Iraq: May 2, 2005


There are increasing signs that a rift has developed in the Baath Party leadership. It appears that two camps are emerging. The more moderate group who might be termed Accomodationists seems to have decided that continuing armed resistance to the Interim Government and its American and Coalition supports is likely to get nowhere, and merely alienate Iraqs Sunni Arabs, who are the backbone of Baath support. In recent weeks representatives of the Accomodationists reportedly have been in contact with the Iraqi government, US officials, moderate Sunni leaders, and UN personnel. The Iraqi Transitional Government has UN support. The Accomodationists are seeking to discuss terms under which an amnesty might be offered and formal legitimacy accorded the Baath as one of the countrys political parties. Presumably some complex negotiations will result from this. How the more radical Baath Party supporters call them the Rejectionists will react to this is not clear. Even before Saddam, factions in the Baath movement were wont to settle their differences with bloodshed, so a Baath purge or even civil war is not out of the question. 

The Syrian pullout from Lebanon may have some interesting effects on the Iraqi violence. The Syrians have indicated that they will be using the troops released by the pull-out to bolster the security of their frontier with Iraq. This will impede the movement of personnel and materiel from Syria into Iraq in support of the anti-government forces, while, not incidentally, improving Syrias image with the US and other Western Powers. 

Perhaps of equal importance, however, is that the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, leaves Iraqi-sympathizing groups in Lebanon such as Hezbollah and other Islamist and pro-Palestinian militias without the moderating influence that the Syrian presence provided. The Syrians more or less protected these groups from any threats by the Lebanese government to bring them to heel, provided some security against Israeli intervention, and kept the sometimes mutually-hostile groups from attacking each other. With the Syrians gone, these groups, which have been supplying men, money, and equipment to the Iraqi terrorists, are likely to reduce their level of support for the Iraqi terrorism in order to strengthen themselves in Lebanon.

In April, the level of car bomb were the highest in about six months. While it's not always easy to determine what the objectives of car bombs attacks are, it seems that only about a quarter of the attacks actually have been successful, in the sense that they hit the planned target. About a third more were partial successes, in that they did some damage to the intended target but detonated prematurely. About another third seem to have been intercepted by security forces or detonated so prematurely that they caused no damage to their intended targets. Naturally, even the premature detonations have killed or injured people. Most of the casualties have been Iraqi civilians, although most of the attacks seem to have actually been aimed at Iraqi, American, or Coalition forces. On the other hand, the assassination rate in April was about average for the past six months, running about 10-15 a week (though the rate for January was very high due to the terrorists attempt to disrupt the elections). Although a mid-level member of the interim government was killed this past week, most of the victims have been relatively low level political, police, and military officials.

The "De-Baathification" Process is a big issue. Accomodationist Baath leaders have been quietly negotiating with Iraqi Interim Government authorities about integration into the political process. The question of "de-Baathification" seems to be a stumbling block. The Baathists would like a halt to further investigations and persecutions. Many Shias and Kurds in the government,   and even a few  American politicians, seem to want a total purge of all Baath influence, which would mean the complete exclusion of anyone with Baath connections from any role in a new Iraqi government. While parallel's with the "de-Nazification" of Germany have been drawn, most of those drawing the parallels have missed the point. In fact, the Allied de-Nazification of Germany did not actually go very deep. The focus of de-Nazification was primarily on decapitating the Nazi movement. Of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Nazi Party members, only about 6,000 were actually ever charged by Allied officials during the occupation of Germany. And only about 600 were actually sent to jail (this excludes people charged with specific war crimes). Most former Nazi Party members were quickly reintegrated into civil and political life. Even among those sent to jail, almost all were out within a decade.

One major difference between Iraq and Nazi Germany is that in Iraq, Baath diehards continue to fight to regain power. There was no such Nazi terror campaign after World War II. Also, the German Nazis came from every region and religion in the country, while nearly all of the Iraqi Baath and al Qaeda terrorists are Sunni Arabs, which are less than twenty percent of the population. Recently, the Iraqi terrorists have made another major effort to break the morale, and effectiveness, of the government, and particularly the police. In the last four days, terrorist attacks have killed some 120 people, mostly civilians. In the last two months, over 400 Iraqi security troops (police, army, security guards) have been killed, out of a force of over 150,000. An equal number of Coalition troops only lost 87 dead in the same period. This has become a war of Iraqi versus Iraqi. More precisely, it's Sunni Arab terrorists killing Iraqi civilians (including Sunni Arabs.) The Shia and Kurd hard liners are calling for harsh policies against the Sunni population that harbors and supports the terrorists. The government is using this very real threat to get Sunni leaders to negotiate a peace deal. This includes the tribal and religious leaders providing information on where the terrorists are. The terrorists have threatened to kill any Sunni Arabs who do this, and have carried out attacks on Sunni leaders to prove their threat. But more and more Sunni Arabs are ratting out the terrorists, and in the last two months, dozens of raids, often carried out by Iraqi police, have shut down bomb factories and terrorist safe houses. But many of the terrorists are determined to fight to the death. In this respect, they are more like the Japanese soldiers of World War II, not the Nazi German troops. Alas, the Japanese troops, at least most of them, obeyed their emperor's command to surrender in August, 1945. There is no emperor of the Islamic terrorists, and many of the terrorists will fight to the death, the others will become disillusioned and go home. The Iraqi Sunni Arabs have declared Iraq to be the battlefield for a war between Islamic radicals and the rest of the world. The Sunni Arabs have to decide whose side they are on, before the rest of Iraq declares war on them. 


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