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May 11, 2005
Will Iraq Be Al-Qaeda's Last Stand?

Today's Washington Times analyzes the fighting in Operation Marador and asserts that Iraq has transformed itself into al-Qaeda's last stand -- which was one of the objectives of the Bush administration:

The war in Iraq is increasingly looking more like a showdown with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda followers than a battle primarily against Saddam Hussein loyalists.

The shift is making the fight a focal point of the U.S. global war against Islamic terrorists and one that might dictate whether the U.S. wins or loses, said a senior official and an outside expert.

"If they fail in Iraq, Osama and his whole crew are finished," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a military author and analyst.

The changing dynamic was highlighted this week when the U.S. military launched a major offensive in western Iraq, primarily against foreign jihadists who crossed the border with Syria to join the al Qaeda network in Iraq led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. In a troubling sign, U.S. officers said Zarqawi's terrorists seemed well-trained and well-equipped.

The U.S. offensive, code named Operation Matador, entered its third day yesterday in the dusty border towns west of Baghdad near Syria. The command said three Marines and more than 100 enemy fighters have been killed.

"In the Muslim world and extremist world, this fight for Iraq is their key battle," said Gen. McInerney. "If they lose it, they lose the war. And so the imams are inciting young people, not particular well-educated, to head to Iraq. Most are going through Syria via Damascus.

"This is why Iraq is such a fundamental part of the global war on terrorism. When we finally defeat Muslim extremists, it will be the battle in Iraq that defeats them."

Of course, this is exactly what was meant by the "flypaper" strategy. One of the most difficult issues with fighting an asymmetrical war is finding the enemy. They survive by hiding and seeking shelter from like-minded but officially neutral states. However, if one can find a way to draw them out, it becomes much easier to defeat them, especially if they can be pinned down by geography.

That appears to be happening now, in western Iraq, as the American forces press a large AQ group against the Syrian frontier. This creates a set-piece battle in which AQ has to fight defensively from fixed positions, playing against all their strengths -- tactical surprise and small-scale offense. In that kind of match-up, the Americans can bring all of their advantages into play. No one can win a straight-up fight against the American mlitary.

So why does AQ indulge us? They have no choice, especially since they've spent the last two years waging a terror war against the Iraqis. Iraq had been part of the ummah, and even beyond that, Iraq provided a land bridge between Iran and Afghanistan on one side, and Syria, Libya, Egypt, and the Palestinian terrtories on the other. They can't afford to lose Iraq strategically, tactically, or for street crediblity. One could indeed say that AQ is stuck between Iraq and a hard place.

UPDATE: Fixed some spelling errors, but declined to remove my pun at the end. I wrote it, and there's no use in hiding it now ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2005 6:21 AM

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» Operation Matador: The Bull And The Flypaper. from Bloggledygook
This comes to mind because of Operation Matador going on right now near the Syrian border in Iraq. For anyone who has read Death in the Afternoon, the symbolism is rich. [Read More]

Tracked on May 11, 2005 8:17 AM

» War in Iraq a Part of War Against al-Qaeda from Cyber-Conservative
For those of you that weren't convinced that Iraq is a vital part of the War on Terror, I present this story from the Washington Times:
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Tracked on May 11, 2005 9:11 AM

» All wogs look the same from Posse Incitatus
Turning back to international affairs, it is clear that Operation Matador is the next step in shattering the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. Captain Ed links to analysis by the Washington Times that examines the larger issues at stake. Further information [Read More]

Tracked on May 11, 2005 10:58 AM

» Notable links and things you should read from The Anchoress
There is a lot out there - so much that I must serve up some hot links in order to get them out of my head, or I'll not be able to think clearly: First up: Mark R. Levin sent a blast from the past to NRO's The Corner and I link it here because it ne... [Read More]

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» The War on Terror from CrosSwords
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Tracked on May 11, 2005 9:18 PM

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