Iraq: February 16, 2005

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Cell phones are turning into a decisive weapon for defeating the Sunni Arab terrorists. As more Iraqis have cell phones (over 1.2 million so far), more are easily able to phone in reports of terrorist activity. This has led to more terrorists getting caught, and more attacks being aborted by prompt police action. Moreover, many of the terrorists forget that cell phone calls can be tapped, and users quickly located. In the last two years, American intelligence organizations have compiled huge amounts of data on Sunni Arab groups, and those who used to work for Saddam, and apparently still support the cause of Sunni Arab dominance. These databases, updated constantly, provide new suspects who are rounded up during dozens of raids conducted daily. But the main enemy is still money. Again and again, terrorists and gunmen are caught in the act, interrogated, and found to be doing it for the cash. The Baath Party has always operated as a patronage machine, rewarding the faithful with a paycheck, or other favors. But even al Qaeda has set up a paid staff, to supervise the suicide bombers and help carry out their attacks. 

Attacking the money isn't easy, as Baath has decades of experience in getting around the international banking system rules. Long established smuggling networks can get cash,  major appliances, or weapons and people, into the country. That access is being attacked by building up the border patrol. Over a hundred border forts, and the establishment of a highway patrol. In the past, smugglers would cross the border at some remote, roadless, area, move to a main highway, and then drive to a major population center to deliver the smuggled goods. The border patrol forts, with their new electronic sensors and night vision equipment, plus the highway patrol stopping trucks and inspecting cargo and documents, will complicate smuggling operations considerably.

The Sunni Arabs were always better organized, and up for trying new things. Most of the scientists and engineers in Iraq are Sunni Arabs. Most new businesses are established by Sunnis Arabs. The first ones to adopt new ideas are Sunni Arabs. But within the Sunni Arab community there is a major debate over the wisdom of continuing to support "Arab Socialism" (the Baath Party). Even before the 2003 invasion shut down Saddam's tyrannical government, many Sunni Arabs were turning to Islamic radicalism. Others backed democracy, but the socialists and religious radicals were more willing to use force. Guns speak louder than ballots, or so the Baath and al Qaeda zealots thought. But day by day, more cell phone tips come into the police from Sunni Arabs. The calls report suspicious activities, possible suicide bombers or gunmen. These tips are also the result of fear. Most of the victims of the suicide bomb attacks have been Iraqis, often Sunni Arabs. Calling the cops also means reporting all manner of criminal behavior. Thieves, kidnappers and gangsters of all descriptions prowl Sunni Arab areas. The relative lack of police has made Sunni Arab neighborhoods gangster friendly, and the locals want to change it. With their new cell phones, they now have a weapon.

 

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