Iraq: Sending The Foreigners Home

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March 27,2008: A year of heavy fighting has uncovered a lot of the inner workings of the terrorist groups. Over the last three years, terrorist financing has shifted from Saddam era cash, to proceeds from criminal activities (theft of oil and antiquities, kidnapping and extortion.) Saddam's henchmen eventually lost enthusiasm for emptying their Swiss bank accounts for the cause. Meanwhile, most Sunni Arabs lost their government jobs. Saddam depended on the Sunni Arab minority to run his police state, and when Saddam was overthrown, his several hundred thousand henchmen went with him. Unemployment led to crime, which was justified by the need to feed the family, and mess with the Shia Arab majority that now presumed to run the country. But as Iraqi police and military forces grew over the last five years, crime got more difficult and less lucrative.

The crime rate did not go down, because Shia Arab criminals took over as Sunni Arab crooks got killed, captured or driven away. In the last year, the number of terror attacks has sharply declined, as the Shia Arab criminals and militias are not interested in slaughtering civilians. They were interested in maintaining control over neighborhoods, criminal enterprises, and augmenting political control. Many of these militias were supported by Iran, a neighbor that wanted to have more control over what went on inside Iraq. But Iran is run by the Shia clergy, and the prospect of a religious dictatorship in Iraq turned off many Iraqis. This was no secret to anyone, and the Iraqi government, run by more independent minded Shia, finally agreed that the Iran backed militias could not be tolerated. This has led to a recent campaign to take apart the more troublesome factions. The worst of the lot are in Basra, where Shia militias make a lot of money off the oil and port operations down there. These gangs were getting greedy, and stealing more than the government was willing to tolerate. Thus in the last week, thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers moved into Basra and began arresting members of the Mahdi Army (run by Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr). At the same time, police moved in on Mahdi Army groups in Baghdad. But Basra was where the money was, and the fighting was expected to be long and difficult. On March 26th, the government gave the Mahdi Army three days to surrender, or face some real violence. For some Shia gangsters, this seems to mean American smart bombs. That rumor is all over Basra, and the bad guys are truly scared. Hiding out in a mosque won't help, because American ground troops are not involved. Iraqi cops have no problem clearing out a mosque.

The Mahdi Army apparently believed that firing mortar shells at the Green Zone (where the senior Iraqi politicians live and work) would be a good way to strike back. But the Green Zone is a big place, and a few mortar shells rarely hit anything important. The police do know who lives where, and are raiding the homes of key Shia gangsters. The gangs look to their Iranian advisors, and get no answers, other than "fight hard." That may not be enough. While Iran believes that eventually the Americans will go home, the Iraqi police are at home, and they want to send the Iranians back across the border.

 

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