March 10, 2006
Political developments, where’s the civil war, and Operation Tribal Chivalry launched in Anbar - by tribal sheikhs?
President Talibani has pushed the political process forward by calling for the new parliament to convene on March 19, and the contentious debate over the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance's choice of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari will come to a head. A majority of the Parliament, a coalition of the Kurdish parties, the Sunnis and the secular party of Allawi rejects Jaafari's selection. And while this does not get much attention, there is a significant element of the UIA which dislikes the selection of Jaafari, as they feel he will beholden to Muqtada Sadr, whose party provide thirty votes to allow Jaafari to win a narrow 64-63 vote within the UIA selection process.
General John Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander, warns of an increase in sectarian violence, but believes the threat of civil war, while still possible, is capable of being contained by Iraqi security forces, "There's no doubt that the sectarian tensions are higher than we've seen. And it is of great concern to all of us. It's my belief that the security situation in the country, while changing in its nature from insurgency toward sectarian violence, is controllable by Iraqi security forces and multi-national forces." It should be remembered that sectarian violence is not civil war, and the Middle East and the greater Islamic world is rife with such violence. Countries such as Nigeria, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, thailand and others suffer from such sectarian strife.
As the fitful political negotiations and fears of a civil war continue in Iraq, al-Qaeda is attempting to step up its campaign to incite a sectarian conflict and a wider civil war. Reuters provides a snapshot of today's major attacks throughout Iraq. Suicide and car bombs are the weapons of choice, and the attacks are increasingly being directed at Iraqi security forces and sectarian targets. The locations of the attacks are in the heart of Iraq, and civilians are increasingly caught in the crossfire.
The murder of civilians and the targeting of Sunni leaders have pushed Sunni groups to fight back against al-Qaeda. The Associated Press provides further details on the Sunni tribes efforts to eject al-Qaeda from their territory. Sunni politician Abul-Rahman Mansheed, who represents Hawija, has boldly declared opposition to al-Qaeda, "Under my leadership and that of our brothers in other tribes, we are getting close to the shelter of this terrorist... We will capture him [Zarqawi] soon.
Thirty nine propane tanks were found in the house where a large weapons cache was discovered in Al Anbar Province. The tanks had the bottoms removed to make room for them to be made into improvised explosive devices. The cache discovery was made by Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. Photo by: Cpl. William Skelton
The success in Anbar can be directly attributed to the year long operation to clear the region of al-Qaeda and the insurgency from isolated strongholds, and operations persist to this day. Outside of Fallujah, the 'Outcasts' from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, conducted a three day operation which netted what is believed to be "some kind of IED factory and safe house," along with numerous munitions and materials used to create roadside bombs.
The Associated Press also reports tribal leaders in Anbar province have launched Operation Tribal Chivalry to round up al-Qaeda fighters in the region. According to Osama al-Jadaan, a tribal chief of the Karabila tribe, "So far we have cleared 75 percent of the province and forced al-Qaida terrorists to flee to nearby areas." While these claims should be taken with a grain of salt, again, the open declaration of war against al-Qaeda by Sunni tribes and insurgent groups provides an indicator of al-Qaeda's popularity in the region, and is a major ideological victory.
Because of the campaign against al-Qaeda in Anbar, al-Qaeda and Zarqawi are said to "have begun fleeing Anbar province and Ramadi, its capital, to cities and mountain ranges near the Iranian border." Zarqawi has proven to be quite elusive, and the latest rumor of his capture has yet to pan out. He was last believed to be in the Hamrin region of north-central Iraq.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 10, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
WTF is wrong with those assholes? If they would just remove religion from the equation they could have a smooth ride. Troglodytes!
March 13, 2006
Terrorism and Counterterrorism Activities in Iraq
A wave of bombings in Sadr City; al-Qaeda operatives arrested, some claims are a bit optimistic to say the least
A series of six bombs were detonated at markets throughout Sadr City in Baghdad, the stronghold of Muqtada al-Sadr. The attacks killed over 46 and wounded over 200. The profile of the attack matches that of an al-Qaeda operation - coordinated suicide bombings aimed at soft targets designed to stir up sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites. One of the suicide bombers is described as "African." African al-Qaeda make up a significant number of al-Qaeda in Iraq's foreign fighters, with about 25% of those captured and 10% killed being identified as African fighters.
