Tuesday, March 02, 2004
This time, the Wahabists have targeted the Shi'a in Iraq. The Beeb has a good log of the goings-on in Baghdad and Karbala. Today was the celebration of the Ashoura festival, when Shi'as commemorate the assassination of the Imam Hussein in the 7th Century. Upwards to 150 people have been killed. In addition, there has been an attack on a Shi'a procession in Quetta, Pakistan. In that attack, up to 17 people have been killed when the procession was attacked by gunmen.
The ascension of the Shi'a in Iraq has been the bane of Wahabists in Saudi Arabia. The Zarqawi Memorandum indicated that AQ was going to try to foment a civil war in Iraq. It was the only arrow left in their quiver, given the astonishing success the United States Army has had against the insurgency. Night Ownership, aggressive patrolling, and the use of civic action techniques (as well as the application of money, when needed), has led to the death or capture of thousands of Sunni Ba'ath and Al Qaeda personnel. This has led to a marginalization of Sunni authority in Iraq, as those who benefited from the swag of the old regime had to watch as the Americans curried favor with newly powerful Shi'a clerics.
There is a danger in all of this. The U.S. is about to engage Al Qaeda in the penultimate battle of the war: the capture of bin Laden and the destruction of Al Qaeda's central command apparatus. All of the world's major players are showing up for this takedown: Unit 121 from Iraq, the SEAL's, the DELTA people, and most significantly, the Special Air Service Regiment. I also suspect that the Australian SAS will be involved, as well as the Canadian Special Forces and, in a supporting role, the Mossad. This fight will take place in Southeastern Afghanistan and in the Northwestern Frontier States of Pakistan. It is in Al Qaeda's interest to try and delay the American offensive as soon as possible. I strongly suspect that bin Laden will fail in this effort.
The Shi'a clerics have too much at stake to allow the march towards a federal, Kurd and Shi'a dominated, Iraq to be derailed by these attacks. One can make a safe bet, however, that instead of being delayed by this attack, President Bush will order that the offensive be put into high gear.
For this was a sign of weakness, not of strength. Al Qaeda is much weaker than it was as September 11th, 2001 dawned. Bin Laden and his organization are ready to be killed, once and for all.