Iraq: The Bomb Builder of Baghdad Bagged

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March 2, 2006: In the aftermath of the attack on the Golden Mosque, Grand Ayatollah Sistani has issued a call for the tribes to undertake security at religious sites, which many secularists view as a step backwards. Although hitherto a voice of moderation, Sistani appears to be under some pressure from subordinates to act in the face of continuing attacks on the Shiite community, or lose influence.

Sunni Arabs are also rallying around their mosques and communities to defend themselves against raiding Shia Arabs. The current Minister of the Interior is a Shia Arab, and he has allowed many units of the police (which are controlled by the Interior Ministry) to be staffed by members of radical Shia militias. This gave rise to death squads of Shia cops, who went out and killed Sunni Arabs that had killed for Saddam over the past few decades. Sometimes these guys killed the wrong people, and they usually didn't care as long as the victim was a Sunni Arab. One of the reasons the new government has not been formed yet is because the Sunni Arabs are demanding that the Minister of the Interior be someone who won't tolerate death squads, and the practice outside groups "owning" segments of the police force.

The dead in the rioting and reprisals that followed the attack on the Golden Mosque may have been over 1,500. The attacks occurred throughout central Iraq, wherever Shia and Sunni Arabs live together, or near each other. Kurds, who are numerous in the army and police, apparently got involved as well. The hatred of Sunni Arabs by Kurds and Shia Arabs is deep and widespread. Kurdish and Shia Arab leaders have preached tolerance. But in the wake of the Golden Dome blast, the sermons shifted more to self-defense and vigilance. Kurds and Shia Arabs remember how Saddam frequently attacked mosques before his 1991 defeat. After that, Saddam tried to recast himself as a defender of Islam. While Islamic conservatives exploited Saddam's conversion, most Iraqis knew the old Saddam was still there, and that his thugs were still on the streets, with murder in their hearts and blood on their hands. Destroying the Golden Mosque is seen as a stark reminder of Sunni Arab ruthlessness and terrorism. But this time, the victims can fight back, and many have, in hundreds of little attacks. Many of these actions were nothing more than emptying an AK-47 magazine in the direction of a Sunni mosque, or neighborhood. That might be followed up with an RPG or two, and maybe some hand grenades or mortar shells. There are still lots of weapons in the hands of civilians. And when you fire off that much stuff, people get hurt.

March 1, 2006: In the last week, Iraqi police have stepped up their raids, and have killed 35 terrorists and arrested 487 suspects. The U.S. forces have established an up-to-date database of Iraqi's most wanted terrorists and criminals, and the Iraqi police have limited access to this in order to process those they arrest. Some Iraqi police units are also equipped with the same tools American troops use, like the instant test for explosives residue (this identifies anyone who has recently fired a weapon or handled explosives.) Among those arrested by Iraqi police in the last week is al Qaeda leader Abou al Farouq, who was in charge of organizing terror attacks throughout most of Baghdad. Al Farouq is a Syrian, and the money man who decided which smaller groups got paid what to carry out the many tasks required to build, place and detonate roadside bombs. Many of the raids in the last week also uncovered bomb workshops and stockpiles of bomb making materials, as well as weapons, documents, communications gear and computers. The last item is particularly valuable, as American troops now have very capable computer forensics capability, and are able to extract useful information from encrypted, erased or damaged hard drives.

Iraqis were irked to see the foreign news stories of how Iraq was "on the brink of civil war." The Sunni Arabs are in no shape to put up a credible resistance in any kind of civil war. The government has more problems with Kurdish and Shia Arab public opinion, which is more inclined to treat the Sunni Arab population a lot more violently than is currently the case. This makes it difficult to rein in the death squads, particularly the ones in the police force, who go out and just kill actual, or suspected, Sunni Arab killers. When it is mentioned that the deceased was formerly a member of one of Saddam's many police and intelligence outfits, there is no hope of any follow-up investigation. It's going to take a generation for this hatred, of Saddam's many victims, and their families, towards the Sunni Arabs who did the dirty work for so long.

 

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