C.S. Scott of The Security Watchtower's postulates that Sadr may have colluded with al-Qaeda to conduct the attacks, as security in Sadr City recently transferred to the Iraqi Army's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Division. This can be a power play to discredit the Iraqi Army and allow Sadr's Mahdi Army militia to play a larger role in the security of the city. If the attack was al-Qaeda only driven and designed to bring the Mahdi Army to the streets, Sadr has not taken the bait as he declined to deploy his militia; “I could order the Mahdi Army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don’t want that."
After the attack, Iraqi President Talabani warns of the threat of civil war, and urges the Iraqi politicians to push the political process forward, and resolve the issues preventing the formation of a unity government. As the Iraqi politicians continue to haggle over the formation of the government, the terrorists and insurgents will only be emboldened to strike in order to create further divisions and distrust.
The terrorists have not been able to attack without consequence. The much maligned Iraqi police have arrested suspects in the murder of the station manager of Iraqiya television and his driver. The Mujahedeen Shura Council took credit for the killings; “We consider this channel a mouthpiece for the government... which was always eager to broadcast lies about jihad (holy war) and the Mujahedeen in order to please the Crusaders (US forces).”
The newly formed Anbar Revenge Brigade, which is made up of the various tribes of Anbar province who wish to hunt down al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed to have killed four leaders of al-Qaeda and a leader of Ansar al-Sunnah. Last week, Sheikh Usama al-Jadaan, a Karabila tribal leader made yet another extraordinary claim, that “tribesmen had captured 1,700 terrorists of Syrian, Jordanian, Yemeni and Algerian nationalities." This trumps the previous fantastic claim of 270 al-Qaeda rounded up several weeks ago.
As with the last report, the claim of such a large number of al-Qaeda rounded should be viewed with skepticism as this has not been confirmed by Coalition forces in the region. The Marines and soldiers stationed in Anbar province would be witness to these actions, and the likely fallout from such a struggle, as al-Qaeda jihadis would not meekly submit to being captured on such a large scale. And then there is the logistical problem: where are these terrorists being jailed? But, it should not be overlooked that the tribes in western Anbar are eager to curry favor with the Iraqi government, and are willing to go on the record and oppose al-Qaeda.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 13, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
Monday, March 13, 2006
The recent past, revisited
With the war in Iraq now being referred to as a "civil war" instead of an insurgency, it's interesting to note this story from the New York Times. Entitled Even as U.S. Invaded, Hussein Saw Iraqi Unrest as Top Threat, the NYT article begins:
The rest of it goes on to describe how Saddam's military apparatus was primarily designed as an instrument to keep internal order, and that insofar as it looked outward, it gazed fearfully at its giant neighbor to the East -- Iran.
One of the reasons both the US and the EU hesitated to intervene in Slobodan Milosevic's genocide in the Balkans was because it was characterized as a "civil war"; a conflict of immemorial hatreds in which it would be useless to intervene. Even at his speech marking the Dayton accords, President Clinton portrayed events in the Balkans, not as the result of an organized conspiracy revolving around Slobodan Milosevic, but from an underlying geopolitical fault. "When I took office, some where urging immediate intervention in the conflict. I decided that American ground troops should not fight a war in Bosnia because the United States could not force peace on Bosnia's warring ethnic groups, the Serbs, Croats and Muslims."
Not unsurprisingly, the same civil war theme has been used to describe the lack of options in Darfur. In US to Sudan: We can't clean it up, ABC News reports:
The power of the "civil war" theme is that it provides an automatic rationale for withdrawing from the fray, especially if intervention is supposed to have 'caused it' in the first place. Rebranding Iraq as a civil war puts it in the same category of hopelessness as the former Yugoslavia and the Sudan. The NYT story is important to bear in mind when reading recent articles such as these, authored in March 2006 by former President candidate Gary Hart, who argues that the US Army is about to be annihilated in the Iraqi civil war.
Recently one of Islamic Shi'ites' most revered sites, the golden mosque in Baghdad, was destroyed by sectarian enemies. By this act and the reprisals that followed, Iraq moved a substantial step closer to civil war. Though a remote, but real, possibility, an Iraqi civil war could cost the United States its army.
