Iraq: November 24, 2004

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A force of 5,000 American, British and Iraqi troops began moving through Sunni Arab towns south of Baghdad. More raids in Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad were being prepared as well. The raids are going after known hostiles and safe houses. Hundreds of men have been arrested, and many tons of arms have been collected. 

In the last week, two members of the Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars have been assassinated. The Association has taken the lead in preaching resistance to the new government, elections and any Shia control of the government. This has caused much anger among the Shia majority. While many Shia have expressed this anger by joining the police or army, others have formed death squads, and gone after notorious murderers and hate mongers in the Sunni Arab community. This includes many Sunni Arab preachers. Shia Arabs and Kurds have thousands of names of Sunni Arabs who personally took part in supporting Saddams decades of repression. Nearly all of these Sunni Arabs have fled to the traditionally Sunni areas in, around, and to the west of, Baghdad. But Shia death squads have been going in and killing the murderers and preachers of hate. There are plenty of recent murders and atrocities to motivate these killers. Sunni Arab gangs have taken to setting up roadblocks and stopping Shia Arab or Kurd drivers, and torturing or killing them. The Shia get the most attention, because Sunni Arab clerics preach that Shia are heretics and blasphemers. This is a common attitude among Sunni Arabs, but usually does not result in violence. An exception is the Wahabi form of Sunni Islam. The Wahabi strain  is popular in Saudi Arabia, and among al Qaeda members, and has become common among Iraqi Sunni Arabs as well. It's not just revenge minded Shia Arabs who are on to the central role of Sunni Arab clerics; the government has also started to arrest those who are most prominent in preaching hatred against Shia Arabs, and  against anyone who denies Sunni Arab domination. The discovery of so many mosques in Fallujah being used as combat headquarters, and full of anti-Shia propaganda, has made it easier to go after the Sunni Arab clergy. The discovery of twenty "torture chambers" in Fallujah horrified many Iraqis, who were already angry at Sunni Arab thugs. Seeing the pictures of the blood splattered rooms where Iraqi and foreign kidnap victims were tortured and killed has made it pretty obvious what kind of people Iraqis are fighting against.

The UN, Arab nations and Iran continue to complain of "excessive force" in fighting against the Sunni Arabs. But to most Iraqis, too much restraint is being used. It all depends on whether you did business with Saddam, or had a friend tortured and killed by him.

 

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