Thursday, September 22, 2005

Our chance to humiliate al Qaeda in Iraq 

A couple of days ago we discussed al Qaeda's failed attempt to divide the Shiites. The Shiites united stand, we said, was evidence of al Qaeda's political failure. Indeed, there was mounting evidence that even stridently anti-American Sunnis were turning on Abu al Zarqawi.

Today's news is even worse for al Qaeda in Iraq. Moqtada al Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite, is threatening to "cut Zarqawi to pieces":
Riyadh Al Nouri, spokesman for the Shiite leader Muqtada Al Sadr, described Al Zarqawi's declaration of war against the Shiaas, excluding Al Sadr's trend, as "A division of the Shiite unity and an attempt of arousing sedition within the one sect." He said to "Al Hayat", "Al Sadr trend considers Al Qaeda organization and Al Zarqawi as the bitterest enemies." "In case he fell at the hands of the Sadris, they would cut him into pieces."

The Sunni insurgents are also turning on Zarqawi:
Close sources to armed groups stated that Al Zarqawi's withdrawal was based on an extreme tension in his relations with armed organizations working in Iraq after the statement of his declaration of war against the Shiaas.

The sources confirmed that Arab and foreign fighters, who call themselves Al Muhajereen (the immigrants), have received threats for leaving Iraq or being murdered on behalf of armed organizations, which have previously coordinated with them in a number of attacks, including the Wednesday operation in Baghdad, in which more than 150 citizens, mainly Shiaas, were victimized.

Reports of Iraqi armed groups, which have announced their rejection of Al Zarqawi's call for fighting Shiaas, have confirmed the growing scale of resentment among gunmen, with regard to the method in which Al Qaeda organization leads its operations against Shiite civilians instead of the Americans, the army and the police. The reports also confirmed that the resentment has developed into direct threats to the extremist groups for leaving Sunni regions and Iraq. Clans of Baath party and combat units from the former army have joined these organizations.

Iraq is turning into a geopolitical disaster for al Qaeda, but the Western press is so wed to its story of American failure that it is not reporting the humiliation of our enemy. That is not surprising, since the anti-war Left continues to propagate the opposite story. Juan Cole, for example, just four days ago published an email he had received that claimed that the insurgency was united:
Notwithstanding Al-Hayat's claim that Zarqawi and the Sunni resistance are not together, my street listeners claim otherwise. My folks are convinced that the two groups, broadly defined, are together, "100 percent" is the claim of certainty. It is hard to get a handle on this because people in Baghdad tend to lump all resistance groups, except for Zarqawi, into one large category.

Yesterday, Cole dismissed reports of dissension within the ranks of the insurgency as not "particularly credible," in part because they are "unsourced." No less "unsourced," though, than his email from "an observer" in Iraq.

If one believes the newspapers rather than Cole's emailer (and I am honestly not sure whom to believe, notwithstanding my suspicion that Cole, like me, tends to believe sources that reinforce his predispositions), there are several things that might be said about the insurgency in Iraq.

First, it consists of at least four factions that do not much like each other: Sunni rejectionists who do not cooperate any longer with al Qaeda, but which are still fighting anything to do with the current government, other Sunni nationalists who do cooperate with al Qaeda, al Qaeda in Iraq itself, and the Shiite militia controlled by Moqtada al Sadr (this last having theoretically refrained from hostile actions since its defeat in an Najaf last year).

Second, it is valuable to the counterinsurgency, including both the government of Iraq and the United States, that these forces do not get along and may be turning on each other.

Third, our strategic enemy in this war, al Qaeda, is not coming out of this battle for Iraq smelling like a rose. Whether this is because of the wisdom of American strategy, the persistence of Iraq's leaders (including particularly Ayatollah Ali Sistani), or the stupidity of al Qaeda's leadership, it is manifestly the case that the great majority of people in Iraq (including probably the majority of the 20% of Iraqis who are Sunnis) do not see al Qaeda as "the base" of anything. On the contrary, even if one believes that Iraq has been a "distraction" for the United States (and I do not count myself among those who do), it is increasingly hard to deny that it has also been very costly for al Qaeda.

Fourth, we must not miss this opportunity to humiliate al Qaeda in Iraq. That means that we must not withdraw no matter how loud the bleatings of the anti-war movement, and it means that we must continue to exploit our huge intelligence advantage to pursue al Qaeda's leadership (see this, for example, announced just today). Our victory condition need not be complete peace in Iraq, but it must be the manifest destruction of al Qaeda's organization and its allies in that country.

Fifth, proposals to adopt "traditional counterinsurgency tactics" (the "spreading ink blot," for example), however well-intentioned, will blunt our assault on al Qaeda. Therefore, even if they were the best way to defeat the insurgency broadly defined, they would deprive us of our chance to humiliate al Qaeda and should be rejected. Our objective must be to shatter the credibility of al Qaeda in Iraq. If we achieve that, we will not have to worry that the Sunni triangle will become a base for al Qaeda even if the government in Baghdad cannot exert total control over the Sunnis who live there.


By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu Sep 22, 12:29:00 PM:

Al Qaeda cannot win in Iraq. It's a meat grinder for them. It's really a question of time; whether they collapse soon (because Z Man is caught and torn to pieces) or they linger on with the occasional car bomb.

