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Redeployment in Iraq: the uncertain narrative
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Last month, McQ linked to Max Boot's column on the merits of redeployment — not to bring troops home or to take them out of population centeres, but to bring them to Baghdad to secure the capital. McQ offered that such a redeployment should involve a "lot more Iraqis and a lot less Americans than Boot wants" in order to "grade the ability and readiness of Iraqi security forces". I'd add that such an Iraqi-fied redeployment would also serve the interests of my own preference for a gradual drawback into unpopulated areas shifting responsibility to the Iraqis sooner rather than later.

This month, action...
Iraq's new prime minister promised Tuesday to show "no mercy" to terrorists and said before President Bush arrived for a surprise visit that a long-awaited security plan for Baghdad will include a curfew and a ban on personal weapons. [...] Security officials said tens of thousands of Iraqi and multinational forces would deploy Wednesday throughout Baghdad, securing roads, launching raids against insurgent hideouts and calling in airstrikes if necessary.
[...]
Iraqi security forces planned to deploy 75,000 Iraqi and multinational forces in Baghdad as part of al-Maliki's ambitious plan to crack down on security in the capital, a top Iraqi police official said.
So, I think this is unquestionably good news. It indicates that the Iraqis are (1) gaining confidence in their security forces, (2) reaching cross-ethnic political consensus on the legitimacy of the government, and therefore finally able to (3) assert the necessary security measures to achieve that end.
there's some reason to believe [Zarqawi's] death may have been the result of a political accomodation rather than the cause of it.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Zarqawi may support the notion of a political detente between previously unreconciled Shiite and Sunni factions. Though some suggest Zarqawi was sold out by an erstwhile compatriot and that his death may lead to political progress, there's some reason to believe his death may have been the result of a political accomodation rather than the cause of it. That, as Stratfor argues, "his betrayal was the result of a political decision by senior Sunni politicians who had used al-Zarqawi in their insurrection, knew where he was and gave him away."
The political explanation is supported by two facts. The first is that within minutes of al-Zarqawi's death being publicly verified, the final positions in the Iraqi Cabinet were filled. The second is that almost immediately after al-Zarqawi went down, some 17 other sites were raided, and even more were raided after that. We doubt that the intelligence gathered at the scene of the first strike could be interpreted that quickly and an operation mounted that fast. That means that whoever passed intelligence to the United States had a lot of intelligence to pass. Al-Zarqawi kept things compartmentalized; he was a professional. So either the head of his operations turned, on his own, or someone above him who had a lot of information did. We think it is the latter.
If Zarqawi's death was merely the death of one terrorist, albeit a prolific one, then it's of relatively little strategic value. If Zarqawi's death was the result of a Sunni buy-in to the political process, then it is monumentally important.
If Zarqawi's death was the result of a Sunni buy-in to the political process, then it is monumentally important.
Now it is the Shiites' turn, where presumably they will deal with the militia problem. As Stratfor also argues, the "Sunnis delivered al-Zarqawi as a down payment on the deal and are now waiting for the Shia to reciprocate before paying the balance and reining in the insurgency."

It's important to remember that the stories that make the news are not necessarily indicative of the proper narrative perspective on Iraq. Thus, it may be that Zarqawi's death, ongoing violence and Bush's visit to Iraq dominate the news cycle for awhile, but those stories are very likely secondary to the real driving forces that are playing out behind the scenes. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine the "proper narrative" with any confidence at this point.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine the "proper narrative" with any confidence at this point.
Glenn Greenwald recognizes the primary insignificance of these minor stories, arguing that...
The media is desperate to find "big stories" every day. As a result, events which are so plainly inconsequential from a perspective which spans more than the last ten minutes of world events — such as Bush's stunt this morning in secretly materializing in Baghdad — are endlessly seized upon as evidence of some grand world change.
...and he's certainly right that photo ops and anecdotes are not The Story, but I think he's missing the secondary importance of these events. Not that Bush is somehow brave or popular for visiting Iraq — that is quite irrelevant — but that these things are happening because there are important political accomodations—progress—being made in Iraq.

War supporters were too glib about the occupation long before the war began — myself included — and I believe war supporters have yet to come to terms with the complexity of the problem, and the entire spectrum of likely outcomes. Conversely, however, critics of the Iraq war are so married to the notion that things cannot go well — that a functionally democratic Iraq will not emerge — that they are almost certain to misidentify the real narrative if they are wrong.
 
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Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine the "proper narrative" with any confidence at this point.


I think the proper narrative is that we are continually and steadily making progress in that country on all fronts. Politically, Militarily, and Economically.

Now, that is not to say that events will change that assessment.

I think recent developments also point to the US having the confidence in the Iraqis to take charge.

One thing that has always preceeded the successfull "clear and hold" operations has been the buy-in of the local politicians and tribal leaders. That buy-in is critical, and it sounds like we finally have it for Baghdad and another larger city that starts with a B (can’t recall which at the moment.)

Without this buy-in, these operations would be perceived as the Americans imposing their will upon the people.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Interesting. A while back McQ was pooh-poohing the idea that Zarqo had been sacrificed for internal political gain and was not interested in who might do such a thing. The Stratfor article presents a whole different face to that question.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
D:

I don’t recall "pooh-poohing" the idea that Z had been "sacrificed for internal political gain" I just didn’t find the argument particularly convincing.

