al Qaeda’s Democracy Problem

AL ASAD AIR BASE, IRAQ: The day before the parliamentary election, al Qaeda issued an “urgent statement announcing new attacks launched today against the American and Iraqi forces’ ‘strongholds,’ and to spoil ‘their celebrations of ‘democratic’ disbelief and adultery.'” Other Islamists and Salafist terrorist groups offered less than forceful protestations of the election and vowed not to commit acts of violence against voters or polling places.

After the latest and not-so-greatest al Qaeda offensive fizzled out, the terrorist group issued another statement vowing to continue their campaign of terror in Iraq. The question is, to what end? Does al Qaeda have the ability to influence events in Iraq, the forwarding of Democracy?

LtCol Starling, the Operations Officer of Regimental Combat Team – 2, the unit in charge of western Anbar province, met with a very senior tribal leader the day after election and reported Sunnis voted overwhelmingly for Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite candidate. Another U.S. source well in tune with the populace in Anbar province reported the same information. If this information is accurate, not only are Sunnis voting (their turnout is predicted at about 80%), but they are voting for a Shiite candidate. And there are calls across the board, from Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders to create a government “to promote national unity.”

The Islamic Army of Iraqi laments Shiite control of the government “will be the mother of evils and disaster upon the Sunni people.” Zarqawi has been quite clear about his hatred and disgust for the “apostate” Shiites, and has repeatedly slaughtered Shiites in an attempt to instigate a civil war in Iraq. This is a vein that runs deep among the Salafists; the Shiites are hated more than Westerners for their different interpretation of Islam.

The depth of al Qaeda’s nightmare in Iraq only deepens. Not only are their attacks less frequent and even less effective in influencing events on the ground, but their natural base of support, the Sunni population, has chosen democracy, and if reports are true, is voting for a secular Shiite to govern Iraq. This would be yet another ideological defeat for al Qaeda and the rejection of their extremism in the heart of the Muslim world.

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

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