Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Troops and locals stop twenty car bombs from reaching the streets of Baghdad.

Yesterday a joint US-Iraqi force with help from local anti-al-Qaeda awakening fighters in the Adhamiyah district in northeastern Baghdad found and disarmed more than 20 vehicles rigged as VBIEDs in a parking lot.

This is a great find by any standards but the timing makes it all the more significant.
The significance comes not only from the quantity of bombs, cars and other resources that al-Qaeda has been denied the ability to use. It comes from the amount of frustration they have to deal with right now that all these preparations and resources are lost.

What makes me think that this will indeed frustrate them is that al-Qaeda chose to mass this great number of VBIEDs instead of deploying them to the streets one, or a few, at a time fresh from the factory. Two possibilities arise here; they either couldn't find the means and safe routes to deploy the bombs and so they had to wait for more favorable circumstances, which is good news since it means their ability to conduct missions has really been reduced to a great extent.
Or it could mean that they were planning for something big, and I'm more inclined to think that this was the case.

Apparently their cells in Adhamiyah (in my estimation the strongest remaining in the eastern side of Baghdad proper) were planning a spectacular comeback during which a wave of car bombings would have sought to undermine the improvement in security.
A week of several car bombings a day would have been seen as a huge setback following several weeks of great decline in violence.
Fortunately this has been prevented and whatever their plan was, it's vapor now and they will have to start all over again… That's if they don't get caught, killed or kicked out of the neighborhood, which seems to be happening quite often these days!

Four Years!

On a day like this four years ago this blog was created...Time indeed goes by so fast, damn!
Anyway, just wanted to congratulate myself and my big brother (allow me to pat myself on the back!) and to say thanks to all the good people who have been with us in this long journey from the beginning...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Baath Holds The White Flag

The formation of a so called political council for Iraqi resistance was met by different reactions from the public and the politicians who are now divided into proponents and opponents. Whereas the Accord Front called for mediation between the council and the government some parties in the UIA see that the council cannot be negotiated with and declared it a continuation of the former regime.

What is important in my opinion regarding this development and aside from whether to negotiate with it or not, is the very announcement of forming this new political entity.
It consists of remnants of the former regime and it had led the violent campaign against the change and now its leaders announce the transformation into a political entity seeking negotiations with the government. This represents an admission of the failure of the insurgency. The statement made was dignified with a triumphant tone but this is not the Baath we know. We never saw the Baath triumphant and seeking negotiations at the same time. The former regime never recognized the idea of negotiations and peaceful settlements and this is exactly what led the country to numerous conflicts with the neighbors or with inside adversaries.

Saddam accepted dialogue and negotiations only after he had met defeat. Power always came first in the ideology of the Baath and the cruelty with which Saddam oppressed his domestic adversaries reminds us that searching for negotiations means that the regime, or those who represent its way of thinking, are incapable of sustaining meaningful resistance.

The call for negotiations reflects the failure of the Baath's military option. This failure can be attributed to a number of reasons, the most significant of which is the determination of the Iraqi people and American administration to continue the march in spite of the pain involved in doing so. It became evident with time for the "resistance" that for the average Iraqis, going back to totalitarian rule is not an option and that an American pullout is not visible in the horizon.

Add to that the growing split between the two main current wings of the Baath; the more Islamist one led by Izzat Dori and the secular nationalist one led by Mahmoud Younis al-Ahmed and the deep conflict of interests between al-Qaeda and several Sunni militant groups. More important are the blows the joint troops dealt al-Qaeda and other extremists. For a long time the figures seemed inconclusive but now it seems obvious that the cumulative effect of their losses has made them hold the white flag.

Some of the other factors we can add are Saddam's execution and the legal proceedings taken against the leaders of the insurgency abroad. These have been choking them, especially those who remained active. Like we said before, the rope around Saddam's neck left scars on many other necks.

On the other hand, the rise of rational political and popular tribal Sunni leaderships, who are seen as heroes in the Iraqi west, caused the old "stars" to fade out. In fact the new leaderships seem to be more capable of leading the populace in the provinces where the insurgency was dominant even more efficiently than the Baath was.

The incremental building of a nation and the simultaneous prelude for the contraction of an insurgency were not easy to see through the smoke of battle, but now things have changed and the results will be clear.

Of course the challenges are still great, yet the defeat of al-Qaeda and the fall of the insurgency tell us clear and loud that determination can and will defeat the rest of the enemies.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Southern Iraq Won't "Awaken" Like Anbar

There is growing popular dissatisfaction with the poor performance of local administrations across Iraq’s southern provinces and the growing pressures practiced by clerics who are trying to Islamize the society.

