Iraq: December 30, 2003


Five men were arrested as suspects in the December 27th attacks in Karbala. Their nationality was not given, but Shia leaders say they believe the attacks were carried out by Sunni Arabs and al Qaeda foreigners. There has been little, or no, political violence in the Shia areas since Saddam's government fell.  The Shia are not intimidated by the Sunnis any more, and the attacks of the 27th just made more Shias determined to meet violence with violence if the Sunnis continue to try and terrorize other Iraqis. 

Sunni Arab tribal and religious leaders have formed a reconciliation committee in Tikrit to urge Sunnis to stop armed resistance against the coalition and the new government. The tribal leaders realize that the Sunni Arabs will be a minority in any democratically elected government and will not have control of the army or police (as Sunnis have for centuries.) As a result, Sunni Arabs would suffer greatly if Sunni and Kurd dominated police had to fight continued Sunni resistance. In such a low level civil war, the Sunnis would be at a major disadvantage, would suffer the most and could not win.  US Army Special Forces  have been working with the Sunni tribal chiefs for over a year, and that has finally paid off. 

In the north, police arrested two Egyptians, an Iranian and an Afghan on suspicion of being members of Ansar al-Islam. This organization is affiliated with al Qaeda, and was founded by Kurds who had become Islamic radicals. Islamic radicalism is rare among Kurds, but Islamic conservatives in Iran offered bases and other support to get Ansar al-Islam started. After al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan in late 2001, many al Qaeda members fled to Iran and some ended up with Ansar in northern Iraq. A Kurd attack on Ansar camps a year a go drove many Ansar members back into Iran. But now Ansar members are sneaking back into northern Iraq. The four men arrested has false documents and were apparently planning terrorist attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk.  




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