Category Archives: Iraq


BLOG 455

January 13, 2020



Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.


Egypt remains quiet as does Jordan. Lebanon still struggles under the grip of Hezbollah. The Ayatollah Supreme leader of Iran warned the leader of Hezbollah that American might strike him next after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. The media has been full of the story of the exchange between the USA and Iran with Iran’s tragic shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner. Tehran’s streets were filled with protesters screaming for the Ayatollah to resign because of the strike on the commercial airliner.

You might be interested to learn that the Christian population has grown in Israel. Over 177,000 new citizens moved in to make Christians 2% of the Israeli population. Three quarters of this population are Arabs. In the past year 2.5 million tourists came to Israel. No wonder tourism remains at the top of the list of Israel’s industries. My, my, does the Middle East ever give us something to think about.

You probably know that the third election for Prime Minister of Israel will be held March 2. The political upheaval in Israeli politics keeps the public in turmoil. The latest blow to Netanyahu is the ruling by the Knesset legal adviser that it is okay for their parliament to proceed with the immunity debate. Israeli Channel 12 political analyst Ammon Abramovitch reported, “I think Netanyahu can wave farewell to immunity.”

With charges of bribery and corruption hanging over his head, Bibi Netanyahu has sought to maneuver the Knesset into making him an exception to the law. Three charges of corruption hang over his head. Of course, many, many Israelis resent this attempt to make the Prime Minister an exception to the law and maintain it amounts to an admission of guilt. Will they vote that conviction? March 2 will tell us.

Netanyahu has been attempting to prevent the Knesset committee from being formed until after the March 2 election. His strategy is to hopefully win a majority of seats that would then vote to halt the charges from going forward. The entire matter is filled with almost more twists and turns that now exist in American politics.

Isn’t there someone, somewhere, to stand up and ask for the truth regardless of the political consequences? Like American politics, the pushing and shoving only discredits the politicians further and they are already at the bottom of the list of people who Americans trust.

Keep your eyes open. Much more to follow.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Iran, Iraq, Israel


BLOG 455
January 6, 2020



Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.


Could any country have more turmoil than is currently happening in the United States?

Yeah. Israel.

Two big stories grab the headlines. Of course, the bombing in Iran is blazing across the headlines because Iran has sworn the destruction of Israel. The other story is the continued struggle to elect a Prime Minister and get the government back on track.

Any progress on the Netanyahu-Gantz struggle? No.

On March 2, the next election will be held. Acrimony is already in the air. Making matters more complicated, Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration Wednesday night that he is seeking parliamentary immunity from prosecution was unprecedented and hugely dramatic. For the first time in Israel’s history, a prime minister now aims to persuade his Knesset colleagues to allow him to avoid being tried for corruption. And until they have made their decision, which could be months from now, he will not be required to stand in the dock at Jerusalem District Court and face the three charges of graft issued against him. But a second drama followed hard on the heels of the first, with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman immediately announcing that his party “will not be part of the immunity coalition.” Since Liberman has now declared that he and his party will not back Netanyahu’s bid for Knesset immunity, the prime minister’s gambit has instantly become significantly less likely to succeed. And if, as is more than probable, the prime minister anticipated that Liberman would not back his bid for immunity, his move stands as an act of desperation.

And then the pots are boiling in Iran with the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimaniby an American drone. Iran’s most public proclamations declare hate for Israel and the USA. What will they do to retaliate? If I knew, a military airplane would be waiting to swish me off to Washington, D.C..

On one side of Iran is Saudi Arabia with an equally strong hatred of the Iranians. On another side, Iraq is ruled only by uncertainty. The unexpected action of America has left the Iraqis in a real bind. Iran pulls the strings in that country, but American action could change everything overnight.

Recently General Kenneth F. McKenzie noted that more troops in the Mideast might not stop possible attacks by Iran. The world knows they are the number one exporter of terrorism across the Mid-East into Africa. Moreover Iran’s increased activity in their nuclear program remains a monster waiting n the closet.

