Iraq: And Now For Something Completely Different

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November 16, 2007: Iraqis have been quick to react to the sharp decline in terrorist violence. The streets of most Baghdad neighborhoods are filled with people, as are the schools. Thousands of refugees from the city have returned. More importantly, the police now regularly patrol most of the city, talking to people, and collecting information on who-is-who and what is up. The next big target is the criminal gangs, which still rule many neighborhoods, and impose their own kind of terror on many Iraqis. The gangs are a major source of anti-government activity, and often supplied terrorists with goods and services. Many terrorists have switched to being gangsters, once the terrorist organization they belonged to was destroyed over the last few months. Also waiting in the wings are the two big Shia militias (and several smaller ones) who are holding their fire at the moment, waiting to see how the surge offensive turns out. Some Shia leaders are advocating an attack on the Sunni Arab tribal militias that have emerged as pro-government forces, and helped destroy al Qaeda in Iraq. The Sunni Arabs have always been a minority, but have shrunk from twenty percent of the population, to something between 10-15 percent. The Sunni Arabs would like to get many exiles in Syria and Jordan to return, but that won't happen until a convincing peace deal is hammered out.

November 15, 2007: Many of the Sunni Arab tribes still have anti-government (if not pro-al Qaeda) factions. In many cases, the tribal leadership is letting the American and government forces take care of these factions. That leaves less blood on the hands of other tribal leaders, and reduces the number of blood feuds (still a popular feature of tribal life here) resulting from all those dead tribesmen. The tribal leaders do provide information on who is who and where the weapons caches are. This has resulted in some pretty spectacular finds, and battles, in the last week.

November 14, 2007: The additional five combat brigades, that spearheaded the surge offensive over the Summer, are beginning to leave. The first one is leaving, and all five will be gone by next Summer. The unanswered question is whether the enemy is weakened enough so that the remaining fifteen brigades can still maintain a decisive amount of pressure.

November 13, 2007: Kurdish leaders in the north, including Iraq's president (head-of-state, the prime minister has all the power), have promised to shut down PKK operations in the north, and cooperate with the Turks to stop PKK attacks inside Turkey. Meanwhile, the Kurds have another problem, as the remnants of al Qaeda gather in the Sunni Arab neighborhoods of northern Iraq. Many of these areas are the target of Kurdish attempts to drive the Sunni Arabs out. In the 1990s, Saddam began expelling Kurds from areas around the northern oil fields (where about half of Iraqi oil is), and bringing in Sunni Arabs from the south, to take over the Kurdish homes and lands. The Kurds were driven farther north. Now the Kurdish refugees are trying to reclaim their homes, but in many areas the Sunni Arabs have organized militias and are defending themselves. The government is under pressure to stop the ethnic cleansing, but the Kurds in the north generally agree with the policy of driving the Sunni Arabs out. Al Qaeda is welcome in these Sunni Arab neighborhoods, as long as all the terror attacks are against Kurds or government forces.

 

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