Monday, April 30, 2007

Surge News: Is Anbar Infectious?

The news coming out of Iraq is continuing to be very good. Omar, at Iraq the Model, reports on three major operations in Baghdad and its environs that were successful in killing or capturing over 200 insurgents in total. Further, there is the ongoing good news in Anbar province with the Sunni tribes joining the "Awakening Council" and driving out al Qaeda in Iraq. Now it seems that same general process may be spreading to Sunnis in Baghdad. As Omar explains:

. . . [S]omething small in size, big in meaning is brewing in Adhamiya. Yesterday I was asked by our friend Bill Roggio (whose reporting I admire and recommend) whether I thought the Sunni in Baghdad would follow the example of the Awakening Council of Anbar. That council is made up of Sunni tribes that have turned against al-Qaeda and are now fighting a fierce war against them side by side with government forces.

I couldn’t answer that question. The difference in social structures between tribal Ramadi and urban Baghdad alters everything. The tribal structure allows for safe communication among the members of the same tribe or clan. They most often live in the same geographic area and tend to consider themselves “cousins”. In Baghdad this doesn’t exist, making it difficult to safely spread the word among many people.

Even so, it seems that the question might have an answer now, and a positive one.

Al-Sabah reported today that “some community leaders in Adhamiya are working on forming a salvation council for their own district they will be calling The Adhamiya Awakening. Sources close to the leaders said they (the leaders) have managed to win the support of some hundred people who agree with the new position. The sources asserted that the goal of the Awakening is to rid Adhamiya of the terrorists.”
Read his post here. History shows that success or defeat in war has much to do with perception, and there is a definite snowball effect that directly correlates with perception. Little things like what is happening in Adhamiya, occuring in the wake of Anbar, could well turn into a snowball. The vast majority of Iraqis who wish neither to live in a Sunni nor a Khomeinist caliphate may well be moved to act likewise when, after three years of increasingly senseless violence, they see many of their fellow citizens throwing in decisively with the government and U.S. forces.

The one thing that will not change quickly are the core dead enders - both those of al Qaeda and those under the pay of Khamenei. The former will be shooting now for ever greater high value suicide bombings to make up for their ever weakening position and to influence American public opinion. As Baghdad becomes an ever harder target, and as Al Qaeda is driven out of Anbar, look for more suicide bombings in Shia and mixed towns that have been peaceful for a long time and where security has become lax. And look for such bombings to spike in August, just before Petraeus is supposed to brief Bush and Congress on progress in Iraq, as al Qaeda seeks to provide Reid with the carnage he needs in order to justify surrender.

As to those in the pay of Khamenei, they seem content with targeting U.S. and British forces. I suspect that they too will have a spike in violence in August, and could possibly target Sunnis.

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but, except for the occasional glowing article in the NYT, it appears that Sadr and his Mahdi Army are truly melting away as threats. The main splinter groups are engaging U.S. and Iraqi forces in Diyalah, and as such, their life span is very limited. Given the incredibly low support Sadr received in the April 9 protest march, and given that the U.S. arrested 700 Sadr militants during the surge, I just do not see Sadr reemerging as a threat.

At any rate, the bottom line seems to be that there is every reason to suspect that the surge will ultimately succeed in bringing security to Iraq. And when we look back, we may be able to identify an act so innocuous as the formation of the Adhamiya Awakening as one of the turning points in the war. Let a hundred more such councils spring from grass roots across Iraq, and the death knell will be decisively rung for al Qaeda and the Shia militias. Be afraid, Harry, be very afraid.

A final word on the government of Iraq. As we think about the daunting tasks facing them, and the "benchmarks" that the Democrats would impose upon them, the time frames are more then a bit ridiculous. To put this in perspective, remember that from the time America declared its independence in 1776, it was over a year until the Articles of Confederation were drafted, and another four years before they were ratified. And then it was not until May, 1787 that the convention convened to draft the U.S. Constitution. We are attempting to force a new nation to compress its time frames enormously.

The government of Iraq is a democracy but a year old. If the country can pull together to secure its country, it will also be able to reach decisions on the other issues that it faces in its own time. If the government can get to the point of providing security and acceptable levels of basic services - i.e., electricity, water, sewage, health care, that will be more then enough to coalesce the nation.

The so called "benchmarks" of de-baathification, an oil law, and the federalism issue will work out over time. Trying to force a resolution of those issues now so that a benchmark may be checked off a score card may well prove counterproductive. The federalism issue is of particular concern. Shia Islamists, such as Sadr and SCIR would like to see a loose confederation which would allow for a Shia Islamic state - one very likely to be closely tied to Iran. That is the last thing America would want. Yet the default position of the Kurds and many of the Shia is for precisely that of a loose confederation, and if we force that issue rather then allowing for a natural evolution, we may end up with precisely the result we would least like to see.

Lastly, when people begin to show pride in their surroundings, it bodes very well. Thus, it is very heartening to see scenes such as this in Baghdad, where artists are turning the concrete blast walls into a canvas for beauty:

Look for this in an Iraqi museum in a century or so.

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