Al-Qaeda in Iraq Continues to Gain Strength

 

January 9, 2014 – San Francisco, CA – PipeLineNews.org – The imminent release of ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ book, [Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War , Knopf, January 14, 2014] has been accompanied by an unusual number of leaks, teases really, intended to pump sales, a standard technique in the publishing industry.

However it’s the content of these brief previews which have grabbed the attention of the part of the public that still cares about these things and that certainly includes the press.

The broad outlines are already known and they confirm what many have already concluded, including this news source.

1. Mr. Obama is a political animal and makes all decisions - including those of a military nature - crafted to please his left-wing, anti-America, pro-Shari'a constituencies.

2. He has no defining core foreign policy.

3. He has been a weak Commander in Chief appearing to have little interest in this constitutionally mandated duty.

4. The President has little if any faith in his administration's military strategies, no confidence in his commanders and shows only a modicum of respect for the military in general.

5. He is ideologically adverse to the concept of militarily projecting power.

All of this bears on the topic of Iraq which looks to be on the verge of imploding due to a multiple “waves” of al-Qaeda planned car bombings which are tearing the country apart and re-igniting lethal tensions between the majority Shia and Sunni Muslim communities. Though some have characterized that prospect as an incipient civil war, in reality it’s an ancient conflict between long-held and bitterly competing Islamic sects.

The carnage has been catastrophic and the statistics frightful. Between 8 and 10,000 civilians were killed in these attacks during 2013, with the number of bombings averaging over 70 attacks a month.

“…The U.N. figures gave a total of 759 people killed in December alone, including 661 civilians and 98 members of the security forces. Another 1,345 were wounded, the statement said. The number of civilians killed in 2013 is higher than the 2008 toll of 6,787…Another group, Iraq Body Count, put the number killed last year at nearly 9,500…In 2013, there was an average of 71 [bombings] per month…” [source, Civilian death toll in Iraq highest in years, fueling concern of Al Qaeda 'resurgence' , Fox News]

Since the President oversaw the withdrawal of the last American troops, al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI] has revitalized itself, growing tremendously stronger and more sophisticated in the art of mass killing.

Obama’s primary mistake was his failure to negotiate a Status of Force Agreement with the Iraqi government as American involvement was winding down. Such an understanding would have established the terms of an orderly transfer of responsibility for defense of the country with an effective American fighting remaining behind in the country as a guarantor that the gains which had been paid for so dearly in American lives would not slide back into the abyss.

It appears that the lack of a Status of Force Agreement was due entirely to the administration’s decision to simply flee Iraq, consequences be damned.

Though we have major disagreements with Senator McCain and his cohort, the estimable Lindsey Graham, their assessment of Obama’s failure to come to some accommodation with the Iraqis is spot on.

"I know what they [the Iraqis] said to us, they were ready to sign, and Obama did not want to stay in Iraq, and that's what it was all about," he says. Joining McCain in blasting Obama is South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican on the Armed Services Committee. "If we'd had a residual force of 10- to 12,000, I am totally convinced there would not have been a rise of al-Qaida," Graham says. "The political process would've continued to move forward." [source, David Welna, McCain Lays Al-Qaida Surge In Iraq At Obama's Feet, National Public Radio]

The best analysis that we have seen regarding the resurgence of AQI was undertaken by the well respected Institute for the Study of War an organization described by General Petraeus as “connecting policy with actual implementation. This has been an organization that has truly been value added.”

The two part investigation spans 80 pages. Its executive summary states:

“…al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has reconstituted as a professional military force capable of planning, training, resourcing, and executing synchronized and complex attacks in Iraq, in particular waves of Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED), and combined arms attacks involving VBIEDS, mortars, suicide bombers, and small arms fire. This assessment derives from careful study of the 24 VBIED waves and 8 prison attacks observed during AQI’s “Breaking the Walls” campaign from July 21, 2012 to July 23, 2013..."

Not only does the much strengthened and professionalized AQI threaten to plunge Iraq back into chaos, but the enemy’s strategy is designed to not only destabilize that country but also to facilitate AQI linking up with its affiliates in Syria, with obviously dire consequences.

Again this study nails it, “AQI’s expressed strategic goal to establish a transnational caliphate in Iraq and Syria.” [source, Jessica D. Lewis, Al-Qaeda in Iraq Resurgent, Institute for the Study of War].

In our opinion the timing of the release of Gate’s book is propitious, because with Iraq being pressed this hard and forced into fighting a defensive war ,the dysfunctional foreign policy of this administration might finally get the attention it has deserved now for over 5 years.

End Notes:

Another troubling study regarding the composition of irregular Sunni Islamic forces fighting in Syria has recently been completed by Israeli ex-intel experts. It shows that approximately 15,000 mujaheed are engaged in jihadist warfare.

“A group of former military intelligence analysts..have produced new estimates of the growing phenomenon of foreign fighters waging civil war in Syria. Their data suggest that Shiite foreign fighters in Syria may actually outnumber those who are Sunni. According to the study released this week by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center in Tel Aviv, there are currently 6,000 to 7,000 Sunni foreign fighters in Syria battling forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The number of Shiite foreigners fighting on Assad's behalf is estimated at 7,000 to 8,000. [source, William Booth, Israeli study of foreign fighters in Syria suggests Shiites may outnumber Sunnis , Washington Post]

As noted above, in our view the Syrian conflict isn’t a civil war per se, certainly both sides hope to emerge victorious and in control of the country, but this isn’t a simple battle over turf, it’s two competing Islamist ideologies [Shia Iran vs. Sunni insurgents*] pitted against each other for strategic advantage in the region. If AQI is successful in its Iraqi campaign of terror and manages to link up with its Sunni brethren in Syria, the prospect for tremendously increased violence seems certain.

*Syria is essentially a wholly owned client state of Iran. The fact that the country is overwhelmingly Sunni [approximately 70%] has no bearing on the conflict, Assad is an Alawite Shia Muslim - which is the predominant Shia sect in Syria - and he’s running the show, though facing a supreme challenge.

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