Iraq: No One Knows For Sure


October 17, 2007: The 2004 alliance between Sunni Arab nationalist groups and al Qaeda, is officially dead. All but one of the major Sunni Arab terror groups have publicly denounced al Qaeda, specifically mentioning the widespread use of terrorist attacks against civilians. Al Qaeda is definitely hurting, with their terror attacks down by more than half, and more al Qaeda leaders and technicians being killed or captured each week. Al Qaeda in Iraq is not destroyed, but it has been marginalized. Now the battle turns to the militias. The most dangerous ones are the Sunni Arab groups that want Sunni Arabs to be running the country again. While many of these outfits are rethinking their strategy, in the face of superior firepower wielded by the Americans and the Shia led government, some are willing to fight on. This sort of fanaticism is not unique, but is rather common in the region. But for the Americans, the problem is that the only known cure for this sort of thing is lots of dead fanatics. The Iraqi government is willing to apply this traditional cure, but image conscious American officials are more apprehensive.

But in most respects, Americans have gone native. That's because the local customs (bribes and violent response to attacks) works. Corruption remains a, if not the, major problem. A corollary of that is the use of "gifts" to get your way. The tribal culture understands that, and will stay bought for a while, at least until someone else comes along with a better offer. The Iraqi government does not like the way the Americans are buying Sunni Arab loyalty with reconstruction projects and weapons (for pro-American militias.) The Shia want the Sunni Arabs disarmed or gone, and are willing to kill them all if that's what it takes. Outsiders have a hard time comprehending the degree to which the Kurds and Shia hate the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. The bad feelings go back a long way, and the recent al Qaeda violence (by foreign Sunni Arabs in "support" of Iraqi Sunni Arabs) has only affirmed the righteousness of that hatred.

Iraq is a unique experiment. Democracy has never worked for the Arabs. Past attempts have quickly turned into dictatorships, kept in power with terror and violence. Iraq is already headed in the same direction, with several Shia warlords seeking to gain total power. While the Sunni Arab groups are the most vicious, they are also greatly outnumbered. Only about ten percent of the population is now Sunni Arab, versus 20 percent in 2003. Most Sunni Arabs agree that they are beaten, and are seeking to make a deal, or to flee. But a minority will fight on, and die, along with any civilians in the vicinity. There are many Iraqis who realize that a working democracy is the best path to peace and prosperity. But to make that happen, all the fanatics with guns have to be killed or disarmed. Then you have to do something about the corruption. Again, many Iraqis know, by experience in the West, or looking at the statistics, that the less corrupt a society is, the more prosperity it has. If the democrats lose, Iraqi slides back into the muck. Will that happen? No one knows for sure.

October 16, 2007: In the north, there are indications that the Turkish army is going to cross the border to go after the Winter camps of Kurdish separatist terrorists (the PKK). Turkish artillery has been shelling Kurdish towns near the border, and there has been an increase in Turkish patrols crossing the border. The U.S. has warned Turkey not to do it. But the Turks, enraged at the U.S. Congress condemning them for Ottoman atrocities, are inclined to ignore those warnings.


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