November 16, 2007: Iraqis have
been quick to react to the sharp decline in terrorist violence. The streets of
most Baghdad neighborhoods are filled with people, as are the schools.
Thousands of refugees from the city have returned. More importantly, the police
now regularly patrol most of the city, talking to people, and collecting
information on who-is-who and what is up. The next big target is the criminal
gangs, which still rule many neighborhoods, and impose their own kind of terror
on many Iraqis. The gangs are a major source of anti-government activity, and
often supplied terrorists with goods and services. Many terrorists have
switched to being gangsters, once the terrorist organization they belonged to
was destroyed over the last few months. Also waiting in the wings are the two
big Shia militias (and several smaller ones) who are holding their fire at the
moment, waiting to see how the surge offensive turns out. Some Shia leaders are
advocating an attack on the Sunni Arab tribal militias that have emerged as
pro-government forces, and helped destroy al Qaeda in Iraq. The Sunni Arabs
have always been a minority, but have shrunk from twenty percent of the
population, to something between 10-15 percent. The Sunni Arabs would like to
get many exiles in Syria and Jordan to return, but that won't happen until a
convincing peace deal is hammered out.
November 15, 2007: Many of the
Sunni Arab tribes still have anti-government (if not pro-al Qaeda) factions. In
many cases, the tribal leadership is letting the American and government forces
take care of these factions. That leaves less blood on the hands of other
tribal leaders, and reduces the number of blood feuds (still a popular feature
of tribal life here) resulting from all those dead tribesmen. The tribal
leaders do provide information on who is who and where the weapons caches are.
This has resulted in some pretty spectacular finds, and battles, in the last
November 14, 2007: The
additional five combat brigades, that spearheaded the surge offensive over the
Summer, are beginning to leave. The first one is leaving, and all five will be
gone by next Summer. The unanswered question is whether the enemy is weakened
enough so that the remaining fifteen brigades can still maintain a decisive
amount of pressure.
November 13, 2007: Kurdish
leaders in the north, including Iraq's president (head-of-state, the prime
minister has all the power), have promised to shut down PKK operations in the
north, and cooperate with the Turks to stop PKK attacks inside Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Kurds have another problem, as the remnants of al Qaeda gather
in the Sunni Arab neighborhoods of northern Iraq. Many of these areas are the
target of Kurdish attempts to drive the Sunni Arabs out. In the 1990s, Saddam
began expelling Kurds from areas around the northern oil fields (where about
half of Iraqi oil is), and bringing in Sunni Arabs from the south, to take over
the Kurdish homes and lands. The Kurds were driven farther north. Now the
Kurdish refugees are trying to reclaim their homes, but in many areas the Sunni
Arabs have organized militias and are defending themselves. The government is
under pressure to stop the ethnic cleansing, but the Kurds in the north
generally agree with the policy of driving the Sunni Arabs out. Al Qaeda is
welcome in these Sunni Arab neighborhoods, as long as all the terror attacks
are against Kurds or government forces.