No one seems to know what President Trump will do next. No one apparently knows what Hassan Rouhani will do in retaliation. The world is looking down a gun barrel.

Is that the way you planned to start the New Year? I don’t think so.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Iran, Iraq, Israel, The Middle East


BLOG 239 February 9, 2015

You may have picked up from the media that Israel made an air strike on Hezbollah in Syria that killed senior Hezbollah officials, six Iranians, and an Iranian general. What was a general from Iran doing in Syria with this terrorist group? You got it! If we didin’t know before, that’s a clear picture of how Iran is financing and directing Hezbollah as well as other terrorists groups.

General Muhammad Allahdadi was from the Revolutionary guard, the right wing military force inside Iran. It is believed that Allahdadi was planning deadly cross the border assaults against Israel.  Jihad Mughniyeh, who was also killed,  was known as a ruthless terrorist who had the direct backing of Iran. The head of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria and Iraq was also killed.

Currently, Northern Israel is on high alert. Revolutionary Guard chief General Muhammad Ali Jafri warned they will fight to the end until “this epitome of vice” (Israel) is destroyed –meaning Hezbollah will strike back –sometime. The military promised “ruinous thunderbolts” would fall on Israel. Of course, Israel is also blamed for all terrorism in the Middle East. No surprise there.

The question remains where and when Hezbollah will strike. The current situation signals that adherence to the 2006 Second Lebanon War agreement is wearing thin. If the terrorist group make a minor attack, Israel will respond tit-for-tat and that would probably conclude the current situation. A much larger assault and Israel would undoubtedly attack inside Lebanon. In that circumstance, all bets are off.

Can Hezbollah stand such an assault after the serious defeat Hamas suffered in the recent Gaza war. Even though the Hamas leaders are wealthy from the money flowing into their pockets that was meant for  Hamas, the organization is in serious trouble and losing ground in Gaza. Does Hezbollah want to risk the same defeat?

Hard to say.

Hezbollah is much larger, better equipped, and now better financed than Hamas was, but they are also strung out over Syria. Should Israel hit them full force, it might wreck their war machine in Syria. In such case, Israel would be hurting the Assad regime. Would they do that? It is known that Israel prefers the devil they know to one unknown and many of the rebels fighting Assad are worse than he is.  What a tangled mess the Middle East has become!

Again, Hezbollah could be taking a significant risk if they attempt to reach across the border as Israel would not hesitate to respond. The situation remains highly explosive and could ignite more regional conflict.

More is definitely to come.

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Filed under Iran, Iraq, Israel, middle east, Syria


BLOG 236 January 26, 2015

Nina Shea, director of Washington based Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom, recently noted that the goal of Islamic extremists to achieve total Islamization has virtually been met in Iraq. The former 1.4 million Christians are nearly all immigrants, refugees, or displaced persons in Kurdistan. The religious violence has reached a level that is beyond persecution. It appears that the correct label is now religious cleansing.

For the first time in its history, Iraq has become entirely Muslim. In addition to the Christians, the Yazudi, Mandean, and Jewish communities have all been driven out. Because the Christians were the largest non-Muslim group they became the recent targets for attack. One aspect of the tragedy is that Christians have worked and lived in Iraq back to Biblical times. Now, they are on the run.

Equally alarming is the West’s apparent ignoring of this situation. At one point, Christians in Iraq called for the creation of a special province for minorities. Called the Nineveh Plains proposal, the idea was largely ignored by policy makers in the West.

The situation is no better in Iran. While President Rouhani tweeted a Christmas “best wishes” to the followers of “the prophet Jesus Christ,” Pastor Farshid Fathi was experiencing his fourth Christmas in jail because of his Christian ministry in that country.

Open Door USA is an organization that seeks to prevent Christian persecution and stays abreast of what is happening across the world. They constantly chronicle who and where these violations are occurring. In their Top 10 list of persecutors of Christians are Iran, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are at the top. Of course, the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) now heads the list. An analysts for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, Dexter Van Zile said that ISIS must not only be defeated but be made to pay for murdering Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities. He emphatically insisted they should not be able to get away with these crimes.

