Iraq: Is Anybody Winning?


November 23, 2005: The Iraqi army expects to win another victory on December 15th, when it protects the voters during the parliamentary elections. The Sunni Arab factions that oppose the government have again pledged to stop the elections. The terrorists have failed twice so far this year to interrupt national elections. Each time they fail, they lose more support in their Sunni Arab base. For this election, the government will have over 200,000 soldiers and police in service. There's no reason to believe the terrorists will be any more successful in stopping the vote this time.

The terrorist campaign against pro-government Sunni Arab leaders continues. Yesterday, terrorist gunmen, disguised as soldiers, killed Khadim Sarhid al Hemaiyem the leader of the Sunni Arab Batta tribe, one of the larger tribes north of Baghdad. Three of al Hemaiyem's sons, and a son-in-law, were killed as well. Earlier this year, other members of al Hemaiyem's family were killed by terrorists. In the last week, terrorists have killed nearly 200 Iraqis. Most of them were Shia Arabs, but Sunni Arabs accounted for at least a third of the dead. The terrorists particularly like to send suicide bombers into Shia mosques and kill people assembled for worship. The terror campaign has not had the desired effect, for more and more Sunni Arab groups have openly backed the elected government. Even one of the Sunni Arab terrorist groups is negotiating a surrender to the government. The reason is simple; hatred. Every dead Iraqi means dozens more friend and relatives of the deceased are now very hostile to the Sunni Arab terrorists. The Sunni Arab terrorists, especially al Qaeda (which basically represents non Iraqi Sunni Arabs), have been quite open about trying to trigger a civil war between the Shia and Sunni Arab communities. While many Sunni Arabs insist that they are the majority in Iraq, even those that realize there are three times as many Shias, believe that God is on their side, and the historical success in dominating the country will carry the day for the outnumbered Sunni Arabs. What these guys have forgotten is that, in the distant past (16th century), the Shia Arabs were in charge, with the help of a foreign army (Iran). Now the Shia Arabs have an American army to help them out. The Sunni Arabs have under-the-table support from Sunni Arabs in neighboring countries, and semi-official support from Syria. The Sunni Arabs are losing. Can they win in the end? The Shia Arabs are not falling for the "let's have a civil war" bit, and are grinding down the Sunni Arab armed opposition.

Another week long offensive in western Iraq ended. A force of 3,500 troops (29 percent of them Iraqi) drove terrorist groups out of several towns, killing 139 terrorists in the process, and arresting over a hundred suspects. The next phase of the campaign, sending in police and troops to keep the terrorists out, is underway. These efforts have not always been successful, but over the last year, there have been more victories than defeats. Month by month, there are fewer areas where government officials require a heavily armed escort to visit. But as long as only a few hundred thousand Sunni Arabs support the terrorism, the attacks will go on.

American commanders carefully watch the progress of the Iraqi police and soldiers. Each Iraqi battalion has an American advisory team of ten soldiers. These troops report back on the abilities of the Iraqi troops and police, and the ratings keep going up. But it's slow. Iraq in particular, and the Middle East in general, have a long tradition of corrupt police and inept armies. Changing this is very difficult, even in a situation like this, where the Iraqis have a major incentive to do it right. Tradition trumps reality, which is an aspect of human nature we like to avoid studying.


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