Iraq: Passing Around The Pain

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November 2, 2009: While the dual vehicle bombing on the 25th was spectacular, it obscures the fact that overall violence is still down to a tenth of what it was two years ago (at its peak). Most of the terrorist attacks fail, in that they are stopped short of their objective by security forces. This results in much less damage and far fewer casualties (often only the suicide bomber is killed.) Thus the great public anger at the failure to halt the October 25th attack. Unacceptable corruption or incompetence are seen in play here, and people want scapegoats.

Speaking of vengeance, the government has ordered its first public execution (and the first such event since the fall of Saddam) to avert a tribal war. At issue is the demand for the public execution of a man who had kidnapped a neighbor's 11 year old son, demanded and obtained a ransom, then killed the boy (because he could identify his abductors) and tried to destroy the body with acid. The kidnapper and his victim were from different tribes, and the incident became a tribal dispute. Even though police caught the kidnapper, tribal custom demands a public execution to avoid a blood feud.

Crime is, for most Iraqis, a bigger problem than terrorism. There is an increase in vigilante activity, often in the form of tribal militias. The government has a hard time going after the gangsters, because when Saddam was in power, there were no legal rights and the justice system was a sham. If the local police suspected someone of being a criminal, they picked him up, or simply killed him, "for resisting arrest." While the government and people don't want to go back to that, they have a hard time shutting down criminal gangs that exploit the legal system with lawyers and bribes.

Nearly every day, there is factional violence in Mosul, resulting in dozens of casualties a week. Kurdish and Sunni Arab groups are responsible for most of the violence. There is less violence in Kirkuk, but the dispute is the same. The Kurds want control of both cities, but especially Kirkuk, and civil war remains a possibility if the matter is not settled by negotiation. There's a similar situation with the Sunni Arab community, which still provides support for Sunni Arab terror groups. While most Sunni Arabs want peace, this majority does not do much to stop the minority that makes the continued Sunni Arab terror attacks possible. While the Kurdish community (22 percent of the population) can defend itself against an attack by the Shia dominated security forces, the Sunni Arab community (10-15 percent of the population) cannot.

November 1, 2009: As of today, the alcoholic beverages are banned in the Green Zone (which the Iraqi government took control of four months ago.) This is a sop to the nationalists (it makes the foreigners suffer) and religious conservatives (if makes non-religious Moslems and non-Moslems suffer.) Passing around the pain is an old custom in this part of the world.

October 30, 2009: In response to the public uproar over the government failure to prevent the October 25 bombing, over 60 soldiers and police have been arrested. This included 13 officers, and all of them were involved with security in the area of the bombings. It's believed that some of the security forces were either grossly incompetent, bribed or working with the terrorists. That's the way it's often worked in the past.

October 26, 2009: The same al Qaeda ally (Islamic State of Iraq) that took responsibility for an August car bombing, took credit yesterdays as well. The government sees most of these al Qaeda terror groups as Sunni Arab efforts to restore a Sunni Arab dictatorship in Iraq.

October 25, 2009: In Baghdad, two vehicle bombs went off in the midst of some government buildings (Baghdad provincial headquarters and the Ministry of Justice). Over a 150 people were killed, and over 500 wounded. This was similar to an August 19 attack against buildings housing the finance and foreign ministries (that killed over a hundred). Security was supposed to have been improved after the August attacks, and there is popular anger at the government for failing to carry out their security promises.

October 23, 2009: The U.S. Army is shutting down the headquarters (the GRD, or Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers) that supervised over 5,000 American construction projects in Iraq over the last six years. There are still hundreds of projects underway, but the dissolution of GRD indicates that U.S. construction effort in Iraq are rapidly declining.

 

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