Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page offers an insider’s assessment of the developing situation.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has been virtually wiped out by the loss of an address book. The death of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was not as important as the capture of his address book and other planning documents in the wake of the June 7th bombing. U.S. troops are trained to quickly search for names and addresses when they stage a raid, pass that data on to a special intelligence cell, which then quickly sorts out which of the addresses should be raided immediately, before the enemy there can be warned that their identity has been compromised. More information is obtained in those raids, and that generates more raids. So far, the June 7th strike has led to over 500 more raids. There have been so many raids, that there are not enough U.S. troops to handle it, and over 30 percent of the raids have been carried by Iraqi troops or police, with no U.S. involvement. Nearly a thousand terrorist suspects have been killed or captured. The amount of information captured has overwhelmed intelligence organizations in Iraq, and more translators and analysts are assisting, via satellite link, from the United States and other locations.
Perhaps the most valuable finds have been al Qaeda planning documents confirming what has been suspected of terrorist strategy. Also valuable have been the al Qaeda assessment of their situation in Iraq. The terrorist strategy is one of desperation. While the effort continues, to attempt to trigger a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, this is seen as a losing proposition. The new strategy attempts to trigger a war between the United States and Iran. This would weaken the United States, and put the hurt on Iran, an arch-enemy of al Qaeda. Other documents stressed the need to manipulate Moslem and Western media. This was to be done by starting rumors of American atrocities, and feeding the media plausible supporting material. Al Qaeda’s attitude was that if they could not win in reality, they could at least win imaginary battles via the media.
Zarqawi considered al Qaeda’s situation in Iraq as “bleak.” The most worrisome development was the growing number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police. These were able to easily spot the foreigners who made up so much of al Qaeda’s strength. Moreover, more police and soldiers in an area meant some local civilians would feel safe enough to report al Qaeda activity. The result of all this is that there are far fewer foreign Arabs in Iraq fighting for al Qaeda. The terrorist organization has basically been taken over anti-government Sunni Arabs. That made the capture of Zarqawi even more valuable, as his address book contained a who’s who of the anti-government Sunni Arab forces. This group has been hurt badly by last week’s raids.
The government deployed two infantry divisions and over 40,000 police in and around Baghdad to prevent “revenge” attacks by terrorists not yet rounded up by the growing wave of raids. Al Qaeda has announced an increased number of attacks. These have not occurred, although it is believed that more attacks are possible, as many attacks in various stages of preparation can be rushed forward before they are aborted by a raiding soldiers or police. At the moment, most al Qaeda members appear to be scrambling for new hiding places.
The damage done by the post- Zarqawi raids has spurred the Sunni Arab amnesty negotiations. These have been stalled for months over the issue of how many Sunni Arabs, with “blood on their hands”, should get amnesty. Letting the killers walk is a very contentious issue. There are thousands of Sunni Arabs involved here. The latest government proposal is to give amnesty to most of the Sunni Arabs who have just killed foreigners (mainly Americans). Of course, this offer was placed on the table without any prior consultations with the Americans. Naturally, such a deal would be impossible to sell back in the United States. But the Iraqis believe they could get away with it if it brought forth a general surrender of the Sunni Arab anti-government forces. The Iraqis, after all, are more concerned with Iraqi politics, than with what happens in the United States. Iraqi leaders believe that the U.S. has no choice by to continue supporting Iraqi pacification efforts. However, the spectacle of amnestied Sunni Arabs bragging to Arab, European and American reporters about how they killed Americans, might have interesting repercussions.