Sunday, September 11, 2005

Revenge Killings Fuel Fear of Escalation in Iraq Revenge Killings Fuel Fear of Escalation in Iraq

Interesting LA Times article today that talks about a wave of Sunni and Shiite assassinations. These sectarian assassinations are a big worry. But if you read between the lines in the article, it appears that you have two different players here. On the one hand, you have Sunnis who are trying to ignite a sectarian war. By all indications, these are the former Baathists who are starting to really get hammered for participating in the indiscriminate bombings that have killed so many Iraqis.

In short, their one chance of salvaging anything in the new Iraq is to ignite a sectarian civil war, and then pull a coup to regain power.

But the reason that this has escalated recently is that time is running out for them. First, the joint Iraqi and U.S. operations on the west, esp. along the Syrian border, are having an effect of significantly reducing the infiltration of foreign terrorists, plus their bomb making, and, thus, the number of bombings in, for example, Baghdad has dropped noticeably in the last week or so. And secondly, the constitution and a new Iraqi govt. is pretty much on track, one in which the Sunnis are, for the first time in 100 years, not going to be in control (unless they can pull off a coup).

But they aren't the only ones who know this - which is why the major Shiite leaders work so hard to prevent this. Starting at the (clerical) top, they have made it clear that they believe that their best opportunity is with the new constitution, etc.

The article also mentions that the Badr Brigade is apparently involved in assassinating Sunni former Iraqi military who fought against the Iranians. I see the Badr brigade as interesting. It is mentioned as being allied with a leading Shiite party. But it apparently got a lot of training by the Iranians, and seems to be carrying out what appear to be Iranian directed hits. In other words, it is an Iranian proxy.

What complicates this even more is that the Badr Brigade is also clashing with the Jaysh al-Mahdi, a bunch of young firebrand Shiites who view the Badr Brigade as being pro-U.S. They are the personal militia of Muqtada as-Sadr. We last saw them fighting us and Iraqi security forces in Ramadi, Fallujah, Najaf, etc. last spring. They killed some of our soldiers, and we killed a lot of them. And then Grand Ayatollah Sistani brokered a peace where they would participate democratically. But there is some indications that they are working now with Sunnis in order to destabilize the democratization process. Last week, they claim to have burned down 48 Badr Brigade offices, killing some Badr militia.

So, what this is looking like is a three way battle, between Sunni Baathists, the Badr Brigade, and Jaysh al-Mahdi, with most Iraqis, at least now, sitting on the sidelines. Both the Sunni Baathists and the Jaysh al-Mahdi seem to want the democratization to fail, but for different reasons.

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