A Not-so-grand Strategy
Al Qaeda in Iraq and Zarqawi now appears to recognize the futility of conducting military operations alone to achieve victory in Iraq. The SITE Institute reports the recently released publication of Zarqawi's magazine, Thurwat al-Sinam, discusses grand strategy, which extends beyond pure combat operations.
This issue is the first edition of the publication to explicitly reference military strategy, delineating five sectors or "fields" of jihad: military, security and intelligence, medical, information, and economic. Throughout the issue, the authors reiterate that if the mujahideen focus only on military operations, regardless of their successes in battle, they will lose the jihad on other fronts. They provide examples such as Afghanistan and Bosnia wherein an alleged military victory by the mujahideen was overturned in the eyes of the international community because the mujahideen neglected other sectors of warfare. Of particular interest as a non-military based threat to the mujahideen is the creation of a "peaceful Islam" which has "nothing to do with the original religion" and is spread by "information media all over the earth" in the hopes that "the infidels will succeed in this which they could not do militarily".
The dilemma for al Qaeda is that it is an overwhelmingly military organization, whose finances are specifically set up to support military operations, weapons acquisitions, training, recruitment and infrastructure. There is very little energy devote to the softer aspects of grand strategy - wining the hearts and minds in the areas of economics [jobs, business, education, etc.] and humanitarian care. Al Qaeda cannot match the West's superiority in these areas. And even if they tried, their ideological makeup makes the prospects success unlikely. The rejection of al Qaeda by local Iraqis sympathetic to their cause makes this clear.
The only advantage al Qaeda has in the fight is the skepticism of the media towards the American application of power. Yet Zarqawi has expressed his displeasure towards 'friendly' media in the past, and in a recent communiqué expresses his frustration over the control of information. Despite al Qaeda's best efforts at conditioning the Sunnis in believing the Americans should be fought and driven from Iraq, they fear efforts to court the Sunnis.
"The evidence and proof of their incompetence are all their attempts to conceal and alter the facts using the crusader media. Our intelligence has informed us about several scheming crusader plots aimed at extinguishing the torch of jihad. Among those plots are:"1.) Contacting secular Sunnis, socialists, and collaborating factions and convincing them that in order to get their freedom that the Sunnis should participate in elections and writing the constitution."
2.) An attempt to separate Al-Qaida's Committee from the national [resistance] by distorting the reputation of the mujahideen in the eyes of the Muslims in an effort to portray them as criminals among the people of the Sunnah and Jamaah."
3.) The obvious media blackout over the operations from the last few days and the endless attempts to distort daily events and to spread misinformation about the endless alleged arrests of commanders and assistants.
Points 1 and 2 demonstrate al Qaeda recognizes the dangers in allowing factions of the Sunni insurgency to participate with the Iraqi government. Zarqawi seems to have given up hope in turning the tide of the Iraqi people, and focusing his energy on maintaining the viability of the various insurgent factions.
Point 3 is odd, as terrorist attacks are the main story from Iraq. Zarqawi doesn't elaborate so it is difficult to discern his disappointment over the "media blackout". Zarqawi has mocked the coalition for supposedly overvaluing the capture of his lieutenants, but it is difficult to argue with success.
Despite al Qaeda's best efforts to control the message, and sympathies in certain media corners, particularly in the Arab media, Zarqawi is giving signals that he is not in control. And for good reason. The enthusiasm of the recent election, the low opinion of the insurgency in Iraq (and a particularly low opinion of al Qaeda), the willingness of Muslims to enlist to fight in the security services, the relatively low numbers of foreign fighters entering Iraq, the progress being made in creating a constitution and a host of other political and economic successes (all documented by Arthur Chrenkoff) show al Qaeda is not appealing to the masses of the Muslim.
This is what happens when your grand strategy is predicated only on terrorism, religious fanaticism and oppressive rule.