Iraq: Keep The Muscle Happy

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November 18,2008: Most Iraqi government parties and officials appear to have agreed on a new agreement for U.S. forces in the country. American troops would all move out of major cities by next June, and most would be gone from the country in three years. However, keep in mind that U.S. troops just left Bosnia, after what was supposed to be a one year visit. When they arrived in 1995, it was with the promise (from then president Bill Clinton) that they would be there for only a year. Now, thirteen years later, most are leaving. About 200 will stay behind to hunt war criminals. U.S. troops have been in South Korea for over 70 years. Before World War II, the U.S. managed to get troops out of peacekeeping missions more quickly. But since 1945, once U.S. troops go in, they never seem to completely withdraw.

Iraq is similar to Bosnia. That is, a nation split by religion and nationality. Bosnia had no oil, but it did have lots of corruption. In Iraq, it's the corruption that causes the most problems. Your average Iraqi terrorist or gangster is mainly fighting for economic justice. However, the government has been systematically dismissing the auditing officials established (by the American occupation authorities, before the new Iraqi government took over) to expose and block corrupt behavior. The stealing and mismanagement is coming back, and a new dictatorship is usually not far behind. Once corrupt officials get a taste of that stolen oil money, they don't want to give it up. The voters soon feel the pain because of that.

Counter-terror forces are losing momentum, at least if you go by the number of suicide bombings there are in Baghdad (where terrorists prefer to set off their bombs, because the city has the largest number of foreign journalists who will report the explosion world wide.) In September there were 22 bombs. That grew to 28 in October, and is headed for double that number this month. The attacks are mostly against Shia or Kurds, which increases the risks of the anti-Sunni death squads starting up again. Most Iraqis still blame the Sunni Arabs (less than 15 percent of the population) for all the violence, as well as the decades of Saddams misrule. Some Sunni Arab leaders talk as if the bombings will stop if the Sunnis get a "fair deal" (a bigger share of the oil money for their leaders to steal.) But many of the bombers are religious fanatics, intent on pursuing the same goals as al Qaeda (a world ruled by an Islamic religious dictatorship. Others are still inspired by the possibility of Sunni Arabs returning to power in Iraq, while many just do it for the money. Much of what goes into carrying out a suicide bombing is technical in nature, and requires experienced people to pull off (which is why suicide bombings in Afghanistan are so much less effective.)

The al Qaeda and Sunni Arab terrorist leadership continues to lose long time veterans. The problem is that there are still hundreds of Saddam era terrorism technicians and leaders in the wild. Those that could have fled the country, have long since done so. Those that remain, for religious, family or ideological reasons, have to be hunted down and killed or captured before the terrorism ends. That could take years more. Currently, for example, about ten of the surviving Iraqi radical groups are incensed because the new agreement the government has negotiated, allows U.S. troops to remain for at least three more years. Many of these fanatics believe that if all U.S. troops were out of the country tomorrow, things would be better. They miss the fact that over 95 percent of the killing in Iraq during the last five years has been Iraqis going after Iraqis. And most of it has nothing to do with U.S. troops, and everything to do with who gets their hands on the billions of oil money (and any other government revenue.)

Most Iraqis have resigned themselves to the fact that they will see little, or none, of the oil revenue. All they ask is to be left alone, and that is increasingly happening throughout the country. Especially appreciated is the demise of the "lifestyle police" that Shia and Sunni Islamic militias unleashed whenever they had a chance. These enforcers of virtue went after music, video, beardless men, many print publications and schools for girls. The lifestyle police could be brutal and arbitrary, and were very unpopular. The current government is very intent on expanding and improving the security forces. This is still a work in progress, and politicians want to be sure that military and police commanders do not become too powerful. Thus you have the ancient custom of different religious, ethnic or political factions controlling police or army battalions. It's sort of a democracy of force. This is where a lot of the stolen oil money goes. The politicians realize they have to keep their muscle happy, and embezzled oil money sees to that.

 

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