Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Jonathan Gurwitz Responds
The strategy of Zarqawi and the Baathists has always been to plunge Iraq into civil war. By committing atrocities against the Shiite majority, the objective has been to provoke a violent response. Thus far, the Shiite leadership hasn't -- to their credit -- taken the bait.
Two things have changed in recent months. U.S. forces have severely undermined the fighting capability of the insurgents. Hitting hard targets is a decreasingly attractive option for the insurgents, who have taken significant losses in recent ambushes. As attacks on U.S. troops have declined, they have risen against soft targets -- Iraqi, namely Shiite, civilians.
This is occurring as the new government is struggling with sectarian power sharing. In other words, the insurgents have stepped up the Zarqawi strategy just as the sentiments and stakes are highest for the different political and ethnic groups and their leaders.
I'm not suggesting things are about to unravel. I am suggesting that the danger to Iraqi democrats is significantly greater. If a bomb takes out Jafari, I don't think you'll see the equivalent of the Cedar Revolution in Iraq.
In retrospect, it might have been better to write, "The forces seeking to plunge Iraq into sectarian conflict have intensified their efforts at a critical moment." But then I'd have to spend some space explaining the critical moment, as above. With only 140 lines, I wanted to move to the more meaningful -- to my mind -- development: Iraqis taking an increasing role in their own destiny.