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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Light at the End of the Iraq Tunnel?

There were some interesting events over the last few weeks in Iraq. As this USA Today states:
Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghad, is in the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area that remains a hotbed of armed resistance to the American presence.
However, even there, they seem to be progressing toward self-sufficiency in terms of security:
Officers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed a 10-minute drive away could hear the battle clearly. They offered help but the Hammad said it wasn't needed. The Americans did provide additional ammunition and weapons, including light machine guns.

After the battle, soldiers at the civil defense base proudly displayed a light machine gun and a pair of rocket propelled grenade launchers they had captured from the attackers.
As the Belmont Club comments in response to the USA Today article:
That when dying and bleeding, beset by the flower of terrorism, with pistol to set against automatic rifle and grenade, the Iraqi police did not ask for help from 82nd Airborne. They asked for ammunition.
In related news:
Now U.S. intelligence in Iraq has snagged a compact disc containing a strategic assessment possibly penned by Jordanian Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi may have served as a contact point for Al Qaeda, Baathist intelligence and Ansar Al Islam (the Islamist cadre based in north Iraq).

The New York Times saw and summarized the document. Its text asserts radicals "are failing to enlist support" inside Iraq and "have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving." It "laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge." Perhaps that lament echoes its author's experience in Afghanistan or north Iraq. Members of Ansar al Islam holed up in mountains near Iran, until the Kurds destroyed their base.

The Times reported this could well be an "inside account of the insurgency and its frustrations ... it also charts out a battle to come."

The document asserts one strategic solution to Al Qaeda's failure is to attack Iraqi Shias and start a "sectarian war" that will "rally the Sunni Arabs" to Al Qaeda. This war against Shiites "must start soon -- at "zero hour" -- before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis."

This document's desperation argues for its authenticity; in certain hothouse sectors, however, the fact that it suggests the coalition's strategy is successful demonstrates it's a phony. The Times' summary indicates Al Qaeda once again seeks an Arab uprising. In Mesopotamia, the Iranian, Kurd, Arab and Turk worlds collide. (Note these groups are predominantly Muslim.) The demographic tectonics get dicier. For eight decades Iraq's Sunni minority put a vicious boot to Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. Hence Al Qaeda's plan: Provoke the Shias into attacking the Sunnis, who then ally with Al Qaeda.

And the Americans lose, QED?

Not quite. Al Qaeda senses defeat unless it spills lots of blood very quickly. After Iraqis run their own government, U.S. troops will remain, the document says, "but the sons of this land will be the authority ... This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts." Iraq's new army and police will link with the people "by lineage, blood and appearance." Al Qaeda fears an American and Iraqi strategic victory -- a democracy defending itself against terrorists.
While the country could obviously still descend into civil war and/or chaos, I see enough glimmers of hope like this that I remain hopeful (though certainly not confident).

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