Iraq: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

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October 17,2008:  Baghdad is turning into Moscow, or at least Moscow in the 1990s, when criminal gangs carried out assassinations in broad daylight, oblivious of the police. In Baghdad, the defeated terrorists have been replaced in the headlines by the criminal gangs that have always been there (even when Saddam was in power.) The gangs were always available for killing individuals, that's how they settled business disputes and maintained discipline. Now the gangs are hiring out their hit men to politicians. In Iraq, politics is a blood sport, and murder has long been a tool to deal with rivals and enemies. It wasn't until the late 1990s that the Russian gangs finally got put down (or at least taught to tone down the violence). The Iraqi gangs have long been on the U.S. radar, because the common criminals would sell weapons and services to the terrorists. Now, with most of the terrorist groups destroyed, the gangs are increasingly the target. That will sharply reduce the number of assassinations. One thing the gangs have in their favor is that they try to limit collateral damage. For the gangs, the killing are business, not a Mission From God, and so killing innocent civilians just creates additional enemies, and is bad for business.

Angry over continued PKK (leftist Kurdish separatists) attacks out of Iraq, Turkey has authorized more attacks into northern Iraq, and the stationing of troops along the border, inside Iraq, to act as a buffer zone. This would make it more difficult for PKK gunmen to get into Turkey and make attacks. Army commanders are not enthusiastic about the buffer zone, which is popular mainly with the politicians. The buffer zone will require lots of troops, and the generals prefer to keep their men moving, rather than tied down guarding a buffer zone. In Iran, the PKK is also coming across the border, and the government there has flooded the border area with full and part-time soldiers. There are frequent clashes. The Turks prefer air power, and have made frequent air attacks on PKK targets inside Iraq over the last two weeks.

In neighboring Syria, police are rounding up Iraqis suspected of terrorist activities. There has been an increase in terrorist attacks in Syria recently. Now this country is very much a police state, which does not tolerate Islamic radicalism (which has been put down with great brutality in the past.) But many terrorists have fled Iraq, angry and some are feeling betrayed. They end up in Syria, and some blame Syria for not doing enough for the cause in Iraq. So now Iraq is hunting down the usual suspects, and anyone believed to have been a terrorist in Iraq.

Mosul has become the last stand of the Sunni Arab radicals. Thousands fled to the city in the last year, seeking a refuge from the constant attacks by American and Iraqi troops. While the security forces systematically go through the city neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs killing and arresting the terrorists, some of the Islamic radicals carry on. Thus the influx of Islamic radicals has led to more religious vigilantism. Gangs of Islamic zealots go around, sometimes in board daylight, threatening women who are not completely covered up, or without a male relative as an escort. Non-Moslems are threatened with death if they do not convert to Islam. That has led to several thousand Christians fleeing Mosul, which has embarrassed the government. Christians have been persecuted for over a thousand years in this part of the world. When the first Moslems conquered the area 1,400 years ago, the majority of the local Christians refused to convert. But over the centuries, Christians were forced to convert, or driven out. Until a few decades, most of the Arab migrants to the United States were Christian, fleeing Moslem persecution. The Islamic zealots are big believers in tradition, and threatening Christians is something you do, if only because it's been done for so long.

Iran is pretty open with its print and electronic propaganda directed at Iraqi Shias, but U.S. commanders are making a lot of noise about Iranians bribing Iraqi officials (including members of parliament) to work against the United States. Iran has also been training Iraqi Shia radicals, and sending them back to form sleeper cells of terrorists.

October 14, 2008: In the south, more than 200 doctors went on strike, demanding improved personal security. Not from kidnappers, but from the families of patients who died, particularly during surgery. Some of the tribal leaders down south believe that one of the new freedoms is the ability to get financial compensation from doctors when treatment does not work. Either that, or punish the doctor whose treatment failed. Some doctors have been threatened or injured, and the government is being asked to straighten out the tribal leaders on how this is supposed to work.

October 9, 2008: A man killed during a raid on the 5th was revealed as Abu Qaswarah, the number two al Qaeda leader in Iraq. Qaswarah is a Moroccan who migrated to Sweden in the 1980s and had a Swedish passport. He has a wife and five kids in Sweden, and has long been active in Islamic radical activities. But he never did anything illegal in Sweden, so the police there could only keep an eye on him. But two years ago, the deteriorating (al Qaeda) situation in Iraq prompted Qaswarah to go to the front, where he was useful recruiting and moving terrorist recruits into Iraq. He proved an able terrorist leader, and rose through the ranks, until a U.S. Special Forces operator put a bullet into him. Qaswarah then detonated his suicide vest, killing several nearby women and children.

October 8, 2008: Another female suicide bomber attacked in Baquba, north of Baghdad. This is the worst terrorist attack in three weeks, and evidence that someone is still recruiting women for suicide attacks. There was a huge jump in the use of female suicide bombers this year (about 32 so far, compared to 8 for all of last year.) Turns out there were several terrorist cells specializing in recruiting women for this kind of murder. It was thought that all these terror groups had been taken down, but apparently not.

 

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