from a fight) frequently. During the 1980s war with Iran, Saddam used various carrot and stick methods to get the troops to fight (even when just defending.) Ultimately, Saddam came up with the classic approach to creating an effective fighting force; selectivity and training. This led to the Republican Guard, which would fight (or at least would do so more often than the regular army, which rarely resisted). Actually, the Iraqi military performance, for over a century, has been poor. The Turks found that Sunni Arabs made good officers, if you were selective. The same was true with troops raised from among the Kurds and Sunnis. The Shia were less effective, and not really trusted because they shared religious customs with the traditional enemy; Iran. So the coalition will not be able to form an effective Iraqi security force quickly. It will have to take the long way. This means setting up more thorough screening of recruits and putting them through many months of intense training. This works. Always has. But the shortage of Arab speakers among the coalition troops and civilians limits how fast you can go with this program.

 

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