De Ja Vu in Baghdad
New attacks in Iraq are not down to ‘die-hards’ any more than they were in 2004 –They’re caused by unemployment, poverty and by a cycle of violence also involving the other side./
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is repeating a Bush administration mistake in a new form in assuming that the new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq is down to Al Qa’ida die-hards rather than mass unemployment, poverty and a cycle of violence caused by both sides(1).
Al Qa’ida is not the only force in Iraq contributing to civil war. The vast majority of Sunni insurgents have never been Al Qa’ida but Sunnis fearing Shia dominance and repression. The Coalition forces after the 2003 invasion initially used Shia militias to target Sunnis – including civilians – for “detention”, torture and death, mistakenly viewing them all as “pro-Saddam die-hards” and “Saddam loyalists” (2). A couple of years later the US military and the Bush administration did a u-turn, deciding that a Shia dominated Iraq would be an Iranian dominated one and hired Sunni “awakening” militias to target Al Sadr and other Shia Iraqi nationalist and fundamentalist groups (though strangely not the Iranian backed Badr brigade – perhaps Iraqi nationalism has been the real target in a divide and conquer strategy by the occupying forces, rather than Iranian influence). (See this page and this one and the source notes and links on them for more information and sources on the links between unemployment, poverty, sectarian violence, organised crime and terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere).
The new wave of suicide bombings coincide with the US ending funding for the sunni militias to fight for them and the Iraqi government – and the mostly Shia Iraqi government attempting to disarm the Sunni militias. With many Sunnis who were in the awakening militias made unemployed – or at least moved to jobs which won’t pay their previous wage of $300 a month - the result is similar to the earlier decision to disband the Iraqi army – lots of unemployed or poor people with weapons but not enough money looking for a way to make a living – and fearing being victims if they aren’t armed (3). Organised crime can overlap with sectarian violence – sectarian politics giving a cover for kidnapping for profit. Sunnis have been the targets of Shia death squads just as former members of Saddam’s forces inside Iraqi government forces have tortured and murdered Shia - and Shia have been victims of Sunni suicide bombings (4), (5). Working for any group that will pay them to fight for it – including Al Qa’ida in Iraq – is another option. Indeed some of the Sunni awakening militia worked for Al Qa’ida before the US offered them more money. They may now return to it unless the US and the Iraqi government think again and provide them with paid jobs. (Again see this page and this one and the source notes and links on them for more information and sources on the links between unemployment, poverty, sectarian violence, organised crime and terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere).
In 2004 then Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi warned “More violence will cause more violence and this will be an endless spiral.” (5). His words remain as true today as they were five years ago. I’d only add that making more Iraqis unemployed or only giving them very low-paid jobs that won't give them an income they can survive on will have the same effect.
(1) = Guardian 25 Apr 2009 ‘Hillary Clinton says Iraq suicide bombs are sign of extremist fear’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/25/hillary-clinton-iraq
(2) = BBC News 11 Jul 2005 ‘Profile: Iraq's Wolf Brigade’,
(3) = Guardian 02 Apr 2009 ‘Iraq disbands Sunni militia that helped defeat insurgents’,
(4) = Guardian 20 May 2005 ‘British lawyers to pursue Iraqi security forces over killings’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/20/iraq.uk
(5) = Times 07 Jul 2005 ‘West turns blind eye as police put Saddam's torturers back to work’,
(6) = Guardian 08 Apr 2004 ‘Battles rage from north to south’,