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December 10, 2005
Will Zarqawi Stand Down During Elections?

The United States and the UK have prepared themselves for a massive security effort for the upcoming Iraqi elections, which will replace the interim government with its first democratic, constitutional four-year Assembly and executive and promote Iraq to the ranks of the liberal democracies. Some Sunni leaders think that the security effort may prove superfluous, as they have convinced themselves that even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has given up on intimidating the now-committed Sunnis from participating in the electoral process. Jonathan Steele at the Guardian reports that the same problem faces the native "insurgencies":

Their candidates have been assassinated, their party offices attacked, but hopes are mounting among Iraq's Sunni Arab politicians that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, will not make a serious effort to disrupt next week's national elections.

Despite threatening to block previous votes, this time the Jordanian militant, believed to be responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Iraq, has been silent. "He's changed his strategy because he has discovered how confident and determined we are to vote," Azhar Abdel Majeed al-Samarrai, a leading candidate for the Iraqi Consensus Front, an alliance of the main Sunni parties, told the Guardian yesterday. ...

But the clear desire of many Sunnis to vote next week has changed the dynamic within the insurgency. "Zarqawi is in a dilemma because many Sunnis want to vote," a senior western political official said this week. The same dilemma confronts Iraq's homegrown insurgents, who rely mainly on the Sunni population for support and recruits.

A Sunni cleric from the influential Association of Muslim Scholars told worshippers at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque yesterday it was a "religious duty" to vote next week. "The date of December 15 is a landmark event. It is a decisive battle that will determine our future. If you give your vote to the wrong people, then the occupation will continue and the country would be lost," he said.

This story has not made it into the American media, and one can readily understand why. It explains why Zarqawi has started to put a bit more focus on targets outside of Iraq, while still maintaining some operations within the Sunni Triangle. The murder of a Sunni politician two weeks ago resulted in a massive funeral and an outpouring of anger so large that Zarqawi's network wound up issuing a statement denouncing the assassination, an unusual move for someone who supposedly has marked anyone cooperating in the election for death. The assassination has not endeared the American occupation to the Sunnis he represented, but it cut severely into the support the Consensus Party had given the insurgents.

That political momentum shift had been predicted all along as a long-term effect of pushing for a democratic post-war future for Iraq, predicted by the Bush administration and the so-called neocons that see democracy and freedom as the only long-term strategy for triumphing over Islamofascist terrorism. In less than a year, we will have successfully engaged all major ethnic/religious factions in Iraq into the new political system, one which guarantees enough access that no two can shut out a third. The Sunnis have already experienced the futility of a boycott and will not repeat that huge mistake again. They intend on not only participating, but voting in large enough numbers to catch the Kurds and Shi'a napping in political complacency, and Zarqawi and the insurgents don't appear to daunt them at all.

Despite the desperate rhetoric coming from the Democrats in Congress the past month, this looks very much like victory to those of us who understand the overall strategy and plan for the war on terror. Once the elections take place, we can speed up the training of the Iraqi army and get them to hold towns in the Sunni areas of Iraq, forcing the insurgencies out, and allowing the Iraqis themselves to capture people like Amir Fanus, demonstrating their desire for peace and freedom over theocracy and tyranny. It will likely not even matter if Zarqawi "stands down" during the elections -- and that irrelevancy is exactly what we want for all of the lunatic Islamofascists still on the loose.

Now -- when will the American media cover these developments? Anyone? Anyone?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 10, 2005 9:33 AM

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