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Iraq Update: Al-Qaeda Making a Comeback

A string of deadly bombings, ominous threats broadcast online, and a chain of assassinations of city councilmen: witness the opening act of the return of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The NYT reports that local representatives, or mukhtars, in Baquba have resigned en masse after being targeted for assassination by al-Qaeda fighters attempting to renew their presence in one of their old neighborhoods:

[The head of Baquba’s city council] said that eight mukhtars had been assassinated in Baquba this year in Al Qaeda’s effort to gain control of neighborhoods, particularly in the west of the city. In addition, seven family members were killed in those attacks, Mr. Hiali said. Most were carried out by so-called “sticky bombs,” explosives attached to the underside of victims’ cars, he added.

Baquba was a Qaeda stronghold during the Iraq war, and the former Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed just outside the city in an American airstrike in 2006.

The mention of the sectarian butcher Zarqawi brings up a crucial point about this new al-Qaeda surge. In the video broadcast after last Monday’s attacks, the group’s leader compared his outfit’s campaign against the government to the uprising in Syria: a pious Sunni opposition trying to topple an infidel regime. What makes the situation in Iraq so fragile is the fact that this struggle between the state and terrorists is also a sectarian conflict.

Just as Assad’s minority Alawite regime in Syria faces a Sunni opposition, the battle lines in Iraq are also drawn on religious boundaries. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s repressive Shiite government might have overplayed its hand in punishing the disenfranchised Sunni minority (a minority that held the Shiite majority in an iron grip during the Saddam years).

In Iraq, as in Syria, sectarianism makes an already Hobbesian drama even nastier and more brutish—but unfortunately not any shorter.

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  • Corlyss

    Even the stones in the streets predicted this would be the consequence of Obama’s rash abdication of responsibility. And Iraq was more stable when we pulled out than Afghanistan will be in 20 years.

    Lessons to be learned: How not to fight a war: let the international community bully you into proportionality, obey artificial “rules of war” written by institutions that don’t fight wars, advertise when you plan to quit the fight regardless of the war’s state at that point, then get out in unseemly haste. Absolute folly.

  • dearieme

    Unless this shambles is what W wanted, it’s an indictment of his folly in invading Iraq. His father was much wiser. But then his father was the last grown-up President.

  • Mrs. Davis

    If there’s one thing we should have learned in Iraq, if not Viet Nam, it’s that it’s not about the war (we’ll win) it’s about the peace.

  • Art Deco

    The last time I rummaged through the data at Iraq Body Count, it appeared that in excess of 95% of the violence was to be found in six provinces where lived about 40% of the population. That would be rather reminiscent of the situation in Colombia, which has had similar quanta of violence in the past over a similar proportion of their population.

    It ought be noted that the six provinces in question are where the vast bulk of the Sunni Arab population lives and the variation amongst the six provinces is correlated with the share of Sunni Arabs therein (i.e. the violence is proportionately more severe in the four Sunni Arab provinces than it is in the two mixed provinces). Put plainly, the Sunni Arabs are bombing themselves.

    You might consider the possibility that the situation is similar to that in Colombia in another aspect: the grievances in question cannot be resolved through conciliation. It may be that the only option that can be implemented to impose order is to stomp those suckers flat. If Iraq is fortunate, the process will not still be ongoing 60-odd years from now. It took 26 years to suppress the Tamil insurgency in Ceylon.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “A string of deadly bombings, ominous threats broadcast online, and a chain of assassinations of city councilmen: witness the opening act of the return of al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

    Completely unexpected!

    Total shocka!

    Who would have thunk that!

    Didn’t Professor of Muslimity George W Bush taught the Ruling Class that Islam is Religion of Peace?

    And Arabic Muslims desire freedom just a much as Swiss Protestants.
    And boy, what will they do with their new freedoms.

  • alex scipio

    There is ONE way to fight a war, and ONE way ONLY: Total war. Everything else just wastes lives, money and time. And nations. When OBL was @ Tora Bora, a mature, experienced, historically aware and knowledgeable CINC would have nuked him. Nukes used in war ALWAYS SAVE LIVES. Always have; always will.

