Friday, February 24, 2006
New York Times, February 23, 2006, Pg. 1, Blast At Shiite Shrine Sets Off Sectarian Fury In Iraq, By Robert F. Worth, BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 — A powerful bomb shattered the golden dome at one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines on Wednesday morning, setting off a day of sectarian fury in which mobs formed across Iraq to chant for revenge and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques.
The insurgents are in a fight in which they don't have to win. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Simply staying in the fight is considered a victory for the insurgents.
The insurgents are going the "soft" way. The soft target way. And that's a good thing for them. Relatively early on, the insurgents realized that taking on Coalition forces head on was suicidal. The last straw came in the form of the battle for Fallujah. Once and for all, the insurgents realized that congregating and "holding ground" in a city actually plays to the strengths of the US military. Going the soft way for the insurgents means, forget holding a city, forget setting up sanctuaries and congregating in one geographical area, forget force-on-force engagements with the US, it means concentrating on soft civilian targets.
Thinking Like an Insurgent (My exercise in thinking like the enemy)
As an insurgent I can still attack the US troops without confronting them head-on, I can set up IEDs and still keep a steady flow of casualties. But I am going to concentrate in lucrative soft civilian targets. My chances of success and survival are better in most cases when I go with a soft target. Striking a very significant soft target, like the Shiite shrine in Samarra gets me more local and international attention than if I killed several US troops. And my chances of surviving and setting up other attack are far better.
Bombing a politically, religiously and ethnically important target like a Shiite shrine provokes chaos more effectively than if I try an attack against the well-trained US forces. It intensifies the civil war that's already in progress in Iraq. Because this is already a civil war. Chaos also halts whatever progress the Iraqi government can gain. I can create chaos and show to the world that the US is not in control. That the Iraqi government is not in control of the situation. It shows that I can pick and choose where and when I strike and that I can cause the US and Iraqi government forces to operate in damage control mode for a while, until I attack again. I don't have to attack every day, or even every week; I just need a steady flow to keep me in the minds of my opponents. As soon as they recover from their damage control posture, I hit again. My aim is not to knock them down, but to wear them down.
I know that the fury is already there. The Sunnis hate the Shiites. The Shiites hate the Sunnis back. Both Sunnis and Shiites hate the Kurds. An the US is in the middle. And we can all hate the US together. And blame them for everything that goes wrong. I just have to stir up the fury. Blowing up a golden mosque should do the trick and then some. Provoking chaos is easy in Iraq. I have to undermine the political gains that the US forces and Iraqi government have attained. Denying victory is my game.
By striking a sensitive and soft target I can initiate a chain of revenge attacks. I know that if I bomb a Shiite mosque, the Shiites will be furious. They will react in kind. It all adds to the chaos. All I want is disorder at this point. So yes, the Shiites will attack my fellow Sunnis, but that's all part of the plan. The Shiites are kind of helping me out by reacting with more violence. The US and Iraq troops will be tied up for a while. I can plan at my leisure and then surface again in a few weeks. This is a home game for me. I am not longing to go home. This is my home. I can work the chaos until I die. And then, others will probably take my place.
The chain of revenge attacks that I set up when I hit a soft but lucrative strategic target ties down manpower and equipment and disrupt operations. Disruption, more than destruction is my game. Anything I can do to disrupt the country's already shaky economy will help me in my struggle. Is this a civil war? Even an optimistic assessment of the situation will conclude that this is at leat a low-level civil war. Remember back in the fall of '03 when this was a low-level insurgency?