Iraq: April 30, 2004

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In Fallujah, the marines have agreed to let a former Iraqi general, Salah Abboud al-Jabouri, lead an 1,100 man Iraqi force bring peace to the city. General Salah was once a divisional commander in the Iraqi army. This Fallujah Force would have to make certain things happen if it wanted to stay on the payroll. These tasks include rounding up the heavy weapons (anti-aircraft guns, mortars and so on), foreign terrorists and the people who killed four Americans. Many people in Fallujah, and their traditional leaders, are upset with the armed gangs in the town, and are expected to support efforts by the Fallujah Force to bring peace. The marines will come back if the Fallujah Force fails to perform as expected. Several weeks of fighting between the marines and the gunmen has left eight marines and some 600 Iraqis (mostly gunmen) dead. It is believed that a large portion of the foreign gunmen in Iraq are in the Fallujah area. Several thousand, mostly Arab, foreigners have entered Iraqi, mainly through Syria, in the last year. Many of them found the Sunni Arabs most hospitable, and willing to give them shelter and other support. It is these foreigners who are carrying out the suicide bombings and kidnappings.

Meanwhile, in Najaf, armed Iraqi opponents to the al Sadr militia have increased their attacks on the al Sadr gunmen. As a result, the al Sadr gunmen go out into the streets less often, and usually do so heavily armed and in groups. Iraqis are calling al Sadr the second Saddam because of the brutality and arbitrary violence of his gunmen. Negotiations with al Sadr have made little progress, as al Sadr knows that if he leaves the holy city of Najaf, American troops will most likely arrest him, and try him for murder. So the senior Shia clergy are now waiting until the July 1 change of government, and the possible availability of more trained, and reliable, Iraqi troops to take down al Sadr and his gunmen by force. But if the armed resistance to al Sadr inside Najaf continues to grow, that might happen before July 1st anyway. 


 

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