To make matters worse are the atrocities committed by some militias and the bitter fighting among ruling parties in which ordinary citizens pay the highest price.
I think clerics and politicians in Prime Minister Maliki’s United Iraq Alliance realize this dissatisfaction may lead to an awakening movement similar to the one that has taken place in Anbar province in the western part of Iraq.

In order to make a comparison, and try to predict what’s likely to happen in the south, one needs to first understand exactly what happened in Anbar.
The core of the struggle there is an old conflict of interests between clerics and tribal sheiks. The two groups competed for leadership of the society for centuries. Even though the sheik might show loyalty to the cleric he still hides enmity for him; they’re each other’s nemesis.

This conflict of interests was evident in what happened during the revolution of 1920, less than a century before the division between those who supported the clergy’s revolt and those who kept their allegiance to the tribe and preserving its interests.

The difference between clerics and sheiks is huge; the first do not believe in negotiation and speak in terms of “halal” and “haram” claiming to be representative of heaven’s justice. Obviously you can’t negotiate deals with God so as far as the clerics are concerned, society must follow them, without asking questions.

By contrast, the tribal sheik was raised and taught to know how to lead productive negotiations. Tribal leaders have long played the role of judges to settle disputes among individuals within the tribe or between different tribes and when they do so they try to make sure that decisions are reached through consultation with the two sides of the dispute and would acceptable to both as well. In other words a sheik has to be a good negotiator, willing to hear both sides of the story and convince them to make concession in order to contain the problem and restore order—it’s an important part of his job.

Now let’s take a look at the difference between the Iraqi west and south.
First: In the west, the situation was much worse than the south. The suffering of the populace under al-Qaeda was intolerable and this was a factor that made anti-al-Qaeda sentiment grow fast and speeded the emergence of the awakening movement.
Secondly: the Sunni clergy represented by the association of Muslim scholars in a fairly recent organization cannot be compared to the long-established Shia clergy in the south. Therefore there was no strong ideological and spiritual connection between the clergy and populace in the west and the struggle between the two organizations (tribe and mosque) intensified.

In the case of the west, the Islamic Party, which was the only political body representing the Sunnis, was opposed to the association. In turn, the clergy turn did not offer the Islamic party blessings during the elections but instead declared it a renegade infidel body. By contrast the Shia clergy offered invaluable support to Shia parties and made their climb to power much easier.
Third, the Islamic state that al-Qaeda sought to establish followed the Salafi doctrine which still represents a minority faction among Iraq’s Sunni community which largely follows the Hanafi doctrine.
These three points summarize why the west and south have some very distinct differences.

From this, I think that the emergence of a tribal awakening against the dominance of religion in the south would run a serious risk of being smeared as a treacherous revolt against the sect-as a community-itself at a time when the Shia are for the first time enjoying the rise of their sect’s role in Iraq’s politics. The pan-nationalist Arab Salafi hostility toward them could make their “awakening” a double-edged sword - it would weaken their unity in the frame of the sect at a time when they still don’t feel completely secure in a pluralistic country.
What happens then?

Both Shia clerics and politicians feel the growing unrest and they know that awakening is coming. Maybe more slowly, because of the factors I mentioned, but surely. This is why they want to stay ahead of the rising tide.
We are therefore likely see a race take place within the UIA towards taking over the coming awakening - even though the UIA itself is the target. In other words, some parties in the UIA will try to maneuver quickly to tame and lead the awakening instead of standing in its way.
Last week or so the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) praised the efforts to establish awakening councils from among the tribes of the south “to fight outlaw Shia groups” but on the condition that the government, not the Americans, oversees the process.

Politicians and clerics are trying to avoid a scenario similar to that in the west and also to avoid repetition of what happened in the past when some tribes sided with the British administration and hampered the change called for by the clergy.
What the people in the UIA, particularly the SIIC, are thinking is the following ‘if there’s going to be an awakening that can be diverted from attacking us and exploited to serve our interests at the expense of our rivals then so be it!’
Here I think the SIIC is planning to shape the awakening to be exclusively an effort against Sadr movement which rejects the SIIC’s federal project and its control of local administrations to the extent that bloody skirmishes between the two are not uncommon.

This could be the case if the SIIC succeeds to put the awakening under the supervision of the Iraqi government, not American troops, and consequently under the leadership of Badr brigade.
If this happens the process would end up involving more infighting for partisan gains than awakening against the project to build an Islamic state.
The winner then would be the SIIC and to a lesser extent the Dawa, their grip over the region would become stronger, the position of the clergy preserved and popular dissatisfaction dissipated.
There's one more day of voting left guys, go ahead and show those bloggers some love!

The 2007 Weblog Awards