Iraq: The Secret Plan

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February8, 2007: How do you bring peace to a kleptocracy (a government run by competing thieves)? Corruption is still the one common thread found throughout the Iraqi government and society. Oh, you will also find honorable, hard working, patriotic men and women. You'll also find evil megalomaniacs, fighting on against impossible odds for an improbably cause. But mostly you will find a lot of people looking for something to steal. Iraqis take this for granted, and those that immigrate to Europe or North America are pleasantly shocked at the relative lack of corruption they find in their new homes. But for all those Iraqis who cannot flee to those exotic foreign lands, life must go on.

American soldiers quickly learned the power of the bribe. In 2003, there were Special Forces troops who knew, and Civil Affairs officers who had experience from 1991, so cash was quickly obtained and palms were greased. Military lawyers were appalled, and journalists were delighted. The problem is, bribes have a short shelf life. Those who are bought don't stay bought. Moreover, Arabs have this superiority complex, and disdain for foreigners, which makes "frank discussions" difficult to arrange. Over the last four years, a generation of army and marine officers have learned that old British colonial dictum; "you can't hustle the east." If you want to build a lasting relationship and get things done, you have to spend a lot of time talking and sipping tea. Most brigades and divisions built databases of contacts and suspects. Over the last two years, most of that data has been combined into even more powerful databases. This sort of work is kept very secret for obvious reasons. The intel people take advantage of the fact that the media does not find this kind of work sexy. Moreover, all this knowledge of how Iraq works, and who-is-who is too complex to be newsworthy. It's also a success story, which makes it good news, and thus not news.

But it comes down to this. It's no secret how the dynamics of social conflict works in the Arab world. There's a pattern to it that has been operating for centuries, and it's all about factions running out of steam (as expressed in terms of money and fighters). Iraqis understand this, which is why the Shia want the Sunni Arabs run out of the country. The United States understands this, and wants to avoid the ugly photo-opportunities that would accompany the flight of the Sunni Arabs. Many Iraqis believe the upcoming "Baghdad Pacification" campaign will only delay the Sunni expulsion. Pro-Iran groups in Iraq, and around the world, believe that disarming Shia death squads will only make Shia Arabs more vulnerable to Sunni Arab terrorism. About the only thing everyone can agree on is that peace will come when the Sunni Arabs are gone. Well, maybe.

The American belief is, that enough factions (there are several dozen factions) on all sides (there are over a dozen different wars going on) are beaten down sufficiently, they will accept a ceasefire and peace. That's not an end to the war, just as the 1990 Lebanese peace deal (ending fifteen years of violence) is about to be revoked. The Israelis and Palestinians have been going at it for decades. The Yemeni civil war is almost as old. Most Iraqis want peace, and the belief is that killing a few more of those who don't will make it happen, at least for a while.

February 4, 2007: In Baghdad, a senior Iranian diplomat was kidnapped by what appeared to be Iraqi security troops. Iran blamed the United States, which is normal. However, not all the kidnappers got away, and four were eventually arrested. The investigation into which faction these men belong to is under way.

February 3, 2007: In the largest terror attack so far, a truck bomb went off in a Shia neighborhood, destroying a market place. There were nearly 500 casualties, including 135 dead. The Sunni Arab groups carrying out these attacks continue to believe that the Shia Arabs can be intimidated into allowing the return of Sunni Arab rule, or that the retaliation against Sunni Arabs will be so savage, that other Sunni Arab countries in the region will be forced to intervene. That this plan is so divorced from reality, is simply something you have to deal with in Iraq. Saddam created a generation of Sunni Arabs who were trained and encouraged to believe that boldness and ruthlessness would overcome any obstacle. Saddam's seemingly miraculous "victory" (it was actually a draw) over Iran in the 1980s made many Sunni Arabs believe they could do anything. The invasion of Kuwait fed into that delusion. The American/Coalition liberation of Kuwait dismayed many of Saddam's supporters, but Saddam created a myth that this was just another clever move on his part, and that he would eventually prevail. The hanging of Saddam reduced the pool of believers still further, but there are enough left lusting for power, revenge, a job, or just a few hundred bucks, to keep the suicide bombers coming. Every part of the world is different, but in Iraq some of the differences come with loud noises and flying body parts.

 

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