The Last Rebellion Against Saddam

StrategyPage – The Last Rebellion Against Saddam Begins

Things have calmed down in Iraq, as the Sunni Arab rebels begin to argue among themselves over tactics, and al Qaeda tries to deal with the popular anger over the car bombing campaign. The new interim government proved very popular among many Sunni Arabs, more popular than their Iraqi, Arab and European opponents expected. Now the Sunni Arab members of the government are negotiating with Sunni Arab tribal and religious leaders who have been supporting or tolerating the violence. The point of the negotiations, as always, is the prospect of civil war, and avoiding it.

So far, the “resistance” has been mostly Saddam’s unemployed thugs shooting at American troops and Iraqi police, as well as terrorizing Iraqis working for the government. This has been a futile exercise, with more than ten dead Iraqis rebels for every American soldier or Iraqi policeman killed. Moreover, the rebel strategy to gain more recruits as a result of Iraqis killed by American attacks, has not worked. American firepower has been applied in a very disciplined way. While there were always enough dead civilians for the media to film, there were not enough to cause more people to take up arms against the government. The main point of these negotiations is that the interim government is growing stronger month by month. The Americans cannot be defeated militarily, or via exploitation of the media. Anyone who continues to fight, with the cooperation of Saddam’s old secret police and thugs, and foreign terrorists, will never gain the support of the majority of Iraqis. And continued resistance will eventually trigger a major military response, which will cause massive destruction in Sunni Arab areas. The Sunni Arab leaders are in a tough situation, as the Saddam crew are not reluctant to use their old terror methods to keep everyone properly motivated. What the interim government is asking, is for Sunni Arabs to rebel against Saddam, and his thousands of gunmen who are still out there, and still killing those who resist them. It’s a question of who do you fear more; Saddam’s gunmen, or the forces representing over 80 percent of Iraqis, backed up by coalition troops. The Sunni Arab leadership are beginning to turn away from the terrorists, and it’s going to be a bloody process.

An interesting assessment and one that strikes me as reasonable as far as it goes. The rather huge gap in this analysis, though, is that it completely fails to mention the thousands of foreign jihadists that have converged in Iraq, hoping for a repeat performance of Aghanistan of the 1980s. Some of the same dynamics apply, of course, but that force is a long way from being defeated.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.