Reaching critical mass in Iraq?
Both before and after we invaded Iraq, one of our problems was lack of good intelligence from inside that country. Many of our advisors were Iraqi expatriates whose information was out-of-date and not necessarily reliable, and Iraq itself seemed opaque and nearly impenetrable.
After the invasion the situation couldn't be turned around all that quickly. Iraqis were wary, and for very good reason. Why trust Americans to have Iraqis' best interests at heart or to be competent in building a new and better Iraq? Why believe that the awesome and terrible control of Saddam was no more? Why believe that al Qaeda and the foreign terrorists streaming into the country would not remain powerful forces?
But it seems that the long slow process of winning the trust of Iraqis has begun to pay off, and the more this happens, the more it will tend to happen. It's a snowball effect; small accretions build on each other, and finally some sort of critical mass is reached. It's as though the situation in Iraq immediately prior to Zarqawi's death resembled a supersaturated solution, and his demise-- and especially the resultant capture of a vast treasure trove of related intelligence on al Qaeda's working in Iraq--was the trigger that caused a host of cascading events to crystallize, which in turn appear to be profoundly weakening the terrorist network in Iraq.
The increased trust and cooperation that probably contributed to Zarqawi's end was no doubt due to a combination of factors, not the least of which was the nascent Iraqi government with its growing police force and army. And now (in the immortal words of none other than Bin Laden himself) since people tend to back a strong horse, with the killing of the hated Zarqawi and the arrest of many of his confederates, the US probably seems as though it just might be a stronger horse than previously thought.
Although there's always the possibility that the following represents some sort of psych-ops operation rather than the real deal, if we can believe the authenticity of a document reported to have been recently captured by our forces, the insurgency knows itself to be in trouble:
The document said the insurgency was being weakened by the American program to train Iraqi security forces, as well as "massive attacks and arrests," the disruption of insurgents' financial networks and the launching of a propaganda campaign that was prompting Iraqis to believe that the insurgents were acting against the public interest.
Effective anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations have been slow to build, but that is changing:
So far, the June 7th strike has led to over 500 more raids. There have been so many raids, that there are not enough U.S. troops to handle it, and over 30 percent of the raids have been carried by Iraqi troops or police, with no U.S. involvement. Nearly a thousand terrorist suspects have been killed or captured. The amount of information captured has overwhelmed intelligence organizations in Iraq, and more translators and analysts are assisting, via satellite link, from the United States and other locations.
Zarqawi's successor must be feeling at least a trifle edgy since his promotion, unless of course he aches for martyrdom. His identity and photo have already been posted with a speed that is still another indication of the recent improvement of our intelligence.
Does any of this mean that terrorist attacks such as this one will suddenly become a thing of the past in Iraq? Of course not, although it would be wonderful to see them begin to decrease.
And note the planned timetable for the increase in the use of Iraqi forces, mentioned in the same NY Times article that discusses Zarqawi's successor:
"There is an agreement to take over the security responsibilities from the British, Australian and Japanese forces in southern Iraq during this month," al-Zubaie said. "We hope that the Iraqi security forces will live up to their duties there. It is the dream of all Iraqis that our forces will handle security issues all over Iraq."
Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki announced shortly after taking office on May 20 that Iraqi security forces will start assuming full responsibility for some provinces and cities this month, beginning an 18 month process leading to the eventual withdrawal of all coalition forces.
None of this means things will inevitably continue to go in the right direction. But events do build on events, not only in terms of concrete information gained, but also in terms of changed perceptions. Greater strength on the part of the allies can only inspire more people to come forward with more information, which can only increase the number of terrorists and insurgents captured, which can only result in more intelligence information gained from their laptops and the like, which can only lead to more captures and more cooperation from Iraqi citizens. It's the opposite of a vicious cycle--that is, it's vicious only to those who are the hunted, al Qaeda and the insurgents.