Iraq: Death Before Dishonor

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March 22, 2007: In late 2006, there were 1,300 terrorist attacks a week recorded in Iraq. Most of these were minor stuff, a few gunshots, or a bomb going off harmlessly (most roadside bomb attacks fail). By January, this was down to 1,000 a week, and that continues to drop. The "surge" is calming things down. It's become more dangerous for civilians to appear on the streets with guns. Iraqi civilians continue to be the primary victims of the violence, accounting for over 90 percent of the deaths. However, this includes dead terrorists, and more of them are getting killed as their safe houses and bomb factories are found and raided. American intelligence estimates that about half the terrorist operations have been shut down inside Baghdad. Terrorists who have survived the raids, have fled to the suburbs, or Western Iraq. The suburbs have become a major battleground, as many of these towns have long been all-Sunni.

In Western Iraq, the tribes continue to turn on al Qaeda and other Sunni terrorist organizations. Four years ago, the tribes bought into the idea that Sunni Arabs could use terror to regain control of Iraq. The terrorists brought in money, and kept the Americans and government security forces out. It all seemed like it would work. But then the Americans started coming in. Fallujah fell to an assault by American marines. The majority of Iraqis elected a Shia dominated government. Some of the tribal leaders began to have second thoughts. The more hard core Sunni terrorists responded to this with death threats, and death, for tribal leaders who were working with the government. This produced a growing backlash from the Sunni Arab tribes that dominate western Iraq. For the last year, that war has spread to Baghdads suburbs, where many of Saddams most loyal (and generously rewarded) supporters lived. The suburban Sunnis have been the most determined terrorists, because they went from being the most favored, to least favored, Iraqis overnight, once Saddam fell. Many of these suburban towns are solidly behind the terrorists. That is, a majority, or large minority of the population actively supports the terror campaign.

But now more police and security forces are moving into these towns, and battles are breaking out every day. The government has the troops for this, with security force strength now at 320,000. It was 232,000 a year ago, up from 120,000 in 2004. A major change has been the development of experienced police and army leaders. That takes time, and the time has passed. While it's still easier to send in American troops to quickly take care of armed resistance, the Iraqi troops now know how to search and clear a neighborhood of weapons and terrorist tools. The basic strategy of the U.S. troop "surge" is to put these Iraqi security forces in pro-terrorist neighborhoods, and back them up over a long period. Since Iraq now has ten million phone owners (most of them cell phones), once people fell free from constant terrorist surveillance, and retaliation, they begin phoning in tips about who the bad guys are and where they hang out. The terrorist groups contain a lot of professionals from Saddams secret police and Republican Guard, people who know how to organize an attack on less experienced security forces (containing mostly Shia and Kurds). But with enough American troops there as backup, these attacks never gain any momentum, and result in a lot of dead Sunni Arabs.

The Sunnis Arabs still cannot deal with American troops. Even though the majority of terrorist attacks continue to be against U.S., the majority of victims in these attacks are Iraqi civilians. Moreover, terrorists lose over ten of their own for each American solider they kill. All those civilian casualties have turned the civilian population against the terrorists. Despite energetic efforts to put the blame on American troops, too many Iraqis have witnessed these attacks, and seen how the terrorists slaughter civilians during futile attempts to inflict casualties on the Americans. Even Sunni Iraqi civilians are often victims of the terrorist attacks, and have had enough.

Unfortunately, the enemy is willing to die fighting. Many of the Sunni terrorist leaders are Saddams henchmen, with lots of blood on their hands. They have seen many of their associates put on trial, and hanged. Many more have been killed by Shia death squads. These killers take particular care to go after Sunni Arabs who participated in the 1980s war with Iran. To this end, Iran has been training some of the death squad members to be more efficient killers. Iran still holds a grudge for the 1980 Iraqi invasion of Iran, and eight years of war that followed. In Iran, thousands of maimed (by shells, bombs and poison gas) veterans of that war are still around, as a reminder. In Iraq, most of those Sunni Arabs who supported Saddam in the 1980s have fled the country, been jailed, or been killed. Those that remain don't expect to survive unless they can regain control of the country. That's impossible now, but the coalition of religious fanatics and Sunni Arab supremacists that lead the terror campaign seem determined to fight to the death. The rest of Iraq wants accommodate them.

 

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