The collapse of the Sunni Arab terror movement has not halted Sunni Arab
efforts to hurt the country. Sunni Arabs are still heavily involved in corruption
and criminal gangs. Having dominated the economy and government for centuries,
the corrupt practices of the Sunni Arabs have become the model for other groups
that attain power. But the blame should not entirely be on the Sunni Arabs.
Over two thousand years ago, Greek, and then Roman, conquers of the Middle East
complained of the corruption endemic in the region, and how it even turned
upright Greek or Roman officials into crooks and slackers. Much written
discussion of these travails has survived. There's definitely something in the
local culture that works against most attempts to establish efficient
government. One form of government, tyranny, works. That's another local
tradition that goes way back, a thousand years before the Greeks and Romans
showed up. What Iraq suffers from now is not a lack of leadership, but a
surplus of "strong men" who have their own private armies, aversion to
compromise and strong sense of entitlement. Too many guys think they should be
in charge, and see it normal to buy off, or kill off, anyone who disagrees.
Hussein and his Baath Party cronies practiced these nasty habits with
intimidating enthusiasm. Iraq became the "Republic of Fear." Now Iraq is the
Republic of Thieves. There's a billion dollars a week of oil revenue to
plunder, and with the terrorist violence way down, U.S. investigators are
asking tough questions about where the money is, or has gone. The U.S. has been
spending over $100 million a week on Iraqi reconstruction, and that effort is
too often more visible than what the Iraqi government is supposed to be doing.
Iraqis have noticed this, and the Iraqi media has taken up the cause of clean,
or at least effective, government.
next four months, the number of American troops in the country will drop from
162,000 to 140,000. One of the last big operations is in and around Mosul.
Here, many battered terrorist groups
have taken refuge among the threatened (by Kurds) Sunni Arab communities. Thousands
of Iraqis, and foreigners, still support the use of terror for religious
reasons. The killers are disproportionately poorly educated, unemployed younger
sons with no prospects (no marriage, no career.) For guys like these, dying as
a religious "hero" has some appeal. They come from throughout the Middle East,
because Iraq is easy to get into, and "martyrdom" is readily available. Efforts
to break up the organizations that bring in the "martyrs" and get them to
terror teams that can provide explosives, or some other suicidal mission, have
been increased. Iraqi police and troops are playing a larger role in this. The
security forces are encouraged by the population in general. The sharp decrease
in terror attacks over the last six months has made it possible for people to
assemble and demonstrate, and what they are shouting about is crime and
corruption. Gangsters are keeping their heads down, but are not going away. There's
still money to be made from kidnapping, extortion, drugs, prostitution,
gambling and sundry other vices. Not so much working with terrorists anymore.
Too dangerous. Easy money is the preferred approach, and a lot of crime is
still easy to get away with.
misfortunes of the Sunni Arab tough guys has provided more opportunities for
the Shia gangs. Many of these began as religious fanatics, but are now in it
for the money and power. Police are cracking down, and more frequently
resulting in gun battles and major raids. It's a beginning, for there are
hundreds of gangs. The U.S. intelligence efforts of the last five years have
found that all the data collected on terrorists also picked up lots of useful
stuff on the gangsters of Iraq.