Iraq: You Can Look It Up


October 9, 2005: The U.S. released parts of some captured al Qaeda documents, detailing arguments within Iraqi terrorists over the damage done by their attacks that kill Iraqis and other Moslems. Some al Qaeda leaders believe that all those dead Iraqis are causing increasing resistance to Islamic terrorism. You don't need captured documents to know this, for there has been a very public debate among Iraqi Sunni Arabs over that point. Al Qaeda has become the most feared and hated organization in Iraq because of all the suicide bombings. This has resulted in nearly all the terrorist attacks taking place in central Iraq, where there are pro-al Qaeda Sunni Arabs. In the north and south, al Qaeda faces very hostile Kurdish and Shia Arab populations. The Kurds have had over ten years to build a security force that has blocked terrorists from getting in, resulting in very few terrorist attacks. In the south, there are many areas where Sunni and Shia Arab populations live side by side. This has provided al Qaeda some access to the south, but the level of terrorist violence is still much lower than in central Iraq.

The most interesting captured letter, from Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, to terrorist leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, reveals the extent of the disagreement. This letter shows that the "Al Qaeda in Iraq" operation is pretty much on its own, and that al Zarqawi does what he wants. Bin Laden and his crew can only plead for al Zarqawi to toe the party line. Al Zarqawi comes off as a homicidal maniac, determined to keep up the slaughter until, somehow, the situation turns around.

A week of raids and fighting in western Iraq have left at least fifty terrorists dead, and several hundred arrested. The terrorists try to get out of areas about to be raided, but the operations are often held at night, and with no warning. To insure secrecy, Iraqi troops working with the Americans are simply alerted that there is going to be an operation, and get the location at the last possible minute. Terrorist groups have enough money to bribe Iraqi soldiers and police for information. The surprise raids have uncovered a large portion of the terrorist infrastructure (bomb workshops, cash and documents, safe houses, weapons stockpiles). The terrorists are not as active as they used to be, and it's expected that, if the terrorists are not able to make a large number of attacks just before the October 15 voting, that will be proof of serious damage done to the terrorists.

Bribery works both ways. These sweeps through central and western Iraq, leave in their wake more Sunni Arabs who are on the American payroll as informers. The Iraqi police also have their own informant networks, and these become more useful once police have gained control of a Sunni Arab town or rural area. That is difficult, as the local anti-government forces in Sunni Arab areas is still strong. These groups may not be pro-terrorist, but they usually are hostile to a government they see as dominated by the hated (by many Sunni Arabs) Shia Arabs. Al Qaeda depends on that hatred of Shia Arabs to get support from many Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Such hatreds are common throughout the region, and have been a problem for centuries. Outside observers are deceived by long periods of apparent peace between different religious or ethnic groups. But the history of the Middle East is full of periodic flare-ups of brutality and violence when one group or the other feels they are being threatened. The Iraqi Sunni Arabs have run Iraq (or the area that is Iraq) for centuries, and they are very unhappy about losing that power to Shia Arabs (who they see as allied with the hated Iranians, who are not even Arab and have been the dominant military power in the region for over 3,000 years.) Losing power, and control of the oil money, as well as the threat of prosecution for atrocities committed for Saddam, has created enough manpower to keep al Qaeda going in Iraq. But it's a war, and al Qaeda is losing. Day by day, there are fewer towns where al Qaeda can set up shop, fewer neighborhoods free of pro-government Sunni Arabs who will use their newly acquired cell phone to report terrorist activity.

You can't ignore history in the Middle East, because people there have long, and vivid, memories. People will kill to avenge some ancient slight, and that's what's being played out in Iraq. Peace will return when the losers are beaten down by force and negotiation. Most Sunni Arabs have gone over to the negotiation side of things, and basically admitted that the new order is not likely to be changed any time soon. But the hardliners still have al Qaeda and terrorist fantasies of Sunni Arab supremacy in Iraq. The majority of Iraqis, and their foreign allies, won't let that happen. So it's just a matter of time before the shrinking terrorist force is reduced to the level of a minor police problem. That's the history of Iraq and the Middle East. You can look it up.


Article Archive

Iraq: Current 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close