How Al Qaeda Terrorized Its Way Back in Iraq
As the country edges closer to civil war, much of the blame goes to Prime Minister Maliki—and the White House.
The climactic battles of the American War in Iraq were fought in Anbar Province, with U.S. forces at great cost retaking the city of Fallujah at the end of 2004 and Ramadi, the provincial capital, in 2006-07. The latter success was sparked by an unlikely alliance with tribal fighters that turned around what had been a losing war effort and made possible the success of what became known as “the surge.” By 2009, violence had fallen more than 90%, creating an unexpected opportunity to build a stable, democratic and prosperous country in the heart of the Middle East.
It is now obvious that this opportunity has been squandered, with tragic consequences for the entire region. In recent days the Iraqi army appears to have been pushed, at least temporarily, out of Fallujah and Ramadi by al Qaeda in Iraq militants. A battle is raging for control of Anbar Province with some tribal fighters supporting the government and others AQI. Mosul, the major city of northern Iraq and a longtime hotbed of AQI activity, could be next to fall. If it does, AQI would gain effective control of the Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of Baghdad the size of New England.
…Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has no one but himself to blame. If he had embraced the Sunni Awakening movement, Iraq likely would have remained relatively peaceful. Instead, the moment that U.S. troops left Iraq, he immediately began victimizing prominent Sunnis…
…Iraq may once again stumble back from the brink of all-out civil war. But it is unlikely to recover the promise of 2009-11…
See also The Continuing Evolution of Al-Qaeda 3.0 – Bruce Riedel
Most dramatic has been the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliates in the Fertile Crescent, from Beirut to Baghdad. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once wrongly proclaimed defeated by the surge, has revived and is more deadly than ever as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Today, it is fighting again to take control of Anbar province. It successfully gave birth to a Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, and now competes and collaborates with its own offspring for power in Syria. Together, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are trying to destroy the century-old borders of the region, erasing the hated Sykes-Picot boundaries.
Its advances in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria have moved al-Qaeda and its affiliates closer than ever to Israel in strength. Israel remains a hard target for al-Qaeda, but its ambitions are abundantly clear. (Al-Monitor)