Friday, August 26, 2005

The Cruelty of Mercy:
The Trouble With the Sunni Arabs &
The Potential For Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq

The August 22, 2005 post of StrategyPage.com has what seems to me an extremely cogent post on the current situation in Iraq between the three major ethnic factions in Iraq: Sunni Arabs, Shi'a Arabs, and Kurds. Normally, I would just reference good parts and send you there to read it. In this case I was hard pressed to find stuff less worth posting than others. But definitely check this site. It is loaded with good stuff.

What parts of this analysis do I not agree with? I don't agree that Iraq is already in a state of civil war. Much of the havoc is currently being caused by outsiders who want a civil war rather rather than by Iraqis. A real civil war will be open, declared, and will necessarily involve the ethnic cleansing DSD anticipates...it will be Fallujah in Baghdad (just as Sunni Arabs targeted Kurds in the first Fallujah seige). We haven't seen anything even analogous to that so far. So with out further discussion, here is the meat of the post:

The continued deadlock over the new constitution is yet another front in the war that was thought over in April, 2003. Defeating the Sunni Arab rulers of Iraq has proved harder than anticipated.

[The writer then gives reasons why the Sunni Arabs are so intractable...]

But there's another reason why there was no continued fighting in Germany and Japan...Germany lost over five million dead, Japan over three million...At the end of World War II, the civilians, who supported the dictatorships, had been hammered. They were beaten, and willing to accept new political arrangements. Such was not the case in Iraq in 2003. Smart bombs and a short war kept the civilian, and military, casualties low. There were less than 100,000 civilian and military deaths. The Sunni Arabs did not appreciate their good fortune, and, instead, saw an opportunity to continue fighting, to terrorize their conquerors and regain power. It's not working, and the Sunni Arab population is getting the pain they were spared during the invasion.

The Sunni Arabs are being threatened with worse. After decades of getting the majority of the oil revenues (for twenty percent of the population), the Sunni Arabs are being forced to accept a formula that will leave them with less than twenty percent of the oil income. This is because the Kurds and Shia Arabs, in whose territory the oil fields are, demand an extra cut of the oil revenue, in addition to that due them on a per-capita basis. This is considered compensation for the ecological burden of hosting the oil facilities, and compensation for the past (when the Sunni Arabs took all the revenue.)

Not all Sunni Arabs are willing to accept this deal, but it's pitched as an "offer you can't refuse." Should the Sunni Arabs refuse to cooperate, the implicit threat is war without mercy. The hatred of the Sunni Arabs, by the Kurds and Shia Arabs, is intense. Over three decades of Sunni Arab domination and persecution has left its mark, and there is not a lot of patience for continued Sunni Arab violence. The Sunni Arabs have escaped some of the responsibility by pointing out that the worst terrorist attacks are by al Qaeda. But al Qaeda is basically an extremist Sunni Arab religious organization.

True, most Sunni Arabs don't agree with al Qaedas goals of global domination by Islam. Most Sunni Arabs are not willing to abide by al Qaedas strict lifestyle demands. No one will say it out loud, but the implied threat is that, either the Sunni Arabs turn against al Qaeda and the anti-government terrorists, or have the Kurds and Shia Arabs (80 percent of the population) go to war with the entire Sunni Arab community. This becomes more a possibility as the Iraqi army and police forces grow larger.

The Sunni Arabs dominated the military and security forces for decades, but the Kurds and Shia Arabs are rapidly catching up. The United States does not want this civil war to happen, but has to deal with the fact that it already has. The terrorism of the last two years has targeted Kurds, Shia Arabs and government supporters in general. [It is not that until now] the Iraqi majority have not restrained themselves, but they have not had the military and police forces capable to striking back. Now they do, and the violence against Sunni Arabs has been increasing.The Sunni Arab leadership are trying to negotiate the best deal they can, before the Kurds and Shia Arabs lose all restraint and come after them on a large scale. Many Kurds and Shia Arabs are not waiting. The number of Sunni Arabs killed by death squads is increasing. The Kurds and Shia Arabs have thousands of names of Sunni Arabs with blood on their hands. The killers see themselves as avengers. But they may be the vanguard of a much larger wave of murder and destruction. Wouldn't be the first time there was a major ethnic cleansing in the region, but the United States does not want it to happen with over 100,000 American troops as witnesses.

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Apparently, some Sunni Arabs haven't learned yet that they won't get what they want with violence and threats anymore: Sunnis Threaten Civil War Over New Constitution
As the StrategyPage post exemplifies, the Sunnis are either bluffing or crazy in this threat. Only a Sunni Arab who knew for sure he could get himself, his family, and property out of Iraq would speak of civil war as a viable option.

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I've thought a lot about this subject, and if you care for more along these lines you can check out my previous posts on this subject:
Let's Talk About Civil War
A Bleak Scenario If the Kurds Declare Independence
The Shia Don't Rise To the Terrorists Bait



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