Friday, September 23, 2005

*IRAQ: Why It's Getting Harder to be a Bad Guy*

September 16, 2005: The U.S./Iraqi offensive in Tal Afar has been more effective than anticipated, and terrorists are abandoning the area. It is unclear as to whether the dispersal of terrorist forces, who seem mostly to be local Sunni Arab tribal fighters and al Qaeda "Foreigners", is a planned response in the event of defeat or a spontaneous development. Whichever the case, the insurgents have abandoned large stocks of arms as well as some important infrastructure, including bomb factories and underground installations. The damage to al Qaeda was serious enough to elicit a public announcement from the terrorist organization, where it announced a new wave of suicide bombings, as revenge for the success of the Tal Afar, and related, operations. Apparently it was a case of "use it or lose it," with al Qaeda fearing that the continuing operations along the Syrian border and in western Iraq, would lead to more bomb workshops, and completed car bombs, being captured.

It was widely rumored that al Qaeda was building up a supply of suicide car bombs for use in early October, to try and disrupt the vote on the new constitution. Instead, the car bombings began on September 14th, with a dozen bombs going off in Baghdad, causing over 700 casualties, including at least 160 dead. Nearly all the losses were Iraqis, most of them Shia. The al Qaeda declaration made a point of saying that the attacks were directed against the government, and Shia Arabs who comprise the majority of it (and the majority of Iraqis.) Al Qaeda concentrates its attacks in Baghdad, because that's the capital, and because that's where many Sunni Arabs, who used to work for Saddam, and who are now out of work, live. These Sunni Arabs provide a network of safe houses, and helpers, for the suicide bombing operations.

Even though the intended targets are Shia Arabs, and government employees, many Sunni Arabs are getting hurt, and al Qaeda has become the most hated organization in the country. Even Sunni Arabs are now reporting terrorist operations to the police. Not enough to compromise all of the terrorist operations. But it's common now for the cops to know how many bombs are in play for a given day. And many car bombers are being intercepted before they can be used.

On September 15th there were two car bombs in Baghdad, directed at police, causing 17 casualties (seven dead). In Kirkuk there was a roadside bomb going off and killing two policemen and wounding four. Today, there was only a carload of Sunni Arab gunmen, firing on a crowd of Shia Arabs and killing two. In their three day terror campaign, which quickly tapered off, over 200 were killed, nearly all of them Iraqi civilians.

Most Sunni Arab leaders condemned the bombings, and hoped that there was not more retaliation attacks by Shia Arabs. Already, there have been several waves of these revenge attacks, leaving hundreds of Sunni Arabs dead. There is growing fear in many Sunni Arab neighborhoods, as they see the Iraqi
police grow more competent, and numerous. As at Tal Afar, Sunni Arab fighters are consistently defeated by American, and now by Iraqi (mostly Shia and Kurd), troops as well. Any illusions of "driving the foreigners out of Iraq", and then putting the Shia and Kurds in their place, are fading in the Sunni Arab community. While the illusion of Sunni Arab superiority, and right-to-rule, dies hard, the fear of revenge attacks against the Sunni Arabs grows daily. Many Sunni Arabs have blood on their hands, Shia, Kurdish, and now American blood. Worse, many of these Sunni Arabs are known by name to their victims families. Al Qaeda depends on these blood stained wretches for the core of their support in Iraq. These marked men cannot get amnesty or enter public life again. They can only wait for capture and trial, or a visit from a Shia or Kurdish assassin, out to take revenge for the death of a brother, father, son, wife or even more distant kin. The law of revenge still rules most of tribal Iraq. For the thousands of Saddams killers, unable, because of poverty or family obligations, to flee Iraq, they have to stay and fight. To either get back into power or die trying.

The Sunni Arab killers take heart in continued support from Sunni Arabs in neighboring nations. For example, Saudi Arabia has donated $105 million dollars to the U.S. for relief efforts associated with Hurricane Katrina. This is many times the amount of money that the Saudis have contributed to relief efforts in Iraq. Saudis secretly contribute support Sunni Arab terrorists, but not to rebuilding a country that is run by Shia Arabs and Kurds.

