"The deployment of more U.S. and Iraqi forces into AQI strongholds in Anbar Province and the Baghdad area, as well as the recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters to combat AQI operatives in those locations, has helped to deprive the militants of a secure base of operations, U.S. military officials said. "They are less and less coordinated, more and more fragmented," LTG Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. Describing frayed support structures and supply lines, Odierno estimated that the group’s capabilities have been "degraded" by 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year. " Ricks and De Young
As I said in my recent talk at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, it seems likely to me that the sun is setting on AQ in Iraq. There are three main reasons for that in this order of importance:
1- The Sunni Iraqi hostility to AQI which has emerged since Autumn, 2006. I have discussed the reasons for this operationalized hostility in the talk mentioned above as well as in this space. This development seems exportable to many parts of Sunni Iraq. An underground irregular warfare organization still depends on its support in the population of its potential adherents. Mao’s dictum on this subject concerning the fish and the sea remains as true as ever. A modicum of accommodation on the part of the Shia run central government and the command of US forces should keep this phenomenon growing. This is a death threat for the takfiri jihadis in Iraq.
2- The increase in US forces known popularly as "the surge" is serving to clear space in the cities for subsequent assertion of government control by Iraqi forces. This is working rather well in the short term but long term success will be dependent on the ability of Iraqi forces to "take over’ responsibility for cleared zones and permanently exert government authority.
3- Continuing operations of US and Iraqi Special Operations counter-terrorist commandos against AQI cadres. This activity is productive but, in and of itself, would never defeat AQI because the organization would simply continue to re-build itself from internal and external reinforcement if the political support of the Sunni Arab population did not come to an end.
If this tri-partite pattern of activity continues, then it is likely that the leadership of the international movement (in all its decentralised manifestations) will decide to "cut its losses," reduce commitments in Iraq and concentrate on other, seemingly more attractive fields of endeavor.
Will that "solve" the Question of Iraq? No. It will not. The mislabeled "political" problem of ethno-religious communal reconciliation will remain. It will wait for a willingness on the part of the communities to share power and resources among them. In addition, the inherent contest among the Shia factions will have to come to some end for true stability to emerge.
The Kurds? Well, they watch and wait for US and Turkish action or inaction on their fate.
Iran will continue to play a delicate game, playing off the different Shia groups against each other in order to increase its own leverage, while keeping communications and minimal support ties with the Sunni Arab resistance. Iran does not want to see a Sunni Arab resurgence in power but in the time honored Middle Eastern tradition of intrigue is quite willing to use Sunni fighters to keep pressure on both the Iraqi government and coalition forces. All the while Iran waits for the Americans to decide that their position in all this can be greatly improved by serious bargaining over roles and relationships in the region. pl