2008: Although al Qaeda has officially
abandoned Iraq, not everyone got the memo, or bothered to pay attention to it. Over
the last two months, Iraqi and American forces have gone after the remaining
1,200 al Qaeda members, who have fled to the northern city of Mosul. Over half
of the al Qaeda members have been killed or captured.
problem is that a lot of the money, and foreign volunteers, coming into Iraq
was for the purpose of "defeating the Iranians". Many Sunni Arabs in the
Persian Gulf region see Iran as their most dangerous foe, and believe letting
the Shia majority in Iraq run the government as nothing but a front for actual
Iranian control of Iraq. The result is that nearly all the remaining terrorists
are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, and are determined to fight to the death (theirs, and as
many others as they can take with them). They have the will, and they have the
money (and plenty of venal Iraqis willing to supply them with what they want,
for a fee.) Most of their fellow Sunni Arabs have turned on the terrorists, so
a lot of the terrorist activity is against Sunni Arab leaders. The Sunni Arab
leadership knew this would happen when nearly all of them openly agreed to
renounce terrorism last year.
further complication in that some of the criminal gangs, who have long done big
business providing services for the terrorists, are not willing to give up this
business. The gangs are typically tolerated if they pay tribute to, and avoid
hurting, key tribal leaders. While many gangsters have cut ties to the
terrorists, many of the gangs have not, so there's a gang war going on at the
same time government and foreign troops are rooting out the remaining
terrorists. There are still thousands of Sunni Arab diehards who will fight to
the death, unless, as many do, they run for the border and exile. This is not a
pleasant alternative for many exiles, who are really into the "death before
dishonor" (in the form of Shias running the country) thing.
criminal gangs, who are a huge factor in the economy, and public safety (some
neighborhoods are very safe simply because a powerful gangs is headquartered
there), are, separately from the Sunni Arab terrorism, trying to intimidate the
security forces and judiciary from cracking down on all the stealing,
kidnapping, smuggling, extortion, and so on (booze, prostitution, etc). Even
during the Saddam period (and before, going back centuries), the criminal
underground was powerful, and something everyone had to deal with. The exact
terms of the deal in a democratic Iraq is still being worked out.
government is threatening to sue some of the 2,200 companies, in 66 countries,
that paid $1.8 billion in bribes to participate the 1996-2003 program that
allowed Saddam, under UN supervision, to sell $60 billion worth of oil to buy
food and medicine. Instead, Saddam found thousands of corrupt UN officials and
company executives willing to pay kickbacks in order to get contracts. These
deals involved selling Saddam items he was forbidden from having, and helping
smuggle these weapons or luxury goods into Iraq. Most of the imports were for
the benefit of Saddam's supporters (the Sunni Arab minority, who were, at most,
20 percent of the population.) The resulting sickness and starvation among the
Shia majority was blamed on the West and the 1991 sanctions. Many people
believed this. Many people find it convenient to still believe this. Many UN
officials and firms have already admitted to participating in this scam.
2008: The government is continuing to
crack down on corrupt provincial officials. These men have indulged in the usual
corrupt practices, but have also offered protection and cooperation with gangs
and political or tribal militias (especially in the Shia south).
Baghdad, police raided a major bomb factory, arrested 37 terrorists and seized
24 bombs apparently ready for use in attacks throughout the city.
2008: The U.S. has agreed to Iraqi
demands that foreign security firms lose their legal immunity (to Iraqi law).
The security firms counter that this would make them subject to the corruption
and arbitrary use of the law by Iraqi officials. Under those conditions, many
of the best foreign security operatives will not work in Iraq, and the quality
of protection will fall. Apparently the U.S. and Iraqi officials (who all use
these foreign security firms for protection) believe the situation is safe
enough in Iraq for them, personally, to survive this change.
2008: Police raided a house 100 kilometers
north of Baghdad and found yet another al Qaeda torture chamber. Behind a door
marked "prison" in Arabic was a room with torture tools, and seven dead bodies
(including one women). All the victims had been tortured, and police inquiries revealed
that some were also being held for ransom. Al Qaeda would often do this, trying
to collect a ransom for people they had seized and tortured to death.