Counter-Terrorism: The Chickens Come Home to Roost

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February14, 2007: Most of the five million Iraqi Sunni Arabs in Iraq have been driven from their homes. These people were the power base for Saddam Hussein and his Baath Parth. Since 2003, violence between Sunni Arabs, and the 15 million Shia Arabs, and five million non-Arab Kurds, has caused most of this population movement. The cause of all this has been the effort, over the last four years, by Sunni Arab terrorists, to regain control of the country. This effort has failed, but the numerous attacks on Shia Arabs has created a violent backlash.

But there's some odd aspects to the movement of these refugees. Since they're mostly Sunni, it's reasonable that none are going to Iran, and equally reasonable that lots are going to Jordan. But some two-thirds of the 1.7 million Sunni Arabs who have fled the country have ended up in Syria. While Syria is largely Sunni Arab, the country is run by the Shia Alawites, who are close allies with Iran. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which may be covertly backing some of the Sunni militias in Iraq, hasn't admitted any, at least officially. About half the 3.4 million Iraqi Sunni Arab refugees have fled to other parts of Iraq, and many are expected to eventually flee the country.

Apparently, Syria's Shia ruling class has learned how to deal with their Sunni majority. In addition, the Syrian Shia shares political attitudes with many Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Both countries have a Baath ("renewal") party, and the fall of Saddam has caused the two Baath parties to settle a decades old feud (over which branch of the party was in charge). Nevertheless, this period of peace and reconciliation appears to be over. Syria is now stopping additional Sunni Arab refugees from entering the country. Jordan is also becoming less hospitable, and pressure is on Saudi Arabia to let more Iraqi Sunnis in. The Saudis fear many of those refugees would be Islamic radicals and terrorists. The Saudis don't want to deal with more of this extremism, even though most of it began in Saudi Arabia. Increasingly, the Saudis don't have much choice.


 


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