Iraq: September 5, 2005

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It's official, Saddam Husseins trial begins on October 19th, with the death (by hanging) penalty in play. This is an explosive issue. Some 90 percent of Iraqis want to see Saddam dead. That includes the Kurds (20 percent of the population), Shia Arabs (60 percent) and many of the Sunni Arabs. But the remainder, and many of the "Death to Saddam" majority, want another dictator running the country. While a majority of Arabs back democracy, a powerful and violent minority believes that dictatorship is the only way to go. In Iraq, much of the violence comes from various factions fighting to determine which of them has the best shot at being the next Saddam. The major factions scrambling for this prize are the Baath Party (which long supported Saddam), al Qaeda, Iran supported Shia radicals SCRI and local Shia radical Muqtada al Sadr. There are many "democratic" politicians that would accept the job of dictator, if offered. But that's the problem with dictatorship, you've got to go out and fight for it, and take power by force. Most Iraqis would rather decide who will rule using a more peaceful process. 

The Kurds don't want to run the country, just the northern part of it, and the Kirkuk oil fields.  The Shia are tolerant towards this, the Sunni Arabs and Turks are not.

The battles in the Sunni Arab towns around Baghdad, and in western Iraq, continue to grow. The fighting is triggered by Iraqi police and troops moving into Sunni Arab towns. The local Sunni Arab gangs have to either fight, or submit to police searches. These lead to confiscation of weapons, munitions, money and military equipment, and the arrest of those involved in terrorism or other criminal activity. The police training system, built up over the past two years, is turning out thousands of police, and commanders, each month. These are sent right off, along with the growing number of Iraqi troops, to the rebellious Sunni Arab areas of central Iraq. The Sunni Arab terrorists, and their al Qaeda allies, have been able to slow, but not stop, this movement. One after another, Sunni Arab towns are turned into Iraq towns. The prisons are filling up with more and more "known criminals" (people earlier identified as behind terrorist attacks.)

Oil is the prize in Iraq. Despite years of poor maintenance and management, Iraqis oil exports are running at about 1.6 million barrels a day. That's about $100 million worth a day. About two thirds of the oil comes from the Shia dominated south. Most of the rest comes from fields around Kirkuk, a city on the border of the Kurdish controlled north, and claimed by the Kurds. Over 10,000 security personnel guard the oil fields, refineries and pipelines. There are currently about 25 attacks on these facilities each day. The vast majority of these attacks fail, but the damage done, and time required to repair it, slows down the refurbishment of the oil industry, and cuts the maximum amount of oil that could be shipped by 20 percent or more. 

 

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