Iraq: Getting The Genie Back In The Bottle

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September15, 2008:  The hard core of the Sunni terrorists is not going away quietly. Lacking foreign, or local, volunteers for suicide bombings, more Iraqi women and teenagers are being persuaded to die for the cause. While many of the most dangerous Sunni terrorists have been killed or captured, there are thousands of less active supporters who act as recruiters and spies. There is still a lot of hate and "fight to the end" attitudes in the Sunni Arab community. Several active suicide bomber cells are still active, and resistant to being shut down. But in Anbar province (western Iraq), the Iraqis are in charge of security, and most of the Sunni security militiamen have been merged into the police or paid off. In northern Iraq, mainly Diyala province, and the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, where Sunni Arabs and Kurds are intermingled and still killing each other, the Sunni Arab terrorists are still a factor.

The death squads have faded away and are basically gone. There were fears that the Shia death squads would persist, but the government shut down the Shia militias that supported these killers, and most random murders stopped. But there is still a lot of hate for the Sunni Arab minority. In mixed areas of central Iraq, Shia gangsters and Kurdish militias use violence and crime to force the Sunnis Arabs out. Even neighborhoods where Shia and Sunni Arabs have lived peacefully for a long time, are not immune, There are gangs (criminal and political) that are determined to eliminate Sunni Arabs from "Shia" or "Kurd" areas. The Sunni Arab families are seen as potential supporters for terrorists (providing scouts, safe houses, or worse). This actually happens often enough to keep the vigilantes (and often the local police) at it.

Saddam's legacy was a gangster atmosphere in the country. Saddam recruited irregulars and gave them a license to kill and steal in Shia Arab neighborhoods, as long as the Shia were kept quiet. When Saddam fell, the Shia Arabs and Kurds used the same tactics on the Sunni Arab communities. Despite the growth of the security forces, crime is still a major factor. Most of the gangs aren't sectarian, but just out to get rich. There are many scams available, from fuel smuggling to kidnapping and robbery. Putting the crime genie back in the bottle is one of the major problems facing the country. The other big one is corruption, which has been made worse by the sectarian violence.

Iraq has not had a civil society (rule of law rather than brute force) for decades. Half a century ago, a quarter century of constitutional democracy came to a bloody end. The Sunni Arab army coup unleashed decades of tribal, ethnic and sectarian hatred that grew and grew until the late 1990s, when many Iraqis had gone beyond the point where they could forgive the Sunni Arabs. It's hard for outsiders to comprehend the intensity of the hatred and paranoia. It's worse because many Sunni Arabs really believe that it's still possible they will be restored to power. And too many of the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs (over 80 percent of the population) want the Sunni Arabs gone, seeing that as the only way to eliminate the violence, fear and hate. These two tendencies are rolling towards a bloody resolution, with the Sunni Arabs seen as the likely losers.

 

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