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May 21, 2006

IN MY EARLIER POST on immigration and Iraq, I speculated that many of those leaving are Sunnis. Sure enough, StrategyPage reports -- as part of a comprehensive Iraq report that's worth reading in full -- the following:

Sunni Arabs are only 15-20 percent of the population. They used to be closer to 20 percent, but increasing numbers of Sunni Arabs have been fleeing the violence, and Iraq. Most missed are the middle and upper class Sunni Arabs who form the backbone of the Sunni Arab community, and the Iraqi economy and business community. Harassed by gangsters and terrorists, these Iraqis are giving up on the new Iraq, at least for now, and heading to nearby Arab nations or, for the most disenchanted, the West. To many Kurds and [Shiite] Arabs, all Sunni Arabs should be expelled from Iraq. For these bitter victims of Saddam's decades of abuse, Sunni Arabs have been the cause of most of Iraqis' problems, and don't seem to have changed their attitudes much since 2003. But many Sunni Arabs have changed their attitudes, and are trying to work out deals that will give them a place in a democratic Iraq. But first, the Sunni Arab community has to purge itself of its thugs and gangsters. This isn't easy.

Read the whole thing. And read this piece on tribal militias, too.

UPDATE: Brian Dunn thinks that the Sunni departures are a good sign: "The fact that backers of the Baathists are now leaving Iraq is not a sign that we are losing. It is a sign that the enemy is losing. They see little hope of running things any time soon and are getting out of town before the new cops come around with war crimes and human rights violation charges in hand."

That's no doubt true for some. Others, though, are probably feeling pinched between pressure from the remaining holdouts (who, like guerrillas in general, put the most pressure on their own people) and fear of Shia retribution on a fairly undiscriminating basis. True, that hasn't happened yet, and probably won't, but I can understand why people wouldn't want to take their chances.