Crippling unemployment fuels insurgency in flashpoint city of Samarra


No Lifer
Jun 7, 2001
SAMARRA, Iraq (AFP) - Crippling unemployment is fueling Iraq (news - web sites)'s deadly insurgency in the flashpoint city of Samarra north of Baghdad, which remains under curfew after car bombs and attacks on police stations last week killed 36 and left scores wounded.

Sometimes, if the insurgents come to ask a young man to make trouble in exchange for money, he'll do so because the situation is very hard," said an unemployed construction worker who gave his name as Omar, standing outside a shop on a nearly empty city centre street.

Shopkeeper Taher, who also only gave one name, said there is no work in Samarra, where Iraqi and US forces launched a massive operation in early October to regain control of the city from insurgents.

After a two-day fight, US-led forces withdrew under an agreement to turn security over to Iraqi authorities. But a frightened and undermanned police force has failed to bring Samarra completely into line, leaving the Sunni Muslim-dominated city with only a tenuous hold on security.

"If there are jobs it would be hard for the insurgents to give money to fight," Taher said.

The US military estimates unemployment in this city of some 250,000 people runs as high as 70 percent. Tensions remain high nearly a week after the latest series of insurgent attacks, forcing US troops to keep a 24-hour presence on the streets.

Vehicles are only allowed on the streets between 10:00 am (0700 GMT) and 2:00 pm, while Bradley fighting vehicles rumble through the main roads and US troops keep watch over key intersections from the rooftops of derelict homes.

"Given enough money, some of these guys will carry an AK (assault rifle) and try to shoot us," said US Army platoon leader Lieutenant Warren Wessling as he stood at a dusty crossroads while army engineers fortified a nearby Iraqi police station under the guard of Bradleys.

US military officials higher up the chain of command acknowledge the devastating effects of joblessness on an already battered population.

One army captain said patrols have been given the authority to award contracts on the spot for small reconstruction jobs, worth a couple of thousand dollars.

This is an attempt to generate work and bypass lengthy military contract procedures that can take 40 days from the time a project is identified to the time money is released.

"We're getting the best results with our guys on the ground," the captain said, adding that over time residents start tipping soldiers off about possible threats.

"They'll tell us, 'Hey, there's a mortar team over there, or the guy in that house makes IEDs (improvised explosive devices)'," he said.

Wessling said the plan has had some successes, but military officials warn that joblessness and the insurgency are linked in a cycle of violence countrywide.

In meetings with military officials, Iraqi civil and religious leaders in several major cities have said unemployment is their biggest concern, said one military officer, requesting anonymity.

"Until you give these people something to do with their lives, they're going to be more likely to take that 50 or 200 dollars to take a shot at a coalition soldier," the officer said.
Interesting. Allawi claimed that Samarra was under Iraqi control right before his dog-and-pony press conference with Bush in D.C. last month. Then, apparently the U.S. regained control from the Iraqi government immediately after because our forces moved into Samarra after Allawi's statement.

Now the insurgency is on the rise after the city has been taken twice? How much longer will the bulk of America and the media sit idly by while the Bush administration commits one major fvckup after another??