Iraq: February 18, 2005

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Iraqi and coalition forces are getting hit with 50-60 attacks a day. Most of these are ambush type attacks that result in no casualties. Dozens, sometimes over a hundred, of the attackers, or suspects, are arrested every day. Interrogations of these men, and examination of documents seized, indicates that there is no one anti-government organization behind the attacks. But the attackers are not broad-based either. They are almost entirely Sunni Arab, and many are not even Iraqi. The anti-government activity in Iraq is driven by several factors. First, there is the Sunni Arab resentment at losing power. That hurt, as for over half a century, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs lived large off increasing oil revenues. The money also enabled them to buy guns, build elaborate torture chambers and hire lots of thugs to keep the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs in line. Losing control of the oil wealth meant the loss of jobs, privileges, and protection from retaliation from Kurds and Shia Arabs seeking revenge for family members killed or tortured by Sunni Arab enforcers. Sunni Arabs also have a long standing (about 1400 years) bad attitude towards those who practice the Shia form of Islam. In a word, the Sunni despise the Shia

The "resistance" is spontaneous in the sense that many Sunni Arab Iraqis will, because they have guns and an opportunity, take a shot at Iraqi security forces or American troops. If the Iraqi cops in the neighborhood are Kurdish or Shia Arab, a bunch of local guys will agree to just up and kill one of "them." This has even happened when nearby Iraqi security forces were from a different Sunni Arab tribe, and the local fellows were unhappy that they did not get the security jobs (one of the better paying, and less taxing forms of employment available in Iraq these days.) Tribal leaders have been reluctant to confront the angry (at being unemployed and thrown off the gravy train) young men, although that is changing as it becomes clear that the new Iraqi security forces are not going away, and keep getting better at hunting down and killing the attackers. 

The recent elections hit at a major source of encouragement for attacks on Iraqi government forces; the Sunni Arab media. When the elections were a big success, months of anti-democratic propaganda suddenly fell flat. News outlets like al Jazeera have basically been the propaganda service for the former Saddam (Baath Party) and al Qaeda officials organizing anti-government violence in Iraq. It's no wonder that the Iraqi government eventually threw al Jazeera staff out of Iraq. These journalists were working directly with the bomb makers and gunmen to carry out attacks. At first, al Jazeera said it was merely coincidence that one of their camera crews was on the scene when a suicide bomb went off, or gunmen attacked Iraqi police or civilians. Police raids and interrogations soon turned up evidence that al Jazeera was part of the "attack team" whenever possible. The Baath Party organizers of many of the deadlier attacks would pay bonuses to the attackers if their was good media coverage, so there were financial incentives all around to have al Jazeera cameras rolling while you killed Iraqis. Over 80 percent of the dead have been Iraqis. Sunni Arab Iraqis are good at killing Iraqis, but usually get themselves killed when they go after Americans. While the cash bonuses are higher for killing foreigners, what's the point if you don't live to collect it?

The Baath party leadership is still out there, or at least enough of them, with cash and guns, to finance attacks on oil production facilities and senior government officials. But this war is not going well at all. Each week, another few of these organizers are killed or arrested. That doesn't usually make the news, but the message resonates in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. The new guys in charge aren't going away. The Kurds and Shia Arabs, 80 percent of the population, have the guns and control the oil now. Either do business with them nice, or continue to lose gun battles with the growing security forces. More Sunni Arabs are doing the math, and ignoring al Jazeera. 

 

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