May 01, 2007

al-Masri's Rumored Death Shows Fruits of Sunni Awakening

The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was reportedly killed in a firefight today between al Qaeda and what has been described as a battle between insurgent groups by the Guardian, or by local Sunni tribesmen according to CNN. The account remains to be confirmed, and it must be noted that similar accounts in the past have been incorrect.

Both claims of who carried out the attack could be accurate, but the CNN account, which describes the site of the conflict as "a bridge in an area under Sunni tribal control," sounds like a description consistent with the Sunni tribal militias aligned with the al-Anbar "Awakening" movement, as described by combat filmmaker and blogger JD Johannes in this recent entry to his blog at Outside the Wire:

Driving along the four-lane highway from Habbaniyah to Ramadi there are the usual coalition check points, Iraqi Army Outposts, markets, black market gas stations and Police Stations.

But, off the main highway, on the access roads leading back into the Euphrates canal country, every half mile, gun men wearing Keyfahs and wielding AK-47s man road blocks--and they are the best allies we can have against the jihadists.


Last Summer few Sheiks, notably around Ramadi flipped to the coalition and government side of the conflict.

The tribes sent levies to the Police Academies in Baghdad and Amman, Jordan. They have also started taking matters into their own hands with some men from each clan and tribe defending their villages.

What I saw in Husabayah Jawal was not the Iraqi Police or the Iraqi Army, but the beginings of the end of the insurgency in Iraq.

Whether they are the Sons of Al Anbar, Sawa, TAA, the militia or the Tribal Neighborhood Watch, tribes and clans across the Euphrates river valley are taking charge of their own security with back up from the Marines.


The Iraq variant of the Home Guard emerged last year as many of the top sheiks, some who had opposed the coalition and some who had a foot in both camps saw that AQIZ was not following through on their promises and that the coalition was following through on their promises.

The other point that flipped the Sheiks is the simple fact that no one except for the hard core jihadists want to live under Sharia law--which is all the jihadists have to offer.

The Sheiks, sub-sheiks, former military leaders including a hero of the Iran/Iraq war who lived in the Khalidiayah area began the process of standing up neighborhood watch check points.

The neighborhood watch is supported by the Police District and Mayor. The Marines keep a close eye on the volunteers who man the check points but have no official involvement in their activities.

The Anbar Awakening is allowing one of the key aspects of counter insurgency operations to begin--population control and control of movement in and out of areas.

This firefight may have either been "red-on-red" fighting between an insurgent group and al Qaeda, or it could be the action of a tribal militia loyal to the "Awakening" and the Iraqi government.

If the former is correct and the firefight was a "red-on red" between insurgent groups, then it shows more evidence of a widening, lethal rift between various elements of a Sunni insurgency, an insurgency that has been showing increasing signs of fragmentation for months.

If the firefight was between al Qaeda and local Sunni militiamen loyal to the Awakening, then this battle is part of a trend that shows the vulnerability of al Qaeda and mobile insurgents to the "Home Guard" militias, local groups loyal to Sheiks aligning with the Iraqi government and coalition forces that know on sight whether or not people belong to a certain area. It is also worth mentionthat both accounts could very well be true, as these are not exclusive states of being with Sunni tribes in a state of flux.

This battle is one of many that has occurred in Iraq in the past few months as the Sunni Awakening that started last summer continues to bear fruit, further fracturing the insurgency as they turn on al Qaeda and the increasingly fewer number of Sunni tribes that see fighting the Iraqi government and coalition forces as a viable strategy.

While civilian and military casualties continue to mount in Iraq, the essential nature of the conflict has radically evolved, a fact under-reported in a world press that can understand simple concepts like body counts, but cannot or will not understand the underlying motivations and actors.

The original Sunni insurgency in Iraq that fought to overthrow or undermine the fledgling Iraqi government is not dead, but it is certainly, unequivocally, in the process of dying.

Today, the body counts continue to be high, but those dying in the string of horrific string of car and truck bomb attacks over the past few months are not being killed by popularly-supported Sunni insurgents, but instead, are being attacked by elements of al Qaeda. 80 to 90-percent of those carrying out suicide bombing in Iraq are not Iraqis, just as so many of the lethal EFP attacks being carried out against Coalition forces are the work of Shias that receive training and weaponry in Iran. Foreign actors are increasing taking the lead from the locals in the war against the Iraqi government.

Why does this matter?

Native-borne insurgencies are among the toughest of conflicts to bring to a successful resolution. The French learned this hard lesson in Vietnam and Algeria, as we learned that lesson in Vietnam. But native insurgencies can be defeated, as French Lt. Col. David Galula demonstrated in the areas under his control in Algeria, and as the British showed in the Malaysian Emergency.

Insurgencies that receive more external support than internal support are far more vulnerable to be defeated, for obvious reasons. Without internal support, foreign fighters and insurgent groups run a far greater risk of being identified, fixed, and destroyed. As a result, the current situation in Iraq is more winnable than it was a year ago.

Those critics that maintain that the war in Iraq is "lost," or that refuse to admit that al Qaeda or Iran are the key, driving forces behind the remaining Sunni and Shia militias and insurgent groups, are deluding themselves. Saying that "nothing has changed" is not only an abdication of responsibility, it is an abdication of reality.

Sunnis tribesmen engaged with al Qaeda this morning, as they have time and again and with increasing frequency over the past year as the Awakening grows. Allah's important influence aside, they are also undoubtedly switching sides because Iraq is their home, and they want to be on the winning side when this war concludes. Many have determined that the Iraqi government and their coalition allies must and will be that winning side.

Much as changed in Iraq since the Sunni Awakening began last summer.

We have a radically new strategy for fighting the war, being implemented by a new commanding general, under a new Secretary of Defense. We have crucial new allies, as tribes that formerly supported the insurgency have rebelled against it to form a new political party and re-engage in the political process, even as they hunt and kill al Qaeda. These Sunni tribes have engaged the Iraqi government and coalition troops as allies, declaring:

"We have decided that by helping you," he said, "we are helping God."

The war, it seems may be in the process of being won in Iraq in mid-2007, even as war critics declaring this war "lost" are stuck in time, in a much different Iraq War of early 2006.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 1, 2007 09:58 AM

Great news if it's really true this time. I linked at Bill's Bites >> 2007.05.01 Dem Perfidy // Islamism Delenda Est Roundup.

Posted by: Bill Faith at May 1, 2007 02:19 PM

That AQ retirement plan really sucks...

Posted by: Purple Avenger at May 2, 2007 07:38 AM