Monday, July 7, 2008

Endgame for AQI?

Richard Fernandez over at The Belmont Club's new location, offers a characteristically trenchant analysis of the unfolding situation in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the final urban redoubt of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The picture is looking ever-more grim for AQI, which exhibits all the signs of sliding toward a strategic defeat in Iraq. Back in May, I joined others in predicting that an accelerated tempo of operations was set to begin in and around Mosul, after months of hard-won but increasingly decisive victories against AQI which captured or killed its senior operatives, cut off its supply lines, interdicted its logistics, and utilized increasingly reliable intel from local populations to make its work all-but impossible across ever-widening swathes of the Iraqi landscape. It appears that these predictions have been coming to fruition, and that ruin is fast approaching for AQI and its misbegotten quest to collapse Iraq into the kind of chaotic swamp from which it could widen its regional and ultimately global ambitions.

Fernandez also casts his eye toward the unfolding efforts to fashion a truce between Israel and Syria. Given the role the latter has played in facilitating the passage of Jihadis into western Iraq, as well as its support for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the significance of this deal would extend far beyond the ever-contested borders of the two nations. The degree to which Syria could be taken out of the equation with respect to the destabilizing forces besetting the fledgling Republic of Iraq will have a strong bearing on how durable that nation will be when American forces begin to draw down in earnest over the next year or two. In essence, the Bush Administration is cleaning house, both for the sake of its legacy and in the interests of leaving as few open accounts as possible for the next POTUS. As Fernandez sums up:

Taken together these developments provide a rough, but fairly probable picture of what the situation will look like when the Bush Administration leaves office. Domestically, Al-Qaeda will probably have been reduced to insignificance, but remain dangerous within its dormancy. The Iranian militias will likely have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves, but still capable of occasional mayhem. On the international front, Iran will enter 2009 still unbeaten but Teheran will be casting an anxious eye at its protege, Hezbollah, which the US and Israelis will be trying to strangle. The Ayatollahs will look warily at the new Iraq, not only for the reasons of traditional geopolitical rivalry but also because the Iraqi Shi’ite south could be a sanctuary for political subversion against it. Most of all Teheran will be closely watching the United States bases in Iraq, knowing their utility goes beyond preserving Iraqi sovereignty but also as points from which the US can exploit any weaknesses in Iran.

All in all, the incoming administration will inherit a winning, but not a won hand in the region. Whether it holds up or folds up is up to them.

Do keep this in mind as Obama executes his near-inevitable pirouette on his "deeply-held convictions" about Ending The War. If he judges it to be politically expedient to leave himself enough wiggle room to amend his fixed time-line for retreat, it is my most fervent hope that the American public will not be fooled about the reasons for the progress he will find when he finally gets round to visiting Iraq (any day now...). That progress is the dividend of a brave and resolute campaign to wrest victory from the blood-drenched jaws of defeat, the very jaws into which Obama and his ilk have been all-too ready to cast the people of Iraq. That he will almost certainly attribute that progress to the pressure exerted on the Iraqi government by Democrats' incessant cries for premature withdrawal (just you watch!), only adds to the dizzying pile of reasons to declare him unworthy to express any opinion worth listening to on the matter of Iraq, and unfit to make any decisions on how to proceed in these perilous times.

The full implications of AQI's defeat in and around Mosul will take time to become clear. In the meantime, we owe it to our extraordinary troops and to the brave people of Iraq (not to mention ourselves) to exercise our own freedom in November to elect a President who will not take these gains for granted, nor squander them out of some vacuous notions of "change." AQI has been going through some changes lately, after all. And to that, I say, "more, please."

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