Iraq: Dirty Money And Deadly Diehards

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July 6, 2008: Although al Qaeda has officially abandoned Iraq, not everyone got the memo, or bothered to pay attention to it. Over the last two months, Iraqi and American forces have gone after the remaining 1,200 al Qaeda members, who have fled to the northern city of Mosul. Over half of the al Qaeda members have been killed or captured.

The problem is that a lot of the money, and foreign volunteers, coming into Iraq was for the purpose of "defeating the Iranians". Many Sunni Arabs in the Persian Gulf region see Iran as their most dangerous foe, and believe letting the Shia majority in Iraq run the government as nothing but a front for actual Iranian control of Iraq. The result is that nearly all the remaining terrorists are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, and are determined to fight to the death (theirs, and as many others as they can take with them). They have the will, and they have the money (and plenty of venal Iraqis willing to supply them with what they want, for a fee.) Most of their fellow Sunni Arabs have turned on the terrorists, so a lot of the terrorist activity is against Sunni Arab leaders. The Sunni Arab leadership knew this would happen when nearly all of them openly agreed to renounce terrorism last year.

There's a further complication in that some of the criminal gangs, who have long done big business providing services for the terrorists, are not willing to give up this business. The gangs are typically tolerated if they pay tribute to, and avoid hurting, key tribal leaders. While many gangsters have cut ties to the terrorists, many of the gangs have not, so there's a gang war going on at the same time government and foreign troops are rooting out the remaining terrorists. There are still thousands of Sunni Arab diehards who will fight to the death, unless, as many do, they run for the border and exile. This is not a pleasant alternative for many exiles, who are really into the "death before dishonor" (in the form of Shias running the country) thing.

The criminal gangs, who are a huge factor in the economy, and public safety (some neighborhoods are very safe simply because a powerful gangs is headquartered there), are, separately from the Sunni Arab terrorism, trying to intimidate the security forces and judiciary from cracking down on all the stealing, kidnapping, smuggling, extortion, and so on (booze, prostitution, etc). Even during the Saddam period (and before, going back centuries), the criminal underground was powerful, and something everyone had to deal with. The exact terms of the deal in a democratic Iraq is still being worked out.

The government is threatening to sue some of the 2,200 companies, in 66 countries, that paid $1.8 billion in bribes to participate the 1996-2003 program that allowed Saddam, under UN supervision, to sell $60 billion worth of oil to buy food and medicine. Instead, Saddam found thousands of corrupt UN officials and company executives willing to pay kickbacks in order to get contracts. These deals involved selling Saddam items he was forbidden from having, and helping smuggle these weapons or luxury goods into Iraq. Most of the imports were for the benefit of Saddam's supporters (the Sunni Arab minority, who were, at most, 20 percent of the population.) The resulting sickness and starvation among the Shia majority was blamed on the West and the 1991 sanctions. Many people believed this. Many people find it convenient to still believe this. Many UN officials and firms have already admitted to participating in this scam.

July 5, 2008: The government is continuing to crack down on corrupt provincial officials. These men have indulged in the usual corrupt practices, but have also offered protection and cooperation with gangs and political or tribal militias (especially in the Shia south).

In Baghdad, police raided a major bomb factory, arrested 37 terrorists and seized 24 bombs apparently ready for use in attacks throughout the city.

July 2, 2008: The U.S. has agreed to Iraqi demands that foreign security firms lose their legal immunity (to Iraqi law). The security firms counter that this would make them subject to the corruption and arbitrary use of the law by Iraqi officials. Under those conditions, many of the best foreign security operatives will not work in Iraq, and the quality of protection will fall. Apparently the U.S. and Iraqi officials (who all use these foreign security firms for protection) believe the situation is safe enough in Iraq for them, personally, to survive this change.

June 29, 2008: Police raided a house 100 kilometers north of Baghdad and found yet another al Qaeda torture chamber. Behind a door marked "prison" in Arabic was a room with torture tools, and seven dead bodies (including one women). All the victims had been tortured, and police inquiries revealed that some were also being held for ransom. Al Qaeda would often do this, trying to collect a ransom for people they had seized and tortured to death.

 

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