The violence in Iraq against Christians prompted Pope Francis to say, “Your resistance is martyrdom, dew which bears fruit.”

The analogy is now being made between current religious cleansing and what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust. Some of the blame for these deaths fell on nations that would not allow Jews to immigrate during the crisis. Voices like Van Zile are calling for the world to pay attention and not let such happen again.

Western policy makers have failed to focus on the jihadists who are attempting to wipe out Christians. The time has come to wake up!

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Filed under Christians, Iraq, middle east, Muslims

Reminiscing on Labor Day

BLOG 216 September 1, 2014

September’s here and you get this day off to have time to sit back and reflect on the summer and the Fall ahead. Sip a nice cool glass of ice tea, put your feet up, and reflect on where we are on this day in 2014.

Do you realize that 100 years ago and four thousand miles away we entered the Great War in France? World War I took 40 million lives with 116,000 Americans dying in only 19 months. While the British attempted to minimize the American role, the USA contributed mightily to the successful outcome of the Allies. My question? After 100 years, has military conflict improved?

Last February, I was in Israel and visited the Dead Sea Scrolls monument that remembers the ancient Jews that lived by the Dead Sea and wrote of the conflict between the Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light. They had an important insight into conflict because the war with the Sons of Darkness has never stopped. Two thousand years later, we are still fighting the creatures of the night. World War I is both a long time ago and yesterday morning.

A week ago, an Israeli missile flattened a 11-story apartment building where Hamas military leaders lived. The sudden strike followed more rocket attacks aimed at Israel and signaled that Israel would not hesitate to make more audacious military forays into Gaza. As I predicted in a recent blog, Hamas held a victory rally after they accepted a cease fire proposal they had earlier rejected. What they were celebrating remains a mystery as they have been flattened like the 11-story apartment building.

That war probably goes on.

Twenty-one Egyptian soldiers were killed near the isolated Farafara oasis in western Egypt not far from the Libyan border. An attacking gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade into an ammunition cache that killed the soldiers and left four other wounded. Jihadist groups from Libyan continue to run wild. The struggle continues in Egypt.

We could wander off and ponder the lying Prime Minister of Russia who is currently attacking and fomenting strife in the Ukraine. But Putin is too far from the Middle East to ponder in this biog  –though the most ridiculous political statement of the last two centuries was George Bush’s asserted he looked into Putin’s soul and saw brotherhood. If he had really seen into Putin’s soul, Bush would have run for the door.

Another sign of the times was this weeks about-face by Syrian President Hassan Rouhani. Reversing himself, Rouhani stated the USA can never be trusted. He acknowledged Iran’s attempts to by-pass sanctions that they consider crimes against humanity. It is not clear exactly what Rouhani is expressing. Because the Obama administration has just imposed new sanctions intended to affect Iran’s nuclear arms program, Rouhani may be reacting in order to improve their position at forth-coming negotiations with the West. On the other hand, the hard-liners pelted him with eggs for talking with Obama and negotiating with the West. Rouhani may be trying to protect his backsides from violence against himself in Iran. Hard to say.

And I haven’t even mention ISIS in Iraq –

Well, on this Labor Day you might want to think about these conflicts. The Sons of Darkness still seem to be at it. Perhaps more than rest, we ought to pray.


Filed under Egypt, Iraq, middle east, Russia, War


Here we are! Our great national holiday and the big firecrackers are going off around the world – not in your backyard. The Iraqi Army on Saturday claimed to have pushed the Islamic extremists from a major city only 50 miles from Baghdad. Independent sources confirmed Tikrit’s government buildings and major road had been liberated but that’s about the only good news coming out of the government’s side of the war.

And guess what came out of Russia? Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued an ultimatum of sorts that Russia “will not remain passive” while jihadists push an offense in Iraq. More fireworks on the way?

