Iraq: May 24, 2004


American and Iraqi troops captured a mosque held by al Sadr gunmen in Kufa. Some three dozen of the al Sadr militiamen were killed. Several hundred al Sadr followers still occupy Shia shrines in Najaf, but there they are also being pressured by local tribal and religious leaders to leave the shrines. The gunmen realize, however, that if they leave the shrines, which American troops won't attack, they will be easy pickings for coalition troops and hostile Iraqis. Coalition forces insist that all the al Sadr gunmen surrender their weapons, and al Sadr himself surrender to face murder charges. Al Sadr himself continues to call for widespread uprising against coalition troops, but this isn't happening and the number of al Sadr gunmen shrinks daily.

In and around Fallujah, anti-government gunmen are rarely seen, but there are still roadside bombs going off and some sniping. There's another war that is rarely reported on, and this is between the traditional Sunni Arab Iraqi leaders (clergy and tribal elders) and the still feisty members of the former government (the Baath Party.) The Iraqis don't want Baath back in power, even though Baath is largely Sunni Arab. And Baath still has guns and men willing to use them. The Iraqi traditional leaders don't have the firepower to fight Baath, but they do have the family and tribal connections that allow discussion, and even arguments, with the Baath leaders. Most Sunni Arabs now want peace and reconstruction. It's become obvious to even the diehard Sunni Arab Saddam supporters that the Shia and Kurds are prospering because of the reconstruction. Many of the Sunni Arabs are not getting any of this economic benefit, because so many of the Sunni Arabs are supporting the Baath party and Islamic radical gunmen and terrorists. While the Sunni Arabs won't fight the Baath (Saddam's henchmen are too well armed, and too expert at applying terror), they are increasingly supplying information, and joining the police and security forces. 


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