Iraq: September 7, 2004


The January elections are more complicated than they appear. In addition to dozens of political parties competing for votes, there are three armed groups using terror and assassination to persuade Iraqis not to vote. The groups that prefer terror to the ballot are the Sunni Arab supremacists (including Baath Party and Saddam supporters, who want Sunni Arabs back in power), the Sunni Arab Islamic radicals (who want a Sunni Islamic dictatorship) and the Shia Arab Islamic radicals (who want a Shia Islamic dictatorship). The two Sunni Arab groups are behind most of the murders and armed attacks, while the Shia groups (mainly the al Sadr gang) are primarily relying on terror and intimidation. The Sunni groups have killed hundreds of government officials and people working for the coalition, and terrorized thousands more (mainly with threats of death or kidnapping.) The al Sadr gang was found to have used kidnapping, murder and torture to persuade inhabitants of Najaf to support their take over of the Imam Ali shrine, and to control the entire city. Al Sadr is very unpopular in Najaf, and anywhere else where his gunmen have been free to do what comes naturally. 

These opposition groups are also big fans of tradition. Politics via murder, terror and intimidation are, indeed, far more common in Arab countries than democracy. These despicable methods could be considered an Iraqi tradition. But its a tradition that most Iraqis would prefer to abandon. No one is certain how many Iraqis are determined to stick with the traditional ways. It may be only a few percent of the population, or it may be twenty percent or more. Its certainly a minority. This question will be clarified once the national elections are held. In order to make sure that happens, the government is apparently planning military operations to take back control of towns and neighborhoods now held by the traditionalist gunmen. 

Iraqi troops did not, as earlier reported, capture Saddam henchman Izzat Ibrahim al Douri. Instead they had captured a relative of al Douri. DNA tests showed this. Close, but not close enough.

The number of kidnapped foreigners has reached one hundred. Twenty-three percent of them have been killed, a near doubling made possible by the recent mass murder of twelve Nepalese workers. That, plus the recent slaughter of hundreds of children in Russia by Chechen Moslem terrorists, has given kidnapping and hostage taking, in the name of Islam, a bad name. Even the Arab press is denouncing the practice. Perhaps in recognition of this, Iraqi terrorists holding two French journalists are now demanding five million dollars in ransom, plus some empty promises about future dealings with the Iraqi government. The terrorists have learned that killing hostages gains nothing, except perhaps a smart bomb or shoot out with American troops. Ransom, on the other hand, is a lot less lethal. The French will probably pay the ransom, and are still trying to figure out why their anti-U.S. stance has not made them immune to these kidnappings.

Foreign workers are undeterred by the kidnappings, seeing it as a small risk to take in order to land one of the high paying jobs in Iraq. At the moment, foreign workers are more at risk to get killed in a traffic accident, than they are to be kidnapped and killed. 


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