Apparently, America’s lack of military response has been an attempt to increase the pressure on Malaki to resign and get a more inclusive leader in office who can run the country. Drone are in the sky but rockets are not hitting the ground. Into this vacuum, Uncle Vladimir Putin is now sticking his nose in. The Ukrainians told him they want involvement with Europe, not Russia. Obviously, he was more than hacked off. So, today Putin is sabre-rattling over Iraq. And oh yes, Ryabkov has rejected America’s position in supporting moderate rebels in Syria. Surprise. Surprise.

Actually, the man to look to for insight is Vice-President Joe Biden. From way back at the beginning of the Obama administration, Joe Biden had Iraq put on this plate. Many people see Biden as a bumbling sort of politician with a talent for saying the wrong thing. However, the current fireworks in Iraq may prove to be a vindication for Biden.

Back in 2006, Biden proposed dividing the country into three largely autonomous regions. At this time, that is exactly where the current fighting is going. The three areas would be Kurd, Sinni, and Shi’ite dominated. The Kurds are holding their own while the other two duke it out. When the speaker from the Peanut Gallery Dick Cheney interjects his negativity, Biden’s camp notes that it was the current Iraqi government who opposed keeping even a small American force in the country.

Actually, Iraq was divided into exactly these same three divisions before World War I crumbed the Ottoman Empire and clumsily created the current boundaries. Biden’s better idea was to return to these natural religious and political dividing lines. Currently, Biden is not blowing this horn in an effort to support the Obama administration’s attempt to create a unity government. Of course, that figures.

The problem is that the Obama State Department and John Kerry fail to recognizes the religious realities of the Middle East. As people like myself predicted months ago, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would fail. The same fate is now staring the Malaki government in the face. Malaki and company’s  religious differences with the ISIS are that the two sides are from two different planets (and the ISIS are little more than a religious extremist killing machine).

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Biden’s idea could make an important come back.

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Filed under America, Iraq, middle east

Iraq Blows Up!

Iraq is falling apart. At the risk of repetition for my faithful readers, I have already covered how the war between the Sunni and Shiite (Shia) factions is endless. What we are witnessing in Irag today is a return to a holy war.

Let me put this in contenxt.

The world has traditionally recognized three types of war: just, unjust, and the holy war. The unjust war is an assault in which for one side attempts to destroy the other. World War I was of this order.  The just war occurs when one side is clearly fighting to restore justice and stop the other from illegitimate aims. Beside of the violent objectives of Hitler as well as the Holocaust, World War II was considered just. The holy war develops when one side believes God has sent them on a divine mission. The Crusades were created by the Pope sending soldiers to reconquer the Holy Land in Medieval times.

Holy Wars are the most violent and dangerous form of combat.

In Iraq, the ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) have issued edicts stating the harsh terms under which they will govern under Sharia Law. They have already murdered government officals and police officers. ISIS kills relentlessly. They are unrelenting and purist in their religious objectives. Their ultimate objective is creating a caliphate, an Islamic religious nation spanning sections of Iraq and Syria. ISIS is fighting a religious war!

The Shia- Sunni conflict has remained at the epicenter of Islam due to the fact that it is not only persistent in ideological differences between Shia and Sunni sects, but also a disagreement about who possesses the rightful claim to political power. Although this conflict has been persistent within Islam for centuries, the rift between Shia and Sunni factions has only widened over time, creating a power struggle which became illuminated due to the 9/11 attacks and the emergence of Jihad as the defining aspect Islam.

The 2003 United States occupation of Iraq can be argued to have been the initiator of the rise of ‘jihadist’ movements within Iraq in the twenty-first century.  The U.S. invasion and occupation fueled the growth of Islamic militancy across the world and in Iraq. The American attack became a major instigator for the concept of Jihad affecting so much of the twenty-first century politics.