Hopefully, leaders are planning for this possibility. If sectarian violence escalates further, US troops must be withdrawn from patrol and confined to their barracks and garrisons. Mass transport must be mustered for rapid withdrawal of those troops from volatile cities in the explosive central region of Iraq. Intensive diplomatic efforts must be focused on preventing an Iraqi civil war from spreading to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Such a potential could make the greater Middle East a tinder box for years, if not decades, to come.
But the first concern must be the safety of US forces. It is strange to contemplate the possibility that the greatest army in world history could be slaughtered in a Middle East conflagration. But prudent commanders have no choice but to plan for this danger.
In greatest danger are the units in the Sunni central region cities. They are in real jeopardy if tens of thousands of angry Sunni and Shi'ite citizens, supported by their sectarian militias, surround and then overrun those units before they can be withdrawn.
(Former Senator Hart unsuccessfully sought the Presidency in 1984. Walter Mondale received the Democratic nomination that year, but was defeated by Ronald Reagan)
posted by wretchard at 3:04 PM | 10 comments
This explains the sudden apperance of the "Civil War" theme amongst Democrats and the Main Stream Media. It bears no relationship to anything happening IN Iraq, its their latest tactic to package a cut and run and nothing more...ArmdLbrl
March 15, 2006
"Civil War" & Where's Zarqawi?
Sectatian violence does not a civil war make, and has anyone heard from Zarqawi lately?
As further sectarian violence surfaces in Iraq, the predictions of civil war increase. Over the past few days, scores of bodies have been uncovered in the Baghdad area, many showing signs of torture and execution-styled murders. In an attempt to improve the standing of the Iraqi Police, an agreement has been struck for the Iraqi Army and police forces to conduct joint operations. This is a clear indication the Interior Ministry is under pressure to clean up its police forces, as well as an admission that the Iraqi Army is viewed in a far better light by the Iraqi people than the police forces.
But sectarian violence, while a troubling and a destabilizing development, does not equate to civil war. Many established democracies are rife with sectarian strife, including India, the Philippines and Indonesia. This isn't intended to excuse the killings in Iraq, but it should be understood that there are very real problems throughout the world in established democratic countries. al-Qaeda is attempting to stir up sectarian violence and create the conditions for a civil war, but the political process, while frustratingly slow, is moving forward and the Iraqi Army and police forces, while far from perfect, have not cracked.
While the focus is on the sectarian strife in the major population centers, a real civil war is occurring inside Iraq - between al-Qaeda and their erstwhile Sunni allies. A representative from the newly created "Anbar Revenge Brigade" claims to have killed "20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers," including "a number of the Arabs including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Jordanians." Unlike prior inflated claims, these numbers should be considered reasonable. Strategy Page reports numerous sensitive al-Qaeda documents have been found, including a "death list" and "many of the names on the list are of Sunni tribal and religious leaders who have been less than enthusiastic in their support for al Qaeda. Sadly, a number of those on the list have already been slain." It is these tactics which have spurred the creation of the Anbar Revenge Brigade.
In the atmosphere of open warfare between al-Qaeda and the Sunnis, questions are beginning to arise about the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. SITE Institute's Rita Katz notes that since the Mujahideen Shura Council was formed in Iraq last month, Zarqawi has been virtually silent; "A few days after the council was established, Al Qaeda in Iraq ceased to post communiqués. Abu Maysarah temporarily signed the new council's communiqués, but then he, too, stopped. The baffled jihadi community initially believed that Zarqawi headed the new council. But on Jan. 20, the council posted a communiqué crowning its emir: Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi." It appears the Sheikh of Slaughters is no longer a welcome face in Iraq.
