December 2, 2004


Falluja Data Said to Pressure Guerrillas (THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT, 12/03/04, NY Times)

The expulsion of Iraqi guerrillas and foreign fighters from Falluja has provided the American military with a treasure-trove of intelligence that is giving commanders insights into the next phase of the insurgency, and helping them reshape the American counterinsurgency campaign, senior Pentagon and military officials say.

Documents and computers found in Falluja are providing clues to the identity of home-grown opponents of the new Iraqi government, mostly former Baathists. The intelligence is being used to hunt those leaders and their channels of financing, as well as to detect cracks, even feuds, within the insurgency that can be exploited to weaken its base. [...]

The insurgents are expected to rely less on attacks by home-made bombs and ambushes, and instead focus on a campaign of coercion by violence directed at Iraqis who cooperate with the Americans in building security forces or a new national government and their families.

Senior Pentagon and military officials predict no easy success in their effort, acknowledging that the insurgency is resilient, well-armed, lavishly financed and organized in cells without the typical hierarchy of leaders and subordinates.

Guerrillas have mounted spectacular attacks on government buildings and Iraqi security forces, but for an insurgency that now has lost Falluja as a safe haven to build explosives and plot attacks on police stations and Iraqi National Guard headquarters, assassination is expected to become the primary weapon.

They are, in effect, no longer an insurgency, but merely terrorists. They can't gather together in any numbers or they get killed. They can't ever hope to govern anywhere because they'll be killed. They can't operate in the open because they'll be killed. They can sneak around and shoot people and blow them up, but that they are limited to this means that they are purely nihilistic. That's not a salable cause in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 2, 2004 11:58 PM

Apparently, Sunni on Shi'a violence is increasing, including a suicide bombing of a Shi'a Mosque in a Sunni neighborhood this morning. That is the end of the insurgency.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 7:27 AM

They appear to have become a criminal enterprise rather than an 'insurgency.' They have gone from 'resistance' to bombing civilian targets and kidnapping civilians and aid workers. Their raison d'etre is the war not what happens if they should win.

Don't underestimate their staying power. The FARC in Colombia which has mutated from a Marxist insurgency to a gang of drug dealers and their enforcers has lasted for four decades. There is no reason why this group couldn't last at least as long in Iraq, which has far less of a civil culture than does Colombia.

Who knows how long they could last as an Iraqi version of the Hells Angels?

Posted by: at December 3, 2004 8:12 AM

I suspect that in Iraq, it will be easier to distinguish terrorist from farmer. Plus, they will never control territory the way FARC has.

Also, with US troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the terrorists will always be one breath away from an airstrike.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 3, 2004 10:01 AM