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January 25, 2007

Has The Turnaround in Baghdad Already Begun?

Nibras kazimi, an Iraqi writer and visiting Scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC who also writes a weekly column on the Middle East for the New York Sun, and a monthly column for the Prospect Magazine (UK), has a piece at the New York Sun today where he says that he believes that the Sunnis and insurgents are now war weary, and we've reached a turnaround point in the campaign to stabilize Iraq.

From my vantage point it appears that Kazimi's getting decent intel (or has good insight), and if he's right, the president's "stay the course" line used up to recently just may have been on target all along - despite a plethora of mistakes by both the U.S. and the Iraqis, and the need for further changes in our rules of engagement and the need for Iraqis to take off the gloves against the Shia militias:

[...] Still, major bombings will continue for many years, for Al Qaeda will remain oblivious to all evidence of the insurgency's eventual defeat. The Baathists, and jihadist groups like Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, may be collapsing due to aimlessness and despair, but Al Qaeda still enjoys the clarity of zealotry and fantasy. Right now, they are arm-twisting other jihadist groups to submit to them and are also taking credit for the large-scale fighting that continues in Iraq.

Al Qaeda will continue the fight long after the Iraqi battlefield becomes inhospitable to their cause, and they will only realize the futility of their endeavor after they are defeated on the wider Middle East battlefield and elsewhere in the world.

As the wider insurgency recedes, the Iraqi state will gain some breathing space to implement the rule of law and dissolve the death squads. A society that sets about rebuilding itself can endure the type of attacks mounted by Al Qaeda, although they are painful.

Counterinsurgency strategists will argue about the precise moment when this turnabout occurred and will try to replicate the victory elsewhere. Pundits will argue about who or what policy was responsible for it, a matter eventually to be settled by historians. Victory has a way of making everyone associated with it golden, and many will claim right of place. Defeat has a way of turning everyone associated with it to ash, and many will disclaim responsibility for it.

Let me state the lesson of this turnabout clearly lest it be obscured amidst the euphoria: Never mind who takes credit, kill or capture more of the killers to ensure victory.

Be sure to read Kazimi's entire article.

In my intro I said it appears that Kazimi has decent intel or has good insight. But there's a needed qualifier to address the 800 pound guerrilla in the room - al-Sadr's and other's Shi'ite militias operating in the interest of and to a great extent under the control of Iran's operatives. If I were to look for a weakness in Kazimi's piece I'd add the qualifier of 'provided we change the rules of engagement and shutdown the Shia militias at the same time we do the same with the Sunni insurgency and al-Qaeda'. Perhaps we are reaching a turnaround in Baghdad, but you can bet that it's far from over.

As for "staying the course," add 'with major changes' and 'the Iraqis stepping up to the plate', and I'll buy it.

Posted by Mike in Iraq at January 25, 2007 9:05 AM

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