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(Part one in a series)
Through the duration of the war in Iraq I've identified key indicators of important trends in the conflict on this web site. These indicators take the form of discrete events of variable duration, the trends are larger scale and longer term, and generally identifiable to the observer only as a series of events. The key to understanding what's happening in Iraq is to be able to identify a trend by it's indicators (and conversely to be able to determine which events are part of a trend) and to recognize which trends or events matter (in long or short term) and which don't. Identifying events and trends (or even distinguishing events from brief trends) is exceptionally difficult without the benefit of hindsight and demonstrably challenging even after the fact. And any attempt at forecasting - extending those trends into the future - compounds that challenge by an unknown degree, and at some point is an exercise in futility.
Those who attempt to accomplish any of those tasks without constant monitoring of the situation or first hand experience therein do so at a distinct disadvantage. Identifying trends from outside Iraq can be impossible - the observer is dependent upon reports from others (from traditional and new media, if no other contact are available), and must be aware of the bias of those few reporters whose work reaches the outside world. If I've had any success at all in the attempt (and I will humbly demonstrate shortly I've had some success, at least) much of that is due to my lack of those disadvantages that burden so many others. Further, while those of a certain partisan stripe might find my conclusions more appealing than others, another key to understanding is to be able to view the scene without partisan prejudice of any sort - at least as far as that is humanly possible - separate facts from feelings, and limit motives to truth over a desired outcome.
IF YOU READ BLOGS, you knew this a long time ago, but if you read the L.A. Times you know it now: Iraqis losing patience with militiamen.In short, that's old news.
Now there's new news out there under the radar. But first, the deep background...
In November, 2005 I explained how the war in Iraq would be won. At that time "violence" was increasing - a cyclical event in Iraq, and one that gets extensive media coverage, as it did then. But no one had noticed another number on the rise: the number of tips received from Iraqi civilians, grown from under 500 a month earlier in the year to over 3,000. And few realized that the increase in that last statistic was a direct result of the "increasing violence" - Iraqis were "losing patience" with the people who were killing them. Odd how that works...
As more Iraqi forces replace Americans, expect to see those numbers presented in the final chart climb even higher. This is how the "insurgency" will be defeated.I thought the key to maintaining that upward trend would be increased involvement from Iraqi security forces - those with whom the civilian population could identify, trust, and communicate more freely than they could with Americans. Unfortunately in the year following that prediction, attempts to achieve that goal proved futile and in some cases misguided as Americans pulled back from routine interaction with Iraqis in favor of "local" security forces that were often from other regions, lacked experience, and were for the most part not ready (trained and equipped) for the task.
The tipping point in the war in Iraq will not come from killing off insurgents - it will be achieved by replacing the Americans who are killing them with Iraqi forces capable of doing the same.
To say the situation was further complicated in the wake of the Samarra bombing would be an understatement. That attack and the resulting chaos (magnified by a simultaneous al Qaeda public relations campaign) effectively reversed any gains made over the preceding period. "Local" (often neighborhood level) and "sectarian" militias - many of which existed before the bombing - formed (or intensified their efforts) as a result of the security vacuum. The perception of chaos and retribution so carefully cultivated by al Qaeda soon became real - an uncomplicated task in a land where grudges go back thousands of years and are fueled by tribal and religious distinctions of great degree among people clustered in relatively small geographic areas - a weakness most apparent in Baghdad.
But even as security in Baghdad deteriorated, events in Anbar would undermine al Qaeda's efforts and prove the validity of my prediction, though in ways I didn't foresee.
Sunni groups had begun to turn on al Qaeda. The significance of these events was vastly under appreciated by observers in America. But al Qaeda was further weakened by the strike on Zarqawi, an event dismissed at the time as only making the group stronger. In fact it was already too late for al Qaeda in Iraq.
Sheikh Sattar al-Buzayi summoned other tribal chiefs last week for a war council at his fortified home in Ramadi, the teeming, scarred capital of Iraq's Anbar province, desert heartland of the Sunni Arabs....and by early October - before American media outlets had noticed the event and certainly long before they appreciated the significance, the Anbar Awakening movement was in full swing.
There was a bountiful feast of beef and rice, and a vow of unrelenting battle against the common enemy -- al Qaeda.
