May 30 2006
*** Update: Possibly three more rounded up (H/T reader Crosspatch ***
*** Update: More lashing out by Zarqawi and Al Qaeda could be a sign of desperation by the insurgents:
A parked car bomb hit a popular market in a Shiite area north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 65, the Interior Ministry said. Another car bomb went off at a dealership in southern Iraq, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32.
Meanwhile, a key terror suspect who allegedly confessed to hundreds of beheadings has been captured, Iraqi officials said.
The government identified the suspected terrorist captured Monday as Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir al-Batawi and said he had confessed to hundreds of beheadings. He was arrested by a terrorist combat unit, which also seized documents, cell phones and computers that contained information on other wanted terrorists and Islamic extremist groups, the prime minister’s office said.
Massive killings of innocent Iraqis is not going to win converts to fight the US and the Iraqi government. The wheels seem to be falling off Al Qaeda’s plans. They should have simply retreated. Killing Muslims will just make it harder for Al Qaeda to secure sanctuary elsewhere ***
*** Update: Reader Crosspatch notes another big catch today in Iraq along with documents and other potential leads. ***
If I am reading the tea leaves correctly, things may be coming to a head in Iraq regarding the Al Qaeda insurgents. Note that over the last month Zarqawi, Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, has lost numerous top aides as they have been killed and captured.
In parallel, Zarqawi’s bloodthirst drove him to attempt to intimidate the Sunni’s by killing leaders (tribal leaders I assume) who were working within the new government. Dumb move on his part. Under Saddam the Sunni’s were experts in intimidation. Al Qaeda probably created numerous blood fueds with every major Sunni tribe by now.
So I am not surprised that the Sunni response would be one of purging Zarqawi from their midst. And my guess is they have no problem calling in the coalition forces to assist in the cleansing, and thus news today that the US is bringing in reserve forces to the Anbar province:
The U.S. military said Monday it was deploying the main reserve fighting force for Iraq, a full 3,500-member armored brigade, as emergency reinforcements for the embattled western province of Anbar, where a surge of violence linked to the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has severely damaged efforts to turn Sunni Arab tribal leaders against the insurgency.
The insurgents have assassinated 11 tribal leaders in the Ramadi area since the end of last year, when Sunni sheiks in the city began open cooperation with the U.S. military. That alliance was heralded by U.S. commanders as a sign of a major split between Sunni insurgents and the larger Sunni community of western Iraq.
“We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi’s fist is stronger than the Americans’,” said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation.
Another sheik, Bashir Abdul Qadir al-Kubaisi of the Kubaisat tribe in Ramadi, expressed similar views. “Today, there is no tribal sheik or a citizen who dares to go to the city hall or the U.S. base, because Zarqawi issued a statement ordering his men to kill anyone seen leaving the base or city hall,” he said.
“We are very upset. But being upset is better than mourning the death of a sheik or tribal leader,” Kubaisi said. “Zarqawi has imposed himself on us. We started thinking of appeasing Zarqawi and his group, because rejecting them means death.”
Emphasis mine. Reading through this I see a Sunni population ready to get rid of Zarqawi. And while Zarqawi can issue death threats, his existence requires hiding among the population. My guess is we are bringing in the reserves because we have an opportunity to shatter the back of Al Qaeda in Iraq. I think this is a fairly safe prediction given this little tidbit:
Although Anbar province is heavily Sunni, many local residents have grown weary of the presence of the foreign fighters who joined the Sunni insurgents. They have tired of the violent control the fighter groups wield over cities and towns, and of the U.S. attacks the insurgents draw.
Let’s hope this opportunity is for real and will finally break the last remnants of Al Qaeda.