Sunnis Divided, and Under Attack, Day Before Elections
Sunni clerics and political party spokesmen may be encouraging their constituents to go to the polls tomorrow, but this has only redoubled the efforts of jihadists to murder and intimidate them, regardless of their democratic ambivalence or committed disdain for an American military presence in Iraq. The New York Times reports:
Sunni insurgents launched five attacks against the largest Sunni Arab political party on the eve of Iraq's crucial referendum Friday, bombing and burning offices and the home of one of its leaders in retaliation after the group dropped its opposition to the draft constitution.
Continued after the jump.
Zawahiri Letter [English translation]
It's not exactly a feather in anyone's cap if national elections are successful because the wellspring of potential Al Qaeda recruits and sympathizers has been drained by Al Qaeda itself. But thuggery, almost by definition, means a power struggle, a process of self-cannibalization, which if this occurs within the ranks of jihadism, can only be to the greater good of Iraq.
Consider the recently translated letter sent by Osama's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to the leader of "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It argues for an about-face of strategy in luring Iraqis away from democracy and toward the establishment of a Sharia-governed caliphate in the Gulf: i.e., stopping killing those same Iraqis. If the letter is in fact authentic, then the advice contained within it certainly hasn't been heeded.
Zarqawi consistently maintains that his two biggest fears are a large, well-equipped Iraqi military and police force, and Iraqi self-determination. He's even floated the idea of his own "timetable" for withdrawal from the country -- to a more propitious "field of operations," like Syria -- should these two criteria be satisfied. He's declared open war against the Shiites, "collaborationist" Sunnis, and any group he considers atheistic or apostate of the "one true Islam." This can't be pleasing to "The Base" in Pakistan, Afghanistan and wherever else Bin Laden's original lieutenantry lurk because while it's true that they adhere to same core fundamentalist tenets, they also appreciate the value of pragmatism and public relations, two things for which Zarqawi has no patience. His stubbornness in assaulting the very people he should want to win over can therefore be seen as a more hopeful sign that his forces will grow increasingly isolated, even in the so-called "Triangle of Death." For a majority of Sunnis to cast ballots tomorrow, and for the draft constitution to be approved, would be a devastating blow against Al Qaeda, not just regionally but globally as well.
Morale on this side of the battlefield in the war on terror is at an all-time low, thanks largely to the incompetence of the Bush administration. But what's seldom discussed is what morale is like on that side, thanks to an entirely different species of incompetence.
Again, it's no cause for self-congratulation that the short-sightedness and stupidity of a man like Zarqawi may yet prove to be our greatest ally.