Monday, January 27, 2014

Getting Ready to Rumble

Iraqi forces occupied areas along the border with Syria that al Qaeda had staked out. And west of Baghdad, Fallujah residents were reminded that they'd better hurry up and eject al Qaeda from their city.

The Iraqi government would prefer to have Fallujah and regional tribal members eject al Qaeda from the city they've held all this year.

That way there is less anger at the government for collateral damage during the offensive that would kill or eject the jihadis.

But progress in getting this re-awakening is not going fast enough:

Iraqi government forces battling al Qaeda-linked militants intensified air strikes and artillery fire on the rebel-held city of Falluja on Sunday, and at least seven people were killed, according to hospital officials and tribal leaders. ...

Iraqi security forces have set up a loose cordon around Falluja and have clashed sporadically with insurgents inside. But they have held off from an all-out offensive, to give community leaders and tribesmen time to convince the gunmen to withdraw.

"There is no time left for talks and we're afraid a military solution is looming," said a local cleric in Falluja, which was the scene of two major battles with U.S. troops in 2004. "A third Falluja battle is at the doors".

I think it is a mistake to try to negotiate a withdrawal. If the jihadis are kind enough to mass in one place, the Iraqis should take the chance to kill as many as possible.

Now, if the government chases and kills the jihadis the moment they step outside of the city, that's fine. But letting them escape is a mistake.

But maybe this is where this comes in handy:

A government military offensive in recent days drove al Qaeda fighters from large desert areas they had been controlling along the Syrian border in western Iraq.

If al Qaeda wants their people to get out of Fallujah (and nearby Ramadi) and reinforce their comrades in Syria, Iraq's western Iraq moves could help interdict that movement.

As well as encourage the jihadis to leave the cities by interdicting any support that might come from Syria.

I don't know how long Iraqi forces will hold off. So far the tribal allies of the government haven't been able to do the job in Fallujah or even in Ramadi where there has been more tribal support against al Qaeda.