Iraq: It's All About Fantasies and Revenge

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October 11, 2006: Shia leaders, including even radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, are coming to believe their militias must be reined in if there is to be any chance of establishing a Shia-dominated regime in Iraq. Apparently they have begun to see that Shia death-squads have been radicalizing Sunni groups that were at least willing to acquiesce to Shia rule, thus feeding the violence in the country. How this will play with the more violent elements in the Shia militia remains to be seen. Even Sadr has reportedly been having trouble keeping control over the more hot-headed among his followers.
The basic problem is that, while there are still thousands of Sunni Arabs who believe they can use terrorist attacks to regain control of the country, the Kurds and Shia Arabs now have an overwhelming advantage in the firepower department. There is no terrorism to speak of in the northern Kurdish provinces. Kurdish border guards and police see to that. In most southern Shia Arab towns, it's the same. Strangers, especially if they look to be Sunni Arabs, are definitely not welcome down there. But in central Iraq, where Shia and Sunni Arabs live mixed together (with a few Kurds), it's easier for Sunni terrorists to get around. Well, it used to be easier. Now it's getting harder. More road blocks, and cops who are better at spotting terrorists, have brought down the number of terror attacks. Meanwhile, the Shia Arab death squads are increasing their operations. Death squads don't just kill, they also deliver letters to Sunni families living in Shia areas, telling the Sunnis to get out or die. As a result, there are fewer Sunni Arabs living among Shia. In the last three years, over a third of the Sunni Arab population has moved, either within Iraq, or fleeing the country altogether.
Many of the killers on the Shia death squads want all Sunni Arabs out of Iraq, dead or alive. It's largely a matter of revenge. For decades, Saddam had his own death squads working in Kurdish and Shia Arab areas. Over half a million were killed, and all of them had kin. There are plenty of avengers out there. There are three times as many Shia as there are Kurds, and for the Shia, the revenge is religion based (al Qaeda terrorists kill Shia partly for religious reasons), as well as political and personal. The violence in Iraq is all about power (the Sunni Arab minority thinks they can bully their way back in) and revenge (the Shia Arabs and Kurds want Sunni Arabs brought to justice, with or without a trial).
October 7, 2006: While serving in the Iraqi police may appear, if you believe media reports, to be a suicide mission, in fact, only about four percent of police are killed or wounded each year. That's still a lot of casualties, more on a par with wartime conditions in an army, than peacetime service in the police. But the Iraqi police know they are at war, and about four percent of the police force are 6,000 U.S. military and police advisors. In most of Iraq, the police face most danger from heavily armed and very violent criminal gangs. But in the largely Sunni Arab areas of central Iraq, there are also religious and Sunni Arab nationalists ("bring back Saddam") groups, that turn the job into a much more dangerous one. In some Sunni Arab towns, the police are under siege, spending most of their time inside fortress like police compounds. These are the places where Iraqi and American troops come in and search block by block for guns, criminals and evidence of terrorist activities.

 

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