The Nightmare That Won't Go Away
November 27, 2005: Sunni Arabs are becoming increasingly nervous about their ability to remain in Iraq. To frequently paranoid Sunni Arabs, it's already beginning. In western Iraq, the attacks against terrorist strongholds, in Sunni Arab areas, continue. The military pressure has been constant on the terrorists for most of the year. The most recent attack force was smaller than earlier ones, with 400 U.S. marines and 150 Iraqi troops. But in addition to these joint operations, there has been increasing Iraqi police activity in the west. This also involves Iraqi army troops, and the latest version of the Iraqi secret police.
All this is being applied to Sunni Arabs who want to be back in power, with someone like Saddam Hussein (a ruthless Sunni Arab who knows how to take care of his own), back in charge. The current Iraqi security forces are dominated by Kurds and Shia Arabs (who represent 80 percent of the population.) The Iraqi security forces have evolved into a secret police. Most Westerners forget, or never knew, that every Arab nation has a secret police. Sort of a tradition, and a pretty nasty one. The secret police make up their own rules as they go along. All this business of constitutional protections and rule-of-law is alien to most Iraqis, as they have never experienced it. But most Iraqis have experienced loss at the hands of the Sunni Arab minority, want revenge, and are now eager to repay their tormenters in the same coin. Much to the chagrin of their American advisors, the Iraqi security troops are using "traditional methods" against the Sunni Arab population. This includes torture, arbitrary arrest, summary execution and holding people indefinitely without charge.
It's surreal to hear countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia and China complain about this, especially since most Iraqis are eager to stop the Sunni Arab terrorism any way they can. Saddam wasn't the only Iraqi to admire the way Russia and China maintain order (more lawless secret police and arbitrary use of law). To make matters worse, European media have a field day exposing this "American backed" work of the Iraqi security forces, and demand that the Sunni Arab minority be "protected" from the aggression of the "illegal" American occupation force and the "illegitimate" Iraqi government (which, while it represents the will of the Iraqi people, does not properly deal with the desires of the Sunni Arab minority.) If only those Americans would listen to the French, Germans and Russians, and bring back Sunni Arab domination. Not Saddam, but someone like him. And put American leaders on trial for committing the war crime of upsetting the status quo. Everyone's an expert when it comes to Iraq, but in the meantime, the situation is going to get worse.
The Iraqi government is organizing a force of 10,000 police and soldiers to launch a major attack on the terrorists (that is, the Sunni Arab population) before and after the December 15th parliamentary elections. The terrorists are playing into this by making more attacks on soft targets (hospitals, mosques and, last week a crowd of women and children receiving gifts of toys and candy from American soldiers.) The terrorists are slowly learning there's a difference between terrorizing a group, and just making them so angry that they will do great damage, perhaps even wipe out, their tormenters. To the Sunni Arab neighbors of Iraq, this has always been the ultimate nightmare. In the past, it never seemed possible that the Sunni Arab population would be driven from Iraq. But now, because of the Sunni Arab terrorism in Iraq, the "religious cleansing" of Iraq is becoming a possibility. For that reason, more and more Sunni Arab leaders, and even terrorist groups, are making peace with the government.
But this arrangement demands that the Sunni Arabs become active in fighting the terrorists. Many Sunni Arab leaders are reluctant to do this, for the terrorists have long gone after leaders who turn against them. Some are attacked or killed every month. However, while the terrorist groups may be reckless, many Sunni Arab leaders clearly see the patience of the Shia Arab majority growing shorter. Cleansing Iraq of Sunnis becomes more of a reality the longer the terrorists continue their attacks. You can see this happening already, as Sunni and Shia Arabs separate from villages and neighborhoods where they have long lived together, for safety from terrorist attack. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for Shia Arab and Kurdish secret police to surround exclusively Sunni Arab areas and move the population out of the country. This is a nightmare that many refuse to even acknowledge. But it's a common, if largely suppressed, part of Middle Eastern history. It's happened before, it can happen again.