Iraq: Kindness For Killers


February 26, 2008: Iraq finds itself in a similar situation to the government of Rwanda. There, after a 1994 attempt, by radical Hutus (84 percent of the population) to exterminate the Tutsi people (15 percent of the population), that killed nearly a million, hundreds of thousands of the killers, and their supporters, fled to neighboring Congo. There they continue to wage a guerilla war on Rwanda, and the Tutsi minority that still runs the country. In Iraq, the Sunni Arabs, who killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shia Arabs during Saddam's reign, have also fled to neighboring Syria and Jordan. But many have stayed behind in Iraq to wage a campaign of terror against the government (now dominated by the Shia Arab majority). In the last year, Sunni Arab support for the terrorists (mostly Iraqi, but about ten percent are al Qaeda, and most of them are foreigners) collapsed under the relentless hammering of U.S. and Iraqi forces. Terrorist activity dropped sharply, from a high of 3,000 Iraqi deaths (civilians and security forces) in February, 2007, to under 600 in December. Those deaths have been increasing since, and will probably hit at least 700 this month. U.S. deaths have not fluctuated as much, going from 85 in February, 2007, to 24 in December and 30-40 this month. The Iraqi terrorists have managed to again adapt, and establish new networks. There are fewer terrorists now, and they cannot launch as many attacks. They are using more bribes to remain hidden from Iraqi police and troops, which comprise the majority of the forces looking for them.

The terrorists are also aided by the fact that, when Sunni tribes, that switched their support to the government least year, got to know government officials well, they often reconsidered their position. The Sunni Arabs realized that many of the Shia Arab government officials did not like Sunni Arabs at all. That's because these officials had lost friends or family to Sunni Arab terror over the last few decades. Some of these Shia Arabs were using their government positions, especially police and army commanders, to continue seeking out and killing Sunni Arabs who used to work for Saddam. That's a major problem, as many Sunni Arab tribal leaders were once members of Saddams security forces, or are related to those that were.

American commanders would like the maintain their strength at 20 brigades for another year, but political (there's a presidential election coming up) and practical (the 15 month tours are putting a strain on the troops) considerations mean that five of those brigades will leave this Summer. That was the "Surge" force that came in a year ago. Tours will also be reduced to twelve months. It will be mostly up to the Iraqis root out the terrorists. That causes problems. When the Iraqi security forces operate in Sunni Arab areas, they are often seen as Kurdish and Shia avenging angels, intent on exterminating Sunni Arabs in Iraq. That's true often enough to terrify many Sunni Arabs, who cannot afford to flee, into keeping up support for the terrorists.

The Shia Arab extremists insist the only solution is to expel all Sunni Arabs from the country. But these guys are also the ones who are willing to fight a civil war with fellow Shia who disagree with them. There are many Shia Arab factions, but the two big ones that count these days, are those that want an Islamic dictatorship, as in Iran, and those that don't. If a religious dictatorship promised more honest and efficient government, it would have wide appeal. But the millions of Iranian pilgrims who have visited Shia shrines in the south over the last few years, left little doubt that the clergy are as inept and corrupt as any other politician, if you let them take over.

The UN is having a hard time raising money to support the two million Sunni Arabs who have fled Iraq. It's no secret that many of these fled because they had blood on their hands, or feared getting killed along with those that did. Saddams key aides took billions of dollars with them, and spent more of it on terrorism back in Iraq, then to aid their fellow Sunni Arabs in exile. Potential donors to UN relief efforts see the risk of the news media taking a close look at the Iraqi exile community, and they back off. At the same time, the media does not like to dwell on exactly who the Iraqi refugees are, and exactly why they fled. War does strange things to people.

Meanwhile, Turkey made their move up north, sending several hundred elite infantry across the border. These troops, along with dozens of F-16 and helicopter air strikes, are out to destroy the dozen or so camps that support the 3,000 PKK separatists who are based in northern Iraq (when they aren't carrying out attacks in eastern Turkey.) The Kurdish government in northern Iraq refused to crack down on the PKK, so now the Turks are doing it. The Iraqi government has protested, but neither the Shia politicians in Baghdad, nor the Kurdish ones up north, can do much about it. To send Iraqi troops (Arab or Kurdish) against the Turks would be suicidal. The Iraqis know that from centuries of experience. The Iraqi government had promised to stop the PKK from attacking Turkey, but failed to do so. Now they must stand aside while the Turks beat up on the PKK for a few weeks. This will not mean the end of the PKK, but there will be a decrease in PKK attacks this Spring. And that's something Turkish politicians can take to the bank. So far, this fighting has left about 150 dead, over 80 percent of them PKK.




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