Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Are the Sunnis Breaking?

I've written before that when the Sunnis lose they may well break suddenly.

And I recently wrote a couple posts speculating that our Sunni enemies might have made a supreme effort in the belief that affecting our elections would save them. As we continue to fight and the press talks of "escalation" with the so-called "surge," I wondered if our enemies would become discouraged.

Strategypage has this interesting piece today:

In the last month, the nature of the fighting in Iraq has changed in some interesting ways. Sunni terrorists have become demoralized, and the number of attacks they are launching is plummeting. American casualties are now less than a third of what they were last month. American attention is turning from the Sunnis, who now live in fear of Shia death squads, to Shia politics in general. The Shia control most of the Iraqi government, and about half of the Shia political parties are heavily influenced by Iran. Worse, the Iranian influence comes from radical elements in the Iranian government, who are basically Shia versions of al Qaeda. This is the "Death to America" crowd, a group that wants a worldwide Islamic state run by Shia clerics. Opposition to this is something most Moslems (only about ten percent are Shia) and the U.S. can agree on. American forces are now spending more of their time gathering evidence about the extent of Iranian influence in Iraq.

If this continues, this will mark the official hand-off of the insurgency from the Sunni Arabs to the Shia fanatics. This has been true for nearly a year, but the Sunnis have fought on like dead men walking.

Unfortunately, this will not end the war even if the trend is real. The Shias backed by Iran are the real threat now to our success in Iraq.

On the bright side, with the main enemy being Shia Persians, we should be able to get some enthusiastic support from our Sunni Arab allies in the Middle East. They have not been eager to see the Shias succeed in Iraq, to say the least. But now the choice is becoming a Shia-dominated Iraq that is pro-American and so not a threat to the Sunni Arab countries; or a Shia-dominated Iraq that is allied with Iran and so a threat to the Sunni Arab worlds with both nukes (in the not-so-distant future) and an appeal to Shia minorities in the Sunni Arab world. And recall that even Israel managed to get Sunni Arab governments to support their efforts against Iran-supported Shia Hizbollah last summer (but Israel blew that support).

The Sunni Arabs in Iraq may be breaking and ending their fight. And the Sunni Arab world might break our way in the diplomatic struggle to oppose Iran and bolster Iraq.

Are American politicians really advocating retreat even as we have knocked down foe after foe inside Iraq?

UPDATE: How is this related?

The apparent evacuation of Baghdad by al Qaeda forces comes from direct orders issued by al-Masri, the former soldier who took control of the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda following the June 2006 bombing death of Zarqawi.

Initially, the intelligence officer informed Pajamas, the Baghdad-based AQ fighters did not want to leave. Al-Masri had to send unequivocal orders for their retreat, adding that one of the lessons from the Fallujah campaign was that Americans have learned how to prevail in house-to-house fighting. Masri said that remaining in Baghdad was a ‘no-win situation’ for the terrorists.

“In more than ten years of reading al Qaeda intercepts, I’ve never seen language like this,” the intelligence officer said. Usually, al Qaeda communications are full of bravado and false confidence, he added.

Al-Masri’s evacuation order – assuming that it is authentic – reveals that al Qaeda in Iraq leader has a good grasp of a tactical situation. “He is far more formidable than Zarqawi was,” the intelligence officer said, because of his training at Soviet special warfare schools.

Al-Masri has ordered al Qaeda forces to regroup in the Diyala province. This might be an attempt to lure American troops away from the Iraqi capital, forcing America to hunt al Qaeda in the province while the terrorists slowly slip behind them and return to Baghdad, he said.

Good grasp of a tactical situation? Excuse me? Fallujah was held by the jihadis. We had to assault the city to take it back. The jihadis are merely operating in Baghdad. We will deploy into Baghdad--not assault the city--to hunt the enemy. Big difference. If the head of al Qaeda in Iraq doesn't understand that difference why would we assume keen tactical insights by al-Masri?

When bloody-minded jihadis decide to retreat rather than fight and die in place just for the chance to send an American soldier to the grave no matter how many jihadis die doing it, I'd say the enemy is faltering in their will. I'm far away and figuratively sitting in an arm chair, but this looks like losing and not crafty redeployment. We shall see, I suppose.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Again, is this story related?

The U.S. military is reporting a dramatic and unexpected increase in the number of police recruits in Anbar province, the center of Sunni insurgent activity in Iraq.

In the past two weeks, more than 1,000 applicants have sought police jobs in Ramadi, the provincial capital. Eight hundred signed up last month in Ramadi, said Army Maj. Thomas Shoffner, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

Those figures compare with only "a few dozen" recruits in September, the U.S. military said.

This could be consistent with the idea that the Sunni insurgency is breaking. If Sunnis don't see the insurgents and terrorists as able to protect them, joining the police where they can lawfully carry arms to protect their communities makes sense.

But there could be alternate explanations. Just because I'm more aware of news stories that might bolster the initial entry about the Strategypage report doesn't mean these stories do support the first report. They might. Or there might be another explanation. Time will tell.

FURTHER UPDATE: This article has some added credibility now.