Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Spin on al-Qaeda in Iraq

Baghdad. I don't know whether Jabbur, on the southern bank of the Tigris, is the
Arab Jabour cited as the operation's location (Map: Perry-Castaneda)

This morning I saw an interview with Col. Terry Ferrell, the commander of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, who answered questions about an operation that took place several days ago, on July 14. The operation targeted an Iraqi al-Qaeda (AQI in the military press release) leader by the name of Abu Jurah, in a suburb southeast of Baghdad. The particular brigade that he commands is the heavy brigade combat team (HBCT) "Spartan," which includes armored and artillery battalions. The latter were apparently used to full effect, firing two Excalibur rounds on Abu Jurah's safe-house.

The White House has been talking up its actions against al-Qaeda in Iraq recently. This looks like a another desperate attempt by the administration to spin the obvious failure of the surge. It has become clear that the surge has been able to score only tactical victories against the insurgents - whether al-Qaeda, Sunni, or Shi'a. Thus, once again, the White House is trying to portray the army's battles in Iraq as efforts to defend America from al-Qaeda attacks on its soil.

Interestingly enough, the CNN anchor asked the colonel several times whether he believed that this latest operation would contribute to protecting Americans from an attack "in the homeland." Both times, he avoided giving an answer that would be either blatantly misleading or blatantly subversive of the current White House press campaign.

As the recent attempted attacks in the UK showed, Islamist terrorists inspired by al-Qaeda still pose a great threat to the world. It would be foolish to downplay the dangers posed by such groups. However, no one is served by the ongoing misinformation that casts Iraq as a front in the global war on terror. The Iraqi al-Qaeda "franchises," as a recent Stratfor report by Peter Zeihan argues, have a rather tenuous connection to the real al-Qaeda, currently holed up in Northwest Pakistan. The association between the Iraqi node and the bin Laden crew, Zeihan argues,
started with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who put himself forward as the leader of the Iraqi node of al Qaeda in 2004. While one can argue that al-Zarqawi might have been through an al Qaeda training camp or shared many of bin Laden's ideological goals, no one seriously asserts he had the training, vetting or face time with bin Laden to qualify as an inner member of the al Qaeda leadership. He was a local leader of a local militant group who claimed an association with al Qaeda as a matter of establishing local gravitas and international credibility. Other groups, such as Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah, had associations with al Qaeda long before al-Zarqawi, but al-Zarqawi was the first to claim the name "al Qaeda" as his own.

For al Qaeda, prevented by its security concerns from engaging in its own attacks, repudiating al-Zarqawi would make the "base" come across as both impotent and out of touch. Accepting "association" with al-Zarqawi was the obvious choice, and bin Laden went so far as to issue an audio communique anointing al-Zarqawi as al Qaeda's point man in Iraq.
Militants such as the late Abu Jurah are engaged in a terrorist war against the Iraqi government and U.S. forces in Iraq. However, their abilities to launch operations against America on its soil are virtually zero.

I am not sure what the current White House strategy on Iraq is. Everyone knows that the U.S. will not be involved much longer in the costly counter-insurgency that has claimed so many of its soldiers' lives for little in return. Given the failure to achieve calm in Iraq, the administration seems to be angling for dramatic victories against Iraqi al-Qaeda crews, before U.S. troops pull back to safer locations in the region. However, it is possible that the U.S. will have to redefine its mission in Iraq as war against Iraqi al-Qaeda, not in order to defend the homeland proper but to prevent Islamists from destabilizing U.S. allies in the region. The Americans would do well to observe developments in Pakistan, where al-Qaeda seems to be growing ever stronger in the frontier region of Waziristan and poised to attempt a dramatic strike against the unpopular Musharraf dictatorship.


Anonymous said...

Observing Pakistan only ? The Americans will also do well to observe the Nuclear Engreering for peace experimentations in Iran. The political hardening of Russia. Also things in Lebanon which is slowly drifting to G-D know where. In Turkey which one early morning will become an Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia which is financing a lot of very strange groups all over the world. And the list can be extended. The problem is not what to observe but what to do when, for example, the price of oil will double and when nuclear armed Iran will control most of the Iraqi oil directly and most of the oil of UAE and Bahrein and Kuwait indirectly. The muslims in Nigeria and Indonesia ( the most populous Islamic country ? ) ect. ect. ect. will have their say. And I almost forgot the great liberator of Venesuella. People in the west should start thinking about doing not about looking.

Nobody said...

do you think that the taliban can take over the country?

Amos said...

I think Islamists can sufficiently destabilize Pakistan to bring down Musharraf. They can effect a dramatic shift in Pakistan's current policy toward the U.S.

Right now, Pakistan seems to me a threat equal to that posed by Iran. If Musharraf's regime falls, we will see militant Islamists with access to ballistic missiles back in the corridors of power.

India recently signed a very big deal with Israel (missiles and missile-defense) - anyone have the info on that?

Anonymous said...

This is to moderator from Hazbani
Please check Aljazeera.net today there is a beautiful article about the Palestinian Workers Union. If you will bring it here there are some very interesting things to say about it. The sub-text is shockingly pro-Israel and also indictes how well planned the Hamas revolution in Gaza is. Try and get it, it will improve your blog.

Nobody said...

good news from farfur: FarfuR RELOADED

Nobody said...

My Farfur Trilogy is now almost complete ...

Anonymous said...

Lahoud rejects parcel from Israeli source in US

Lahoud rejects parcel from Israeli source in US
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: An unidentified 10-kilogram parcel sent from the Israeli Projects Center in Washington arrived by post on Wednesday addressed to President Emile Lahoud at the Baabda Palace. A spokesperson for the Presidential Palace in Baabda told The Daily Star the palace had refused to take delivery of the parcel and the matter was now in the hands of the judiciary. "We did not ask to open the parcel, we refused to take delivery and asked the shipper to return it to the sender," the spokesperson said. "It is now up to the judiciary, which may order the parcel opened or may not."

The Presidential Palace issued a statement Wednesday regarding the incident and said it placed the matter before Lebanese, Arab and world public opinion, adding that such Israeli practices were not surprising. "This highlights the policy of lies that the Jewish state pursues in response to Lebanon's steadfast position with regards to the Israeli enemy, whose similar practices will not change," the statement said.

Military Investigating Magistrate Jean Fahd has opened an investigation into the case to determine who is behind mailing the parcel, a judicial source confirmed on Thursday. Fahd interviewed several employees at the mail-sorting center of Rafik Hariri International Airport, where the parcel was received, but Fahd declined to comment until the investigation into the matter is completed. - The Daily Star