Iraq: The Outcast

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April 1, 2012:  Under pressure from Iran to support the Syrian dictatorship, and from the Arab world to support the Syrian rebels, Iraq is trying to remain neutral. That means no official support for the rebels but ignoring efforts by Iraqi Sunnis (who dominate along the Syrian border) to support the Sunni majority in Syria. This may score Iraq some points if the Syrian rebels win. Most Iraqis don't care if the pro-Iran dictatorship in Syria is overthrown. After all, that dictatorship is run by the hated Baath Party. The Syrian and Iraqi Baath Parties used to be united but split in the 1960s over a leadership dispute. Both branches went on to establish brutal dictatorships. The Iraqi Baath Party was crushed (but not completely eliminated) in 2003. What worries Shia Iraqis (over 60 percent of the population) is that democracy in Syria means the Sunni majority will rule and that Sunni government might conspire with other Sunni governments in the region to support terrorism by the Iraqi Sunni minority in order to put the Iraqi Sunni minority in control of Iraq once more. This would be a dictatorship, but Sunnis in the region believe that century's old Sunni rule of Baghdad and the surrounding areas (modern Iraq) is the best way to contain Iran. The current Shia dominated Iraqi government is having a hard time convincing its Sunni neighbors that the Iraqi government is run by Arabs who do not want to see non-Arab Iran expanding. But the religious feud between Iran (run by a council of senior Shia clergy) and Saudi Arabia (run by a Sunni family that supports Sunni control of Islam's most holy places) is trying to force Iraq to land firmly on one side or another.

At the same time, the government looks the other way while massive smuggling goes on to Iran, which helps Iran get around the growing number of economic sanctions. But this smuggling still leaves the sanctions about 90 percent effective.

Al Qaeda and other Sunni Islamic terror groups have turned into criminal gangs. Outside support, at least in terms of cash and weapons, has pretty much disappeared. So the terrorists use extortion, robbery, and kidnapping to make the payroll and buy supplies (weapons and bomb equipment) and influence (bribes). The judicial and prison systems are corrupt, and with enough cash they can get their captured brethren freed. While some of the al Qaeda men have left Islamic radicalism behind and gone on to be all-gangster, all the time, many still fight on for a Sunni ruled Iraq. That is not likely to happen, so the security forces continue to hunt down and, preferably, kill all the Islamic terrorists they can find. Young, unemployed Sunni Arab men note this and either find a job or take to the criminal life. Islamic radicalism is seen as a dead-end choice and decidedly unpopular.

March 31, 2012: North of Baghdad gunmen broke into the home of a man belonging to an anti-terrorist militia and, using silenced pistols, killed him, his wife, and their child.

March 29, 2012: For the first time in over two decades the Arab League met in Iraq for a three day summit. But only ten heads-of-state showed up, with all the major Sunni leaders staying away. Partly, this is because of safety considerations but mainly it was to protest the Shia (pro-Iran) leadership in Iraq. Still, the successful meeting, which Sunni terrorists had threatened to attack, was violence free and a major victory for the Iraqi government.  There was only one terror attack during the meeting and this was a suicide bomber in an outer neighborhood, which killed the bomber and a policeman.

March 27, 2012: The Kurdish government is threatening to shut down an oil pipeline (moving 175,000 barrels a day via Turkey) if the Iraqi government does not relent and pay $1.5 billion in oil revenue that the Kurdish regional government is supposed to get. The Kurds and the central government are feuding over Kurdish attempts to bring in foreign oil companies to develop new oil fields on Kurdish territory. The Iraqi government allows the northern Kurds a lot of autonomy but is trying to draw the line here.

March 24, 2012:  The government arrested 22 policemen and guards working at a temporary prison in the northern city of Kirkuk, where 19 suspected al Qaeda prisoners escaped yesterday. The government suspects bribes, which is usually the case in situations like this.

March 20, 2012: Multiple bombings and shootings throughout Central Iraq left 51 dead and over 200 wounded. This was apparently an al Qaeda attempt to disrupt preparations for the Arab League meeting on the 29th. Al Qaeda failed to disrupt the meeting, mainly because the security was very tight. While individual members of the security forces can still be bribed or intimidated into working for terrorists, when need be, the commanders of these soldiers and police can get it together and make the security work.

March 18, 2012: Under pressure from the United States, Iraq told Iran that weapons could no longer be flown from Iran to Syria via Iraq.

March 17, 2012: A Shia militia released what they described as an "American soldier" they had been holding since last year. The released man turned out to not be a U.S. soldier but a civilian visiting Iraq last year. The man was estranged from his family, who did not report him missing.

March 14, 2012: In the Kurdish north a second refugee camp has been opened for civilians fleeing the violence in Syria. Elsewhere in the north Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets near the border. Turkish commandos are also raiding PKK bases and safe houses along the border.

 

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