Iraq: Just Trying To Get By


August 1, 2007: July saw the Islamic terror organizations in Iraq take more of a beating. Driven out of safe havens, and constantly pursued by American troops and Iraqi security forces, the terrorists have been setting off fewer bombs, and having more battles with soldiers and police. The terrorists typically lose these battles, although Iraqi security forces are taking more casualties as a result. But that's progress; the Iraqis are fighting the terrorists. Since 2003, and for generations before, it was unheard of for Iraqi Shia Arabs to beat Iraqi Sunni Arabs in battle. Everyone knew that the Sunni Arabs were smarter, better organized, and simply nastier. Saddam demonstrated that in 1991, when he called in help from Sunni tribal militias to put down a widespread Shia rebellion. The Sunni savagery has been seen again, after 2003, as Sunni terror was unleashed on the Shia who presumed to establish a democracy and elect themselves rulers of Iraq.

The sudden collapse of Sunni terrorist groups is not as sudden as it seems. The terrorists have been living on hope and desperation for over a year. But in the last few months, some of the larger tribes opted out of the terror campaign, and turned on the terrorists. Then came the surge offensive three months ago. Now the terrorists had fewer places to run to when the Americans came after them. There were more Iraqi police and soldiers manning check points. In a desperate attempt to regain the edge, the terrorists have been using more violence against tribal leadership. Kidnappings and murders have not turned the tribes around. In most cases, this terrorist violence has just enraged the tribes some more. The terrorists had promised the tribes, three years ago, that this violent approach would bring good things. For a while, it seemed to work, as American and government troops stayed out of Sunni tribal areas, especially Baghdad suburbs and western Iraq (Anbar province). But then that began to change two years ago. And the Sunni tribes began to waver.

The Sunni terrorists are still powerful. There is still lots of cash out there to meet the payroll for thousands of gunmen and bomb builders. Hundreds of foreign volunteers continue to sneak in each month, and can be used for suicide missions. But as has happened in other Arab countries recently (Egypt in the 1990s, Algeria in the last few years), the public eventually gets tired of terrorist promises, and violence. The terrorists are rejected, and the survivors slink away. That's what's happening in Iraq. When hardly anyone thinks you're part of the solution any more, it gets very dangerous to keep doing what you've been doing. In the north, the Kurds never let the terrorists get started. A handful of suicide bomb attacks up north were not enough to destroy the sense of security. Westerners wander around freely in the Kurdish north, without bodyguards or armored trucks. That's not considered news. But when those same conditions show up in Sunni Arab areas down south, it is news. For a while, anyway.

While Iraq is getting peace, it's not getting law and order, or clean government. The corruption that persists in Iraq is not much different than the corruption found throughout the Arab world. In Iraq, the problem is that deals have not yet been worked out among the various factions, determining who is entitled to steal what. Fighting over all that oil money will go on for some time. The corruption, not the terrorism, is the real enemy in Iraq. As has been demonstrated many times over the centuries, Arabs do tire of terrorism, and suppress it. But corruption never goes out of fashion. There are reformers trying to change this, but these are minority efforts. Most are just trying to get by with the way things are.


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