The Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are currently in the hands of Sunni rebels, many of whom are sympathetic to Al Qaeda. The Iraqi Green Zone Government has ordered air strikes and is making plans to retake the cities. In the US, apologists for the Bushevik war of aggression are blaming the Obama administration for “losing Iraq.” In truth, the current battle is part of a very long civil war within the Islamic world between Shi’ite and Sunni, and the best thing for outsiders to do is to stay outside.
As this journal predicted right after the American attack on Saddam Hussein, Iraq has fragmented into its three constituent parts. There is the Shi’ite, pro-Iranian east with a majority of the population. To the west, there is the Sunni minority that used to run the country when the Saddamites ruled. And in the north, there are the Kurds who are still trying to see just how close to independence they can get. Half a million US troops or none at all, the tripartite nature of the Iraqi state doesn’t change.
However, to hear the apologists for the attack on Iraq tell it, all the successes of that war have been lost. Digital Journal’s Abdul Kuddus: “With the withdrawal of US forces from Anbar province two years ago, al-Qaeda took advantage of the power vacuum and drove out the Iraqi forces. The group’s success in controlling Fallujah could mark a shift in Iraq’s sectarian violence from car bombs and suicide attacks to ground battles. Images of al-Qaeda’s black flags flying in Fallujah, where more than 1,300 US troops were killed during the war, only undermines the White House narrative of success in Iraq.” Of course, the Shi’ites use black banners as well, so it’s hard to make the imagery work as he would like.
Some see things a bit more clearly. James Joyner of Outside the Beltway blog stated, “Aside from regime change itself, it’s not clear that we accomplished a single one of our objectives in that conflict. There was no nuclear program. The chemical weapons cache consisted of a few leftovers from the world wars. The Maliki government is corrupt and incompetent to provide basic security for the citizenry. And now al-Qaeda is running major outposts.”
The local military situation is best summed up by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bateman, a long time friend of this journal. He has written in Esquire that Fallujah, a city “half the size of Akron, Ohio,” has little strategic significance. He added, “We thought that the place was important. It is not now, and, sadly, it was not then. There are really only a couple of ways in and out of the city, which pretty much dooms the al-Qaeda idiots who ‘took’ the city on Saturday to a fairly rapid death. And we don’t have to lift a finger this time. The Iraqis, the army and the paramilitary ‘special police,’ with select units, are going to Fallujah, and they are going to utterly crush the al-Qaeda elements there.” Guerrillas rarely have the training and leadership needed to win in traditional battles.
And even if the al-Maliki government doesn’t retake the cities, this is not that big a deal in the grand context of the clash between the two main flavors is Islam. The civil war in Syria is vastly more significant (and again, is of little interest to outsiders because Syria stopped mattering strategically a few decades ago). The Iraqi theatre in this war is turning into a proxy fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Neither side is going to let the other gain the upper hand. At the same time, neither side is going to be able to overwhelm the other. It’s going to be a stalemate as surely as the Western Front in World War I was.
This fight has been going on since the death of the Prophet in the 7th century. It probably won’t be over until the Mahdi turns up right before Judgment Day. Anyone want to pay for deploying troops in that kind of waiting game?