The Blitz

The recent wave of violent attacks, which killed over a hundred Iraqi Shiites, has inspired fear in a segment of the Iraqi population. It isn’t the Shiites shaking in fear, however. Reality is beginning to dawn on the Iraqi Sunnis, and it is a reality they were not prepared to face:

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country’s first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands – including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution – after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote’s legitimacy.

“We made a big mistake when we didn’t vote,” said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. “Our votes were very important.” He said threats from insurgents – not sectarian differences – kept most Sunnis from voting.

The proper term for the reaction of the Sunni chieftains is “scared shitless”. Like al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunnis grossly miscalculated the ability of the insurgents and terrorists to derail the January election, and now they fear being kept from exercising their share of power in a new Iraq (which they consciously relinquished). Recognizing that the Iraq people view the election as a legitimate referendum of the will of the Iraqi people, they now want to reenter the process of forming a government. Their defense of their actions, were it not so serious in the encouragement of the murder of Iraqis and Americans, would be considered comical. They want the fruits of the electoral process – power and decision making – without actually participating in said process:

“When we said that we are not going to take part, that didn’t mean that we are not going to take part in the political process. We have to take part in the political process and draft the new constitution,” said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Sunni Endowments in Baghdad.

The successful election has also created fractures between Sunni holdouts and the more “unsavory elements” of the insurgency – the terrorists (as stated in The Importance of the Election 101 last December):

Meanwhile, a powerful Sunni organization believed to have ties with the insurgents sought Sunday to condemn the weekend attacks that left nearly 100 Iraqis dead.

“We won’t remain silent over those crimes which target the Iraqi people Sunnis or Shiites, Islamic or non-Islamic,” Sheik Harith al-Dhari, of the Association of Muslim Scholars, told a news conference.

Iraqis, he said, should unite “against those who are trying to incite hatred between us.” They include Iraq’s leading terror mastermind, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In a letter to Osama bin Laden found on a captured al-Qaida courier last year, al-Zarqawi proposed starting a civil war between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Couple this news with Time Magazine’s report of negotiations to end the fighting between the Coalition and important Baathist elements of the insurgency, and the election appears to have had an astonishing psychological impact on the morale and outlook of Sunni holdouts and the Iraqi insurgency.

The Coalition is not relying on diplomacy alone to resolve the violence. Responding to the Sunni tribal leader’s “list of demands”, Coalition forces launch Operation River Blitz in the Sunni dominated regions of Western Iraq. Ramadi appears to be the central focus of the attack, however several other cities in the al Anbar province are targeted; “In conjunction with implementing the security measures in Ramadi, increased security operations also began in several cities along the Euphrates River, including the cities of Hit, Baghdadi and Hadithah.” Belmont Club’s description of the operations against the insurgency – “The River War” – remains accurate to this day.

Ramadi is believed to have become a hub of terrorist activity since the fall of Fallujah last November. It is likely the Coalition has learned some lessons from the assault of Fallujah, and have taken care to secure the entrances and exits to Ramadi to prevent the seepage of terrorist and insurgent elements from the city. Unlike Fallujah, which was telegraphed for months, the operation in Ramadi was both unannounced and unexpected.

The Sunni tribal chieftains can still exercise power in their region and demonstrate their sincerity and loyalty to the newly elected government of Iraq by turning in the enemies of the state. The insurgency could not survive long in the Sunni regions without the tribal leaders’ support. But we should not expect this. The Sunnis’ recent history shows they have repeatedly misjudged the will of the Iraqi people and the Coalition to create a government and stabilize the country, all to their own detriment.

Click on the map for a larger image.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Justin B says:

    Why didn’t the Shunnis just come out and say, “We really thought the other side would win and we were wrong.” Well, let’s look at a little history in the region. What happened to those wonderful Palestinian folks that thought surely the Jews would lose that 6 Day War thing in 1967? All I have to say to the Sunnis that did not vote is better clean out the insurgents quick and start puckering up cause Saddam ain’t coming back and the Shiites are in control of the whole thing now. AND IT IS YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT FOR CHOOSING THE WRONG SIDE TO FIGHT FOR.

    The Winners have always written history and the victors get the spoils. There will be no peace or compromise until the Sunnis stop the attacks on Mosques. And they better figure it out quick. They are on the wrong side and inciting a civil war is not going to make things better. They are in danger of going off the cliff into oblivion.

  • leaddog2 says:

    The real question is can the “Bath Party Saddamites” be separated from the Satanic and bloodthirsty Wahhabis. I seriously doubt it!
    Wahhabi extremist EXTERMINATION is the ONLY long term solution. Eventually that will mean exterminating ALL Wahhabi CLERICS in the Land of Satan, the Saudi horror. (Not all Saudi people are rabid extremist killers of course …. but some of them are and they must die to ensure the planet’s survival).

  • tubino says:

    Hillary Clinton said much the same thing about the Sunnis miscalculating, as evidenced by their inability to derail the election.

    Unfortunately the NTY’s piece on hard numbers from Iraq (hours of electricity/day, etc.) are not promising. The insurgents ARE successfully derailing the reconstruction.

    Will Iran be any better?

  • Robert M says:

    Welcome back. A precise and clear article well worth reading. I looked at the map you posted and I have a question. The number of airbases on the map were they old Iraqi bases or are they new ones?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks Robert. The map is of pre-invasion Iraq, the airbases are from Saddam’s days.

  • praktike says:

    I see two things going on here.
    One is the military campaign against the Sunnis, and another is some signal-sending from the U.S. to the incoming gov’t saying “hey, guys, don’t go too far w/ your de-Ba’athification campaign, and don’t pick folks we really don’t like, or we’ll sell you out in a heartbeat.” So the U.S. is applying pressure on multiple fronts, I think.

  • praktike says:

    This iwpr piece suggests that the main pressure Sunni leaders are getting, at least in Anbar province, is from Iraqi residents themselves.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The Sunnis know they made a serious mistake. The Coalition military pressure really is secondary at this point. The political pressure from the election has now eclipsed military pressure, but military operations are still a needed element.
    Note in this article I discussed the force of the elections FIRST, and operation River Blitz second. The real blitz here is the formation of the legitimate Iraqi government. River Blitz is just icing.

  • praktike says:

    I don’t know if it’s uniform across the country though, which is why I specified Anbar. There’s also some talk that at least one faction of the insurgents (in Mosul) is trying to develop some kind of political program. I’ve also seen reports that some Sunni Arab mosques in Mosul were urging cooperation, though.
    So my guess is that the insurgency is being split here, which is of course good news. One is responding to either fear of a Shi’ite-dominated gov’t or a genuine desire to participate, and the other is recognizing that the game is now political and that violence alone won’t cut it.

  • EagleSpeak says:

    “Terrorists” attack Iraqi Infrastructure

    The Fourth Rail has some parallel thoughts about the Sunni mistaken approach to the Iraqi election – which has left them out of power and with no legitimacy


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram