Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The New Iraq

George W. Bush often says, when asked about Iraq, "history will judge".   One has to wonder if that viewpoint is based on the condition of having a stabilizing presence of US forces nearby.  Obama failed to make a deal to keep any leftover forces in Iraq, quite unlike most areas where the US military has won engagements.  For instance, we still have forces in Kosovo.  Politically speaking Bush may now have an out card.

Meanwhile, AP is reporting that an al Qaeda group is taking credit for the recent bombings that killed scores in Baghdad..
"The series of special invasions (was) launched ... to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," said the statement in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq.
Nothing new; the Islamic State of Iraq has been operating in-country for years.  But having a group tying itself to AQ in the middle of Iraqi chaos might be problematic from a PR standpoint for a president who will soon be touting his tough-on-terrorists foreign policy as a reason for reelection while vowing to leave Iraq on its own.  Some may wonder whether any other AQ-affiliated groups are also now off the GWoT chess board.   

Or perhaps Obama doesn't think they are genuine AQ.  The presumed leader of the Islamic State is none other than our old friend Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, whom UPI last year predicted would be "the last man standing" in Saddam's old cabinet (despite being the most-wanted fugitive by al-Maliki's government):
Security officials note that the Sunni insurgents are probably responsible for most of the current surge in violence that has been widely attributed to al-Qaida and its alter ego, the Islamic State of Iraq.
Al-Duri's command of such a group seems like a neat trick, since he was recently reported to be clinically dead. Then again, he's been dead before, and has survived being captured every few years, including in 2010 right before he clinically died.  So al-Duri seems to have a cat-like ability to carry on..
"If anyone can bring off even part of the purported JRTN agenda, it is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri," he wrote. "He has found a knack for keeping himself alive and relevant in Iraq's insurgent politics. "He boasts a bevy of special relationships with groups as diverse as Iraq's Sufis, Ansar al Islam (an extremist Islamist group), the tribes of north-central Iraq and nationalist militant movements such as Jaish al-Mujahedeen," Knights observed. "Having stayed in Iraq permanently since 2003, al-Douri is the last link to the Baath government and his insurgent credentials are rock solid compared to all the young pretenders in Iraq and the exiled Baathists outside."
Well yes, al-Duri was the appointed a sort of focal point by Saddam in their outreach to Islamists during the 90s, so maybe those contacts are the reason such a frail man has been able to escape a US and Iraqi dragnet all these years.  Then again, others believe it's because he has some kind of horrible deterrent in his hip pocket they are afraid of, while others believe the US wanted him around for some reason. 

Or maybe he's just lucky.  At any rate, he's a relative unknown in the US media--so unknown it's unclear as to whether he might have a famous relative.  One story in 2008 about the possible capture of his nephews now gives a 404 error.   Maybe things will change as Obama manages the blow-back of 'ending the war' but one thing is for sure--the US military will not be taking him into custody any time soon.  He's been left to the wolves.  So in a way UPI is correct, Izzat has indeed become the last man standing.  For how long, nobody knows.  Just be wary of initial reports of his demise.      

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