How are the bad guys doing in Iraq? The Iraqi media is full of
information on what the various Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions are up to.
Lots of the reporting is speculation, but a lot of it is not. If you've been
following the action long enough, you can pick out the accurate stories. And
the talk on the street and in the shops is also pretty dependable. That said,
most people believe al Qaeda in Iraq is finished. After boasting last Fall that
they would establish a safe zone in western Iraq, and failing to do anything
close to that, the Islamic terrorists lost whatever credibility they had left.
Most of the terrorist bombings these days are the work of Iraqi Sunni Arab
organizations, who still believe that if you make the Iraqi Shia Arabs mad
enough, they will get so nasty that neighboring Sunni Arab nations will feel
compelled to invade. This plan has split the Sunni Arab nationalists,
mainly because the invasion shows no sign of happening, and the brighter
terrorists point out that the Saudi army is unlikely to win against the
Americans. In a trend that began two years ago, Sunni Arab factions are
continuing to battle each other. U.S. troops stand aside when they encounter
"Red-on-Red" fighting, then deal with the winner.
the Iraqi Shia Arab militias, especially the Sadr forces (the Mahdi Army), have
lost whatever unity and discipline they once had. Factionalism has taken over
as several of Sadr's lieutenants compete for popularity and territory by
driving Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad neighborhoods. Most of Iraq's Sunni Arabs
have been chased from their homes since 2003, and that process has accelerated
in the last year. The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are quite wealthy compared to Iraqi
Shia, and the Shia gangs have been fighting each other over the loot, and the
power. Gang war, literally, because many of the militiamen moonlight as
gangsters (or vice versa).
the number of terror bombings has been declining in the past year, the crime
rate has not, and most people in central Iraq are looking forward to the
"Battle for Baghdad." Brigades of troops are arriving from the Kurdish north
and Shia south, and more American troops can be seen on the streets. There are
more raids in Baghdad. But all the average Iraqi wants is safer streets, fewer
kidnappings and a little peace and quiet. Realizing that that kind of paradise
is not likely to be found in the Middle East, Baghdad has been suffering a
major brain drain in the past year, with the most educated fleeing for foreign
countries. Europe and North America are preferred destinations, but any place
with a lower crime rate will do.
exiles carry a sense of shame with them. What they flee is not the violence of
"foreign occupiers," but of lawless Iraqis and foreign terrorists. Iraqis are
running away from Arab criminals and fanatics. And none of those fanatics offer
anything better, even if they win. The secular ones promise another Saddam,
while the religious one offer a dictatorship run by clerics. It's still popular
to blame the Americans for everything, while still hustling to get a job with
the Americans or, best of all, a visa to enter the United States. Those who
cannot, or do not, want to leave, are trying to figure out how to make the
place work. This is generating a lot of debate in the Iraqi press, which has
not been free to publish freely for over four decades. The one thing most factions
agree on is the need for peace, and that attitude should make the Battle for
Baghdad, which has already begun, very interesting.