Iraq: August 12, 2005

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The Sunni Arab terrorists are now facing their ultimate disaster. Shia Arabs are beginning to agree with the Kurds, and demanding a federal form of government. This would divide Iraq into three regions; Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs in the center, and Shia Arabs in the south. This is bad for the Sunni Arabs because there is no oil in the center. There is Baghdad, there is a lot of fertile land, and much howling desert in the west. But no oil. Ever since oil was discovered in Iraq, 80 years ago, Sunni Arabs have controlled, and spent, the money. If the Kurds and Shia Arabs controlled the oil, they would spend the money on Kurds and Shia Arabs. In recognition of this, the terrorists have turned more of their dwindling attacks on government officials, and especially those working on the new constitution. But the terrorists simply don't have the manpower or firepower to stop the process. Fanatical minorities attempting to force their rules on the entire country are making the federal approach more appealing. The majority of Shia Arabs still want a united Iraq, but the Shia federalists are getting louder and more numerous. 

The most powerful special interest is the Shia religious conservatives, many of whom want Iraq turned into a Shia Islamic republic. But they are still a minority, but they have a powerful and ruthless militia. Among the smallest special interest are the Sunni religious conservatives, who want a Sunni Islamic republic. This crew is allied with al Qaeda, which wants the entire world to be turned into a Sunni  Islamic republic. Both Shia and Sunni religious conservatives get lots of media attention for their public efforts to enforce their lifestyle rules (covered up, uneducated women, bearded men, no alcohol or dirty movies, etc) A slightly larger minority, and the terrorist allies of al Qaeda, are the Sunni Arab nationalists, who want the Sunni Arabs running Iraq once more. 

While only twenty percent of the population, the most powerful military faction in the country are the Kurds. They have over 100,000 men under arms and organized for security and combat duties. Al Qaeda generally stays out of the Kurdish north. It just isn't worth the effort to mess with the Kurds. It's a similar situation in the south, although there are more areas, even in the far south, where Sunni and Shia Arab communities mixed up together. This makes it possible for terrorists to set up shop in Sunni Arab towns or neighborhoods, at least until the local Shia Arab militias figure out where they are, and carry out attacks. 

The continued terrorist attacks are largely possible because of the lack of civic responsibility in Iraq. Westerners take this attitude, and the resulting law and order, and economic security, for granted. But in Iraq, it is an alien concept. Saddam, and all previous rulers of this region, kept the peace through force, not cooperation from the population. With Saddam's thugs gone, the criminals and political gangs have a lot more freedom of action. The criminals have been taking full advantage of this, and the result is the headline grabbing violence that perplexes Westerners, but not Iraqis. 

The Sunni Arab terrorists, without a lot of media fanfare, have been largely cleaned out of the north and south, and, increasingly, most neighborhoods of Baghdad. Now, Iraqi and American troops are shutting down the Sunni Arab controlled cities in western Iraq and suburban Baghdad. Every week, more IED and car bomb workshops are captured, along with supplies of weapons and explosives, and hundreds of  suspects, are captured. This is not considered big news. Explosions and dead bodies attract most of the media attention. So it's easy to lose sight of what's really going on over there. 

What's really going on is that the economy, corruption and factionalism are all booming. Economic growth is good, as it puts more people to work, and diminishes the number of unemployed guys with guns, and a desire to get paid, one way or the other. But the economic growth is stunted by the corruption, which has always been a part of the local country. The corruption is driven (in addition or greed and lack of morals) by factionalism. Tribal connections have always been paramount, because you could never depend on the government for personal protection and support. Your tribe and extended family was your government. Beyond that, you could feel comfortable doing business with others who shared the same ethnic and religious ideas. This produced the Kurds, and Shia and Sunni Arabs. The next level, which is observed mainly as a nice idea, but not worth dying for, is belief in the nation of Iraq. The big question is are enough Iraqis willing to make sacrifices for a united Iraq. No one really knows, but we are all soon going to find out.

 

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