The rift between hard-line Sunnis, and more moderate ones, seems to be widening. While many imams (religious leaders) are not openly siding with the 64 Sunni Arab clerics who issued a Fatwa (religious decree) saying Sunnis should support the new government and join the security forces, the more extreme imams who tried to issue counter-decrees have apparently been ignored. The Sunni religious leaders are caught in a bind. Much to their dismay, their calls to fight the occupiers has only resulted in a lot of Iraqis getting killed by other Iraqis and foreign Moslems. No one expected this, but the Americans proved expert at defending themselves. The next available targets were Iraqi police and soldiers. These poor guys were not as good at defending themselves from terrorist attacks. And when the terrorists hit the police and troops, they tended to kill nearby Iraqi civilians as well. In some cases, this included numbers of children. Even before the Second Battle of Fallujah last November, the videos of dead Iraqi children, slain by Islamic terrorists, was forcing the Sunni Arab clerics to reconsider their position as cheerleaders for the terrorists.
Then came the Second Battle of Fallujah last November. To most Iraqis, it was no surprise that the Americans tore right through the town, killing or capturing several thousand terrorists and anti-government fighters assembled there to slaughter the occupiers. Again, the Americans proved expert at avoiding casualties, while wiping out the Holy Warriors who swore they would prevail. Then came the January 30th election debacle. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed in January, as terrorists did all they could to discourage Iraqis from voting. It didnt work, and failed in a spectacular fashion as millions of Iraqis fearlessly came out to vote.
In February, you could hear the sermons at Friday prayers were getting less bloodthirsty. Many clerics were having second thoughts about whose side they were on. The terrorists and anti-government gunmen were looking like losers and killers who had only Iraqis for victims. Many of the Sunni Arab clerics believed the sermons they were preaching, calling for armed insurrection against the occupiers. The Sunni Arabs saw themselves as the guardians of Islamic orthodoxy in a sea of Shia blasphemy. But whats the point if you cant get at the occupying infidels, and they can kill you with impunity. Whats the point when the Sunni Arab Defenders of Islam can only kill Moslem civilians.
But it was getting worse. The police and soldiers were getting better at defending themselves. The Americans not only provided training, but also materials and assistance in building attack proof police stations. These little forts used the same plans and security methods the Americans used to make their own bases impregnable. The Iraqi police certainly had an incentive to listen to the Americans, for the alternative was death at the hands of some Sunni Arab suicide bomber. By March, it had been four months since a police station had been successfully attacked.
Iraqi police were increasingly seen patrolling with American troops. The Iraqi police knew who they were looking for, and with American troops as backup, knew they were invincible if attacked. The Americans also trained thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers in SWAT tactics, making it possible for more raids on mosques. Americans had refrained from raiding mosques, even though it was widely known that the terrorists were using places of worship for storing weapons and housing gunmen and bomb makers. As the number of raided mosques increased, more evidence of religious leaders participating in the violence appeared.
More and more terrorist sells and anti-government gangs were going dark, just disappearing. Sunni Arab clerics could tell by the regulars who were not showing up for Friday prayers anymore. Inquiries revealed that the missing men were dead, in prison, or had hastily moved away. There was no place left to hide for many terrorists.
The clerics still hate the Americans for taking power away from Sunni Arabs, and letting the despised Shia Arabs take over. But you have to be realistic. During the 1990s, most Sunni Arabs didnt get all the lavish handouts from Saddam that the Sunni Arab clergy received. Most Sunni Arabs were not happy with the way the Sunni Arab clergy were urging on the Sunni Arabs to kill, especially when most of the dead were Sunni Arab civilians. Preachers could tell from the number of frowns and scowls they were now getting during their fiery sermons. The violence began in the mosque, and thats where its sputtering to an end.
Although the radical Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr is not happy with the course of Iraqi politics, he apparently is trying to curb the more radical elements among his supporters. He organized a mass demonstration for April 9th, which attracted more Western media attention than participants. Al Sadr has reined in proposals to resume armed resistance. Despite this, he is also believed to be trying to rebuild his militia.