After a month of relative calm, Iraqi insurgents have killed over 140 in Karbala and Baghdad in a coordinated attack. Three suicide bombers attacked a Baghdad mosque, and a fourth exploded near the Shi’a holy city of Karbala. One suicide bomber was intercepted in Baghdad, and another and his accomplices were intercepted near Karbala.
While this is certainly not good news by any stretch of the word, it isn’t cause for panic yet. The strategies employed in these attacks show the desperation the resistance is experiencing and the way in which they are destroying any chance of achieving their aims.
The point of terrorism is not mindless terror, it’s to use terror as an instrument of politics. The goal of the insurgency is to drive the Americans out of Iraq and end any chance of Iraq becoming a free and democratic state. In order to do that, the insurgency needs both weapons and popular support.
The first isn’t a problem, as Iraq is swimming in mortars, AK-47s, RPGs, and other pieces of leftover military equipment. The coalition has destroyed hundreds of metric tons of military equipment, but that’s barely a dent in Saddam’s arsenal, which has been spread across the country. Stopping the flow of weapons is a virtually impossible job.
However, it’s the second factor that is causing the insurgency the most trouble. The Zarqawi memo to al-Qaeda shows that the insurgency is having serious troubles getting enough manpower to pull off major attacks like the one earlier today. Estimates from commanders in the field indicate that there are fewer than 5,000 terrorists in Iraq, and that number is going down each day. Some of them are captured, others are killed by the coalition, and others are blowing themselves up – all of which decrease the pool of jihadis in the area.
If the insurgency could easily replace those people, we’d be seeing an increase in the number of attacks. So far we’ve seen an increase in the sophistication of attacks, but not the overall number. This is telling – it indicates that the insurgency is running out of foot soldiers and having to rely on operatives that are better trained – but when you’re sending your best men to their deaths and you can’t replace them, you’re not going to be effective for long.
The strategy was to have a war of attrition, in which thousands would rise up to kill Americans. This isn’t happened – which means that time is on our side. We are still winning, despite horrible attacks like this. We won’t see a sudden end to the conflict, but a slow drop off as the Jihadis are killed or captured.
Moreover, attacking a mosque is hardly going to make the insurgency any more popular in the eyes of the Iraqis. The insurgency has dropped all pretense of trying to win hearts and minds and started killing anyone they can in order to create civil unrest. However, terrorism tends not to work. Rather than forcing people to meet the terrorists demands, it makes them want to go out and strike back against the terrorists. Acts like this, the killing of innocents in the middle of a mosque, have shown the Iraqi people the absolute and critical importance of not surrendering to terrorism.