Iraq: Syria and Iran at Odds

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July 27, 2006: While Syria is rather strongly allied with Iran in supporting Hizbollah in Lebanon, this alliance is not so strong when it comes to the complex Iraqi situation. While the Iranians are supporting Shia radicals in Iraq, in the hope of installing a Shia Islamic regime there, Syria, although dominated by a Shia minority, is backing the secularist (Sunni) Baathist insurgents. Naturally, both countries remain hostile to the fundamentalist Sunni oriented terrorists (most notably al Qaeda) in Iraq. There have been clashes between Al Qaeda and some of its associated groups and the radical Shia Jaysh al Mahdi movement.
There appears to be rising concern in some circles that the Turks may intervene in force in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Of late PKK actions in southeastern Turkey, which is heavily Kurdish, have been on the rise. Although there are already some Turkish forces—reportedly under 2,500—manning observation posts slightly inside Iraq, they have not been effective in monitoring PKK cross-border movement. As a result, the Turkish Army has reportedly drawn up plans for a major (as in division-sized or larger) operation against PKK dominated areas in northern Iraq. Intel analysts believe the plans could be put into operation in the even of a particularly spectacular attack by the PKK The political consequences could be significant.
The U.S. is sending several thousand troops into Baghdad's Sunni Arab neighborhoods, to assist in hunting down terrorists. The Sunni Arabs feel more comfortable with American troops around, as the Iraqi army and police are dominated by Kurds and Shia Arabs. This new plan is supposed to take advantage of a greater willingness of Sunni Arabs to provide tips on where the terrorists are hiding. Cell phones, which are very popular and available, make this easier to do. In the last week, several terrorist cells in Baghdad have been taken down because of such tips.
July 26, 2006: Saddam Hussein's trial may seem farcical, but it is being watched with great seriousness by thousands of Saddam's former officers and officials. Like Saddam, these other fellows have blood on their hands, and their names are known to the government. While many have fled to Syria and Jordan, the majority are still in Iraq, and not willing to be taken alive, or at all. These men know how to use weapons, and terror. Intimidation comes easily to them, and the police usually back off when they confront a few dozen of them. While the prisons are full of these war criminals, the government does not want to start a larger round of war crimes trials until it is done with Saddam. That, however, is being delayed purposely by Saddam and his supporters, in order to delay any more such trials. This, in turn, has allowed for several rounds of negotiations between Sunni Arab leaders and the government over who shall have amnesty. Winding up this deal is being delayed by disagreements over letting some people, who ran terrorist operations during the last three years, walk. These guys insist that, either they get a pass, or they go down killing, and Sunni Arab leaders will move to the top of their hit list.
July 25, 2006: The Iraqi army is working on an expansion plan, to recruit and train another 15 infantry battalions, which would bring combat strength up to 128 battalions. The main reason for this is to deal with the Sunni Arab terrorist groups, and potential resistance from Shia militias. The army is considered more reliable, and less corrupt than the Interior Ministry forces (national police and various security organizations). For example, while the police are believed to be involved in some of the kidnapping, it's the army that increasingly rescues kidnap victims. Either alone, or while operating with American troops, the cordon and search operations, and raids, will often come across a kidnapper hiding place, and victims awaiting someone to raise a ransom.

 

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