Why does anybody think that these lunatics can seriously defeat us? I mean they could defintely kick the s--t out of the NYT oped guys. I'd watch that on TV. But our Marines? Or pissed off Iraqis? I mean, please. They are signing up retarded people to kill themselves. They kidnap people to kill themselves. They blow up schoolfuls fo kids.

What do the Juan Coles of the world have in their head? You answer that. 30 years form now, no one will have heard of Juan Cole.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Sep 22, 05:36:00 PM:

This all harks back to the discussion on a previous post a while ago.

I took the position that breaking the enemy's will to fight is perhaps the #1 ultimate goal of any war.

That is indeed what you are advocating and I concur.


By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Fri Sep 23, 02:03:00 AM:

"What do the Juan Coles of the world have in their head? You answer that."

I believe there are two basic memes at battle in the world.

One that thinks of Rights, Liberty and Responisiblity as the inalienable attributes of the Individual.

The other believes that Society should be run for the Greater Good by an Oligarchy of the Elite, which always seems to include them oddly enough.

From this perspective Jaun Cole and the rest of the Extreme Left and the Jihadist Fanatics are working for an eventual Society that is structured Identically the same. They only disagree as to who should be at the top running things.

They TOTALLY agree that the US with it's concept of egalitarian liberties is the mortal enemy of them both.

A primary goal of both groups is the destruction of our Culture as we have it now.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Sep 23, 04:41:00 PM:

We are losing the propaganda war here in the US.

If we do lost it and withdraw, the terrorists will win a great victory in Iraq.

I dunno how to win the propaganda war. No one in the Military seems to be willing to devote the effort needed to actually fight on that front here in the USA.

The last hope I see is that Bush does not give in to the cut and run position.

If I believed in God I would pray.


By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Sun Sep 25, 07:54:00 AM:

It seems to be an endless cycle.

We attack, they attack, we attack, they attack

We recruit, they recruit, we recruit, they recruit

We die, they die, we die, they die.

No one is going to win, people. Not us, not them. Just a bunch of losers standing around, too many of them dead.  

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By Anonymous Ali, at Wed Jan 25, 05:27:00 PM:

Ok, I'm a British student aged 16 side-tracked from a politics essay for the last 2 hours after google gave me this page as a result! Its not bad, you guys have dwelt mainly on the idea that al Qaeda are busted and done for in Iraq as a matter of certainty. I'll allow for the fact that you posted your comments half a year before mine, but it is evident now that you were too happy with your conclusion to face the reality.
Cardinalpark, you should edit your comment. Its actually a few bombs a day, and don't look up how many US Marines have died in Iraq 'cos it ain't pretty. Juan Coles is outrageously biased, but him being wrong doesn't make you right. I'll just add here that al Qaeda being wrong does not make the US right. To evaluate the situation, imagine a US .50 cal blatting on your own street in the middle of night and your mum is shot dead in her sleep through a wall. You won't be a happy bunny and you'll want revenge. Your mum has cousins, brothers and nephews. All these men are pissed off at the US and have easy access to weapons. You will naturally find it hard to see the negative edge of your own force's actions, but you must have the mind to be empathetic with people in this situation.
Dan, you're close. To win a war, you need to attack at its source. I personally see that as being the supply lines across from Syria and Iran (which are now thinner because al Qaeda bombed Damascus, alienating Syria), and the recruitment of rebels. Stopping recruitment is harder than just letting al Qaeda annoy everyone. For this, the US needs to use only the minimum force necessary on insurgents in populated areas. This will keep more of the locals on your side than if you had bulldozed your way in. Also, the people need to be content with their political system to remove the incentive of illegal action.
Your second point Dan (if its the same Dan), is slightly irrelevant and wordy, but not bad. The US gladly helped the mujahdeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, on the grounds that one's enemy's enemy is one's ally. In the same way, hatred for each other or not, all groups of the insurgency will still fight the coalition.
'Anonymous', notable here is the lack of mention for a propaganda war in the Iraq, but there no doubt already is one being fought if common sense prevails. The political backlash in the US would be far too great to back out, after all, this would concede to the organisation that murdered thousands of Americans on 9/11.

The bombings against shias have evoked the same reaction as intended: sectarian clashing. This is aimed at creating a civil war, which would make Iraq too unstable for politics and the US will have lost its new objective of forming an arab democracy. Please remember that the first objective, the removal of weapons of mass destruction, was never necessary.
The only step forward is to better the political system there, so that the large majority feel represented, to train the Iraqi security forces well, and to gently put the squeeze on rebels so that innocent civilians aren't caught up and killed unnecessarily. This may lead to more US deaths in the short run (no, they're not invincible) by using less firepower, but in the long run there would be fewer US fatalities because there will be no army fighting them. If you actually want an example of unreasonable US military action, maybe look at the US bombing of weddings in Iraq, or the US bombing of a village in Pakistan. In each of these cases, troops could well have dealt with the situation. They would have seen that the Iraq wedding was not a gathering of insurgents and wouldn't have had much trouble offing the 3 or 4 al Qaeda members in the village. Thanks for your time. emailaliclark@yahoo.co.uk  

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