Iraq: April 3, 2005

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Some sixty gunmen used two car bombs, assault rifles and RPGs to attack Abu Ghraib prison. Among the 3,000 prisoners there are many terrorists and Sunni Arab nationalists, and there have been previous attempts to get prisoners out by force. This attempt failed, leaving some 23 American troops, and 13 prisoners, wounded. Most (16) of the American wounds were minor and the troops returned to duty the next day. The fighting went on for about two hours, and most of the attackers (about 40) were killed or injured. It would not go on any longer because American quick reaction forces would have greatly reinforced the U.S. guards in the prison, making it impossible for the assault to succeed, or for the attackers to get away. Al Qaeda took credit for the bold attack. But the failure of the operation to free any prisoners further hurts the reputation of the  terrorists, and Sunni Arabs trying to restore their minority to power. There are about 10,000 Iraqis held in coalition prisons. Increasingly, those held are not just the usual suspects caught up in raids, but known terrorists or Sunni Arab gunmen turned in by neighbors and people who would earlier have shielded these guys.

At the same time, the Association of Moslem Scholars, long a major opponent to the government, has announced that Sunni Arabs should support the government and join the army and police. This puts al Qaeda and other anti-government Sunni Arab groups in direct opposition to the main Sunni religious organization. The Association was recognizing reality, as many Sunni Arab clerics have been quietly advising their followers to stop attacking the government and coalition troops, and cooperate with reconstruction and government officials. The Sunni Arab "rebellion" has brought only misery to Sunni Arabs, while the rest of the country has experienced peace and growing prosperity. Sunni Arabs are getting increasingly nervous about getting shut out of the distribution of the oil wealth. The Kurds are sitting on top of about 40 percent of Iraqi oil  up north around Kirkuk, while Shia Arabs occupy the southern oil fields that produce the rest. Despite dozens of attacks a week, Iraq still managed to ship 1.5 million barrels a day. At over $50 a barrel, that's over $28 billion a year. Not much of that money is getting to Sunni Arabs. The amount of oil being pumped is expected to double in the next two years, and the Sunni Arabs know they will only get a share if they stop trying to destroy the new democracy in Iraq. 

American military operations are increasing on the Syrian border, where towns that act as way stations for men, and weapons, coming across from Syria, for Iraqi terrorists, have been surrounded and searched. Syria has been pressured to stop terrorists moving freely to, and across, the border. Syrian border guards no longer wave through carloads of men with guns, but Syrian police are not arresting these guys inside Syria either. But American UAVs and ground patrols are catching more of these intruders as they cross desolate areas along the border. 

 

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