Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sunni Side Down

The Sunni leadership in Iraq is attempting to emulate the IRA strategy of combining terror with political action - the "bomb and ballot box". It worked for the IRA, but won't for the Sunnis.

The Sunni leadership is now planning to compete in this weeks elections while continuing its terror (my ellipsis):

Defying expectations, (a leading Sunni pol) has ended his boycott of the US-fostered political process and is campaigning in this week's elections for a new Iraqi government.

It is...a tacit admission by some Sunnis that their previous tactic of boycotting the elections in the hope of derailing the process entirely was a mistake, leaving the group that ruled absolutely under Saddam Hussein virtually powerless.

After January's vote, Sunni politicians ended up with only 17 out of 275 seats in the country's national assembly, despite representing about a quarter of Iraq's 25 million people. Apart from Saddoun al Duleimi, the defence minister and a noted secularist, their influence was restricted to minor briefs such as regional affairs and the somewhat redundant tourism.

Giving a Sunni the Ministry of Tousim shows the Shai's sardonic sense of humor.

Since then, Sunnis have become paranoid that the new Shia-led government plans to crush them militarily and politically, doing what Saddam did to them when the boot was on the other foot.

"Even if the Sunnis get positions in the government, the resistance will carry on fighting," said an ally of (the Sunni pol).

The IRA technique has a political wing, which runs for election, and a terror wing that kills people. The political wing benefits because people fear the terrorists, and the terrorist arm gets political top cover - for example Blair's recent granting of an amnesty to all IRA killers on the lam.

The IRA's strategy paid off - its leaders are Members of the Brit Parliament, it runs the drug trade with impunity, and Blair's government has systematically and gone after the IRA's enemies - the Brit Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary.

This approach has been adopted with less success by the Palestinian terror organizations.

The IRA had these advantages:

1. The community that supported it was a large minority.
2. It had very powerful support from the US government under Clinton and from other Dem pols.
3. It had safe harbor across the border in the Irish Republic.
4. Its success did not threaten the existence of most Brits.
5. After the Tories got rid of Maggie, it was negotiating with two very weak men - John Major and then Tony Blair.

The Palestinians have been less successful with this tactic because they're a smaller proportion of Israeli citizens, their EU sponsors are weak, they offer Israel only death and destruction, and Israeli leaders are tough and brave.

The Sunnis are in an even worse position. They're only 20% of the population, have no external sponsor nation, their Syrian safe harbor is crumbling, they do threaten the existence of the Shia and Kurdish communities, and they face formidable Shia politicians. To make things worse, their enemy has the powerful external sponsor - Iran, which also offers safe harbor and political top cover (in the Arab world).

Things don't look good for the Sunnis.