Iraq: Can't Run, Can't Hide, Can't Make a Deal


August 8, 2007: There are now 162,000 American troops in Iraq, the most ever. The surge tactics, of constantly chasing after terrorist groups, has left more of the terrorist leaders vulnerable. This week, the guy who planned the two bombing attacks on the Shia Al Askaria (Golden Dome) mosque in Samarra was killed up north. In nearby Mosul, the local Sunni Arab community is becoming even more vicious, knowing that their politicians have been unable to obtain amnesty for the terrorist leaders who have been presiding over the bombers and death squads in the northern oil city. The Sunni Arabs must have Mosul, because it's where about a third of Iraq's oil is. If Iraqi gets split up into a federated union, the Sunni Arabs need oil. But the Kurds want the oil as well, and are ready to ignore U.S. calls for calm, and launch an ethnic cleaning campaign. All the Sunni Arabs would be driven out of Mosul. To do this would risk fighting with American troops, but the Kurds, and other minorities in the area, are fed up with Sunni Arab terrorism, and want either peace, or peace through revenge.

The 120,000 troops of the Iraqi army are really at war now. There are two divisions around Ramadi, two in Mosul, two around Kirkuk and Baquba, one south of Baghdad and two in Basra. Three more divisions are in the process of forming. The quality of these divisions, and even battalions within the divisions, varies with the quality of the officers. Too many of the officers are inexperienced, or corrupt. A major function of U.S. advisor teams assigned to divisional, brigade and battalion headquarters, is to provide their American bosses with an accurate assessment of just what the advised Iraqi officers are capable of. No point in asking these Iraqi army units to do more than they can handle. As a result, the Iraqi troops have been racking up a long string of battlefield successes. Some Iraqi generals protest that more could be done with Iraqi troops, but these generals are not paying attention to what the American advisors are seeing.

In Baghdad and in the south, uncooperative Shia militias, especially the Mahdi Army, are under attack. Their leaders are being rounded up, along with raids on militia headquarters and seizure of records showing the support from Iran.

The 138,000 police are another matter. Although they are the "National Police," the cops are recruited locally, and generally serve in their own neighborhoods. This makes for a lot of corruption and partisan. Warlords and gang bosses consider it mandatory to get control of the local police, through the customary bribes and intimidation. It doesn't always work, but it does often enough to make most Iraqi cops unreliable. The ineffective police are a major complaint of the average Iraqi. Then again, no one can remember a time when Iraqi police were anything but ineffective.

The corruption remains as bad as ever. The Iraqi government is mainly interested in two things; putting as much hurt as possible on the Sunni Arab community, and stealing as much money as possible. The anti-Sunni Arab stuff comes from public opinion. Politicians stay office, at least in a democracy, by doing what the voters what. A majority of Iraqis (the 90 percent who are not Sunni Arab), want the Sunni Arabs to suffer for their sins (centuries of domination, Saddam, the current terrorism). The U.S. has been trying to get the government to make peace with the Sunni Arabs. But the Americans cannot get enough Sunni Arabs to admit they have done bad things, and must accept some blame from the majority government. Too many Sunni Arabs believe they are being wronged, and that they will eventually prevail. This deadlock led to most Sunni Arab ministers quitting the government. The U.S. is caught in the middle. Many local Sunni Arab leaders (tribal and clan chiefs) have turned against the al Qaeda and Iraqi terrorist groups. They want peace. But the many Sunni Arab leaders with blood on their hands, won't accept peace that puts them at risk of being tried for war crimes.

The stealing, and corruption in general, is seen as a perk of office, whether elected or appointed. Officials are expected to grab goodies for their supporters. Not much different than the "pork barrel" politics in any democracy (where legislators are expected to get money for local needs), but on a much larger scale. There's something of a competition to see who can steal the most for themselves and their supporters. Get too greedy, and you might be one of the few officials who gets prosecuted. The Iraqis have figured out that it's a good idea to prosecute a few corrupt officials to keep the Americans happy. Many Iraqis also have a hard time figuring out exactly what the Americans mean by "clean government." There is definitely a bad case of cultural confusion here.

Meanwhile, the government has made peace with Turkey, by promising a crackdown on the Turkish PKK (Kurdish separatist) rebels who have refuges in northern Iraq. Promising and doing are two different things. The Iraqi prime minister making the promise is a Shia Arab. The people who run northern Iraq are Kurds. But if this promise is not kept, the Turks threaten to invade, and clean out the camps. This time, the Turks are demanding performance, or else.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close