The Men Of The North Do As They Please
May 1, 2012: When it comes to fighting terrorism, one thing the Iraqis miss is the Americans and their ability to work together. Since the Americans departed last year, Iraq has been crippled by a multiplicity of security organizations and a lack of cooperation. There are 14 separate police, intelligence and military organizations, each with armed men, investigators and their own prisons. Three of these organizations work directly with the prime minister, six works for the interior ministry, three for the defense ministry, one for the national security adviser, and one for the intelligence service. This sort of thing is a custom in the Middle East, to prevent any one armed group from becoming powerful enough to take control of the government. The U.S. disbanded over a dozen of the Saddam era security agencies, but as the new democratic government of Iraq was created, many political, tribal and ethnic groups wanted their own security forces. Many of these groups are hostile with each other, and the lack of cooperation helps terrorist and criminal organizations survive.
Al Qaeda makes a point of directing many of its attacks at Sunni Arabs who have joined the security forces (either as a policeman or part of an anti-terrorist militia). This has caused many Iraqi Sunni Arabs to carry out a blood feud with al Qaeda, which makes it personal, potentially very deadly and not something you can just call off. The problem is that the current al Qaeda leadership in Iraq cannot decide what is more important; overthrowing the government or punishing Sunni Arabs who have joined the government. Meanwhile, a lot of the attacks on legitimate targets (Iraqi Christians or Shia, government facilities or security forces) are carried out by non-al Qaeda Sunni Arab groups who simply want Sunni Arabs running things once more. Most of the terror attacks these days are assassination attempts (usually unsuccessful) against Shia and Sunni leaders, in an attempt to intimidate these men to cooperate with a tribal, religious or purely criminal organization. Al Qaeda is but one of many groups killing people. But al Qaeda has more name recognition, and is blamed for more crimes than it actually commits.
Iraq and Kuwait have repaired their economic relations, overcoming decades of hostility caused by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Many Iraqis still believe Kuwait is Iraq's mission "19th province," but most Iraqis have come to accept an independent (and allied with the U.S.) Kuwait. Business needs are overcoming the bitterness of past misdeeds.
Despite the continued terrorist attacks in Baghdad, the government continues to remove the concrete blast walls erected all over the city from 2003 to 2007 to contain terrorist explosions. These days a lot fewer, and smaller, terrorist bombs are still going off, and most city residents want the walls gone. However it takes cranes and heavy trucks to do the work, and there is not enough of this equipment (or money to hire it) to get rid of all the remaining walls immediately. So some walls will remain for years.
The government will cut the pay of the remaining 40,000 Sunni anti-terror militiamen. Most of these guys get about $125 a month to perform security duties and not support terrorists. Four years ago, there were over 80,000 men on the payroll, for about twice the pay. While there are still lots (well, at least a few thousand) Iraqi Sunni Arabs supporting terrorism, fewer and fewer choose to kill in the name of al Qaeda. The once leading terror organization has fallen on hard times. The death of founder Osama bin Laden last year accelerated the decline. Since then the al Qaeda in Iraq leadership have urged members to spend more time carrying our criminal scams, because the organization was broke. Recruiting has been more and more difficult, and now there are public pleas for Sunni Arabs who joined government militias four years ago, to accept an al Qaeda amnesty and return to Islamic terrorism. Not many takers for that offer, partly because al Qaeda is seen as a bunch of losers, and partly because the government still pays some pro-government Sunni Arab militiamen and the growing economy provides more jobs. Follow the money if you want to find the truth.
It's partly because of the money that Iraq unofficially supplies Iran with goods and cash in violation of the international sanctions. Iraq also continues to allow Iran to ship weapons and people into Syria via Iraq. This, however, is becoming more difficult as armed rebels in Syria are increasingly active along the Iraqi border, as well as Iraqi Sunnis who sympathize with the Sunni rebels in Syria.
The government is putting more Shia border guards on the Syrian border, and this has resulted in more clashes with armed groups (usually Sunnis supporting the Syrian rebels, who are mostly Sunni Arab) moving in either direction. Usually, the armed men will retreat when border guards are encountered, and the guards will not pursue, especially if the infiltrators retreat back into Syria.
|"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.
It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.
Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."
John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.