Iraq: Dead Men Walking

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January10, 2007: Sunni Arab countries (everyone in the region but Iraq and Iran) are in an uproar over what is seen as an Iranian takeover of Iraq. The takeover actually occurred centuries ago, when the population became majority Shia Arab. But the Turkish empire delayed the inevitable, by submerging the Shia Arab majority in Basra province, in a Sunni sea called the Ottoman Empire. That empire disappeared in 1918, replaced by many new countries, or at least ones that had not been independent for hundreds of years. Britain created Iraq out of the majority Shia (and former Ottoman) province of Basra, the mixed, but largely Sunni, province of Baghdad, and the largely Kurd province of Mosul in the north. Sunni Arabs were only about twenty percent of the whole, but they were the wealthiest and best educated. The Sunni Arabs had run things for the Turks, had connections, and an attitude of superiority. The Sunni Arabs took over. The Sunni Arabs still have the education, connections and attitude. What they don't have is power, and some of them are desperate to get that back.

Media throughout the Sunni Arab world is getting more strident about the Iranian threat. Ancient terms for the Iranians are being revived, and past defeats at the hands of the Iranians are recounted in gory detail. The message is clear, the Shia Arab majority in Iraq cannot be allowed to control the country. For then, the Shia would control nearly 40 percent of the oil and gas in the Persian Gulf (which contains half the oil and gas in the world). The Sunni Arab nightmare has always been that the Iranians would come and take their oil. With Shia Arabs controlling Iraq, and allied with Shia Iran, that nightmare gets too close for comfort. For decades, the Sunni Arab states of the region tolerated Saddam Husseins bad behavior because Saddam had proved (during his 1980s war with Iran) that he could fight the Iranians and not lose (the war ended with a ceasefire, the Iranians are still demanding reparations.) The usual outcome of a war between Iranians and Arabs, is an Iranian victory. So Saddam was The Man, but now Saddam is gone, and the Sunni Arabs are not sure the United States can control this Shia monster it has created in Iraq.

The new security plan, backed up by an additional 20,000 U.S. troops, aims to take down the Sunni and Shia militias. These organizations were left in place for the last three years, because they provided some security. But in the last year, the militias have become the source of most insecurity, as Shia death squads killed Sunnis in a bloody vendetta for decades of oppression. The Sunni Arab terrorists killed Shia to try and scare them into allowing Sunni Arabs to run the country again. Over the past two years, U.S. and Iraqi government intelligence agencies have compiled extensive data on the militias, and where they hang out. The crackdown would not expect to destroy armed Sunni and Shia partisans, but their organizations would be smashed, and their numbers greatly diminished. This sort of thing happens in the U.S. when police go after organized crime, or in the Middle East when the secret police smash a rebel movement. The new plan involves members of the 300,000 strong Iraqi security forces operating by "American rules." Iraqi commanders would be given areas to pacify, and then left to do it, and be responsible for it. Civilians wandering the streets openly carrying gun would no longer be tolerated. Those who refused to give up their weapons would be arrested, those who resisted would be killed. A lot of the "usual suspects" will be rounded up. Criminal gangs will have a chance to switch sides. Most of the gangsters have partnered with terrorists or militias. If they are willing to flip on their political buddies, the government will cut them some slack, otherwise, business-as-usual will be interrupted for a while, perhaps a long while. The gangsters tend to vote their wallets, so the police are expecting to see the political militias and terrorists quickly lose valuable allies.

The Sunni Arabs are not waiting, with radio and print calls to arms circulating in Sunni neighborhoods recently. Armed Sunni Arabs are urged to go to Baghdad, to fight the decisive battle to keep Baghdad Sunni. That battle has already been lost, but the noise level on the Sunni side has reached epic levels because the Shia death squads are now invading solidly Sunni neighborhoods. There are no more safe havens for Sunnis in Baghdad. The men of Anbar (the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad) are being called in to save Baghdad. That has led to some spectacular street battles in the last few days. But all of these have ended with a lot of dead Sunnis. The Battle of Baghdad has been lost, but the fighting will go on for a while. The Sunni Arabs are dead-men-walking, and more of them will have to be put in the ground before the majority admit they are beat.

What the United States is trying to avoid is a massacre of the Sunni Arabs. The new military operation will disarm many of the Sunni Arabs who guard Sunni Arab neighborhoods. Unless the Shia militias, and their death squads are also crippled, the Shia will kill and terrorize Sunni Arabs on a large scale. The mass media loves that sort of thing, but Western politicians back home don't. No one wants another Bosnia or Rwanda.

About half the Sunni Arabs of Iraq have been driven from their homes so far. Some 60 percent of those have left the country, while the others have taken refuge in areas where Sunni Arabs are the majority. There are far fewer "mixed" (Sunni and Shia) neighborhoods in Iraq today, and there will be a lot fewer in the future. In 2006 alone, about ten percent of the Sunni Arab population was driven from their homes, and either left the country or settled elsewhere in Iraq.

Each month, 50-100,000 Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, leave the country. There are nearly a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, about 700,000 in Jordan, nearly 100,000 in Egypt, about 40,000 in Lebanon, and about 20,000 in Turkey. Over a hundred thousand have fled further still, to Europe and the Americas. The U.S. is trying to keep Sunni Arab refugees out, as it is believed many of them would be inclined to support Sunni Arab terrorist groups like al Qaeda, and seek revenge against the United States.

 

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