Iraq: Why No One Can Trust Anyone in Ramadi

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May 12, 2006: The terrorist groups contain a lot of technically expert people, who have made use of modern electronic technology. Cell phones, wi-fi, encryption, and expertly produced videos and Power Point instruction material on how to be a terrorist, abound. But more and more stories are heard in the coffee shops about how smart ass young terrorists got their comeuppance when the Americans, the acknowledged masters (and often inventors) of these technologies, used this edge to catch or kill the terrorists. All Iraqis know about the jammers American convoys have, because these damn things shut down most wireless devices until the American vehicles pass. American troops know that, an Iraqi holding a cell phone and trotting away from them, is not a terrorist ready to set off a roadside bomb, but some guy trying to get out of range of the jammer, and keep his cell phone connection.

As one would expect, American technological innovation went beyond responding to terrorist efforts, like using wireless devices to set off roadside bombs. Terrorists have found that using cell phones for anything can be dangerous to their health. U.S. efforts in this area are highly classified, but Iraqis, in general, and terrorists in particular, have noted that the American techie spies can't be everywhere. But where the American wizards are, you are in big trouble. The Americans appear able to find terrorists using "untraceable" cell phones, and track their movements. Some terrorist cells have stopped using cell phones, or even walkie talkies, on operations. Hand signals and runners (often children) are used to communicate. This slows things down, but is preferable to having the Americans listening in.

But even preparations for terror attacks are often subject to American "wizardry." In several cases, terrorists using wi-fi networks, found the Americans have gotten through the passwords and encryption. Again, for security reasons (and not letting the remaining Iraqi terrorists know who was still in play), detailed info on which terrorist groups were down, why and how, and which were still under attack, is kept secret. But the word gets around on the street (often embellished, as is the Iraqi custom, for greater entertainment value), about more and more safe houses and workshops of terrorist cells getting raided. These were often groups that had remained free, and grown prosperous, engaging in criminal and paid terrorist operations for over two years.

In some towns outside Iraq, like Ramadi, Sunni Arab anti-government ("bring back Saddam") groups are losing out to al Qaeda. While al Qaeda has been driven out of most Sunni Arab towns, in Ramadi, al Qaeda has concentrated its forces and is fighting the secular anti-government groups. The secular Sunni forces have been taking some heavy blows from Iraqi and Coalition forces, on the one hand, and al Qaeda on the other. Al Qaeda is trying to leverage Iraqi/Coalition success, to strengthen its own campaign to take over the anti-government activity in Ramadi, through assassinations, kidnapping, and intimidation of secular Sunni Arab anti-government leaders.

The government and Coalition commanders are not doing anything to help this process, as they go after whoever they get a lead on. There are, however, suspicions that some useful leads have been phoned in by al Qaeda. This is an old technique in military history. During World War II, the war in Yugoslavia saw the various partisan groups spending more time fighting each other, than against the Germans and Italians who were trying to control the country. Indeed, during World War II, more Yugoslavs were killed by other Yugoslavs, than by Germans and Italians. Ramadi is following the same pattern, as are other anti-government Sunni Arab cities. The Coalition and the government wants to pacify these places, but these towns are full of dozens of family, clan, mosque, tribe and gang based armed groups that hate each other more than they hate Americans or a democratically elected government. There's a blood lust that has developed in these places, a war fever that will only go away once enough of the gunmen have killed each other off.

 

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