Iraq: Breaking The Cycle

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August 29, 2007: The Western media has generally ignored what is really going on in Iraq. Rather than see what Iraqis, and U.S. troops are actually dealing with, an attempt by the Sunni Arab minority to win back power via a terror campaign, Western journalists and politicians ran with the "Western imperialism" angle. Very 19th century, but an illusion that even many Moslems in the region quickly discarded. The thousands of dead Moslems, victims of Islamic terrorists, horrified those closest to the carnage. Also getting little attention from the media was the dynamics of how Sunni Arab neighbors of Iraq (mainly Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) provided varying degrees of support for the terrorists. That support is waning, now that it's clear how reviled the terrorists are. Al Qaeda went to war in Iraq, and lost. Ask any Iraqi, or American soldier there. But that's not news back home.

What is news is the political infighting among the Shia factions. This recently erupted into a major battle during religious festivities in Karbala, as members of the Badr and Sadr militias fought each other over who would run the show. Over a million pilgrims are in the city to observe the birthday of a major religious figure. The clergy told the pilgrims to leave, as the fighting left over fifty dead, and hundreds wounded. The Badr and Sadr militias are the two major groups backed by Iran. But not controlled by Iran, at least not as much as Iran would like. The problem is the one that crops up all over the region. There is still a tradition of warlordism, and using guns rather than negotiations, to settle political disagreements. On top of all this, there is the religious angle. A minority of Iraqis don't want democracy, but rather the rule of a religious dictatorship, as in Iran. But there is no agreement on who shall run this. There are two major Shia factions, represented by the Badr and Sadr (Mahdi Army) groups. The leaders of each of these organizations wants to occupy the senior government posts of an Iraqi (Shia) Islamic State. But al Qaeda wants a Sunni Iraqi Islamic state. This is strenuously opposed by over 90 percent of Iraqis, who equate al Qaeda with intolerance against Shia Moslems, and persecution of the Kurds (for not being religious enough, and not being Arab at all).

And then there's that old constant, the corruption. Those contending for the leadership of an Iraqi religious dictatorship know that, if they win, they will have a license to steal. That's what the Iranian clergy have done, and they are hated for it by most Iranians. But it is also noted that, since the Iranian clergy established their dictatorship over two decades ago, they have created an efficient police state that has made removal of the tyrants very difficult.

It's these corrupt dictatorships in the region that breed terrorism. In fact, if you check the history of the region, you'll note that this has been going on for centuries. Time to break the cycle, which is never an easy or pleasant event. But U.S. and Iraqi troops are dealing with the terrorism angle. Al Qaeda is being chased all over central Iraq and, while this is not new, it is much appreciated in Iraq, there have been far fewer terror attacks of late. The terrorists have been forced to spend most of their energy avoiding death or capture. But they are getting caught or killed. But American troops can do little about the corruption, although they may be called in by the government to help disarm, or at least contain, the Shia militias.

 

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