Iraq: Who Is Terrified and Why

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January3, 2007: Nearly 14,000 Iraqis were killed by criminal or political violence in 2006. The violence is not quite a war, but it is very violent, especially when you consider that nearly all of it is taking place in only a third of the country. While the Iraqi dead amount to about twelve times the murder rate in the United States, it's about two thirds the death rate in the United States during a year (1944) in World War II. The fighting is more and more Iraqis versus Iraqis, with some 95 percent of the dead in 2005 being Iraqi. While the media highlights those days when there were a hundred terrorist deaths, that was not the norm. On average, about 36 people a day died. But a day with no terrorist deaths is not considered news, and is rarely reported. Some 11 percent of the Iraqi deaths were security forces. That's 1,543 dead, compared to 832 American. No one is sure, but perhaps a third of the civilian deaths were terrorists, or those involved in supporting the terrorism. In 2006, most of the dead were Sunni Arabs (civilians and terrorists). The UN claims that twice as many Iraqis died, but that number is widely seen as motivated more by politics (the UN opposed the overthrow of Saddam, who bribed many UN officials) than a desire for accurate statistics.

December 30, 2006: Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging. Sunni Arab groups said they would make attacks on the United States in retaliation. But Saddam's death is another sign that Sunni Arab power, and presence, in Iraq is rapidly disappearing. Sunni Arabs in Iraq are long on talk, but short on performance. Sunni Arab terrorists are out of control, and that puts moderate Sunni Arabs in great danger. The Sunni Arab community still accounts for a majority of the trained professionals in the country, and the largest pool of experienced managerial talent. The elected leadership knows how much the loss of the Sunni Arab community will hurt the economy, not to mention the military and other government institutions. But several Shia politicians, particularly, Moqtada al Sadr, have made the expulsion of the Sunni Arabs a political goal. It's a very popular goal with the majority of Kurds and Shia Arabs, and these are over 80 percent of the population. Sadrs gunmen are now forcing Sunni Arabs out of mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad, and making plans to assault all-Sunni neighborhoods (which are well protected by armed locals). The sectarian violence is going to get worse, as the diehard, we-won't-leave Sunni Arabs battle the Shia militia. The government does not really have a plan for coping with this, but definitely wants to curb the power of the Shia militias.

December 28, 2006: Without much fanfare, much less a press release, the government and Coalition troops have gone to war with Moqtada al Sadrs Mahhi Army militia. Leaders are being arrested or killed. The raids are being carried out with overwhelming speed and force, so that pro-Sadr gunmen have little chance to put up effective resistance. Some of the raids are in support of an effort to find five civilian security contractors (four Americans and an Austrian), who are held by a Shia militia for ransom, or political purposes. No one is sure, and that apparently includes the kidnappers. The five men were seized six weeks ago.

Some American commanders are urging that several additional brigades of U.S. combat troops be brought in for a few months, to back the Iraqi security forces, as the Shia militias are taken down. The most dangerous part of this plan is now, with the well armed and motivated militias still intact. But once the organizations are broken, and arms, records and leaders seized, the problem will be largely a police, not military one.

 

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