Iraq: A Winning Strategy


November 13, 2005: Last week, several prominent Iraqi political and defense officials announced that the government would permit discharged lieutenants, captains, and majors of the old Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi Army to resume their commissions in the new national army. The response was mixed, but generally favorable. Now, Ahmad Abd Al-Ghafur al-Sammarai, one of the leading Sunni scholars and clerics in Iraq, and a prominent member of the Sunni Waqf (religious endowment program), has publicly urged former officers to rejoin the army for the good of the nation.

Iraqi police in the western province are suffering from very high desertion rates, due partially to officers getting tired of never receiving their pay, or receiving terrorist threats to their families. In addition, many men sympathetic to the insurgents may have been recruited, and have just gone off to join the terrorists now that they've been armed by the government.

In the first three months of this year, there were about 28 Iraqi casualties a day, versus nine for the Coalition (mostly U.S.) This has increased to 62 Iraqi casualties a day, and 18 Coalition. The reason is the much greater amount of combat in western Iraq, where American and Iraqi troops have constantly been in action chasing terrorist groups out of their safe houses and bomb workshops. This is possible because the larger number of Iraqi troops and police, especially in the last 12 months, has brought peace to most of the country. This allows more troops (Iraqi and American), to go and root out terrorist bases in Sunni Arab districts.

Recent surveys show 75 percent of those in the Kurdish north, the Mid-Euphrates region, and the south, feel safe in their neighborhoods. These areas have an aware and self-confident population, and plenty of police. But four of eighteen provinces have suffered 85 percent of the terror attacks. This includes Baghdad and Mosul, and 42 percent of the population. Twelve provinces (in the north and south), with fifty percent of the population, got only six percent of all the attacks. The terrorists know that they take much greater losses if they try to attack into the well-policed north and south. So they concentrate in areas where it is easier to kill Iraqis. This leaves most of the country to go about their business, and they do.

The peace has had a tremendous economic effect. Throughout the 1990s, Iraq's economy shrank. In 2002, it fell 7.8 percent, and dived 41.4 percent in 2003. But in 2004 it roared back 46.5 percent, and is on track for a 3.7 percent increase this year. A more telling statistic is the per capita income. In 2002 it was $802, which fell to $518 in 2003, came back to $942 in 2004 and $1,051 this year. A recent opinion survey showed 76 percent of Iraqi business owners expect economic growth over the next two years. In addition to peace in most of the country, the free market economic policies (replacing Saddam's state control of everything) have made it easy to start a business, and many Iraqis have done just that. Despite continuing corruption and meddlesome bureaucrats, an international survey on "Ease of Doing Business" placed Iraq at 114 out of 155 countries (way up from 2003), ahead of such booming economies like India. However, the economic growth has been uneven, with much more growth in the Shia south and Kurdish north. The Sunni Arabs in the middle know they are lagging. That's because there's plenty of Iraqi media to get the word out (44 television stations, 72 radio stations, and over a hundred independent newspapers and magazines), and a booming cell phone network (3.6 million in use, with three service providers). One of the news items is that, while 80 percent of the terrorist attacks are against coalition targets, 80 percent of the casualties are Iraqis. The coalition troops are much better at defending themselves, but the Iraqis are starting to fight back. In March of this year, police received only 483 tips (most coming in via cell phone), but this began to grow, reaching 3,341 in August and rising still higher into the Fall. Many of the calls from Sunni Arab areas were basically pleas for relief from Islamic radicals who were terrorizing towns and villages. So for most of this year, American and Iraqi troops have been moving through Sunni Arab areas, guided by tips from terrified Sunni Arab Iraqis.

The Iraqi terrorists have achieved their objective, but they have terrified the wrong Iraqis. The Sunni Arabs are the only ones who can support the terrorists, and they are suffering economic stagnation and horrific terror attacks. Al Qaeda has responded with more violence, and more strident pronouncements about what horrible things they will do to those who oppose them, especially Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Sounds like a winning strategy.


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