Iraqi insurgents' strategy
By Ehsan Ahrari
Global Beat Syndicate
ALEXANDRIA, Va.--Despite what President Bush said in his State of the Union Address, General John Abizade, CENTCOM's commander, recently observed that the main objective of the insurgents and terrorists is to break the will of the American forces, thereby bringing about a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
The insurgents seem to have concluded that since the Iraqi elections could not be stopped, they should be preceded and followed by continued terrorist activity aimed at disrupting the fabric of society and ousting the "foreign occupation forces."
And despite the president's rosy report to the nation, U.S. forces increasingly feel like they are operating in the dark. If the terrorists intend to create nothing but chaos, and if they are willing to go to any extreme to create chaos, how do they go about neutralizing their potential?
Our forces went into Samara and Fallujah with a view to destroying the "terrorist sanctuaries." That was also part of psychological warfare of signaling to the insurgents that the United States would take all measures to fully eliminate safe havens from the different regions of Iraq.
However, the insurgents knew better than to stand and take on the awesome power of the U.S. military. They did what they have done best thus far: they ran--only to pick another time and a better place to continue their battle. The unfortunate attack in Mosul was one such place of their choosing.
As much as our forces are geared to fight urban warfare, they know that when the entire country becomes a battlefield, they are likely to face an enormous disadvantage. One of the not-too-explicit, but highly potent advantages of the guerrillas is that whatever force the outside fighters use to deal with insurgents, their actions result in the escalation of hostility among the local population towards them. That, in turn, typically helps the guerrilla fighters. Indeed, one of the classic goals of insurgent and terrorist organizations is to gain popular support when government armies overact in their responses, harming local citizens in the process and thus creating recruits for resistance. This is essentially what has been happening in places like Samara, Fallujah, and even Mosul.
The goal of this group is to create a hardline Islamist state in Iraq, something like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Even though the Kurds are part of this group, it is also targeting this ethnic group because of its generally friendly posture toward the Americans. Last month, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army declared that it is working in coordination with Al Qaida, the Musab al-Zarqawi group, and the Islamic Army in Iraq.
Ideologically, all these groups are hardline Islamist-Wahhabi. As such, their intention is to turn Iraq into a Sunni Islamist state. Thus, they are on a collision course with the Shias of Iraq, who are in another sect in the world of Islam.
At least for now, the Bush administration is far less likely to face a serious problem from the Shias of Iraq, who showed--in large numbers--their preference for the kind of government they desire by participating in the elections.
It appears that three models of government are feasible. The first is the Iran-style Islamic government; the second is along the lines suggested by the powerful Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which is moderate Islamic democracy. The third would be a hybrid of the al-Sistani model with some accommodation for western-style secularism, without calling it such.
The Kurds would prefer a secular model, because that holds the best promise for autonomy for them. But they are likely to live with the al-Sistani model, especially if it has a high preference for moderation. Meantime, the minority Iraqi Sunnis seem to have concluded that they would lose in any case.
Unless they are given some sort of explicit guarantees for the safeguarding of their rights, their attitude toward the proposition of living under a Shia-dominated government will remain antagonistic.
In this sense, the insurgents might also be registering Sunni anger. Any serious attempt to resolve this inter-sectarian antagonism and tension requires a peaceful environment, which is totally lacking in Iraq.
The unstated reality in Washington, despite Mr. Bush's address, is that there are no high hopes regarding post-election Iraq. Even if Iyad Allawi is elected and forms a government, it would not mean we are viewing a harbinger of democracy and stability in Iraq. That is precisely what the terrorist-insurgents want: instability and an end to democratic impulses.