Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Abu Zayd letter 

This hasn't received any international press so far, except for one story in the United Arab Emirates' "Khaleej Times" - during an operation in Mosul on July 27, security forces arrested six terror suspects and seized a copy of a letter written to Al Zarqawi by one of the local terror operatives, Abu Zayd:
Abu Zayd informs in his letter to the "Sheikh" that, "This is a clarification of what has become of the situation in Mosul, and it is no secret to you the noticeable decrease in the attacks carried out by the Mujahidin, from not long ago when Mosul was in the hands of the Mujahidin..." Abu Zayd continues by listing the multiple reasons why the "Mujahidin" have been less effective recently.

Abu Zayd claims that the Mosul Emirs are incompetent; attacks lack diversity; suicide bombings are focused more on quantity and not quality; those who are in the network are disobedient; a legitimate organization in Mosul does not exist; collaboration between the Emirs is lacking; "Muslim money" is squandered on petty expenses; numerous security violations occur; "inaccurate and blurred" updates to the Sheikh are reported; and foreign fighters endure "deplorable" conditions to include lack of pay, housing problems and marginalization.
What does it all mean? Possibly not very much. A similar letter has been found in late April during an anti-terror raid in Baghdad. In it, an Al Qaeda operative, Abu Asim al-Qusaymi al-Yemeni, was also writing to Al Zarqawi to complain about low morale, weakening support for the insurgency, and the incompetence of many of its leaders. So the concerns don't seem to be new, and the suicide bombing campaign conducted by Al Qaeda since May has demonstrated that the organization wasn't quite on its last legs yet.

Yet the persistence of problems refelected in both letters might indicate that at the same time that many observers focus on the Coalition side of the equation and cry "quagmire", Al Zarqawi's operations are slowly unraveling, mostly out of sight of the news media. For all their recent spectacularly bloody suicide attacks, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been losing the propaganda war. Targeting civilians, including children, instead of the Coalition or Iraqi security forces is a strategy that has been slowly but steadily reducing support for Al Zarqawi both inside and outside of Iraq.

Ironically, it is the native Sunni neo-Baathist insurgents who are having more success with their roadside bombing campaign directed at military targets. In that, they seems to be assisted by Iran, which is playing a schizophrenic - though not illogical - game of supporting their fellow Shia government but also aiding the Sunni insurgents against the Coalition forces.

But that problem seems to be more solvable, since there are increasing signs that the religious and political Sunni leadership is preparing to fully mobilize their community for participation in the constitutional referendum and the next parliamentary election. The insurgency might not be under a direct control of the Sunni leadership, but it has limited political objectives - getting the Americans out and ensuring the best deal for the Sunnis in the new, Shia-dominated Iraq - and is therefore more open to influence by Sunni sheiks and religious leaders. The local Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is beyond anyone's control and its objectives are far more ambitious - Talibanizing Iraq under a renewed Sunni hegemony. Dealing with Sunnis is possible, dealing with Al Zarqawi is not. If Al Zarqawi is really having problems, that is a very good news indeed.

The Sunni leadership might be able to call off or at least dampen the insurgency as it is trying to achieve its ends through political means. There are no guarantees as to what might happen, should it be unsatisfied with the results. It's a game of high stakes, though, since with the new constitution and possibly new government in place, there will be a great temptation among the Kurds and the Shia to finally unleash the pashmerga and Shia militias on recalcitrant Sunnis.


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