Iraq: August 7, 2005

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The fighting in western Iraq continues. American and Iraqi troops are interrupting terrorist movements across the Syrian border. The terrorists don't like this and are fighting back. They are fighting for the very survival of Sunni Arab terrorist groups in Iraq. The coalition troops are also taking advantage of many more tips from Iraqis about terrorist activities. The Iraqis are not happy with the various gangs of terrorists who come in and basically take over towns and neighborhoods. There are two types of gangs. The al Qaeda types are religious fanatics and try to force the locals to live, and look, more Islamic. The women have to cover up and the men have to get a beard going. The secular gangs are often led by former Saddam followers, and they act like bullies, just like the good old days. All the gangs tend to take what they want, and treat those who oppose them brutally. The Iraqi troops and police that work with the Americans (usually marines), make contact with local leaders and often convince them to provide intelligence on terrorist operations. 

The gangs, however, have a lot of local supporters. This part of Iraq has always been sort of a wild west. The tribes valued their independence from Baghdad, and always fought to maintain it. Even Saddam had to compromise on who ran this part of the country. So while many Iraqis out here like the idea of an Iraqi democracy, they are still unhappy about corrupt city slickers (from Baghdad) coming around and telling them what to do. American commanders and civil affairs officers have to deal with these independent attitudes, often to the consternation of the Iraqi officers and officials who accompany them. The Americans just want to get the job done, while the Iraqis want to get control over this lawless area. The Americans pay cash rewards for information, while the Iraqis would like to make a lot more arrests. But most of the troops in the area are still American, looking for bomb factories and munitions dumps. The Iraqi soldiers and police are still very much outnumbered by the heavily armed locals. 

The major problem remains the movement of gunmen and weapons from Syria, as well as Iran, in eastern Iraq. So the Iraqis propose setting up a special, ten kilometer security zone along the borders. This zone would be strictly enforced in the rural areas, with civilians not allowed to carry weapons, and subject to searches and identity checks, as well as restrictions on movement (like no moving about at night). The Iraqis want to start imposing the new zone along the Syrian border immediately. This is because the hundreds of arrests made in that area recently has made it clear that there are many foreigners in the area, and they are not tourists. Locals have pointed out automobiles driven across the border, full of explosives and wired as car bombs. These are usually destroyed by tank fire, or from the air. 

 

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