Ms. Katz further postulates Zarqawi's departure was spurred on by Zawahri's letter to Zarqawi to "Iraqify" the jihad and continue the plan to expand al-Qaeda's operations into the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel). There's one problem with this: al-Qaeda believed it was vital to establish a rump Islamist state in Western Iraq as a base of operations, but has failed to do so. Zawahiri was quite clear in his letter to Zarqawi as to the gameplan (which also coincides with al-Qaeda operations chief Saif al-Adel's vision of jihad in the Middle East):
It seems al-Qaeda has not been greated with flowers and parades, and their plans are in disarray. The fact is al-Qaeda has not expelled the Americans from Iraq, and their attempt at creating an "Islamic authority or amirate" was crushed in Anbar province during the summer and fall of 2005. News of al-Qaeda's flight from Iraq is nothing new (we discussed this in January); Zarqawi's absence and the creation of the Mujahideen Shura Council provides some supporting evidence. If true, this does indicate the troubles al-Qaeda is encountering in Iraq. If al-Qaeda is exiting the theater which Zawahiri himself refers to as "the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era" prior to achieving its goals, this is a tacit admission of failure. al-Qaeda's desire to create chaos and draw Iraqi into civil war should be understood in that context - as an act of desperation.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 15, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
March 16, 2006
Swearing In Parliament and Mini-Tet Foiled
Parliament meets; Sectarian violence, not civil war; Planned attack on the IZ broken up
Amid threats of violence and a lockdown on driving in Baghdad, Iraqi's elected parliament gathered and was sworn in, vowing to "preserve the independence and the sovereignty of Iraq and to take care of the interests of its people." The parliament now has sixty days to form a government. The session was suspended after the parties were unable to agree upon a speaker of parliament, indicating further haggling over the political appointments is in the offerings. Iraq's current Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has been nominated for a second term by the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, but has indicated he would "step aside" if the parliament decides to block his nomination. Small steps forward, but steps forward none the less.
While the political wrangling continues, Time Magazine's Michael Ware provides an insightful look at the current situation in Iraq and the prospects for civil war, which loosely matches our assessment from yesterday. He makes the distinction between sectarian violence and civil war, and explains the current violence is not yet at a level to consider the situation a full-blown bout of sectarian violence or worse, a civil war:
It is for these reasons that al-Qaeda is the main suspect in the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and may very well be behind some of the more egregious acts of mass killings thought to be sectarian-related violence. The recently discovered al-Qaeda plot to attack the International Zone (aka Green Zone), where al-Qaeda was to have infiltrated the security checkpoints manned by Iraqi troops and over 400 al-Qaeda fighters were to assassinate diplomats, U.S. military officers and Iraqi politicians, is yet another attempt to drag the country into further sectarian violence. It would be interesting to know if the attack was planned to coincide with the convening of parliament, as this would make for great political theater.
The plot on the International Zone was also an attempt to destroy U.S. confidence in the war effort. While Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to make progress in securing Iraq, Baghdad and the International Zone are a political and media center-of-gravity in Iraq, and a spectacular assault on the compound, regardless of the fact that al-Qaeda would be routed in a counterattack, would serve as a media coup for al-Qaeda, much like the failed Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 16, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
Sunday, March 19, 2006
A reason to believe
Iyad Allawi, the former Prime Minister of Iraq, is being quoted as describing Iraq in a state of civil war.
Jalal Talabani apparently rejects this assertion.
The British Defense Minister says that Allawi had said something rather diferent to him just shortly before his BBC interview.
So what's the truth? The principle in determining truth should be to apply the factual indicator test. A civil war is a visible event whose indicators includes the insubordination of armed units, mass refugee flows, the rise of rival governments, etc. The test is whether those events are being observed. What famous individuals say about a situation is a shortcut for encapsulating a factual assessment; it describes reality as public figures see it but is not the reality itself. That remains a mystery until developments unfold. One interesting indicator of how the US military sees the situation are its plans to turn over large parts of the country to Iraqi forces. Bloomberg reports:
This apparently innocuous statement contains a wealth of implication. It primarily suggests confidence, but it also admits that while Iraqi forces are coming along, they are not yet decisive without the assistance of US forces. The insurgency in Anbar, though contained, has not yet been stamped out, though sometime between now and the end of summer more inroads will be made upon it if Chiarelli's statements are any guide to events.
Politically what's interesting is how the narrative has changed. Nobody is talking about the Sunni insurgency succeeding any more. Even the press hardly makes the claim of an insurgency on the brink of success. As late as November 2005, the Daily Kos was boasting: "The occupation is exacerbating terrorism in the country. America is losing, the insurgency is winning. Maybe we should say, 'has won.'" But by the December 2005 elections this view could no longer be held by anyone with the slightest regard for the facts. Juan Cole said:
Cole forgets to remind the reader that mosquitoes did for the French in Algeria, the Russians in Afghanistan and even pushed the Israelis out of Lebanon. The enormity of the victory against the insurgency was never a given. In some respects the US achievement was historical. Whatever else happens, this should be remembered.
Cole also rejected assertions that Iraq was in Civil War.
Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.
posted by wretchard at 9:37 AM | 4 comments links to this post