Today Republicans blame Obama for the deterioration in Iraq. They have forgotten Obama ran on a platform of stopping the war and getting soldiers out of that country. His position won the election. Americans had enough. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and all America did was stir up a holy war. Maliki’s incompetence and political  problems continue because he won’t allow  Sunnis in his government. Why are the Iraqi soldiers dropping their weapons and not fighting? Same reasons. No one trusts Maliki to be democratic and inclusive.

Can we at this late date make a difference? Not unless we want to nuke ISIS and kill everybody in sight. Of course, American will not do so. And so the war goes on and all we can do is decide between getting back into “their war” or same out of the fray.

Let’s hope the politicians don’t do something stupid.

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Filed under Civil War, Iraq, middle east


            With so many events exploding across the Middle East, one can almost pick any country and come up with a headline grabbing story. This past week, America closed all of its embassies in the area to avoid terrorist violence. Besides being prudent, the closings were certainly a symbol of the upheaval in the area. Instead of the term “World War,” we might call the Middle East fighting a “Zone War.”

            So, what’s happening in the Zone War in the middle of August?

For starters, the attacks of Sunnis on Shiites in Iraq reached new levels of violence. Saturday was Id al-Fitr, a holiday at the end of Ramadan, but the celebrations turned into a string of car bombs that killed over 60 people and wounded more than 200. These incidences were only the latest in a string of bombing that brought the death toll to the highest level in nearly five years. The United Nations reported that in July, 1,057 Iraqis were killed and 2,326 wounded. America left, but the war goes on.

In Yeman, Al-Qaeda continues to have a frightening foothold and the American Embassy remains closed. The United States considers the terrorist groups to be the most dangerous threat to American interests in the region. On Saturday, an American drone strike killed two militants in SouthernYeman. Four militants were traveling by car when the drone hit them. Two came out alive although one of the survivors remains in critical condition. In the past, drone strikes have proved highly successful in this region.  Last year, militants were driven out of a area they had seized in the southby such strikes.

In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood is struggling to exist. The group was thrown out of the country thirty years ago by Hafez Assad, the father of the current dictator. The Brotherhood was brutally crushed and finally massacred in the city of Hamas, The groups leadership were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. The downfall of the Brotherhood in Egypt has shaken the remnant now fighting against Basher Assad’s regime. In Syria, the organization has always been seen as a foreign. Today, it is viewed by the Syrian government as a branch of an Egyptian movement. However, the Brotherhood continues to supply relief to rebel held areas in the on-going war.  Last February, a Brotherhood newspaper was launched that is now distrubted in the rebel held areas.

The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the rebel rebellion emphasizes the struggle that the American government has in supplying weapons to the rebels. Most of these groups like the Brotherhood are enemies of American foreign policy and ideals. Arming them raises the possibility that someday we may be facing our own weapons shooting back at us.

And so the struggle goes on. Pick a country – choose a weapon – or simply throw a dart at a map of the Middle East. You can’t miss finding a battlefield in the Zone war.

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Filed under Egypt, Iraq, middle east, Muslims, Syria


            Anyone following events across the Middle East cannot avoid the constant theme that runs through every story. Violence never stops.

            After the seemingly endless war George Bush visited on Iraq, the proclamation was that we have now planted democracy. Really? This week a bomb exploded in a Sunni Mosque in Baghdad killing at least 13 people. Another attack at a funeral northeast of Baghdad killed three more people. Near evening a blast at the Khalid bin al-Walid mosque wounded 35 people. The fact is that Iraq has been experiencing the worst violence it has seen in some time. Of course, these are all Sunni mosques. The attackers were possibly Shiite militia. Sunni extremists and remnants of Al Qada just as frequently target the Shittes. The wars between the two Islamic factions only feed on the violence

Though unreported, Israel airplanes attacked a storage of antiship cruise missiles that Russia had sold to the Syrian government. On July 5, near Latakia (Syrian’s principal port city) the Israelis made an airstrike on Russia’s Yakhont missiles stored in a warehouse. Though the Israeli government will not discuss the attack, it is the third attack inside Syria this year. Pre-emptive strikes are never commented on by Israel.  However, they are prompted by concern that missiles will be transferred to Hezbollah. In January, Israel attacked a convoy carrying Russian made SA-17 missiles that were intended for Hezbollah. Of course, Iran sends weapons to Syria by flying through Iraq’s airspace.  My, my, who would have thoughts that Iraq would allow such a thing.

