January 9, 2005
For nearly two years, American intelligence units have been collecting information on Baath Party resistance inside, and outside, Iraq. It was this kind of information that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein a year ago. Actually, many intelligence officers were shocked when they saw the news stories detailing how the data on Baath Party officials, and their kinfolk, was collected and organized according to what jobs people had in Baath, or Saddams government, and who was related to who. Letting the enemy know what you know is something you avoid doing. However, describing Baath as one big family had a lot of truth to it. Especially in the Middle East, family ties often reinforce political ones. It was a mistake to let the Baath Party know how well American intelligence had done in sorting out who was who in Saddams support and security network, although the Baath Party intelligence experts were probably not surprised that the Americans were making lists and cross referencing them. This is basic police intelligence work.
These thousands of intelligence troops have not been idle for the past year, but they have been more circumspect. They have shared information with the Iraqi government, which accounts for the head of Iraqi intelligence recently announcing that the anti-government resistance was being kept going by 40,000 active fighters, and 400,000 supporters. Oddly enough, this matches the number of Baath Party activists and core members of Saddams secret police and security forces (and their extended families), based on known (and previously published) information on Baath and Saddams government. For a brief moment a year ago, the news was full of stories of how American intelligence specialists, using pretty standard investigative techniques (and current database and analysis software), picked up the usual suspects, interrogated them (asking seemingly innocuous questions about who was related to who), and assembled the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which, when finished, said Saddam is right here
The puzzle of the growing, at least in the number of people killed, anti-government attacks shows a lot of the key people, especially the money guys, operating across the border in Syria. These men can go no where else. Not Iran, because these men have much Shia blood on their hands. Even the most rabidly anti-American Iranian Islamic zealots would not want to be associated with one of Saddams butchers. North Korea? Possibly. But first you have to get there, and then you have to realize that North Korea is a bit of hell on earth itself, and on the brink of collapse. How about Somalia? Only if you are into the Mad Max lifestyle, and American commandoes are just next door. Any other country presents the risk of an international arrest warrant, and a local government eager to enforce it. So Saddams old cronies sit in Syria, paying off the Syrian Baath Party with stolen Iraqi oil money, and profuse apologies for past feuding and misunderstandings over which nations Baath Party was the senior one.
American threats at Syria have produced few results. Syria officially denies that these Iraqis are in Syria, even though many are seen there from time to time, slipping out of their hiding places to run an errand, or just get a momentary change of scenery. Syria has made a show of closing the border recently. But what they have actually done is to be more discreet in getting Baath money, weapons and al Qaeda volunteers across the border into Iraq.
The Iraqi government is also fed up with endless, and pointless, negotiations with Sunni Arab tribal and religious leaders. These men refuse to take part in a civil war within the Sunni Arab community. In a way, you cant blame them. The Baath Party is largely a Sunni Arab organization, and contains the most ruthless and bloody minded members of the Sunni Arab community. While this crew, and their families, are only about eight percent of the Sunni Arabs, they are a well armed and, when it comes to terrorizing or killing people, a very proficient eight percent. These thugs terrorized Sunni Arabs, as well as Kurds and Shia Arabs, for the past four decades. The Sunni Arab tribal leaders have hemmed and hawed, but are basically saying to the government, you fight them.
So the government has told the coalition to do whatever it takes to suppress the Baath Party and its supporters. This could get very ugly, because it means sending in raids with orders to take certain people dead or alive. Family members will be arrested and held hostage (a traditional Iraqi, and Middle Eastern, technique for getting fugitives to surrender). Specially trained Kurdish and Shia Arab police SWAT teams will be used for a lot of this, supervised by American Special Forces. Raids like this, carried out by American troops, have been going on for over a year, but the Iraqi government has now authorized the use of a much larger list of suspects. In the past, only people who were obviously guilty were sought. But now, the known allies and kinfolk will be rounded up. This will be seen, and reported by the media, as war on Sunni Arabs. Well, not quite. It will be war on a minority of the Sunni Arab community. The war will extend into Syria, where the attacks will be made by Iraqis or Syrians hired for the occasion. There are a lot of hired guns in that part of the world. There might even be a smart bomb or two going off in the middle of the night, in the middle of Syria. And the Syrians, knowing the alternatives, may feel compelled to ignore all of this. Who wants to go to war to defend Saddams war criminal buddies.