Driving the Wedge
The prophet's predictions of political failure in Iraq have been discredited just over a week after being uttered. The Iraqi transitional assembly has chosen Kurdish Jalal Talabani as president, along with Shiite Adel Abdul Mahdi and Sunni Ghazi al-Yawar as vice presidents. They immediately appointed Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister, and he is now tasked to form a government [the Council on Foreign Relations has a quick primer on the leaders of the transitional government and the responsibilities of the new government]. The Iraqi assembly has engaged in a spirited debate over several issues. The suggestion of a woman in the assembly is given credence and the view of a Sadr's representative on releasing prisoners is met with no support.
The new government recognizes a unique opportunity exists to fracture the insurgency while they are stunned from the success of the recent elections. Rumors are flying that the Iraqi government may spare Saddam from the gallows in exchange for the surrender of the Baathist insurgents. President Talabani has speculated that Iraq can handle its own security within two years and US generals agree Iraq is on the path to allow a draw down of American forces. Talabani has floated the idea of pardoning a certain group of insurgents. Talabani recognizes the need to split the native elements of the insurgency from the more violent foreign and jihadi elements:
There are two kinds of killing: In battle or in action, this could be covered by the amnesty. Those who are involved in killing innocent people, detonation of car bombs, killing people in mosques and in churches, these would not be covered by the amnesty It is essential that we separate those who came from outside the country, like all those organizations affiliated with al-Qaida, from Iraqis.
Talabani is making a statement that some crimes against the Iraqi people will not be tolerated. Al Qaeda recognizes the dire threat this represents for its ability to operate effectively in Iraq as well as its potential impact on recruiting locals. Zarqawi's al Qaeda Committee in Mesopotamia [Iraq] has issued a statement in response to Talabani's offer of amnesty (translation by Evan Kohlmann of Global Terror Alert and The Counterterrorism Blog):
" the ally of the Americans Jalal al-Talebani announced a supposed pardon for the mujahideen and invited them to join in their disbelief and political games. Therefore, those of us from al Qaida's Committee in Mesopotamia declare that we will not forgive your disbelief, your spilling of Muslim blood, and your affronts to our honor. We follow no law but that of Allah O' agents of the Jews and Christians, you can expect nothing from us other than the sword. We shall not abandon combat and the path of jihad until the laws of Allah reign over this country and its people.
This communiqué contains a not-so-veiled threat against both those who support the government and those who wish to lay down their arms ("we will not forgive your disbelief, your spilling of Muslim blood, and your affronts to our honor." ) Like Osama's hamfisted attempt to interject his views on the Iraqi election, Zarqawi's attempts to interfere with local politics will not be well received by the Iraqi people, nor is it likely to influence its targeted audience - those who are considering abandoning the insurgency. Iraq is essentially a tribal society, and if Sunni tribal leaders support the amnesty, there will be broad support within the tribes to obey, making it difficult for al Qaeda to recruit and find safe harbor. Even Saddam recognized the power of the tribal leaders and co-opted them instead of fighting them outright.
Zarqawi's words for the "agents of the Jews and Christians" also perfectly echoes the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden, who after 9-11 cited "poetry" to express his views on negotiations with the "crusaders" ; "The only language between you and us is the sword that will strike your necks." This is how al Qaeda justifies the wholesale murder of their supposed Muslim brothers and sisters.
While Zarqawi clumsily attempts to intimidate local Iraqis from defecting, the Coalition continues its security efforts. Marine General John Sattler believes Zarqawi is on the run and his operations have been negatively affected by the hunt; "the U.S.-led coalition has forced Zarqawi to work "independently" by killing or capturing his first- and second-string lieutenants." The Coalition has recently captured Ibrahim Sabawi, a financier of the insurgency, nephew of Saddam and son of six-of-spades Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, who was arrested last February. An Iraqi-led raid in Baghdad, operated in conjunction with elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, nets 65 suspects.
The fight against the Islamofascists carries on in Iraq and the war is far from over, but the beginning of the end of the insurgency is coming into focus. The Iraqi government has just begun to assert itself and is driving another nail in the coffin of the critics who wanted to postpone the January elections.
Regime Change Iran has an interesting roundup of news from Iran.
The EU is concerned about Spain's weapons sales to Venezuela.