Friday, June 09, 2006

The selling out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the deal for a unity government 

After putting up a couple of posts this morning, I flew out to San Diego and then had a long dinner, and have only just come back to my hotel room and scrolled through a dozen or so news stories and blog posts of the raids in Iraq against al Qaeda, particularly the strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Of all of this, the passage I found most interesting came from a Stratfor analysis. It speculates that the betrayal of al-Zarqawi and the deal to fill the three remaining open positions in the Iraqi cabinet are connected($) rather precisely:

But the implications for al Qaeda are nothing compared to the implications for Iraq. Al-Zarqawi and the other jihadists have long been the most effective tool of Iraqi's Sunni community. Whenever negotiations among the Americans, the Shia, the Kurds and the Iranians have threatened to reduce the collective Sunni position, the Sunnis have played the al-Zarqawi card and literally blown something or someone up.

It is the only reliable card that they have had to play, and they have played it often and to great effect. The Sunnis have also known that if their position within the new Iraqi government is to be formalized and cemented, they would have to rein in al-Zarqawi and his jihadist allies. If they do not, there was no deal.

It strikes us as far more than a coincidence that within hours of the confirmation of al-Zarqawi's death, the Iraqi Parliament put the finishing touches on the new Iraqi government. Baghdad now sports an internationally acceptable, domestically chosen government that includes participation from all of the major sectarian groups.

Al-Zarqawi was attacked by two F-16s, each of which dropped a 500-pound bomb, not by a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone. Predators are dual intelligence-gathering/assassination tools. Pairs of F-16s are more likely to be used when there is pre-existing intelligence that results in a tasking. U.S. forces selected their weapon very carefully to be low on fragmentation or fire to maximize the chances of the quick recovery of an easily identifiable corpse. Al-Zarqawi was not found, he was sold out. A political deal was made, and the Sunnis have delivered on their end.

The only question remaining is how many other jihadists have 500-pound bombs in their immediate future?

There were 17 essentially simultaneous raids against al Qaeda in Iraq today, uncovering a "treasure trove" of new intelligence material. We may realize, when the dust settles, that today's victory was not the killing of one big terrorist, but the opening of a door, perhaps the door: Iraq's Sunni Arabs may have just come in from the cold.

UPDATE (8:30 a.m.): Stratfor is gaining confidence in the hypothesis that the Sunnis cut a systematic deal to take our Zark. From this morning's "geopolitical diary":
As we have been arguing for the past few weeks, we are now at the break point in Iraq. The Sunnis and Shia have reached a political settlement regarding the new government. The critical question has been whether the political settlement would translate into a shift in military operations. There could be no settlement without the Sunnis dealing with al-Zarqawi. The Shia hated al-Zarqawi with a passion -- he had been focusing on killing Shia more than Americans. Once al-Zarqawi was dealt with, the political settlement could proceed and immediately did.

Immediately after al-Zarqawi's death, the United States carried out 17 additional raids against his network. Clearly, somebody painted that network with exquisite care for the Americans. Whoever it was had to have superb intelligence about a highly compartmentalized operation. It is possible that a single person provided all this, but we find it more likely that it was compiled from a number of sources. To be more precise, our guess would be that the Sunni political leadership orchestrated the intelligence in order to allow the Americans to deal with al-Zarqawi while giving themselves plausible deniability in the Sunni community. There could be another explanation, but all this broke too neatly to be coincidence -- and, moreover, it flowed logically from the political situation. As we have been arguing, something like this ought to happen about now. It has. (emphasis added)

Stratfor has indeed long recommended a deal such as the one that now seems to have occurred, and deserves to take its victory lap. With all the different players, it probably was something of an open secret for some time in Iraq that a "mass betrayal" was on the table. Indeed, perhaps the prospect of that motivated al Qaeda's increasingly desperate measures to start a civil war, their only real protection against the Sunni leaders cutting a deal. Either way, a settlement like this would have taken a long time to negotiate, especially given the passions and histories of the people involved. Now we know what everybody has been doing the last six months.

As I have long argued, the cooperation of non-radical Muslims is the essential ingredient to winning the global counterinsurgency against radical Islamists. In order to secure that cooperation, it is in our interests that the vast majority of Muslims take a side. We must polarize Muslims and shrink the pool of neutrals. Yes, polarization creates more volunteers for the enemy, as "anti-war" activists always claim. But it also creates many more enemies of the enemy, which is a necessary precondition to victory in the wider war.


By Blogger Cassandra, at Fri Jun 09, 05:25:00 AM:

There you go, trying to think for yourself again TH... apparently you haven't been listening to the nightly news.

This is no big deal. In fact, if anything this tragic, endless cycle of retribution is really a crushing blow to the coalition - all it will do is enrage the freedom fighters...errr...insurgents.

Al Qaeda is no longer a major force in the WOT and anyway when you kill the leader someone else just takes his place.

But if we don't get bin Laden the entire war will have been fought for nothing.

/and then her head exploded...  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Fri Jun 09, 10:52:00 AM:

I wondered if the Sunnis hadn't decided to seize some legitimate power. I hope your (and Stratfor's) analysis is spot-on and that we'll start to see Sunnis turning from the insurgency to the government. If that happens, then there's hope.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Jun 09, 07:44:00 PM:

"It seems we still have another Bosnia on our hands here."

You more or less had me till this... Yugoslavia was a civil war waiting to happen. Aside from the centuries of ethnic enmity and full blown wars, there weren't shared languages, religions, or cultures. In Iraq, the differences are fewer and less severe.  

By Blogger M. Simon, at Sun Jun 11, 12:53:00 AM:

Slight correction.

The announcement of the new ministers came minutes after the Iraqi government made the Zman demise announcement.  

By Blogger Indigo Red, at Sun Jun 11, 02:58:00 PM:

As much as I would like to give credit to Task Force 145 for the events that lad up to the kill, I simply cannot. TF 145 worked tirelessly for the past few years trying to get close to Z, but it was never close enough for the kill.

Two months ago, a joint operational unit was assembled of Army Green Beret, British SAS (Tier 1), and Mossad. One month ago, this unit dubbed the "A-TEAM" and a field ops group called "The Untouchables" began tracking anyone who could led to Zarqawi. Rahman was the bad guy whom they eventually followed to Baquba and then to the farmhouse. The team had also been monitoring the cellphones of 17 other al-Qaida in Mesopotamia members who were not as carefull about comm use as Z or OBL. The near simultaneous raids were contigent upon killing Zarqawi.

Armed villagers of Hibhib on night patrol spotted 50-70 men dressed in all black and began firing at the intruders - the Untouables team. Return fire and a grenade killed an old man and a younger man at least. Fearing the jig was up and Z would again escape, F-16's were called in. One plane made it to the target while the other was still refueling.

Blackfive links to a CBS report to talk about the first -aid debate, but what was missed was this qoute at the end: "Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Cavalry said his men showed up at the site about five minutes after the blast and cordoned it off. He said a patrol was in the area already. "

I have included more info here as it became public than is in my original post at Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

The situation is still fluid and much of the details will be exsponged from the record for security, but the existence of a unit that was formed quickly for the singular purpose of killing a single person and getting the job done in only two months is, to my mind, the most significant sub-story to happen. THAT is the movie I want to see.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Jun 11, 03:33:00 PM:

All 12 man USA Special Ops direct action teams are called A-Teams. Other support teams are called B-Teams. That's not a nickname, though 'the Untouchables' would be.

Without any direct knowledge, I'd like to throw out that there are other, more sensitive and specialized units in the US Army that I think would be more likely for this kind of work than 'run of the mill' Green Berets, which are really intended for unconventional warfare.  

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