Guerrillas Gather at Ramadi
Iraq has banned non-Iraqi Arabs from coming to Iraq in the build-up to the December 15 elections. I think they would have been better off banning all civilians of any nationality from coming in; this way of doing it smacks of racism.
Aljazeera is reporting, based on video released by guerrillas that the latter have taken over Ramadi and attacked US troops there. I saw on CNN International a rebuttal of this claim by Gen. Lynch, who alleged that the Zarqawi group is very good at propaganda and is obscuring what is really going on in Iraq. He said that on the day the videotape claimed there were several attacks on US positions around Ramadi, there was actually just one rocket propelled grenade attack on a US base.
My suspicion is that the truth lies in the middle. Gen. Lynch is correct that the guerrillas are not openly patrolling downtown Ramadi on a regular basis, as the videotape suggested. The Marines would just shoot them. But it is also the case that the US military is not in control of any major city in the Sunni Arab heartland, including Baghdad, and that behind the scenes and under the cover of darkness, guerrillas do plan and carry out attacks and exercise authority. Moreover, most of the guerrillas are not the foreign jihadis of the Zarqawi strike, but rather local ex-Baathists, tribal groups, Salafi fundamentalists, etc.
The US military is beginning a sweep in Ramadi. So much for Anbar’s participation in the Dec. 15 elections.
The NYT gives an overview of the multi-headed, diverse groups making up the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, suggesting that their very lack of a command structure is one of the secrets of their strength.
Given the proliferation of these small guerrilla groups, you wonder, “What would victory in Iraq look like?” I haven’t heard Bush or any US general spell this out. But if the US is “staying the course” to achieve “victory,” then the precise definition of “victory” has to be the philosophical starting point. Otherwise it is a case of the dog chasing his tail.
The US military said that suicide bombings fell to their lowest level in seven months in November and pointed to this statistic as a sign of progress in the war.
But November saw 87 US troops killed, among the highest death tolls for a 30-day period since the war began, and one wonders about the rate of severely wounded. Moreover, in one two-week period in November, bombers (suiciders or not) killed hundreds of Iraqis, spreading insecurity, fear and anger.
It raises the question of whether the guerrillas are depending more heavily on roadside bombs and remotely detonated bombs rather than on kamikazes. Whatever the case, the mere decline in the latter seems to have little or nothing to do with the level of security in the country, which is generally poor, and, indeed, among the worst of any country in the world.
Reuters reports on the poor equipment that still plagues the Iraqi military and makes it hard for it to establish control even of little villages from which guerrillas operate.
The Ukraine has begun the pull-out of its almost 1,000 troops from Iraq, with its security duties taken over by the Iraqi 3rd Infantry Brigade. The rest of the Ukrainians will be out by the end of 2005. It seems likely that the US will be virtually alone in Iraq as a foreign military power by mid-2006.
The case of Muriel Degauque, the poor Belgian Catholic girl who became a kamikaze in Iraq, has sent a chill through Europe. As I have argued before, the jihadi mindset is a cult-like ideology that is like software and can be installed in any mind. It is a set of plausibility structures, of premises that lead inexorably to killing oneself and others for some vague Cause. It is so insidious precisely because people inside the movement find the premises so compelling. It is not really anything to do with Islam per se, and most of the kamikazes don’t know much about formal Islam. It isn’t really any different than the Solar Temple Cult or other such self-destructive religious phenomena, except that the jihadis have become politicized and so kill themselves and others on the battlefield.