Oh great, they're finally catching up with Talisman Gate...
I don't relish sounding smug and boastful. But sometimes I have to do so, for the good of all mankind. (...Alright, so I'm a jerk.)
In today's New York Times, Michael Gordon (...consistently good) writes about a trove of information that was found on the laptop of a top Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia operative who was killed in December 2006. The "revelations" showed that:
As outlined in the captured documents and other material that was seized, the group’s initial strategy was to push Shiites out of western Baghdad. As part of the sectarian battle for the capital, the strategy also called for attacking Shiites in parts of nearby provinces, specifically southern Salahuddin, western Diyala and eastern Anbar, attacks that the group’s leaders also calculated would put American and Iraqi troops on the defensive...
But Shiite militias, particularly Mahdi Army operatives, responded with their own offensive, forcing the Sunni militants to retreat...
According to captured memos portrayed in American intelligence reports, the group was frustrated with the Shiite militias’ success, was unhappy with weapons shortages and was somewhat disorganized, according to an account by an American official who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence matters.
If this sounds familiar, it might be due to the fact that you've been a Talisman Gate reader since October 2006.
Since then, and as I demonstrated in a series of New York Sun columns about Iraq (Iraq is Succeeding, Al-Muhajir's Evil Presence, Turaround in Baghdad, Blackout of the Media, and last week's Jihadist Meltdown), the following trends could have been spotted as far back as six months ago:
-Al-Qaeda was becoming the dominant force in the Sunni insurgency, and it had undergone a process whereby it was "Iraqi-fied": predominance of Iraqis in the rank and file, and more Iraqis in the leadership hierarchy.
-Al-Qaeda had provoked the Shi'as into a confrontation, but couldn't stave off the Mahdi Army "death squads," forcing Iraq's Sunnis to reconsider the long-term prospects of their insurgency.
-The strategists of the Sunni insurgency, whether they were jihadists or Ba'athists, began to realize that they'd eventually run out of steam as the sources for money and talent gradually get depleted, bring with it a sense of fatigue and aimlessness, and that clashes among the various insurgent groups were inevitable.
The Washington Post today has a similar set of "revelations", this time attributed by Walter Pincus and Karen De Young to intelligence sources (...both reporters seem to rely on CIA sources) and terrorism experts, chief among which is:
"In a year, AQI went from being a major insurgent group, but one of several, to basically being the dominant force in the Sunni insurgency," said terrorism consultant Evan F. Kohlmann. "It managed to convince a lot of large, influential Sunni groups to work together under its banner -- groups that I never would have imagined," Kohlmann said. In November, many of the groups joined AQI in declaring an Islamic State of Iraq.But I completely disagree with this statement:
The Sunni extremist movement in Iraq owes its existence to the U.S. invasion, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor. "There were no domestic jihadis in Iraq before we came there. Now there are. . . ."
I think there is a mounting body of evidence that radical Salafism had laid down roots in Iraq throughout the 1990s while Saddam's intelligence services looked the other way. More studies should be made of the regime archives on this matter (...monitored by the General Security Directorate) to determine why Saddam allowed this to happen--sometimes with direct Saudi funding. But this trend also grew out of control, forcing the regime to clamp down on it; something like 800 Salafists were arrested in security sweep during early 2002 under the command of Izzet al-Douri.
There are still many myths floating out there about the insurgency and who is winning the fight in Iraq, but I think many of these will be put to rest in short order.