Iraq: Motivational Techniques

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January 12, 2006: apparently there have been some snags in developing the Desert Protection Force (DPF) in western Iraq (Anbar province). Tribes there are willing to support the DPF, but want solid assurances that their boys will remain in the province - they see the DPF as helping them keep control of their own turf, which happens to include keeping al Qaeda out. This is a common situation with tribal militias, and something you just have to live with.

The principal leader of the Sunni insurgents in Al Anbar Province, has reportedly been holding meetings with representatives of the government. The meetings - at least two of which are said to have occurred - include representatives of tribal, clan, and political groups that have been supporting the resistance in he province. Apparently, the objective of the meetings is to "normalize" the situation in Al Anbar, turning the resistance into a political movement. Al Anbar has long been Iraq's "wild west," and dominated by Sunni Arab tribes. Even Saddam never had complete control of the al Anbar tribes, and after the 1991 war, tried to buy the loyalty of the al Anbar tribal chiefs. But now the masters of al Anbar are fearful of the non-Sunni Arab government in Baghdad. The Americans are bad enough, but these Shia Arab and Kurd policemen and soldiers are really out for blood. Time to make peace.

While the military situation in the province is believed to be increasingly favorable to the government, there are other reasons for this development. Reportedly some tribal leaders have become concerned with the increasing influence Al Qaeda-in-Iraq has in the province, not to mention the Islamist movement's targeting of civilians. In addition, Al Qaeda appears to be waging its own war against some of the more secular resistance movements; it is believed that at least one prominent Sunni resistance leader was killed by Al Qaeda.

The Sunni Arabs in Iraq are becoming truly terrified. First, there is the increasing physical threat. The terrorists continue to attack Shia Iraqi civilians, and the media images of dead children and blood splattered mosques increase the anger against all Sunni Arab Iraqis. That, plus the decades of Saddam's rule, where Sunni Arab secret police and street thugs killed with impunity, has increased the enthusiasm among Shia and Kurds for massive retaliation. What retrains the 80 percent of the population that are Shia and Kurds are the clergy, politicians and general distaste for such a massive blood letting. The Kurds are more concerned with consolidating their position in northern Iraq, especially pushing Sunni Arabs out of the northern oil fields.

Shia clergy and politicians are aware that popular anger over the Sunni Arab terrorist attacks is rising. Blaming the Americans for the lack of security doesn't work as well as it used to, what with all those Iraqi troops and police now out on the street. But admitting that a lot of these Iraqi security troops are poorly led (by Iraqi officers) and can be bribed (by Iraqi terrorists), is also difficult. "Taking responsibility" is one aspect of democracy that is not particularly popular. Elections, and democratic politics, however, demand that politicians do something, and, in turn, demand that police and army commanders get results. All this is unique in Iraqi history. Having a dictator "motivate" his subordinates with death threats has been the standard practice for thousands of years. Getting results with kinder and gentler democratic methods requires learning a lot of new skills. It's a painful and messy process, and it's what is going on behind the headlines in Iraq.

 

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