Iraq: August 31, 2004


  Muqtada al Sadr, apparently taking note of how thousands of his followers had been killed fighting coalition troops since April, the unpopularity of his gunmen when they are alive, and his own close calls with smart bombs, has called for all his armed followers to lay down they weapons. Sadr wants to form a political party and try this radical new idea (for Iraq) of contending for power without using guns. It also appears that Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al Sistani, who had long kept quiet about Sadr, had sharply criticized Sadr. This does not go down well among most Shias, as Sistani is well respected and Sadr is not.

The inability of Iraqi police and security troops to deal with Saddam's old secret police is a major reason for the continued violence. In areas where there are a sufficient number of Saddam's old thugs, the local police are neutralized via threats to attack their families. Saddam controlled the Iraqi population for decades with this approach, and the vast majority of his enforcers are still around, and many are still in business. Saddam's thugs also used kidnapping, and today they are still at it. Except now they will ask for ransom. The solution to this problem is to bring in police and security forces from other parts of the country, where the families cannot be reached. While this causes some resentment at the "outsiders," it makes the Iraqi police more fearless in doing their work. There's also a continuing problem with obtaining trained, and reliable, Iraqi army officers and police commanders. They are out there, but you have to find them, hire them and train them. It takes time, and there are, so far, never enough. 


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