    Unless America grows-up and decides, no, it is NOT acceptable for Dark Ages barbarians to continue killing Information Age, post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment humans because those humans reject a return to the 7th Century.. AND DESTROYS THEM… freedom and liberty will be over globally just as Obama is destroying them in America. There are 44 wars globally between islam and non-islamic people just wanting to live life their own way. Are we helping by destroying the destroyers with one or two or a dozen properly placed nukes? No. And I am COMPETELY SERIOUS. If we don’t kill these people they WILL destroy us. The toys of war fantasized by the Pentagon DO NOT WIN WARS. WILLPOWER, and willpower ALONE wins wars. We can pretend all we want that they will see our ability to wipe them out with our cool Future Weapons, and stop fighting. As you can see, this pretense has accomplished exactly NOTHING. KILL THE ENEMY OF MODERNITY, or the enemy of modernity will certainly destroy the modern world. NO adult leader would EVER sacrifice lives in a pretend battle against those demanding to destroy liberty. So WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO DO SO?

    COIN is a strategy it is folly for a superpower to take. And NOTHING ought to be more important to our entire chain of command than winning at the lowest possible price in human lives.

    The US has WON only two wars in its history: The Civil War and WW2. In ALL OTHER WARS one side or the other tired of the contest and went home (Brits (Revolution, 1812), Americans (Korea, Vietnam), French (Vietnam) Germans (WW1), etc.). If the goal is not to utterly destroy the enemy’s capacity and will to fight, to make him COMPLETELY dependent on his conqueror, then the reason to fight is not believed in by the politicians, and EVERYONE acceeding to war is complicit in the utter waste of American lives and treasure.

    Who is MOST complicit? THE US MILITARY. Their ONLY Constitutional duty is the defense of the Constitution. Yet while the president has trashed the Rule of Law utterly, and flat-out stated what laws he will and won’t enforce and what laws he’ll pass on his own – even after rejected by Congress, the military is playing Palace Guard to this HRH wanna-be, deploying globally at the whim of ONE MAN rather than DEMANDING a Constitutionally-required Declaration prior to fighting, killing and dying.. and rather than protecting the Constitution from Obama – the GREATEST ENEMY AMERICA HAS EVER FACED.

    And before people get all hot n bothered about my hammering the military – yes, I have served. Yes, I attended USAFA, and Yes, I was one of the “best and brightest” Americans getting appointed to a service academy for a career in the officer corps of the US military, once the greatest force for good on earth.

    And the military is utterly SHIRKING its DUTY.

    Required 4th-class knowledge, USAFA: “Duty, then, is the sublimest word in the English language; you can never do more. You shold never wish to do less.” – Robt E Lee.

    US military on doing their duty: EPIC FAIL.

    EPIC. I wish I had a larger font.


  • Art Deco

    Didn’t Professor of Muslimity George W Bush taught the Ruling Class that Islam is Religion of Peace?

    There have been disagreeable insurgencies in some Muslim countries in recent decades (but not others). There have been periods of internal war and periods of internal peace in some locales. There is hardly a region of the globe of which those observations are not true to a greater or lesser So what’s your point?

  • Art Deco

    By the way. These are the mean homicide rates (kills per 100,000 population) for a set of 22 muslim countries, as assessed over the period running from 2000 through 2009. I believe the ultimate source is NationMaster.

    Indonesia 8.4
    Kyrgyzstan 8.3
    Turkey 6.7
    Pakistan 6.4
    Turkmenistan 5.6
    Albania 4.6
    Yemen 4.0
    Uzbekistan 3.6
    Kosovo 3.6
    Iran 2.9
    Tajikistan 2.9
    Libya 2.7
    Syria 2.4
    Azerbaijan 2.4
    Jordan 1.7
    Morocco 1.6
    Kuwait 1.3
    Saudi 1.1
    United Arab Emirates 1.0
    Qatar 0.9
    Egypt 0.8
    Bahrain 0.7

    That for the United States was about 5.0 per 100,000 during those years.

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