Iraq: July 26, 2004

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The Iraqi government is taking their new powers seriously, and so are the Iraqi police and security forces. No one expected that such an administrative event, the declaration of Iraqi sovereignty, would have such a dramatic impact. But the large number (over 200,000) of trained Iraqi police, troops and security forces, the continued street crime and kidnappings, and growing public anger over the lack of public safety, combined to produce an energetic Iraqi crackdown on the source of the problem. The number of tips about who is attacking Iraqis, and Americans, has skyrocketed. And most of the information is real, with the subsequent raids are yielding dramatic results. Criminal, Baath Party  and al Qaeda leaders and key members are being picked up, or killed in shoot outs. Records, cash and records are being seized. The records are often interesting, for the Baath Party groups, which hire a lot of the men who plant the roadside bombs or fire mortars or RPGs at government or American targets, keep records of who got paid how much for each attack. In some cases, moonlighting Iraqi police are found on the list. The money is attractive, a few hundred dollars for a few hours work, and a cop can more easily move around to make an attack. 

The various Sunni Arab gangs have increased the use of kidnappings, for ransom and political purposes. This type of crime has done the most to keep Iraqi exiles from  returning to help rebuild Iraq. It's not just an Iraqi problem, but world wide. And Iraqis are not the first population to get fed up with the growth of kidnapping for ransom. In the past year, Colombia and the Philippines have successfully cracked down on a major kidnapping problem. It takes a vigorous police effort, and a population willing to speak up, to make kidnapping so dangerous that it becomes an unpopular activity among the criminals. In an interesting parallel, the unrest in Colombia and Philippines was also a mixture of political and criminal activity, with the gunmen establishing bases in areas where they had some popular support. But once the police and army went after these bases (camps and safe houses), the resistance crumbled. Kidnappings went down, because many kidnappers now had no place to stash their victims.  

 

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