Thursday, May 10, 2007

Threat to Success

Despite all the deserved attention that the al Qaeda network in Iraq gets, I continue to believe--as I have for a couple years now--that the Shia militias are the main threat to success in Iraq.

Despite the bloody killing spree that the jihadis are on, they cannot take over Iraq. They just provide a unifying enemy for Kurds, Shias, and Sunni Arabs to hate.

The Baathists lost their chance to win more than three years ago.

The criminal gangs thrive and add to the climate of violence because security assets must be focused on threats to the government.

Strategypage notes the decline of the Sunni Arabs (jihadis and Baathists):

American intelligence tracks hundreds of indicators in Iraq, and they are all showing that the Sunni Arab terrorists, and their al Qaeda allies, are fading away. It's a trend even the terrorists appear to be aware of, as the word on the street is that morale is low, and the terrorist organizations have to offer more money to get bomb builders, planters and scouts for the roadside bomb operations. The bomb business is getting more dangerous, what with more people using their cell phones to call the cops when they see bombs being built, transported or planted. The suicide bombers, however, are getting a boost from American politicians opposed to the war in Iraq, and the attempts to get American troops pulled out. The number two guy in al Qaeda has recently boasted about this support, in a video distributed on the Internet.

While we have an wider interest in killing the al Qaeda types in Iraq so they die in place, as far as the Iraq campaign goes, it is from the Shia community that the most dangerous threat to the government arises. Not that anywhere near a majority of Shias are part of this threat, but a threat from within this group could conceivably lay claim to the support of this whole community under the right circumstances. A Sadr or other Iranian puppet would have only to pretend to be a local group long enough to take power.

Fortunately, over the last two years, Sadr's boys have shown their corruption in southern Iraq, Sadr fled to Iran reducing his appeal, Shia militias splintered with the killers hunted down and the reasonable ones offered an official defensive role, and the Iranian paw prints are otherwise visible to Shias. This threat is fading. Until the surge started I worried about how popular Sadr might be. Sadr seems to have forfeited much of the sympathy he had.

Remember, although we are clearly winning against the threats arrayed against the government, this obviously doesn't mean that the war is over. But the trend is there and has been visible for some time.

Yet our Congress works harder to give our enemies hope than they work to reassure our friends and allies. Amazing. Not that this is unique to this war or our country, but it is no less revolting for being common.

UPDATE: This article notes the decline of Sadr:

But recent events call into question whether the Mahdi Army is really so powerful. Since al-Sadr fled to Iran following the announcement of the U.S. military's "surge," the Mahdi Army has experienced massive splintering. A senior U.S. military intelligence officer who believes that the threat of the Mahdi Army was always overstated said that "support for al-Sadr was always a mile wide but an inch deep." He believes the Mahdi Army has a dedicated core of about 3,000 Iranian-trained operatives, but that most of its members signed on not out of deep commitment, but because "it gave their families and neighborhoods protection."

Sadr is a threat to us. We simply can't lose the Shias. So while we feared that Sadr had the sympathy of the Shias, we had to work against him carefully. But as I noted, Sadr is apparently deflated (but still a threat if he has 3,000 Iranian-trained agents) and most Shia militiamen just want to protect their families and neighborhoods.

We are winning against each new threat that arises. Have patience, please.