Deaths from revenge killings now exceed those from terrorist or anti-government activity. Al Qaeda is beaten, and running for cover. The Sunni Arab groups that financed thousands of attacks against the government and coalition groups, are now battling each other, al Qaeda, and Shia death squads. It's not civil war, for there are no battles or grand strategies at play. It's not ethnic cleansing, yet, although many Sunni Arabs are, and have, fled the country. What's happening here is payback. Outsiders tend to forget that, for over three decades, a brutal Sunni Arab dictatorship killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shia Arabs. The surviving victims, and the families of those who did not survive, want revenge. They want payback. And even those Kurds Shia Arabs who don't personally want revenge, are inclined to tolerate some payback. Since the Sunni Arabs comprise only about 20 percent of the population, and no longer control the police or military, they are in a vulnerable position.
After Saddam's government was ousted three years ago, the Sunni Arabs still had lots of cash, weapons, and terrorist skills. Running a police state is basically all about terrorizing people into accepting your rule. For the last three years, the Sunni Arabs thought they could terrorize their way back into power. Didn't work. Now the Kurds and Shia Arabs are not only too strong to defeat, but are coming into Sunni Arab neighborhoods and killing. Sometimes the victims are men who actually took part in Saddam era atrocities. But often the victims are just some Sunni Arabs who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
The government doesn't want all these payback killings, most of them carried out by men working for extremist Shia Arab political parties. In particular, the Badr and Sadr militias, both backed by Iran, have the most blood on their hands, although other Shia Arab groups, and even some Kurds, have joined in. The government has avoided cracking down on the Iran supported militias so far. Militarily, the government has had its hand full with the Islamic terrorists and Sunni Arab gangs. Taking on the pro-Iran Shia Arab gangs would produce political fallout as well, because these militias belonged to Shia Arab political parties. While the Shia Arabs are 60 percent of the population, if they split into too many mutually hostile factions, they could lose control of the government to a coalition containing Kurds and Sunni Arabs.
The Shia Arab death squads are basically terrorists, and if there's one thing all Iraqis can agree on, it's the need to stamp out the terrorist activity. This is providing the government with an opening against the Iran sponsored militias. Iraqis, even Shia Arab Iraqis, have always been fearful, and suspicious, of Iran. Iraqi Shia Arabs fought against Iran during the 1980s war, not because they loved Saddam, but because they feared Iranian domination. The Sadr and Badr groups are vulnerable in this area, and the government is apparently going to exploit it.
March 24, 2006: Back on March 7th Muhammed Hilah Hammad al Ubaydi, better known as Abu Ayman, was arrested by Iraqi and Coalition security forces. He was the principal terrorist leader in the southern part of Baghdad Province and northern Babil. When Saddam was in power, Abu Ayman was a senior aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence. The leadership of the Sunni Arab terrorism against the post-Saddam government has been men like Abu Ayman. Several hundred of these guys, all former commanders in Saddams force of professional terrorists, have been running a bloody, clever, although unsuccessful, campaign against the new government. In particular, the Sunni Arabs have worked the Arab and Western media effectively. Careful observers will note that a disproportionate number of the Iraqis interviewed by the Western media are Sunni Arabs. The clueless Western journalists often let their subjects admit that they, or someone in their family worked for Saddam military or secret police. Naturally, these interviewees are not happy with the new government and all those American troops. That's what the foreign journalists want to hear, and fellows like Abu Ayman, who were in charge of playing the foreign media when Saddam was in charge, are still there to help arrange those interviews.