Iraq: March 26, 2005

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Eight weeks after the elections, the new Iraqi legislature has still not decided who will be prime minister, president and run the ministries. The reason is simple, everyone is still hammering out a deal. The new legislators all admit that the major problem is Iraqi unfamiliarity with the use of compromise. Many insist that this is a concept foreign to Arab culture, that strong-man rule has long been the norm in the region. The key problems have been including the Sunni Arab minority, and negotiating a deal with the Kurdish minority. The Shia Arabs are a majority of the population, but not enough of a majority to form, and run, a government without cooperation from some minority groups. The sticking points are how much cooperation in counter-terrorism operations will the Sunni Arabs deliver to get a share of power and oil wealth. For the Kurds, its how much autonomy Kurdish areas will have, and how much oil rich territory will be considered Kurdish.

Attacks on Iraqis oil facilities, mainly the pipeline, are increasing. But the severity, or success, of such attacks is declining. In 2003, there were 37 attacks on pipelines (about six a month). In 2004 there were 148 (about 12 a month). So far in 2005, the attacks are coming at the rate of 14 a month. Early on, the attacks were on the facilities that led to oil exports. But in the past year, the attacks have been in support of a program to cripple essential services (vehicle fuel supply, electricity generation) within Iraq. The idea appears to be that the shortages will cause more Iraqis to become hostile to the government and join the anti-government forces. This is not happening. Losses from attacks last year on the oil industry amounted to six billion dollars. Most of this was in the form of interrupted shipments. But the average Iraqi feels it largely from fuel (for vehicles, heating and cooking) shortages and lack of electricity and water pressure. There are groups of Sunni Arabs, including some who used to run the Iraqi oil industry for Saddam, who are behind the attacks. Over the last two years, a special security force of some 20,000 men has been organized just to protect the oil industry. There were the usual (in Iraq) problems with poor leadership, getting people trained, and avoiding hiring guys who really wanted to sabotage the oil system. However, security has gotten better month by month, especially since more Iraqis are realizing that protecting the oil is in their own interests. 

Iraqis are determined to make democracy work. But they know they have to deal with many Iraqis who are just as determined to carry on the old way; using violence to obtain absolute power. The two groups that are most dangerous are the Sunni Arabs who want to be back in power, and Islamic conservatives who want a religious government. The Sunni Arab terrorists, which are mostly secular, plus some al Qaeda (which is basically a religious organization), are the most dangerous. Sunni Arab groups have accounted for most of the deaths, particularly among Iraqi civilians. While the Sunni Arab terrorists try to kill Americans, Kurds and Shia Arabs, they end up killing a lot of Sunni Arabs. This has put Sunni Arab leaders under pressure to fight back against these Sunni Arab terrorists. That, however, can be dangerous. Literally. The Sunni Arabs are most lethal against other Sunni Arabs, because they have an easier time operating in Sunni Arab leaders. 

So, while Sunni Arabs no longer run the country, peace and prosperity in Iraq is still very dependent on what the Sunni Arabs do.. 

 

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