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December 21, 2003
Dominoes Continue Falling

The capture of Saddam Hussein continues to accrue benefits to the Coalition:

Acting on intelligence gleaned from the capture of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), U.S. troops rounded up dozens of suspected rebels during two days of raids in towns where loyalty to the deposed president remains strong, officials said Sunday. Two Iraqis were killed.

Smashing down doors, troops went house to house in Fallujah, a center of resistance west of Baghdad, early Sunday. Troops of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment blockaded Rawah, near the western border with Syria, for a sweep dubbed Operation Santa Claws, the U.S. Army told Associated Press Television News.

The continuing nature of these operations indicates a snowball effect from intelligence gleaned from the documents captured along with Saddam, if not directly from Saddam himself. His documents clearly gave the Coalition a good idea of the insurgency leadership structure and identification of these agents have led agents to further discoveries. It indicates that captured Iraqis are talking and giving intelligence to the CPA. Saddam's capture was not just a symbolic victory for the Anglo-American-led Coalition -- it may be the key to collapsing the "insurgency" in time to restore Iraqi civil institutions and return sovereignty to the Iraqis by the summer.

For instance, STRATFOR (via Instapundit) indicates its belief that the insurgency has no nationalistic or political basis, but is simply an effort by those who profited from Ba'ath leadership to attempt its return and are chiefly motivated by cash:

The guerrillas did have one major vulnerability: money. The Baathist regime long ago lost its ideological -- and idealistic -- foundations. It was an institution of self-interest in which the leadership systematically enriched itself. It was a culture of money and power, and that culture permeated the entire structure of the Iraqi military, including the guerrilla forces that continued to operate after the conventional force was defeated. Indeed, the guerrillas substituted money for recruitment. In many cases, they would pay people outside their ranks to carry out attacks on U.S. troops as a supplement to attacks by the main guerrilla force.

The culture of money made the guerrillas vulnerable in two ways. First, they relied on support from an infrastructure fueled by money. Whatever their ideology, they purchased cooperation with money and intimidation. Second, much of the money the guerrillas had was currency taken from Iraqi banks prior to the fall of Baghdad. A great deal of it was in U.S. dollars, which continued to have value, but most of it was in the currency of the old regime. One of the earliest actions of the U.S. occupation forces was to replace that currency. Over time, therefore, the resources available to the guerrillas contracted.

The main problem with a money-based war is that the Ba'athist insurgents don't have a cash flow, and the Americans do, and have increasingly used it to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq, employing local contractors, and making contacts, as well as using cash to finance covert intelligence assets, which STRATFOR notes has improved greatly since the summer. The Americans are learning, and the Ba'athists are running out of cash, time, and support. Saddam's capture is terribly demoralizing, not just because he is the natural symbol of Ba'athist supremacy, but also because it shows that the Americans have become very good at gathering the kind of intelligence necessary not just to capture a few pawns, but the major players as well.

Power Line mentions this same phenomenon in a post about the overall effect of Saddam's capture. Deacon quotes an Iraqi Kurd journalist:

Saddam's role in the 'resistance' was both symbolic and practical. His arrest should result in the collapse of the insurgency, even if the impact is not felt immediately. The insurgents may not lay down their weapons. When the head of a snake is cut off, the body twitches for some time. With Saddam sitting in jail -- and soon in a courtroom -- his loyalists will eventually get the message that the head is gone.

With the past week full of successful raids capturing dozens of insurgency members, the Americans have the momentum, and unless we lose our nerve, this insurgency will come to a close in the near future.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 21, 2003 7:45 PM

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