I still don’t. If you read the TIME rehash of how it was done, there is a huge Jordainian intelligence connection which provided most of the actionable intelligence. The King of Jordan made getting this guy and almost personal vendetta after the bombings in the hotels in Jordan. In fact he set up a special unit who’s entire job was to hunt him down and eliminate him. While there may have been some peripheral Iraqi Sunni help, it certainly hasn’t shown up on the post-mortem concerning how Z was eventually tracked, found and killed.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Basra, Keith?
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
Lemme refresh your memory, McQ;
Was he intentionally "narc"ed by other components of the insurgency, knowing that he would be "offed" by the Americans? Were coalition and Iraqi forces made into an unwitting hit squad, doing the dirty work of the remaining Ba’athist elements?
Who cares, D?

Would we have done otherwise had we developed the info by other means?

Again, the psychological effect in the larger picture of the GWoT is a more important factor.
To which I responded in a subsequent box
By itself, that is probably not a major consideration. However, it is interesting that his own people would turn him in to the "shaytan". He was obviously too much of a liability. We already know that his effectiveness was a question to OBL and others in the AQ hierarchy. So it is reasonable to ask if he wasn’t intentionally kicked to the curb by his associates. And, if so, is that because the Jihadist component of the "insurgency" is failing or if this was merely an office coup.
I never got a satisfactory response to this.

Be that as it may, this is a matter worthy of discussion if for no other reason than it does show the extent to which the US presence is pressing the insurgents to impose personnel changes...with very lean severance packages. This is a big diplomatic and political development if true and speaks volumes about the relative success in our "hearts and minds" strategy so far.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Who cares, D?

Would we have done otherwise had we developed the info by other means?

Again, the psychological effect in the larger picture of the GWoT is a more important factor.
Yeah, see that’s not "poo-poohing" it, that’s simply saying "whatever". If that’s what it took it was worth it for the psychological effect it gave us.
I never got a satisfactory response to this.
Probably because I don’t recall reading it ’till now. Probably got rushed. So let’s look at it:
By itself, that is probably not a major consideration. However, it is interesting that his own people would turn him in to the "shaytan". He was obviously too much of a liability. We already know that his effectiveness was a question to OBL and others in the AQ hierarchy. So it is reasonable to ask if he wasn’t intentionally kicked to the curb by his associates. And, if so, is that because the Jihadist component of the "insurgency" is failing or if this was merely an office coup.
Um, either ... both ... neither. It really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.

My guess is AQ is about to quietly give up in Iraq and move into more easily exploitable areas (Somolia for instance) to regroup, rearm, recruit and plan. Iraq has not been their finest hour. So while they may not have been out there actively trying to kill off Zarqawi, it is entirely possible they’re not that torn up over his death.

One assumes he had quite a bit of autonomy in his operations within Iraq. And one also might assume, given some of the captured missives, that A) not all was going well in Iraq and B) the top AQ dogs didn’t agree with Z-man’s techniques. But that doesn’t mean they’d try to kill him. If that ever got out, given his iconic stature, they’d be in recruiting and loyalty h*ll (that’s not to say it wouldn’t be a valuable and viable PSYOPS gambit for our side).

However it might mean they see his death as a convenient and appropriate time to quietly wind down their operation there. So while we can have some fun with different scenarios (office coup or kicked purposedly to the curb) it may be nothing more than happenstance which the AQ heirarchy sees as merely propitious.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
You posted this quote from Strafor:

"...immediately after al-Zarqawi went down, some 17 other sites were raided, and even more were raided after that. We doubt that the intelligence gathered at the scene of the first strike could be interpreted that quickly and an operation mounted that fast. That means that whoever passed intelligence to the United States had a lot of intelligence to pass. Al-Zarqawi kept things compartmentalized; he was a professional. So either the head of his operations turned, on his own, or someone above him who had a lot of information did. We think it is the latter."
There is another possibility that Stratfor has not considered: American forces may have been aware of many of these other sites before Zarqawi was killed, and the Americans were watching the sites for leads on Zarqawi’s location. Once Zarqawi was killed, these sites no longer had intelligence value and they could be rolled up.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
There is another possibility that Stratfor has not considered: American forces may have been aware of many of these other sites before Zarqawi was killed, and the Americans were watching the sites for leads on Zarqawi’s location. Once Zarqawi was killed, these sites no longer had intelligence value and they could be rolled up.
Absolutely correct.

And this:
That means that whoever passed intelligence to the United States had a lot of intelligence to pass.
... was most likely Jordan.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
However it might mean they see his death as a convenient and appropriate time to quietly wind down their operation there.

While I agree on the rest, I have my doubts about this, whether they set Zarky up or not. The timing makes it look like they’re being chased out of Iraq with their tails between their legs. They’re already almost down to a Spavined Nag rating on the Strong Horse/Weak Horse Scale. I have little doubt that they’ll be decamping soon, but I suspect it’s more likely they’ll spend a few weeks blowing up what they can, then declare victory and run.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://

 
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