Iraq: June 5, 2004

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The two remaining hotspots in Iraq, the al Sadr Shia gunmen in the south, and Sunni gunmen in Fallujah, are not so hot anymore. The violence of these two groups, once declared the "Great Iraqi Uprising" by the media, never amounted to much, and has now sputtered to sporadic grandstanding.

Over a month of fighting between the al Sadr gunmen and coalition troops has left al Sadr with only a few hundred armed followers, and most of them are not willing to fight any more. The original press estimates of al Sadr having 10,000 armed followers were exaggerated (not unusual) and there were probably closer to a few thousand. But these were untrained young men with guns who were no match for the better trained, led and armed coalition troops. Several weeks of fighting left over 300 al Sadr men dead and over a thousand wounded. Many more simply deserted the cause, realizing that continued resistance would just get them killed. So Muqtada al Sadr has agreed to pull out of the southern cities of Najaf and Kufa. More importantly, Iraqi police have been convinced that to go in and retake control of the cities. Al Sadrs men had driven the police out two months ago, and the police only agreed to return after seeing how badly coalition troops had beaten the al Sadr gunmen. 

In Fallujah, the marines have played a clever psychological war trick on the Sunni gunmen (Baath Party loyalists and foreign Arab nationalists) still holding out in the city. While Iraqi police and militia brigades patrol the city, the gunmen are free to do what they want, which means that many of them have gone out of control. The gunmen have committed dozens of crimes, from just taking things (without paying) from merchants, to rape. The very numerous, powerful and conservative Sunni Arab clergy of Fallujah, who had previously supported the gunmen, are now preaching against them. The clergy are not asking for the U.S. Marines to return, but public opinion is moving in that direction. Thats because the marines still have Fallujah surrounded, and in the areas controlled by the marines there is law and order, reconstruction projects, lots of jobs and lots of money. The residents of Fallujah are noticing this, as well as the similar situation in most of Iraq. 

But groups of Baath Party and al Qaeda terrorists continue to operate in, and around, Baghdad and in Sunni areas up north. The suicide bombings, roadside bombs and shootings of Iraqi collaborators, has turned public opinion against the resistance. The new Iraqi government has proved to be popular so far, and each week, more trained police and security troops become available. The bloody defeat of the al Sadr gunmen has made the police more confident that if they are confronted by such strong militias, the coalition troops can take care of the situation.



 

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