Last week, a group of tribal leaders in Salah-ad-Din, the mostly Sunni province due north of Baghdad, agreed to work with the Iraqi government and U.S. forces against Al Qaeda. Then Al Qaeda destroyed the two remaining minarets of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra, a city in the province.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But Al Qaeda is clearly taking a page from the Viet Cong's book. The terrorists have been mounting a slow-motion Tet offensive of spectacular attacks on markets, bridges and mosques, knowing that the media report each such attack as an American defeat.
The fact is that Al Qaeda is steadily losing its grip in Iraq, and these attacks are alienating its erstwhile Iraqi supporters. But the terrorists are counting on sapping our will as the VC did, and persuading America to choose to lose a war it could win.
The Salah-ad-Din announcement that Iraqis were turning against Al Qaeda was just one of many such announcements over recent weeks and months. Some media reports have tried to debunk this development, reporting, for example, that the Sunni coalition against Al Qaeda in Anbar province is fragmenting.
But even the fragments are saying that they will continue to cooperate with us and fight Al Qaeda. Sunni movements similar to the one in Anbar have developed and grown in Babil province south of Baghdad and even in strife-torn and mixed Diyala province to the northeast. Most remarkable, local Sunnis in Baghdad recently rose up against Al Qaeda, and even hard core Baathist insurgent groups have reached out to U.S. forces to cooperate in the fight against the terrorists. Far from being evidence of our desperation and danger, as some have claimed, this turn of events demonstrates the degree to which Al Qaeda is repelling Iraqis.
It has long been clear that most Iraqis want nothing to do with Al Qaeda's religious and political views. They do not find the intolerant and occasionally ludicrous Al Qaeda program appealing: Being required to segregate vegetables in a market by sex, as Al Qaeda fighters have apparently demanded, appalls Iraqis just as it would Americans. Yet whenever Al Qaeda makes itself comfortable in an Iraqi neighborhood, it begins to enforce its absurd and intolerant version of Islam. Locals resist, and Al Qaeda begins to "punish" them with an increasing scale of atrocities. Just that sort of escalation led to Al Qaeda's loss of control in Anbar and to the growth of the various anti-Al Qaeda movements in Iraq's Sunni community.
Iraqis have also shown that they are not interested in having their homes become a base for the export of international terrorism—even as Al Qaeda in Iraq proclaims itself a "vanguard," like all good Al Qaeda franchises, in the war against the infidel crusaders (us) and the Muslim heretics (the Shia and all others who practice a form of Islam different from Al Qaeda's). The overwhelming majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are still foreigners, and Iraqis have never lined up at the gates of Al Qaeda recruiting stations for training and dispatch to foreign lands.