Monday, June 25

Middle East: a change in the weather

Last week saw stunning events in the Middle East:

Moqtada al Sadr accused Iran of being in collaboration with al Qaeda. And Tawfiq al Tirawi, the Palestinian intelligence chief, accused Iran of playing a "big role" in Hamas's seizure of Gaza.

The accusations are notable for their specificity; earlier Mahmoud Abbas had vaguely accused "foreign elements from the region" of orchestrating Hamas's takeover of Gaza, and Mookie had taken vague pot shots at what he termed Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.

It could be that Mookie's earlier accusation was a tactic to assure fellow Iraqis that he was not under the thumb of his Iranian masters. Whatever his motive, his directly connecting Iran with al Qaeda in Iraq is a very serious accusation in light of the 'blame al Qaeda' sentiment sweeping Iraq society.

Another stunner has been Iran's weak response to al Tirawi's accusation; Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said it was "surprising some Arab countries ignore the Western countries, the United States and the Zionist regime."

No one outside Iran is buying that shopworn excuse. Iran's warfare against peaceful governments in the Middle East is now plainly visible.

On June 22 Bill Roggio reported on more stunning news from the Middle East: the success of the first week of Operation Phantom Thunder, the corps-coordinated operation across three theaters in the Baghdad Belts.

It's as if the Coalition has corrected every mistake they made during the past four years of fighting in Iraq. Gone is what John McCain called the "Whack-a-Mole strategy" -- the Coalition chasing the insurgency out of one Iraq region but leaving the region when things quieted down, which meant the insurgents quickly returned.

And the Coalition has ditched another aspect of Whack-a-Mole; they're now picking off the enemy as he attempts to flee a fight or hotly pursing him if he gets past the booby traps, instead of allowing him to flee as in the Battle of Fallujah.

What makes the early gains of Operation Phantom Thunder particularly interesting is that the operation converges with anti-al Qaeda sentiment among Iraqis. The confluence paints a stark picture for al Qaeda in Iraq. Bill Roggio comments in the same report:
Al Qaeda is left with fewer places to hide: Anbar Province no longer a safe haven, pressure has increased Baghdad and the hot operations in the belts, and the Shia south is hostile. Ninewa, Kirkuk, and Salahadin, remain as al Qaeda's fall back positions, but Iraqi and U.S. Forces have prepared for this option. Some of the best Iraqi Army units are stationed in the northwest.[...]
Of course al Qaeda has responded with their "patented" suicide bombing attacks against civilians. But the attacks only stiffen the resolve of Iraqis and further expose al Qaeda's blatant attempts to foment civil strife.

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