Iraq: Sunni Arabs Seek Mercy and Peace

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June 9, 2006: The war in Iraq is becoming more of a police operation. Although there are six times as many armed men fighting in Iraq, versus Afghanistan, there have been more air strikes in Afghanistan over the last few months, than in Iraq. Each month, more of the combat operations are all, or mostly, carried out by Iraqi troops and police.

June 8, 2006: Finally, six months after the new parliament was elected, the last three ministers were appointed. Negotiations with Sunni Arab parties had delayed the appointment of people to head the Defense, Interior and National Security ministries. The basic problem was that the Interior ministry, which controls the police, has become a haven for anti-Sunni Arab death squads. There are also lots of unofficial Kurdish and Shia death squads, hunting down Sunni Arabs who worked, and killed for, Saddam. These people are hardly helpless victims, as many of them comprise the core of the anti-government forces. But the death squads don't hold trials, or care much if they also kill innocent bystanders, or the wrong people entirely. The killing has been accelerated by al Qaeda massacres of Shia Arabs, in an attempt to start a civil war between Shia and Sunni. This was always considered a lame idea, because there has been an unequal "civil war" going on ever since Saddam was overthrown three years ago. Saddam's supporters kept fighting, and the majority of Iraqis (the Kurds and Shia Arabs) fought back. It was an irregular war now, with Saddam's army and secret police disbanded. But the Sunni Arab officers who ran the army, and all those Sunni Arab thugs who manned the secret police, were still out there, and still willing to kill. With American help, the Kurds and Shia Arabs got stronger, and now it's the Sunni Arabs who live in fear.

So the Sunni Arabs saw the issue of getting the right people in these three ministries as a matter of life and death. They wanted either Sunni Arabs, or non-Sunni Arabs who could be trusted to crack down on the death squads. The Sunni Arabs are resigned to a lot more war crimes trials, but anything is better than the death squads. How ironic, that after decades of using death squads against Kurds and Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs suddenly become "reasonable" once they get a taste of it.

The new ministers are general Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim Mifarji, a Sunni Arab, as defense minister, Jawad Bolani, a Shia, as interior minister (controlling the police), and Sherwan Waili, a Shia, as minister of state for national security.

June 7, 2006: Al Qaeda's main man in Iraq, Jordanian Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was killed by a pair of 500 pound laser guided bombs dropped on his safe house north of Baghdad. Seven other al Qaeda members died as well. Iraqi police were sifting through the rubble within minutes, and an American forensics intelligence team quickly showed up, recovering information that led to at least 17 more raids in the next few hours. Since Zarqawi is basically always on the run, he carries al Qaeda headquarters with him, in the form of one or more laptop computers and other records. Much of this apparently survived the bomb blast and was not encrypted, given the large number of raids that quickly followed. Those raids lead to more raids, thus a catch like this mushrooms out for quite a while. Although Zarqawi's organization was separate from the majority of anti-government activity (which is Sunni Arabs trying to regain the power Saddam lost), it still controlled hundreds of operatives, and millions of dollars in cash used to carry out attacks. The capture of all the data Zarqawi had with him is turning into a major defeat for the anti-government forces.

For better or worse, Zarqawis had been turned into the poster boy for al Qaeda resistance in Iraq. But Zarqawis hard core hatred for Shia Islam (always an al Qaeda mainstay), and his willingness to slaughter Iraqi civilians (Sunni or Shia), turned most Iraqi Sunni Arabs (and all Kurds and Shia Arabs) against him. While al Qaeda will play up the fact that Zarqawi was "martyred" for the cause, the fact remains that al Qaeda's man in Iraq got nailed, and probably with the help of Iraqi informants. It's another defeat for al Qaeda, which has been losing popularity throughout the Arab world over the last three years. Much of that loss resulted from Zarqawi's policy of killing Iraqi civilians (it was too difficult to get at American troops). As Zarqawi's circle of supporters grew smaller, it became easier to find him. He came close to capture several times in the last year, and at one point the Coalition commando task force pursuing him, believed he had fled the country.

But Zarqawi really had no where to go. Like bin Laden, he had a $25 million price on his head. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, collects that reward. Another potential problem is that the recipient may be a Sunni Arab that hated both Zarqawi and the current Shia/Kurd dominated government. It's possible that the reward could end up financing more attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. So keep an eye on this one.

 

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