Iraq: April 21, 2005

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Although terrorist attacks are up somewhat overall in the past few weeks, the number of attacks on infrastructure has been declining. This may reflect improved security at refineries and power plants, and perhaps also an attempt to focus on inflicting casualties, though most attacks have led to the loss of civilian lives, many of the Sunni Arabs, which is not doing the terrorists much good in the public relations area. A good example is the Sunni Arab terrorist campaign in the town of   Madain. Shia Arabs residents (who make up half the population of the town) complained of local Sunni Arab gangs kidnapping and killing Shias, and demanding that all Shias get out of town. When government security forces showed up, they announced that there were no hostages. Now, over fifty bodies, of Madain Shias, have been fished out of the nearby Tigris river. Members of parliament are demanding an investigation of the security officers who investigated the Madain situation, and whether these men were Sunni Arabs less interested in security and more concerned with protecting fellow Sunni Arabs. 

The new provisional government is asserting itself in interesting ways, which the Madain situation spotlights. For example, president Talabani has been surprisingly critical of some US policies, like the attempt to disarm all militias. He wants to use loyal regional, tribal, and religious militias against the terrorists and anti-government forces, something US commanders have discouraged, as an element in the "stick" part of a "carrot and stick" policy against the anti-government groups, while the "carrot" side is amnesty and integration back into society. Of course, Talabani is a Kurd, and the Kurdish militias are currently the best trained, equipped and led militia forces in the country. These Kurdish militias have largely kept the Sunni Arab terrorists out of northern Iraq. The problem with militias, and the Kurdish ones are an excellent example, they are difficult to disband. The militias are often based on tribal or clan ties, and these endure no matter what.

The new Iraqi police are having some growing pains. In many regions equipment and training are spotty. In addition, police loyalties in some areas are split between the government and their tribal or religious affiliations. These problems are partially the result of the need to create a large police force relatively quickly, at the same time that the Iraqi government was trying to form an army, and partially the result of Iraqi cultural patterns.

 

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