Iraq: June 1, 2005


American troops operating along the Syrian border find that most of the hostiles they encounter, and kill, are foreigners. Saudi Arabians are the most common, but there are men from as far away as Morocco. The anti-government forces are increasingly non-Iraqi forces. For example, over the weekend, a clash with foreign fighters near the Syrian border ended when a compound was bombed. In the ruins were found two Syrians, an Algerian and a Jordanian. Two Saudis and a Moroccan were wounded and captured. In the rubble were found documents, and the body of Raja Nawaf Farhan al Mahalawi, the governor of Anbar province.  Al Mahalawi, a Sunni tribal leader, had been kidnapped on May 10th, much to the distress of many Sunnis in western Iraq. When al Mahalawi was found, he was chained to a propane tank, and covered with rubble, which had killed him. It appears that al Mahalawi was being held to keep Sunni Arabs in line, not so much to negotiate any kind of deal with the government. Iraq is being invaded by hostile foreigners, who kill hundreds of Iraqis a month. The invaders speak Arabic and say they come in the name of peace. 

After Fallujah was cleaned out last November, Islamic terrorists and Baath Party nationalists fled to many other locations. There was no longer one large concentration of bad guys, but many smaller ones. This caused friction, because part of the al Qaeda package is severe life-style adjustments. The women have to cover up, no Western clothing, music or booze, lots of facial hair on the guys, and so on. This was not popular in Afghanistan, nor is it here. Al Qaeda enforcers will remonstrate, beat, kidnap or kill those who continually  disobey.  This has led to attacks on tribal leaders who disagree with al Qaeda, and refuse to buckle under to their rules. Some tribal leaders have been beaten, kidnapped or killed. The tribes have responded with violence. Throughout May, American troops in western Iraq encountered battles between Sunni Arab tribesmen and al Qaeda gunmen. American marines would get in touch with the local tribal leaders and offer assistance in these situations. Perhaps a few smart bombs? Overhead pictures from a UAV? Recording of al Qaeda radio conversations? Especially the ones discussing what they are going to do to the tribesmen once this impious resistance is put down. Over the weekend, Sunni Arab and Shia leaders agreed on how the new government would be run. The Sunni Arabs, or at least the majority of them, have agreed to work with the Shias, and against those Sunni Arabs who back al Qaeda and Saddam's old Baath Party. 

Incidents involving Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED, also known as car bombs) ran slightly fewer in May than in April, which was the worst month ever for such attacks since the war began. Otherwise, the pattern of attacks has remained rather similar to that in April; about a third seem to have detonated against the apparent intended targets, with about a third being partially effective, and the balance intercepted or detonated prematurely. Car bombs have become more difficult to use, as the Iraqi police become better at defending high value targets, and spotting car bombs under construction, and on the move. As a result, the terrorists are making more frequent use of suicide bombers wearing explosive vests.


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