Iraq: October 6, 2004


 With Samarra under government control, American and Iraqi troops have now moved to Babil province, just south of Baghdad, and arrested 160 people suspected of criminal activity. The roads in this part of Iraq (where the ruins of ancient Babylon are) have been the scene of many ambushes, road side bombs, kidnappings and robberies. A den of thieves, as it were. American and Iraqi intelligence forces have collected a lot of information on who has been doing what in the Babil area. There is a long list of people the police would like to talk to. Some of those people turned on to be heavily armed and not interested in getting close to police interrogators. Fighting is expected to go on for several days.

The combat is organized so that American troops take care of the particularly difficult chores, while getting the Iraqi troops and police into the action as soon as possible. The idea is, quite simply, to make the Iraqi forces look good, and to build their confidence. There's been a lot of  trial and error in creating new Iraqi police and security forces. Many Sunni Arabs, with police and military experience, could not be trusted. Many Sunni Arabs still believe that they should be running the country. Shias and Kurds, kept out of key police and military jobs for generations, required more time and training to get them up to speed. The quickest way to get police and military experience is to do the work under intense circumstances. The country needs to be rid of all these gangs and armed factions, and the police and army need the experience. If all this can be carried out without too many of the police and troops running away, the new government will have a security force that can bring peace to the country.

Meanwhile, Muqtada al Sadr's armed followers in Baghdad, where most of his gunmen always came from, have been getting pounded by American smart bombs and troops for the past week. As a result, Sadr has decided to negotiate the disbanding of his armed militias, and reorganizing his followers into a political party.  The government is encouraging this by allowing the American troops and Iraqi police to go after the Sadr gunmen aggressively. 


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