Iraq: August 22, 2005


The continued deadlock over the new constitution is yet another front in the war that was thought over in April, 2003. Defeating the Sunni Arab rulers of Iraq has proved harder than anticipated. Like Germany and Japan during World War II, Iraq was run by a militaristic dictatorship. Unlike Germany and Japan, defeating the Iraqi government did not eliminate the militaristic faction that supported the dictatorship. The reason was simple. In Iraq, the dictator was backed by a religious faction; the Sunni Arabs. In Germany and Japan, the dictators were backed by supporters united by class and politics, and included most of the population, not the 20 percent that the Sunni Iraqis represent. The Sunni Arabs are also united by blood, as the Sunni Arabs are organized as clans and tribes, and feel a unity from that, as well as their common religious beliefs. 

But there's another reason why there was no continued fighting in Germany and Japan. The fighting in World War II was brutal, with much of the pain being inflicted on civilians. Germany lost over five million dead, Japan over three million. The bombing and ground fighting destroyed the homes of civilians, 255,000 in Germany and 2.2 million (because of their more flammable construction) in Japan. At the end of World War II, the civilians, who supported the dictatorships, had been hammered. They were beaten, and willing to accept new political arrangements.

Such was not the case in Iraq in 2003. Smart bombs and a short war kept the civilian, and military, casualties low. There were less than 100,000 civilian and military deaths. The Sunni Arabs did not appreciate their good fortune, and, instead, saw an opportunity to continue fighting, to terrorize their conquerors and regain power. It's not working, and the Sunni Arab population is getting the pain they were spared during the invasion. The Sunni Arabs are being threatened with worse. After decades of getting the majority of the oil revenues (for twenty percent of the population), the Sunni Arabs are being forced to accept a formula that will leave them with less than twenty percent of the oil income. This is because the Kurds and Shia Arabs, in whose territory the oil fields are, demand an extra cut of the oil revenue, in addition to that due them on a per-capita basis. This is considered compensation for the ecological burden of hosting the oil facilities, and compensation for the past (when the Sunni Arabs took all the revenue.) Not all Sunni Arabs are willing to accept this deal, but it's pitched as an "offer you can't refuse." Should the Sunni Arabs refuse to cooperate, the implicit threat is war without mercy. The hatred of the Sunni Arabs, by the Kurds and Shia Arabs, is intense. Over three decades of Sunni Arab domination and persecution has left its mark, and there is not a lot of patience for continued Sunni Arab violence. The Sunni Arabs have escaped some of the responsibility by pointing out that the worst terrorist attacks are by al Qaeda. But al Qaeda is basically an extremist Sunni Arab religious organization.  True, most Sunni Arabs don't agree with al Qaedas goals of global domination by Islam. Most Sunni Arabs are not willing to abide by al Qaedas strict lifestyle demands. 

No one will say it out loud, but the implied threat is that, either the Sunni Arabs turn against al Qaeda and the anti-government terrorists, or have the Kurds and Shia Arabs (80 percent of the population) go to war with the entire Sunni Arab community. This becomes more a possibility as the Iraqi army and police forces grow larger. The Sunni Arabs dominated the military and security forces for decades, but the Kurds and Shia Arabs are rapidly catching up. The United States does not want this civil war to happen, but has to deal with the fact that it already has. The terrorism of the last two years has targeted Kurds, Shia Arabs and government supporters in general. The Iraqi majority have not restrained themselves, but they have not had the military and police forces capable to striking back. Now they do, and the violence against Sunni Arabs has been increasing. 

The Sunni Arab leadership are trying to negotiate the best deal they can, before the Kurds and Shia Arabs lose all restraint and come after them on a large scale. Many Kurds and Shia Arabs are not waiting. The number of Sunni Arabs killed by death squads is increasing. The Kurds and Shia Arabs have thousands of names of Sunni Arabs with blood on their hands. The killers see themselves as avengers. But they may be the vanguard of a much larger wave of murder and destruction. Wouldn't be the first time there was a major ethnic cleansing in the region, but the United States does not want it to happen with over 100,000 American troops as witnesses. 


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