The political war against the Sunni-led insurgency proceeds in conjunction with military operations. Strategy Page details how successful military operations help feed the success on the political front. Intelligence on the Sunni leadership is gained via the death or capture of terrorists and insurgents, or suspected insurgents, which in turn is used to identify the players in the insurgency. A picture of the insurgency develops over time, and the Coalition acts by either enticing the leaders to join the political process, or kill them if required.
Each month, 100-150 terrorists (al Qaeda or Baath Party supporters) are killed, and many are identified. Each month, 700-1,000 terrorist suspects are arrested. Most are quickly released once it is confirmed that they are not involved in any violence. But these men, and those who are not quickly released, all provide bits of information that, once collated, provides a pretty good picture of who is doing what for whom, and for how much…
It’s not that the bad guys are running out of money, or people willing to die for a few hundred bucks. What the terrorists are running out of is Sunni Arab leaders willing to continue tolerating the violence. Each month, a few more neighborhoods shift sides, becoming an unwelcome place for terrorists, and more tolerant of Iraqi soldiers and police. American intelligence and the Iraqi government each have lists of the key Sunni Arab tribal, religious and business leaders they need to convert or, in a few cases, kill, in order to end the Sunni Arab violence. Each month, especially since the January elections (that elected the interim government), one percent, or a few percent, of the people on that list, move over to the government side. Another few percent become potential converts.
Evidence of the co-opting of small segments of the Sunni leadership abounds. We’ve discussed some of the evidence in Splitting the Sunni’s Insurgency; “the Albu Mahal’s fight with al Qaeda on the Syrian border, the agreement by three prominent Sunni parties not to boycott the constitutional referendum, and…an amnesty offer to junior officers of Saddam’s defunct army.” Yesterday’s New York Times reports on yet another influential grouping of Sunnis entering the political process.
A large group of tribal leaders, academics and other professionals met on Saturday in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, the only Iraqi province in which the population is almost entirely Sunni Arab, for a campaign kickoff by the new group, the National Public Democratic Movement, leaders said today.
The meeting, in the house of Sheik Hamid Turki al-Shawka, a prominent tribal leader from Ramadi, lasted five hours and included Sunni Arabs from Qaim, near the Syrian border, Mosul, in northern Iraq, and Baquba, north of Baghdad, as well as some Kurds and a few Shiites, the leaders said. The leaders said they had quietly registered the movement with Iraq’s electoral commission last month.
As Strategy Page indicates, the attrition of Sunni insurgency’s leadership creates a command vacuum, which over time increasingly becomes difficult to fill. al Qaeda still has a vital interest to continue the fight, and is attempting to stem the bleeding of the leadership with foreign fighters. Middle East News Line reports al Qaeda is sending in Saudi leaders to shore up the insurgency’s leadership; “It seems that senior Al Qaida operatives in Saudi Arabia have moved their operations to Iraq, where they are well-financed by prominent Saudis who don’t want to see a democratic Iraq.”
The foreign fighters are the most ferocious and ruthless elements of the insurgency, and will inflict brutal crimes on the Iraqi people and Coalition soldiers. But the Islamists’ tactics have driven elements of the population that make up the insurgency’s natural base to support the government, lest they submit to the depredations of Taliban-like rule of law. It is important to provide the proper security environment to give these citizens an alternative to al Qaeda’s brand of politics.
From the wider perspective of the War on Terror, Saudi al Qaeda leaders that were holed up in Saudi Arabia are coming out of the shadows and openly engaging in combat in Iraq, where they are being hunted by U.S. and Iraqi troops. As they are killed or captured, their support organizations become exposed as well.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.