Of course, the drug of choice is violence.

Meanwhile the United States maintains warplanes and antimissile batteries in Jordan. American F-16s and Patriot missies are supposed kept in Jordan at the request of Jordanian military. We also know the CIA has been training Syrian rebels in a covert program to put more pressure on the Syrian government. Could it be possible that the United States also prefers violence as their drug of choice?

Of course, the specter standing in the shadows is Vladimir Putin. Russia is suppling all the weapons that keep the Assad Syrian government in the war against their own people. Russia’s economy directly prospers by the Syrian conflict. That old KGB agent Putin certainly understands how Russia can profit from violence.

Let us not forget Egypt where the military just deposed President Morsi. Of course Morsi was attempting to impose Islamic authoritarianism on the country. But even to this hour, his followers are confronting the Egyptian military and the bodies continue to be stacked up in the streets. Egypt can tall us a great deal about violence.

My point is basic. Violence only spawns violence and the Middle East is caught in a downward spiral. All attempts to stop the killing must be pursued with diligence. Lives are precious and talk is cheap. Forget the clowns; send in the peace doves. It’s time for action that counts.

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Filed under Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, middle east, Violence


            When Americans think of extremism, they conjure up ideas like the Jehovah Witness group going from house-to-house pushing their Watchtower magazines. A Mormon missionary riding a bicycles down the street wearing a white shirt and black tie with pants to match might come to mind. In the world of politics, the Left wing points to the Tea-Party types as the extremist while the Ann Coulter’s of the right point in the other direction. Depending on your viewpoint, you either like or dislike these groups. But you aren’t waiting in the bushes to shoot one of them if they come by your house.

            Extremism in the Middle East is an entirely different breed of cat. Shiites and Sunni are still killing each other over a difference of opinion about a successor to Mohammed that happened way over a thousand years ago. Westerns cannot make sense out of such hostilities.

Some years ago, I was in Jerusalem and had gone up to the Temple Mount. Near the Al-Aska Mosque was a large fountain used by Muslims to wash their hands and feet before entering the mosque. I was looking into the reflection pool when a Muslim man approached me and warned me to get out. I told him that I had as much right to be there as he did. My answer nearly got me assaulted and possibly killed. What I will always remember was the fierce, grazed look in his eyes. This “true believer” was ready to attack the infidel who had wandered across some imaginary line.

Can you imagine a Baptist in America threatening a Presbyterian for picking up a hymnal in one of their churches?

However, here’s how it is playing in Iraq today. Last week a suicide bomber killed 23 people inside a Shiite mosque during evening prayers. Looking like the rest of the worshippers, the suicide bomber simply sat down in the midst of the crowd and blew himself up. Since the beginning of April, more than 2,000 Iraqis have been killed in extremists attacks. These massacres have been the most sustained violence in Iraqi since 2008. What’s it all about? Just religious differences between the Shiites and Sunnis!

In the village of Sabaa al-Bour a suicide bomber in a Shiite mosque killed 14 people and wounded 32 others. Moreover, police officers are often the targets of these attacks. Not only driving explosive laden vehicles into police stations, the extremists often attack checkpoints.

The Al Qaeda followers in Iraq often assault the Shiite-led government in an attempt to undermine public confidence in this element.

The point? Americans paid no attention to this highly destructive factor and the meaning of religious extremism in their various forays in the Middle East. As we erred in Vietnam by not assessing how the natives thoughts, we have made the same error in the Middle East. To avoid these terrible clashes, we need experts to explore the mindset of the locals and how various groups differ.

We must not underestimate the potential of extremism to produce destruction.

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Filed under Iraq, middle east, Violence