Meanwhile, in Tal Afar, the government is using a similar tactic that is weakening the terrorist organizations. Thousands of local civilians are being hired for reconstruction jobs. American civil affairs units have been most aggressive with this tactic, developed and honed over the last two years. Even while the fighting is going on, civil affairs teams are noting what infrastructure is in need of rebuilding, or is getting damaged. As soon as Iraqi police declare a neighborhood pacified, hiring begins to help unload and distribute relief supplies, rebuild roads and electrical systems, and do any other jobs that need being done. Workers are paid daily, and given one more reason to stay away from the terrorist organizations. Not that a lot of unemployed Sunni Arabs need much encouragement there. By now, it's almost impossible to get volunteers to attack the Americans, and prices to hire people for that work keep going up. Shooting at Americans is seen as suicide, because not only do the Americans promptly shoot back very accurately, but they then come after you. The Americans have those damn little planes in the sky, the ones with cameras, making it difficult for attackers to hide or get away. It's much easier to attack Iraqi police or soldiers. But these guys are now wearing body armor, and will counter-attack as well. Worse, the Iraqi police will start questioning people in the area, put up roadblocks, and hunt you down. It's getting so hard to be a bad guy in Iraq.

September 14, 2005: Two developments are likely to lead to a marked increase in the number of terrorist attacks over the next few weeks.

@ Ramadan: the Moslem "Lent" begins around October 4th and ends about November 2nd In the past two years terrorist attacks increased greatly, by about 25 percent in 2003 and nearly double that rate in 2004. The targets were most often Shia mosques and holy places, crowded with worshipers, leading to a high casualty rate.

@ Constitutional Referendum: On October 15th Iraqis will go to the polls to ratify the new draft Constitution. Results are expected to be announced about two weeks later. In the past, elections for the provisional government and delegates to the Constitutional convention led to significant increases in the number of terrorist attacks.

@ Revenge for recent defeats along the Syrian border, where Iraqi and American troops have cleaned out several al Qaeda and Sunni Arab terrorist bases.

Coalition and Iraqi forces are being beefed up for the referendum, in an effort to insure greater security. Nevertheless, the level of violence is likely to rise sharply over the next few weeks. The referendum has already led to some interesting political developments. Sunni clergy are urging their followers to turn out in great numbers, in order to deliver a resounding "No" vote on the new charter. In contrast, most Shia clergy are urging their followers to vote "Yes," though dissident cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has instructed his followers to be prepared to vote, while reserving a decision on whether they should support or oppose the constitution until the last minute, apparently in an attempt to gain some political leverage.

Over the past year, Sadr has "reformed" himself somewhat, trying to project a more moderate image, which includes reaching out to some Sunni leaders, urging less violent resistance to the "occupation," and even changing his mode of dress somewhat. However, Sadr is also suspected of being in contact with anti-government Sunni Arab groups. Twice, Sadr has ordered his gunmen to attack Americans, and twice his gunmen have been crushed. But the last time, it was found that Sunni Arab terrorist groups had come to the assistance of Sadr's men. For this reason, Sadr is seen as a man more concerned with personal ambition, than what is best for his Shia Arab followers.

In the town of Tal Afar, after five days of fighting, terrorists were pursued through the streets by Iraqi police commandoes. Several terrorist gangs were trapped in Tal Afar, which is on the Syrian border. The terrorists stood and fought, but that led to some 500 of them getting killed or captured by American troops. Now, Iraqi police are going house-to-house to find those who have tried to escape by pretending to be unarmed civilians.

Despite all the fighting along the Syrian border, American casualties in the last two weeks have been half of what they've been the last few months. The number of terrorist attacks is way down, and more of the combat operations are being conducted by Iraqi troops.

September 11, 2005: Many border crossings to Syria were closed in the last few days, as American and Iraqi troops continued making raids against terrorist groups in the area. The government banned any civilians from openly carrying weapons in the area, and those who did so anyway were arrested. There was some resistance, resulting in some 150 anti-government gunmen killed over the weekend, and several hundred suspects arrested. Several caches of weapons and bomb making materials were found, along with documents, computers and other equipment. Much of the action was in the town of Tal Afar, which several terrorist gangs had tried to use as a base. The escalating attacks on terrorist groups in Sunni Arab areas has led to a decline in terrorist attacks throughout central Iraq.

I have completely forgotten where I got this from or who wrote this. If you recognize it, please email me.

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