Iraq: The Civil War Among Sunni Arabs

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January 16, 2006: Terrorist attacks against certain types of targets get lots of media coverage, especially when, as there usually are, lots of attacks. What is less reported is the ultimate success, or failure, of those attacks. For example, there were several attacks on foreign diplomats, in an attempt to prevent those countries from establishing diplomatic relations with the new Iraqi government. That campaign failed, as there are over fifty countries that have reestablished their embassies in Iraq, or are in the process of doing so.

A major target of terrorist attacks has been the oil industry, which has prevented oil production from increasing. That has absorbed a lot of the terrorist effort, because there are 22 oil industry reconstruction projects. Because of the scope of the oil industry, and the number of construction efforts (22), the terrorists have switched from bombs, which are too frequently intercepted by the huge number of oil industry security personnel, and turned to more subtle terrorism. Threats are now made on oil industry workers, and sometimes their families. This had some success initially, but ultimately it mobilized oil workers, their families and tribes, to fight the terrorists face-to-face.

As large as it is, the oil industry is not the largest employer in Iraq, the government is, with 1.2 million employees. The government has always been a major employer in Iraq, and during the 1990s, it became the main employer because the embargo, imposed at the end of the 1991 war, shut down much of the economy. At that point, Saddam controlled the economy like never before, and this control helped keep him in power. The economy has been opened up enormously since 2003, with the government no longer the major employer. But controlling that many jobs, the people running the government have enormous clout. The Sunni Arabs are not getting many of those jobs, certainly not in proportion to the 20 percent of the population that are Sunni Arabs. Moreover, before 2003, the Sunni Arabs had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, because they got priority for those government jobs. That all changed in early 2003, and the Sunni Arabs want to get back to work. Right now, one of the easiest, if dangerous, ways to make money is to go to work with one of the many Sunni Arab terrorist or criminal gangs. You can make $50 as a lookout, or over $1,000 for murdering someone. IEDs have grown into a major industry, with each one generating hundreds of dollars of payments to build and emplace. The problem with the terror economy is that most of the people getting terrorized (killed and maimed) are Iraqis, many of them Sunni Arab Iraqis. This has caused a backlash against the terrorists. Moreover, the booming economy has made more jobs available even to Sunni Arabs. While Sunni Arab neighborhoods are considered dangerous, that doesn't stop companies from hiring Sunni Arab truck drivers to get through those dangerous areas, or Sunni Arab employees to run a branch in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. When terrorists attack these Sunni Arab workers, they make more enemies. The terrorists have so many enemies in some Sunni Arab areas that they have been completely driven out.

While Sunni Arabs believe, in general, that they should be running the country, they are more specifically concerned about having a job, and access to the rapidly rebuilding economy. The Sunni Arabs have access to the ten TV and 75 radio stations that have opened up since 2003, and know what's going on in the rest of the country. The Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004, and has been going up as the unemployment rate is going down. The Sunni Arabs know they are losing out, and are not happy about it. The increasing number of gun battles going on in Sunni Arab neighborhoods indicates that the civil war among the Sunni Arabs is already underway. It's a low key and scattered affair, but keeps getting louder and more violent. Terror attacks have been declining, as the terrorists have had to spend more time defending themselves. This is not news, because it is not a single dramatic event, but it is a trend, and it has been a trend for some time now. It's a trend that dooms the terrorist cause, and that will eventually be big news.

 

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