Iraq: Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

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January16, 2007: In the last month, the nature of the fighting in Iraq has changed in some interesting ways. Sunni terrorists have become demoralized, and the number of attacks they are launching is plummeting. American casualties are now less than a third of what they were last month. American attention is turning from the Sunnis, who now live in fear of Shia death squads, to Shia politics in general. The Shia control most of the Iraqi government, and about half of the Shia political parties are heavily influenced by Iran. Worse, the Iranian influence comes from radical elements in the Iranian government, who are basically Shia versions of al Qaeda. This is the "Death to America" crowd, a group that wants a worldwide Islamic state run by Shia clerics. Opposition to this is something most Moslems (only about ten percent are Shia) and the U.S. can agree on. American forces are now spending more of their time gathering evidence about the extent of Iranian influence in Iraq. To that end, an Iranian consulate was raided, on January 11th, by U.S. troops, six men arrested, and much evidence (documents, computers) seized. Iran protested, as did the Iraqi government. The Iranians have their allies in the Iraqi government, and sense that the U.S. is going to attempt a housecleaning. Resisting this won't be easy, because most Iraqis back the idea of less Iranian influence on Iraqi politics. The consulate raid, and other captures and intelligence missions, have revealed many details of Iranian operations in Iraq. It's now the Iranians, and their Iraqi allies, who are on the defensive. The Americans are apparently serious about disarming the Shia militias. That would still give pro-Iranian many police and army units (heavily infiltrated by pro-Iranian Iraqis) to play with, but the Americans are going after those as well. The "troops surge" the Americans are talking about, won't have much immediate effect on all this. The "surge" will take place over the next few few months, raising the American troops strength 16 percent.

The Iranian problem is directly linked to another fundamental one in Iraq; corruption. Many of Irans new allies in Iraq were bought, and theft of government money and assets is still seen, by too many officials, as more of a right, than an offense. The stealing, inefficiency, reluctance to make difficult decisions and general lack of personal responsibility, is nothing new. Actually, these bad habits can be considered traditions, having existed in the region for centuries. Just having a democracy does not automatically eliminate all existing problems. Saddam Hussein was the norm for this part of the world, not an aberration. Saddam was a crook, but he was a strong and efficient crook. Iraqis want a strong and efficient leader, but finding one who doesn't want to rule as a dictator, is proving very difficult. Meanwhile, Iran (run by a religious dictatorship) and Syria (run by a secular dictatorship, whose services have been purchased by Iran) are trying to buy, or bully their way to, as much influence as they can in Iraq. The other neighbors are Sunni Arab states that don't want an Iran controlled Iraq, but don't see a good way to stop it from happening. The United States is going to try and remove the Shia militias, and see what happens. No one really knows. This is all new territory, what with democracy and honest government being so rare in this part of the world.

 

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