Iraq: June 12, 2005


Tensions between the "Accomodationists" and "Rejectionist" factions of the pro-Saddam Baathist movement seem to be leading to the possibility of a violent confrontation. The "Accomodationists" support cooperation with the Iraqi government, and support participation in the political process. Given that the Baath Party seems to have stashed away an enormous amount of money, and that Baathists are really the only experienced managers and administrators in the country, following the Accomodationists line could arguably result in a return of the Baathists to power eventually. The Rejectionists are violently opposed to any accommodation with the government, and seek a return to power by force, sooner rather than later.

There have been an increasing number of violent attacks on Accomodationists, or people who appear to be Accomodationists. Until recently, most of the incidents were in the form of attacks on property, threats, and occasional kidnappings for the purpose of intimidation. But lately there have been several killings. The possibility of a serious violent confrontation between the two wings of the Baath movement is increasing. In some cases, the attackers are foreign al Qaeda gunmen, working for the Rejectionists.

One reason for the despair within the Baath Party is the improved performance of the Iraqi police. This is no accident. Late last year, two changes were made to how the United States recruited and deployed the Iraqi police. First, standards for recruitment were increased, and training made longer and more intense. As expected, this did not reduce the number of new recruits coming in, because being a cop was still one of the better paying, and available, jobs in the other country. But firing poorly performing cops and police commanders did wonders for the morale and performance of the good cops. The other change was to deploy trained police battalions to areas the cops were not native to. This was a technique even Saddam had to use. If you recruit all the cops from the area they will be working in, too many of those policemen will be corrupted by local criminals and bureaucrats. The corruption wasnt always in the from of cash or favors. Threats against a cops family would work as well. This was what was happening to so many of the police recruited from areas where they were working, particularly in Sunni Arab areas. So the U.S. formed special police battalions, trained them a bit more, screened their commanders  more thoroughly, and paid them a bonus to work away from home. These were mainly Kurdish and Shia Arab cops being sent to work in Sunni Arab areas. 

Sunni Arab cops needed all the help they could get. The Baath Party, and the most vicious criminal gangs were dominated by Sunni Arabs. Al Qaeda was also a Sunni Arab outfit. It was hard to get Sunni Arab police to come down hard on misbehaving Sunni Arabs. But Kurdish and Shia Arab cops saw cracking down on Sunni Arabs as a rare combination of business and pleasure. 

Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues to be its own worst enemy. Unable to make other types of combat work, Al Qaeda has bet everything on the use of car bombs, driven by suicidal foreign volunteers. For all of 2004, there were under 30 car bombs used in Baghdad. But in the last four months, there have been over 130 in Baghdad. Nearly as many have been used in other parts of Iraq in that time period. Even Iraqis who support al Qaeda cannot understand this reliance on car bombs, which kill many innocent bystanders, and generate much hatred against al Qaeda, and Sunni Arabs in general. But it makes sense if you ignore al Qaedas English language pronouncements, and look at what they say in Arabic. There, al Qaeda denounces Shia Moslems as heretics and miscreants who must be converted to the true Islam (Sunni Islam), or slaughtered. In Iraq, al Qaeda is mainly sending its car bombs against Shias. Its a matter of practicing what you preach.


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