Attacks not only aimed at escalating the violence, but are directed at the will of the American public
On Thanksgiving Day, al Qaeda in Iraq pulled off a well planned, coordinated attack against Muqtada al-Sadr’s base of power. Five car bombs and two mortars stuck markets in Sadr city, while a platoon-sized element raided the Ministry of Health, which is run by Sadr’s political block. Over 200 have been killed and hundreds more wounded in Sadr City. The Mahdi Army hit back with a mortar barrage on the Sunni dominated neighborhood of Adhamiyah. Up to 20 Iraqis were killed in the attack.
The Maliki government responded by imposing a curfew on Baghdad, shutting down traffic in the city on the day of prayer, to prevent further retaliatory attacks. The airports in Baghdad and Basra have been closed. Sadr and other Iraqi political and religious leaders have called for calm, but the Shia have responded. The Mahdi Army attacked four Sunni mosques in the Hurriya district of Baghdad. The Iraqi Army is said to have intervened to stop the attacks, and Reuters reports “least 18 people had been killed and 24 wounded.” Sadr’s political block has threatened to withdraw from the government if Prime Minister Maliki meets with “the terrorist,” President Bush.
The timing of the Sadr City attacks must immediately be called into question. Al-Qaeda had duel objectives with this attack: 1) push the Iraqi people closer towards civil war by forcing Sadr to escalate the violence 2) give the American public topics of discussion at the Thanksgiving Day table. The ‘failure’ of the U.S. effort in Iraq and the hopelessness of containing the violence was al Qaeda’s messages to the American public.
Today, al Qaeda sent another message. The city of Tal Afar was hit by two suicide bombers. Over 22 were killed and 26 wounded. Tal Afar has been called a model Iraqi city by President Bush, and the mayor has praised American troops and the president for ridding the city of al Qaeda. Press reports often note this fact, without pointing out al Qaeda’s motivations for hitting Tal Afar.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been adept at conducting strikes to achieve its political goals. The escalating violence in the run up to the U.S. midterm elections is one such example. Abu Ayyub al-Masri gloated over the midterm election results, and declared an al Qaeda victory. The Madrid train bombings in Spain just days before the election is another. The Thanksgiving Day attacks in Sadr City was sure to dominate the headlines and televisions in the United States on what is typically a slow news day.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has ‘moderated’ its message towards the Shia since Zarqawi’s death, but still conduct s attacks to destabilize the regime and keep the sectarian violence boiling. Only the rhetoric has changed, as al Qaeda Command perceived the open calls for the slaughter of fellow Muslims tarnished al Qaeda international image among Muslims.
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.