May 14, 2007

Dollard: Starving Parasites

Pat Dollard, Hollywood agent turned combat filmmaker and IED magnet, is echoing a sentiment I've been hearing more and more from fellow combat journalists: the war in Iraq is going very badly... for al Qaeda:

Terrorists are parasites. They rely on a host body to support them. Now they can terrorize a host body into providing them support, but that will only go so far. Ultimately, the host body must be somewhat sympathetic to the terrorists, or else, by sheer dint of numbers, the members of the host body will be able to reject the terrorists. These two principles explain the entire history of Al Qaeda’s reign over Al Anbar. Al Anbar, like Al Qaeda, is a Sunni entity. The people of Al Anbar were sympathetic enough to Al Qaeda that they provided them sanctuary, support and even manpower - which is to say, the very lifeblood that this parasite required. Finally, the Sunnis of Al Anbar had enough of the bleak and empty future, and very bloody present, that comprised the entirety of Al Qaeda’s offerings. And so the host body rejected the parasite. The parasite is now in its last possible refuge, the mixed Sunni/Shiite Triangle of Death & Diyala Province areas, just south and northeast of Baghdad, respectively. My time in Iraq started there, and will likely end there. Along with Al Qaeda’s.

There is a reason neither Al Qaeda or the Iranian Shiite Insurgents have no traction in Kurdistan. There is no sympathetic and compliant host body. There is a reason Al Qaeda has no traction in the southern/eastern Shiite areas of Iraq. There is no compliant, sympathetic (which is to say, Sunni) host body. There is only one place left with enough of a sympathetic, compliant host body for Al Qaeda to keep itself alive in. This is the mixed Sunni/Shiite Triangle of Death. An appropriate appellation for the battlefield of Iraq’s Apocalypse with its Public Enemy #1. Iraqis, Al Qaeda, U.S. forces. A triangle of death, indeed.

We're not hearing very much like this from the professional media nor the U.S. military, for very understandable and strikingly similar reasons.

The media staked out their narrative to a doomed war long ago, and will only begin to back off of that position once they are sure that al Qaeda,
and the Sunni insurgency is nearing collapse. The Iraqi government, U.S. government, and Coalition military and police forces are likewise cautious about overstating successes knowing that previous claims of a faltering insurgency have turned out to be false.

But Dollard's comments are part of a low, growing rumble from observers who have seen Iraq firsthand. Bill Roggio, J.D. Johannes, and others have been noting for several months the turnaround in al Anbar province, formerly the heart of the Sunni insurgency, as the Anbar Awakening has seen the overwhelming majority of the Sunni tribes once loyal to al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency reject the terrorists, and accept the U.S. and coalition forces as allies. It is these tribes that are now leading the hunt for al Qaeda, joining the Iraqi police and military in record numbers, and when they cannot get into official government security positions fast enough to hunt the terrorists, using their own ad hoc tribal militias to establish neighborhood security checkpoints and choke al Qaeda off and attack and kill al Qaeda aligned tribes.

This Awakening movement has spread as al Qaeda becomes the hunted in Anbar. al Qaeda continues its flight to Diyala, only to find the Sunni Awakening spreading to Diyala as well.

The media, quick to notice stumbling blocks and setbacks, seems unable to mention the obvious truth that al Qaeda and their Sunni allies, along with similar efforts by Shia militias trained and equipped by Iran, are also in their own version of a surge to counter our own.

Shia death squads will step up attacks against Sunni civilians in an effort to stoke Sunni militancy, just as the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent umbrella group, attempts to goad Sunnis into attacks against Shia, and al Qaeda continues to indiscriminately target Sunni, Shia, and Kurd to increases tensions among all groups.

What the U.S. military is hoping to accomplish with the COIN doctrine will not end the insurgency overnight, nor was that ever the promise. What it does intend, and where it is succeeding, is in engaging the Iraqis and helping civilians tired of war turn on Sunni, Shia, and al Qaeda militants among them.

As Dollard and others have noted, and as the British noted in Mayala, insurgencies are only viable as long as the population will support them. While it typically takes a decade or longer to completely defeat an insurgency, they rarely (never?) succeed once the bulk of the population turns against them. Once that tipping point is reached, much more blood may yet be spilled, but the final outcome all but assured.

Dollard is correct when he states al Qaeda in Iraq may end in Diyala. The tipping point against them seems to have already been reached in al Anbar, with the bulk of their former allies turning against them, and now hunting them down like dogs. As the Diyala Awakening gathers momentum, al Qaeda and aligned insurgents will no doubt mount more spectacular, bloody attacks in an attempt to intimidate the population into compliance. Like in al Anbar, those attacks are only likely to fuel anti-al Qaeda, anti-insurgency sentiment.

It is still very possible, considering the political climate, that we can still lose the war in Iraq because of its unpopularity here in the United States, and a corrupt and incompetent Iraqi government apparently more interested in personal profit than national unity and reconciliation. Our military is stretched close to its limits, and the will of Iran and Syria to continue supporting various militias and insurgent groups does not appear to lack resolve, or any real consequences for their support from either the United Nations or the United States.

The governments of the United States, Great Britain, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and perhaps a dozen other countries near and far are attempting to shape Iraq's future for their own best interests. The various religions, sects, and tribes within Iraq have formed and split alliances over the past four-plus years, attempting to do what they think is best for themselves. With all of these internal and external actors attempting to exert power and influence, it is ultimately up to the Iraqi people to determine which fate will envelope their nation. Perhaps the rise of The Awakening al Anbar and Diyala are an indication that the future they are choosing is one of hope amidst the carnage.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 14, 2007 09:20 AM

I've seen this in several places and I know this will come as a surprise to some of your more right-leaning readers, but I hope this is true.

Yes, a liberal who wants us to succeed in Iraq. Shocking, I know.

As for the Iraqis finally getting tired of getting blown up every time they go out for a loaf of bread, it's about d**n time.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at May 14, 2007 09:43 AM