First New York Press Quadrenni...,
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war on terror update...,
state of the insurgency:
Knight Ridder reports that US bombing of residential neighborhoods is increasing support for foreign terrorist operations in Iraq:
Once reviled as the man who brought beheadings to Iraq, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is gaining support among Iraqis who are outraged over the trail of razed neighborhoods and dead civilians left by the U.S. military's anti-insurgent offensives this month.
Many Iraqis explained the fledgling support for al-Zarqawi by citing a popular Arabic proverb: "Me and my brother against my cousin; me and my cousin against a stranger."
...said Sheik Hassan al Niemi of the Muslim Scholars Association, a conservative Sunni Muslim group that opposes the American presence in Iraq, "Why not have foreign fighters here? When the Americans came, they didn't come alone. They brought their allies. Why is it a crime against us if other Arabs stand with Iraqis? They're our brothers." ...
While social scientists and government officials say most Iraqis still bristle against the extremist brand of Islam and the shocking murders committed by al-Zarqawi's ilk, his deeds have become more palatable if not outright supported by Iraqis who already opposed the U.S. military presence and the American-backed Iraqi government. A stepped-up campaign of airstrikes against al-Zarqawi and other militants in the flashpoint cities of Fallujah and Samarra only pushed Iraqis closer to a man who was once persona non grata.
"Because Zarqawi raised the banner of resistance, they support him," said Salman al-Jumaili, a Baghdad University professor and Fallujah native who tracks Sunni insurgent groups. "They welcome anyone who is anti-American. The public trend is toward extremism because their houses and towns are under bombardment. They don't support Zarqawi himself, they support the resistance he represents."
This is a parallel trend to what we've already seen with Al-Sadr - a virtual nobody before Bremer closed down his newspaper and now the second most popular man in Iraq, a towering figure of resistance. Noami Klien points out furhter in her "al-Sadr our Hero" piece today that:
the attacks appear to be boosting support not only for Sadr personally, but for theocracy generally. In February, the month before Bremer closed down Sadr's newspaper, an Oxford Research International survey found that a majority of Iraqis wanted a secular government; only 21% of respondents said that their favoured political system was "an Islamic state". Fast-forward to August, with Najaf under siege by US forces: the International Republican Institute reported that a staggering 70% of Iraqis wanted Islam and sharia as the basis of the state.
How many foreign terrorists are in Iraq? Nobody really knows, of course, but we have two sets of estimates: wild guesses coming from a Bush administraton seeking to make Iraq conform to a vision where it is the 'geographical heart of the war on terror', and wild guesses from military, intelligence, and coalition agencies that aren't pre-occupied with trying to justify their re-election bids.
Last May the AP reported that official estimates of foreign fighters were quite low, with at most 100 in Fallujah. Come July there was an update, citing official's estimates that there were maybe "a couple hundred supporters of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) and hundreds of other foreign fighters":
U.S. military documents obtained by AP show a guerrilla band mounting attacks in Baghdad that consists of two leaders, four sub-leaders and 30 members, broken down by activity. There is a pair of financiers, two cells of car bomb-builders, an assassin, separate teams launching mortar and rocket attacks, and others handling roadside bombs and ambushes.
Most of the insurgents are fighting for a bigger role in a secular society, not a Taliban-like Islamic state, the military official said. Almost all the guerrillas are Iraqis, even those launching some of the devastating car bombings normally blamed on foreigners — usually al-Zarqawi. ...
At the orders of Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander of Mideast operations, Army analysts looked closely for evidence that Iraq's insurgency was adopting extreme Islamist goals, the official said. Analysts learned that ridding Iraq of U.S. troops was the motivator for most insurgents, not the formation of an Islamic state.
And then last week the LA Times reported an update:
Foreign militants such as Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi are believed responsible for carrying out videotaped beheadings, suicide car bombings and other high-profile attacks. But U.S. military officials said Iraqi officials tended to exaggerate the number of foreign fighters in Iraq to obscure the fact that large numbers of their countrymen have taken up arms against U.S. troops and the American-backed interim Iraqi government.
In a TV interview Sunday, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, estimated that the number of foreign fighters in Iraq was below 1,000.
... Instead, U.S. military officials said the core of the insurgency in Iraq was — and always had been — Hussein's fiercest loyalists, who melted into Iraq's urban landscape when the war began in March 2003. During the succeeding months, they say, the insurgents' ranks have been bolstered by Iraqis who grew disillusioned with the U.S. failure to deliver basic services, jobs and reconstruction projects.
It is this expanding group, they say, that has given the insurgency its deadly power and which represents the biggest challenge to an Iraqi government trying to establish legitimacy countrywide.
"People try to turn this into the mujahedin, jihad war. It's not that," said one U.S. intelligence official. "How many foreign fighters have been captured and processed? Very few."
Taken altogether the number of foreign fighters is increasingly dwarfed by the native insurgency, and have remained at relatively static levels since last spring, somewhere, say, around 1,000. Likewise "former regime elements" that are described as "the core of the insurgency", if only because they have the relevant skill set, are or already have been largely replaced and outnumbered by Iraqi/Islamist patriots.
Yesterday a fellow citizen suggested to me that the US needed to "liberate Iraqi cities from these terrorists", a statement stemming from an exaggerated impression of how many such terrorists are in Iraq as well as an exaggerated impression of how much influence they wield with the nationalist insurgency.
My protest to this was three-fold beyond the false factual basis for the statement: in reality we are attempting to liberate Iraqi cities from themselves and subject them to rule of Allawi - a foreign supported pro-Western secular terrorist and former Ba'athist thug dead-ender; we are clearly pushing Iraqis into alliances with anti-Western Islamist terrorists; and we are, if anything, increasing the likelihood of a civil war by doing so, be it 70-90% of the Iraqi population against our puppet Iraqi government and its collaborators or the ethnic/religious civil war everyone is otherwise predicting. E.g. we are making matters worse in Iraq, and the rate of already steady slaughter is increasing. If you're not part of the solution, I can hear my old chemistry prof saying, you're part of the precipitate.