Iraq: Desperate Measures


December1, 2005: The terrorists are getting desperate. They have resumed political kidnappings, something that fell out of favor after a flurry of it last year. Normally, nearly all the hundred or so kidnappings each week are criminal operations, often yielding as little as a few hundred dollars. But in the last week, four Western peace activists and a German academic were taken by a new terror group. Shia pilgrims were also seized. Since last year, when 41 Westerners were killed by kidnappers, people who are choice targets (foreign reconstruction workers, diplomats) improved their security to the point where the seizures stopped. So now the terrorists are going after "soft" targets. That is, people who support the terrorists (in the case of the peace activists, who want coalition troops out, which is the main goal of the Sunni Arab terrorist groups). Taking Shia pilgrims just inflames the passions of Shia gangs and militias, bringing more attacks on Sunni Arabs. Grabbing the peace activists actually helps the government, as it forces many Sunni Arab leaders to assist in negotiating to get the Westerners freed. This gives more Sunni Arab leaders more reasons to break with the terrorists, and make a deal with the government. These deals involve extensive discussions on who will get amnesty for crimes committed during Saddam's rule. Some Sunni Arabs even want to keep property they stole from Shia Arabs or Kurds during that time. In Iraq, you can't just say no, you have to discuss it at length. A lot of these discussions are going on right now, just judging from the mentions, in the Iraqi media, of various Sunni Arab leaders who are now negotiating. In the next two weeks, before the December 15th parliamentary elections, a lot more of these amnesty discussions are expected to get started.

Increasingly the Sunni Arab terrorist groups are seen, by Sunni Arabs, as losers. Even foreign Sunni Arabs are not volunteering as much as in the past. The core of the terrorism campaign are the technicians who can build the bombs, and the leaders, with cash, who can meet the payroll. Taking the lead from the Israeli experience, American troops have been following an increasing flow of intelligence, to hunt down the bomb factories, and the people who work in them. Each bombing gets gone over by a crime scene investigation team, and the identity of the bomb maker, increasingly, is determined. There are not too many of them, and the U.S. operations in western Iraq are taking them down, one or two at a time.

The use of roadside bombs, as seen inside Iraq, is a PR nightmare for the terrorists. Most of the bombs that go off, do not hit their intended targets, and end up killing mostly civilians. Since more and more of the bombs are set up in Sunni Arab areas (it's futile to try and do it in Shia Arab or Kurdish neighborhoods), the civilians who get killed are the very people the terrorists are depending on for support. The terrorists need that support, and without it, more and more Sunni Arab religious and tribal leaders start negotiating with the government. Whereas a year ago, many Sunni Arabs believed they could eventually regain control of the country, now the majority opinion is that one must cut a deal before a Shia or Kurdish death squad, or a war crimes indictment, gets you. While Iraqis love their illusions, when death or destitution gets really close, logic becomes more of a factor.


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