Iraq: Terrorists Provide Cure for the Arab Disease

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March 16, 2006: The government uncovered a plot, involving several senior Defense Ministry officials, and Sunni Arab terrorist groups, that planned to recruit over 400 terrorists into units that guarded the Green Zone in Baghdad. With terrorists in control of access to the Green Zone, the terrorists were going to attack the British and American embassies, take hostages, and cause general mayhem in an area containing many government embassies and American headquarters. That this plot was exposed is another example of the shift away from terrorist support within the Sunni Arab community. The al Qaeda strategy of attacking Shia Arabs, until a civil war began, proved to be a major disaster, one that many that al Qaeda continues to be oblivious of.

The Shia Arabs and Kurds control the police and army, and have been increasingly brutal in their search for the Sunni Arab terrorists who are killing Shia. There's also the radical Shia, especially in the police, forming death squads, and terrorizing the terrorists, as well as a lot of innocent Sunni Arabs. Al Qaeda believed that this sort of thing would cause a major Sunni Arab uprising against the government. But the Sunni Arabs are only twenty percent of the population, and scattered throughout central Iraq, intermixed with Shia Arabs and, in the north, with Kurds. Outnumbered four to one, and with their enemies better armed, and eager for revenge, the Sunni Arabs are becoming more cooperative, instead of more rebellious. In Western Iraq, long a thinly populated desert dominated by Sunni Arabs, the tribesmen boast of how many al Qaeda they have killed. Out west, al Qaeda thought they could terrorize reluctant tribes, into supporting the "rebellion," by killing tribal chiefs. This policy backfired badly, and now hundreds of al Qaeda members are either dead, or fleeing to Jordan, Syria or Iran.

While the majority of Sunni Arabs still believe they should be running the country, they are now resigned to the idea of democracy and majority rule. What the Sunni Arabs fear most is retribution for decades of Sunni Arab tyranny. Even before Saddam, Sunni Arab tyrants oppressed the Kurds and Shia Arabs. What makes Iraq so important is that this Sunni Arab tyranny is a common pattern throughout the Middle East, and much of the Moslem world. Sometimes the tyranny is based on religious differences, sometimes on class (basically feudalism). Change in this medieval state of affairs didn't even begin until after the Turkish empire was taken apart in 1918. After centuries of Turkish domination, the Arab world was told to rule itself, or at least try to. This effort at self-rule is still a work in progress. There have been many failures, in the form of long (often over a decade) civil wars, and even longer periods of rule by tyrants like Saddam.

It's been a tragic situation, as the political chaos has resulted in slow economic, educational and cultural growth. While countries like South Korea, China, Taiwan, India and Malaysia, that were behind the Middle East economically half a decade ago, and had no natural resources like oil to rely on, are now way ahead of the Middle East economically, educationally and in terms of scientific and technical accomplishment. This is the sort of thing that is now a hot topic in the Arab world, and has been since the fall of Baghdad three years ago. That was the tipping point for many Arabs. Not the fall of yet another hapless Arab dictator, but the way it was misreported and misunderstood by the Arab media, and many Arabs watching events unfold. It was embarrassing, and striking, with video of Saddam's Information Minister standing in Baghdad, insisting that the Americans were losing, while U.S. tanks could be seen in the background. This proved to be a decisive event for many Arabs. Dreams and illusions are nice, but they don't pay the bills. Blaming America, while lining up outside the U.S. embassy to get a visa and emigrate to the "land of the enemy," was now recognized as another symptom of an Arab disease. It was in the wake of Baghdad's fall that many more Arabs accepted that change had to come from within. Tyrants and culture were no excuse. The Eastern Europeans and Russians had stood up in 1989-91 and thrown out their communist dictators. They were all better off for it, and the point was made. You've got to do things yourself, and not wait for someone else to come along and save you.

Note that attacks against Kurds are practically non-existent. The Kurds speak a different language (one more closely related to English than Arabic) and have had over a decade, free of Saddam's secret police, to perfect their security skills. The success of the Kurds, especially in the law and order area, has not gone unnoticed. While the Kurds still have problems with warlords and strongmen, they have been voting, and prospering. The Kurds have largely kept the terrorists out and the prosperity in. Change in Iraq is not just a dream, there are successful examples nearby. It may be a while before Iraq becomes as prosperous and peaceful as South Korea, but at least there is movement in the right direction.

 

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