"We have to form police and army forces from among our sons to fight these al Qaeda militants," Buzayi, who says the militants murdered his father and his brother, told Reuters.
"We have now entered a real battle. It's either us or them."
Baghdad: Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive Al Qaida out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shiite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against militants.Where the Iraqi military and police had failed (in some part due to the lack of Sunni participation) the "civilian" group would succeed. In short order they turned against the leader of al Qaeda's public relations team
Sattar Al Buzayi, a Sunni shaikh from Anbar province who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama Bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other shaikhs had offered their cooperation to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.
"This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts," said the prime minister.
Sunni sheiks from Iraq's volatile Anbar province have denounced a powerful Sunni cleric as "a thug" for supporting the al-Qaida terrorist group.The remaining question - would the coalition embrace the opportunity - was answered before the end of November.
The Anbar Salvation Council, a group of sheiks formed to resist foreign militants in Iraq, also denied accusations by cleric Harith al-Dhari that it was cozying up to the Iraqi government in exchange for money, the New York Times reported Sunday.
"We, on behalf of the Anbar tribes council, say to Harith al-Dhari: If there is a thug, it is you; if there is a killer and a kidnapper, it is you," the Times quoted Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi as saying.
“The American’s have come to the aide of the Abu Soda tribe. They have understood the dire situation [that the Abu Soda are currently battling the Al Qaeda], because [the Americans] see it as a fight against a common enemy,” said Sheikh Ahmed, Sheikh of Abu Resha.It's worth noting that the events discussed above were going on throughout 2006 - the year the media fixated on the Civil War In Iraq narrative and the "we're losing" conclusion thereto - to the exclusion of these developments that would ultimately prove to be of considerably more significance. It wasn't until the American troops surge was launched that the success of the Awakening movement was acknowledged and addressed in certain quarters. And even then it was merely touted as the real reason things were improving in Iraq - the surge itself was declared a failure..
After establishing positive identification, Coalition Forces conducted air strikes and fired artillery at Al Qaeda forces attacking the Abu Soda Tribe.
This is big. Remember al-Qaeda's threat to kill the "renegade" Sunnis after Ramadan? Since the tribes "have given their men to the Ministry of the Interior to serve as Iraqi Police" and the coalition has given significant resources in support, they're going to have a tough time delivering.
In reality both the increase in US troops and the development of "awakening councils" were crucial. For example, recall that with no safe havens in Anbar, al Qaeda fled to Baqubah in Diyala Province. Months would pass before that could be addressed, but as Mike Yon would report, the combination of US surge forces and the 1920's Revolution Brigades (who like the Anbar tribes had turned on al Qaeda) were able to secure the area.
Last month, a milblogger there was explaining the ongoing battle - with boredom:
I'm not the only one feeling the boredom, on one of our patrols we paid 4 donkey cart drivers to race, the stipulation, one soldier on the back of each donkey cart. My donkey lost, it tried to kick its driver.He was echoing the sentiments Marines in Ramadi had been expressing for months.
This review of events that set the stage for success in Iraq continues here.
For those interested in the latest under-reported news from Iraq, see Exodus.
My son is in al Anbar and he says the same thing..
"Mom, I'm bored."
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/30/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.Posted by David M at May 30, 2008 03:10 PM
The Boredom scares me. They can not help but be more vulnerable to attack. Also our Marines and Soldiers tend do silly stuff (using a Koran for target practice) when they are bored.
their Sargent's and Officer's are going to have to work extra hard to keep them safe.Posted by Ron Pixler at May 30, 2008 04:13 PM
Using the Koran for target practice had nothing to do with boredom, it was just stupidity. With a force as big as the one in Iraq you will unfortunately have idiots.
The important thing is how many idiots and what happens to them afterwards. The US military in Iraq IMO has done an excellent job in Iraq in keeping a good level of discipline and punishing those who do break laws and regulations.
However every time an idiot does do something stupid that is what the media runs with.Posted by GI Korea at May 30, 2008 09:59 PM
"However every time an idiot does do something stupid that is what the media runs with."
True of Iraq, the US Presidential elections, and the rest of the world, too. :)Posted by Greyhawk at May 31, 2008 02:55 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(5) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)