What Do the Iraqi Insurgents Want?

(Washington Post) Hiwa Osman - The relative hiatus in violence in Iraq that took place after the January elections is over. In the week since a new cabinet was formed, about 250 Iraqis have been slaughtered in car bombings and other bloody attacks. The insurgents are actually several groups who possess different motivations and long-term objectives: those who were fired from their jobs in the military and other government institutions for being members of the Baath party but who don't really believe in Saddam Hussein's doddering old brand of Arab socialism, the die-hard Baathists, and the pro-al-Qaeda Islamist militants mostly under the command of Abu Musab Zarqawi. The foot soldiers who make up the Baathist part of the alliance have a military background. Many of them would gladly go back to their jobs in order to have a better standard of living and avoid risking their lives. Directing these lower-level combatants are the former high-ranking army, security, and intelligence officers of the Baathist regime. They have managed to reassemble some of their old spy networks, and their ability to instill fear is evident. Their goal is simple: The return of Baathist rule through a military coup. To do that, they are willing to make common cause with people who do not share their secular outlook. The Islamist militants have their own foot soldiers: supporters who have poured across the mostly open borders from neighboring countries. These people are particularly useful to the Baathists because they provide a supply of willing suicide bombers. Syria has been an important base and way station for these foreign fighters. Intelligence shows that after a typical jihadi decides he wants to fight the Americans in Iraq, he contacts mosques in Damascus known for recruiting mujaheddin for the holy war in Iraq. Often these recruitment campaigns are funded by senior Syrian officials. Syrian intelligence trains him on how to disguise his identity and how to handle explosives and ammunitions. An Iraqi journalist who recently visited Syria said being there felt like being back in Saddam's Iraq. "The place was heaving with sons of Baathists and former regime officials," he observed. Iran is also harboring and training members of other militant groups. Iran is assisting the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, a mostly Iraqi Kurdish affiliate group of al-Qaeda, and the Ansar Al-Sunnah, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Irbil that killed more than 50 people last week. One wants a return to rule by Saddam or some other Baathist; another wants a Taliban-style Iraq. But they're all waiting for the United States to leave.

2005-05-09 00:00:00

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