Iraq: Following the Money, and Finding It

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October 21, 2005: Money plays a big role in whatever happens in Iraq. For example, media reports of large numbers of Iraqi troops deserting their units are often based on the fact that many Iraqi troops are absent for up to a week each month so they can take their pay back to their families. There is no national banking system in Iraq, so commanders allow troops to go home to bring money to their families. Because many of the soldiers are Kurds or Shia Arabs operating in Sunni Arab areas, this journey can take up to a week. There's no such thing as mass transit, much less rapid transit, in Iraqi either. Commanders also realize that giving their troops more time off, helps deal with the stress of performing security operations in hostile Sunni Arab areas. Iraqi troops do not, like American troops, go home after six or twelve months of combat operations.

The battle against terrorists has long included searching for the money men. These are usually former Saddam cronies, who disperse millions of dollars a month to Sunni Arabs willing to take a chance and participate in attacks. Many lower level bagmen have been caught, but on October 19th, a major money man was caught. Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Hussein's half-brother, was arrested in Egypt several days after Syria, under pressure from the United States, expelled Ibrahim. Saddam Hussein ran Iraq as a family business, and many of his kin, who fled the country with billions of dollars, are bankrolling most of the terrorist attacks in Iraq. The Hussein clan know that their only chance of hanging on to their money, and their freedom, is to get Sunni Arabs back in control of Iraq. Without that, they eventually face eventual arrest and trial for the many crimes they committed in support of their leader. The Iraqi government is also looking to get the stolen money back.

Opinion polls show 75-80 percent of Iraqis support and trust their security forces (army and police). Most of this has to do with more troops and police out and patrolling. These forces are noticeably less corrupt, and more competent, than their counterparts who served Saddam. That accounts for a lot of the popularity. That leads to people being more willing to give tips about terrorist activities. These tips have led to more successful raids (seizing bomb workshops, weapons, explosives, bomb makers and terrorists in general) in the last few months, than all of last year. The newly proficient Iraqi police also played a major role in preventing any significant terrorists violence during the October 15th voting. The terrorists had tried to plant bombs in likely polling places (the exact locations of the polling places were not revealed until the last minute, to prevent this). In some cases, the terrorists guessed right, but the police and soldiers were ready, and searched polling places for these bombs, and found them all. This was a point of pride for the cops, and most Iraqis, who have never had efficient and honest cops. But the Iraqi police still retain some of the old ways. When it comes to raids, some Iraqis would prefer to get hit by U.S. troops, if only because the Americans are more disciplined. That means there is less likely to be any gunfire, or things missing from the house after the search is done.

 

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